Unofficial Portkey Archive

In Vino Veritas by puck_nc

In Vino Veritas


Disclaimer: If you recognize the character, it isn't mine. Just playing in Rowling's sandbox.

Apology: For those who were hoping this was a notification for a new "Perils" chapter, I can say that I'm almost there. Hang in there.

Reminder: I'm on Twitter under "avidbeader" if you are reading this on a guest account and would prefer to get your notifications of a new chapter or story that way. I promise I won't be spamming. I'm also on Tumblr under the same name.

Plug: This story was begun several years ago. When I was invited to take part in the annual Fandom for LLS fanworks charity drive, I debated for a while and finally brought this story to a close. If you donated to the charity drive back in August, you already have this story in the compilation. For everyone else, new story! And for everyone else, here's a new H/Hr story!


Hermione tried to avoid cynicism. She found it an unproductive attitude to take. But she couldn't hide the sourness she felt when Harry told her the news.

He was not bothering to hide his disgust at all. He'd suggested putting the names of the two men out through Interpol, just in case they thought to try and escape by traveling exclusively as Muggles. When Shacklebolt had taken the suggestion to the Head of Magical Law Enforcement, he'd been turned away.

And once Harry had gone over that worthy's head by passing his suggestion to Minister Bones through Susan, the Muggle dragnet had located the men within a day.

Harry kept one arm around Hermione as they entered the Ministry and brushed past the small group of reporters who were chasing the story. They didn't speak at all as questions were shouted at them.

Tonks was waiting for them at the entrance to the Aurors' section and fell into step beside them. "We've matched the images to Harry's Pensieve records, and the magical signature for Mr Neal is identical to the one on the glass. We just need you two to verify it and we'll be ready to start proceedings for a trial."

Harry nodded and noticed that Hermione was growing paler as they approached the elevators. He tightened his arm around her and she gave him a faint smile.

They were shown into the spectator side of the identification tank. Taking the idea from Muggle police procedures, the "tank" was separated from their side by a mirror charmed to be a one-way glass. As they were led in, they watched as Neal, the man who had tainted Hermione's drink, got up and began pacing. The other man, Palmer, was trying to look relaxed, but his jaw was a little too clenched and his fingers a shade too nervous as they drummed the table.

Hermione swallowed hard and cleared her throat. "I recognize them. That one tried to talk to me for a few minutes and the one standing is the one who tried to carry me out when I was drugged."

Harry nodded. "I recognize them, too. I don't suppose Neal had any leftover injuries or spell damage?"

Tonks nodded in reply. "The medical scan showed the leftover bruising from where you pitched him into a wall. He claimed he'd been knocked off a broom in a Quidditch pickup game. He couldn't explain why your magical signature was lingering on that fancy leather jacket of his." She flipped through her armload of scrolls and pulