Ron and Harry reappeared in Harry’s Muggle flat. Harry took a moment to excuse himself to use the bathroom, and Ron took this opportunity to look around. ‘It was definitely sparse and need a woman’s touch.’ Ron mused, looking over the shelves that contained books and Muggle movies. He thoughtfully conjured up a few boxes, they could shrink everything down to put them in there and then resize them in Harry’s new flat. Ron smiled to himself as he reached up high on a shelf and pulled down a picture of him, Harry and Hermione right after they graduated from Hogwarts. In it, Ron was standing off to one side shaking his head at his two friends, who were snuggling even right in front of the camera. ‘They had been inseparable even then,’ Ron realized. ‘Harry had it harder than I thought when she disappeared.’
“What are you doing?” a voice interrupted Ron’s thoughts. Harry was standing at the doorway looking at him.
“Sorry mate.” Ron said, starting to shrink things and put them into the boxes. Harry stepped past him and took the picture and looked at it for a long moment.
“That was a good time wasn’t it?” Ron asked quietly. Harry nodded silently. He pressed his lips together and grabbed one of the boxes and started throwing things into it. Ron put a hand on his arm.
“Sit for a minute.” Ron commanded, pushing Harry down on the sofa and sitting next to him. “Now that we are alone, I want you to tell me more about what’s been going on.”
Harry sighed. “What do you want to know?”
“Well for one thing, tell me more about this Catherine. I mean, why does she look like Hermione so much? And I want to know more about what happened between the two of you last night.”
“Well…” Harry began. “Every time I’m around her, it’s like I told you last night, I get this feeling about her, first it was shock but now, I feel exactly like I did around Hermione all the time.”
“But…” Ron prodded.
“But I can’t talk about Hermione to her, and I want to so badly!” Harry burst out. “I mean, if she’s my wife, I want to know!” he stopped for a moment and took a deep breath. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to yell like that.”
“It’s all right.” Ron said.
“I just keep wondering whether or not I should say something to her.” Harry said. He turned and faced Ron. “What do you think?”
“Well, I cant’ tell you what to say or do in this situation. I will help you in any way I can, I promise you that though.” Ron said sincerely.
“Thanks.” Harry said. “Well we’d better get cracking.”
As they shrank things and packed quickly, Harry filled Ron in on everything he encountered so far with Catherine, including details on their almost kiss.
“Why didn’t you kiss her?” Ron asked.
Harry stopped what he was doing and looked up at Ron. “I really don’t know. I wanted to, but something stopped me. What if she had gotten freaked out and left, and then I would never find out if she’s Herm.”
“Harry…” Ron started. “Don’t take this the wrong way…but you seem to think that Catherine is like a piece of glass.”
“What do you mean?” Harry asked.
“She won’t break if you kiss her. She won’t fall apart if you ask her questions about her past.”
Harry pressed his lips together. “You know, you’re right.” He nodded. “I’m meeting her later today…I’ll ask her some questions about her past, and hopefully find out more about what happened.”
Ron nodded, happy that his friend was finally taking charge. They moved more quickly around the rooms now, getting everything they could fit into the boxes. Ron moved into Harry’s living room.
“What’s this for?” he shouted to Harry who was in the kitchen.
“What?” Harry asked, coming into the living room. “Oh, that’s my piano.”
“Piano?” Ron asked. “Why do you have one of these?”
Harry looked at him for a moment. “I play piano in a Muggle bar on the weekend.” He said as matter of factly as possible.
Ron guffawed loudly. “You’re kidding.”
“No, really.” Harry said. “And I’ll have you know I’m quite good too. So don’t laugh!” he pointed a finger at Ron who looked ready to start rolling on the floor. He choked back his laughter at the threatening look on Harry’s face and shrank the piano down.
“I’ll take that.” Harry said, coming forward, and Ron deposited the piano onto Harry’s palm. The two men worked some more, Ron letting off a loud snigger now and then.
“So…” Harry said, trying to stop Ron from smirking at him. “Speaking of assholes…”
“Hey!” Ron said, looking indignant. “I am not!”
“Tell me more about what happened to Malfoy after Voldemort was gone.” Harry continued, ignoring Ron’s outburst.
Ron made a horrible face. “That jackass…I hadn’t seen him in the longest time up until yesterday. You know how he lost everything after you defeated Voldemort, well after you left the wizarding world, he just sort of reappeared out of nowhere.”
Harry twisted his mouth in disgust. “He deserved every bad thing that came his way after that whole situation. Pretending to be on our side then turning us over to Voldemort the way he did. He’s lucky I didn’t kill him.”
Ron sneered. “He still acts like he’s Slytherin royalty too. Now that Crabbe and Goyle are who knows where, he’s not got anyone to protect him. I mean, that was so great when we beat the shit out of him yesterday!”
Both men laughed heartily at the memory of smashing up Malfoy’s ugly pointed face. Surveying the apartment as soon as they were able to regain their composure, they were both satisfied that nothing was left behind. Harry quickly went down to sign release papers for his Muggle flat, and then when he returned the two men apparated back out to Ron’s.
Harry checked his watch. “Three thirty.” He said. “I have to get back over to the new flat to sign it over. Hand me the boxes.” Ron gave him the boxes he held and Harry shrank those down to fit into his pocket.
“Tell Caty Cat I’ll come back when I’m done, and we can set up our new place.” Harry said to Ron, who nodded and waved him out. Harry reappeared in the office of his new flat, and the landwizard had all the papers ready for him to sign.
“Thanks so much.” Harry said to him, shaking his hand.
“Oh, most certainly my pleasure Mr. Potter!” the man bumbled. Harry half smiled, he still hated it when people made a fuss over him. He was happy to escape the confines of the office, and quickly apparated back to Ron’s to get Caitlyn and head back to the new flat. Ron and Lavender offered to come over and help him set everything up, and Harry graciously accepted their offer. He realized it was getting late and he still wanted to meet with Catherine that evening before dinner.
“Ron!” Harry called out, stepping into the kitchen, which surprisingly, Lavender had almost completely set up for him.
“He went out to the top of the building with the kids for a minute.” She said, turning around. Harry surveyed the kitchen.
“Lav, you did a great job. I can’t thank you enough.” He said to her. Lavender beamed.
“So what’s up?” she asked.
“I have a huge favor to ask of you guys…” Harry ran a hand through his messy hair. “I promised Catherine I’d meet her at five, and it’s four fifteen now…would you guys be willing to watch Caty for me for a little while? I promised her we’d all go to dinner tonight, but I have to do this first…”
Lavender looked at him and narrowed her eyes thoughtfully. “What’s going on with you two?”
Harry shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m trying to find out, I guess.” A small smile appeared on his face. Lavender walked over to him and patted his shoulder.
“I really hope everything works out Harry.” Lavender said kindly. “I mean, I know we weren’t friends at Hogwarts, but once we got out, she and I got to be pretty close. I’d love to have her back again too.”
“Thanks Lav.” Harry said, hugging her. “And I can’t tell you how much I appreciate having you and Ron around again. I mean, I’ve only been back a day and you two have bent over backwards to help me and Caty adjust.”
“Well, we’ve missed you a lot Harry. And if there’s a chance that this girl IS Hermione, I want you to go for it!” Lavender said. She pushed him towards the door. “Go get yourself ready!”
Harry grinned and disappeared into the bedroom that he and Ron had set back up. He showered quickly and pulled on a pair of dark blue pants and a sky blue shirt. He tried to tame down his messy raven colored locks, but they were as stubborn as they ever were.
Ron had come back to the flat with the kids by the time Harry finished getting ready. He walked back into the kitchen, where he watched in amusement as Blue and Caitlyn both hopped on one foot, trying to outdo one another.
“You two…” Harry said as he grabbed his daughter around her middle and scooped her up. “Are completely goofy.”
“Dad!!” she squealed.
“Hah! I won!” Blue shouted.
“No you didn’t!” Caitlyn argued. “We have to start over, I didn’t stop on my own!”
She wiggled out of Harry’s arms and pushed Blue into the other room. “We’ll do it in here where no one will bother us!”
Harry looked at Ron and Lavender who both shrugged. “I just don’t’ know.” Harry said. “I don’t think she’ll miss me for a little while.”
Ron shook his head in agreement. “Remember what I told you earlier…” He said seriously.
Harry nodded. “I will.” He replied. ‘I definitely want to take a few risks tonight…’ he thought.
Downstairs one floor, Catherine had just taken notice of the time and was panicking. She hastily threw aside articles of clothing before deciding on a light blue three quarter sleeved shirt and black pants. She threw her hair back into a long ponytail and quickly slicked some gloss on her lips. Not even a moment later, she heard a knock at her door.
Before opening the door, she took a deep breath and cast a quick glance in the mirror, which told her she looked fine.
“Hi.” She said, as Harry’s frame appeared in the doorway.
Harry grinned at her. “Hello.” He replied. He had a hand behind his back.
She opened the door wider. “Come on in.” she said, stepping aside so he could enter.
“Thanks.” He said. “This is for you.” Harry brought his hand out from behind his back, clutched in his fist was a single yellow buttercup, which had been Hermione’s favorite flower.
A smile spread across her face. “Thank you!” she exclaimed, her cheeks tingeing pink. She took it from him and touched the silky petal. Harry was extremely glad now that he had brought it, as he was about to walk out the door, Lavender insisted he bring a flower, and had transfigured it out of a pencil.
“Come on, we’ll go in the kitchen while I put it in water.” She was saying.
“As you wish, my lady.” Harry quipped, following her.
She looked back at him and arched an eyebrow. “Who are you today, Wesley?” she asked, giving him a quirky smile.
“I’m impressed.” Harry said. “You knew where that came from.”
“Of course I did.” She replied, filling up a small glass vase with water and sticking the flower inside. “You’ve already forgotten I’m the Muggle movie queen.”
They grinned at each other for a moment, followed by a slightly awkward silence.
Catherine took a deep breath. “So, what brought you over today?” she asked.
Harry scratched his head. “Well, a few things I guess. Caty and I moved in upstairs just this afternoon.”
Her eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Already?”
“Yup.” Harry said. “Ron, you remember him right, he came and helped us get things packed, then his wife Lavender came over and helped us set everything back up. Caty and their son Blue get along really well, which helps everything out a lot.”
“That’s really nice.” Catherine said. She looked at the bright yellow buttercup in it’s vase again. She touched it lightly once more.
~*She was lying on the couch in their living room, one hand propped on her stomach, the other holding up a paperback book that she was reading intently. She was so involved in her book that she did not notice a figure sneaking up behind her.
“Boo!” said a deep voice right into her ear.
She jumped and her book fell onto the floor. “Harry!”
He grinned and sat down on the couch next to her. She smiled back up at him, the impish look in his green eyes always made her want to melt inside.
“How are you feeling today?” he asked her, putting his hand on top of her own that was still resting on her stomach.
“Just a little sickness this morning, and then I felt better this afternoon.” She replied. He moved her hand and pressed his lips to her belly that was slowly beginning to show signs of life inside. He moved up, kissing her on her sensitive spot where her neck turned into her shoulder, moving up to her throat, and finally capturing her lips with his own.
She eagerly responded to him, parting her lips to allow his tongue to enter her mouth and mingle with her own. Her hands slid into his thick hair and he used his free hand to cup the side of her face.
“Harry…” she pulled her mouth away from his. “This is how we started last time, and look what happened.” She pulled one hand from his head and patted her stomach. Harry reluctantly sat back.
“I know. I just can’t resist you.” He grinned. She raised one hand and stroked the side of his face gently. Harry leaned down and picked something up off the floor.
“What’s that?” she asked, trying to turn onto her side.
“Nope.” Harry said, putting his hand on her cheek and preventing her from turning to look.
“What are you doing?” she asked, a half smile coming across her face.
“Close your eyes.” He commanded gently. She obliged, and he leaned forward and kissed her on the lips once more. He then brought his hand in front of him; in it he had a single perfect yellow buttercup. He brushed it across her lips and her cheeks, the silky petals trailing smoothly across her skin.
“Okay, you can open them now.” He said. As her eyes opened, he took her hand and set the buttercup in her grip.
“It’s beautiful.” She said. He knew buttercups were her favorite flower in the world. “Where did you find such a perfect flower?”
Harry smiled. “Well, it may look perfect on the outside, but it’s what is inside that counts.” He peeled back one of the petals. “It took me far too long to see what a perfect flower I had right in front of me for so long.” He peeled back another petal. “In fact, I was such a fool that I almost missed my chance…” he peeled back the remaining three petals and she gasped. Inside the flower was a beautiful gold ring with a sparkling one-carat diamond inside. Harry held out the flower to her and she took the ring.
“Make me the happiest man alive and marry me.” He said, his emerald eyes burning into hers.
Tears fell from her eyes as she tried to regain her powers of speech. He took the ring from her hand.
“Oh God yes, Harry!” she said. “Of course I’ll marry you, you prat!” she threw her arms around him tightly.
“You had me worried there for a second.” He joked. He slipped the ring onto her finger and leaned in to kiss her again…*~
Catherine gripped the edge of the counter tightly as her head pounded from the images flashing through her mind. ‘What is going on?’ she thought.
“Are you all right?” Harry’s concerned voice startled her from her reverie. She shook her head to try and clear her thoughts.
“Yeah. I…I’m fine, just got dizzy there for a second.” She lied, she didn’t want to tell him about what she had just experienced. “I think I need to sit down for a moment.”
Harry swiftly moved to her side and guided her to a chair, into which she sat down gratefully.
“Do you need anything? Water?” he asked worriedly, she looked a little peaked.
“Yes, water would be nice, thanks. Glasses are up above the sink.” She replied. He quickly got her a glass of water and she gulped some down and seemed to finally relax a little.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Harry asked again.
She nodded, feeling stronger now. “Yes, I’m fine, I promise.” She replied. “It’s just been a very strange day.”
“How so?” he asked.
“Well, I had the strangest dream last night and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it all day.”
“What was it about?” he asked.
Catherine sat back in her chair and rubbed her forehead. “Well, it started off with me, well I really don’t know if it was me or not…” she told him all the details she could remember. “And what frustrates me the most is I can’t remember the name I saw on the coat, or what name the person with the hood said. All I can remember is that it started with a ‘G’.” she finished with a sigh.
Harry felt a strong flicker of hope. “Can you tell me what the person looked like?” he asked, leaning forward across the table.
Catherine frowned and tried hard to think back. “Well…she was kind of pale I think, oh, but her hair, I remember that now, it was a light brown color, kind of bushy and she had it in a ponytail. Oh, and she wore a white lab coat too.”
Harry leaned back, his breath coming in short gasps. This was really more than he ever hoped for.
“But I’ve been repeating what the person said all day just so I wouldn’t forget it.” Catherine said. “Alieno Cunctus.” She looked at Harry quizzically. “I’ve read a lot of books in my time, but I’ve never heard of that curse before.”
“Me either.” Harry managed to say. The two of them sat in silence for a moment before Harry looked up at the clock on the wall.
“Oh crap. I’m afraid I have to go, Caty and I are going to dinner tonight with Ron and his family.” Harry hesitated a moment and ran his hand through his hair. “Look, the real reason I came over, about last night…”
“Look, it’s okay.” Catherine said, brushing her hand aside as if the whole situation was no big deal.
“No, I mean, I just want you to know, it’s not that I didn’t want to um kiss you…but I uh…” Harry fumbled around looking for the right words. “Well, I’d rather take you to dinner or something before that step…” he turned a bright red color.
“You…you want to take me out?” Catherine asked hesitantly.
“If you’d like.” Harry said, looking up from where he had been studying his shoes.
Catherine tried to breathe without breaking out into an all too eager smile. “Sure, I would like that a lot.” She managed to say without squeaking.
“Really?” he seemed almost disbelieving. “Okay! Um…how about tomorrow evening? I’ll pick you up around seven thirty?”
“That sounds fine.” She said in her controlled voice. She smiled at him and he broke out into a grin.
“Great!” he said, moving towards the hallway. She walked out to the front door behind him.
“I’ll see you tomorrow then.” She said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“I am too.” He said. He paused for a moment as if he were contemplating something, and leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, leaving his lips there for a split second longer than necessary. “Bye.” he said, walking out the door.
Catherine stared at the doorway for a long moment after he left, her hand pressed to the spot where his lips had just been. Oh, she had it bad.
Harry strode back into his apartment, he was feeling really good right now. Ron and Lavender were in his living room with the two kids. Lavender had managed to get Blue washed up and dressed in some clean clothes, and Caty had obviously gotten herself dressed in some of her new robes.
Ron looked up from the floor where he was teaching Caitlyn how to play wizard’s chess.
“How’d everything go?” he asked. Harry smiled but shook his head at Ron as if to tell him he’d fill him in later.
“Are we ready to go?” Lavender asked. “I thought we’d go to Hogsmeade tonight? You haven’t been back to the Three Broomsticks yet Harry.”
Harry nodded. “Sounds good to me. I’ve missed butterbeer.” He said. Lavender giggled.
“I don’t know if Ron likes it so much anymore!” she laughed even harder. “Last time we were there…let’s just say he had too much.” Ron grumbled and grabbed his wife around her middle.
“Yeah, but I got to keep you up all night.” He said, kissing her on the nose and then on her lips.
“Gross!” Blue shouted from the floor. Caitlyn was watching them with stars in her eyes.
Ron had connected Harry’s fireplace with the Floo Network while he had been up with Catherine, so all they had to do was grab some powder and in about five minutes all of them had tumbled out of the fireplace at the Three Broomsticks.
Madam Rosmerta was pleased to see Harry again after so long, and delighted in meeting Caitlyn. She gave them all a free round of butterbeer, and they perused the new menus and ordered their dinner as well. It had definitely been the best night Harry had had in a long time.
Late that night, long after Lavender had gone home with Blue to tuck him into bed, Harry and Ron sat at the table in Harry’s new kitchen.
“I may need your help on something.” Harry said to Ron. He filled him in on the details of Catherine’s dream. “I know it must be her. That dream, I mean, what if that was what happened to Herm? And that curse, I’ve never heard of it before.”
Ron nodded, deep in thought. “Well, I’ll ask around at the Ministry tomorrow. Someone there has got to know something about that.”
“I appreciate it Ron. More than you’ll ever know.” Harry said. Ron smiled at him reassuringly.
“We’ll get to the bottom of this. If she’s Hermione, we’ll find out soon.” Ron said determinedly.
Harry grinned back at him. “I asked her out today too.” He said, his grin growing wider.
Ron’s eyes widened. “Way to go mate!” he said.
Harry nodded. “I don’t know where I’ll take her yet…but this gives me more of a chance to get to know her…” he sat back in his chair and looked thoughtfully at the ceiling. “I really like her, regardless if she’s Hermione or not.”
“That’s cool.” Ron said. He looked at his watch. “Well I’ve got to get home, I’ll let you know as soon as possible if anything comes up about that curse.”
“Thanks again.” Harry said. Ron grinned and apparated out.
Harry went to his bedroom and fell onto his bed. He stared up at the ceiling and grinned once more as he thought about what the next evening might have in store.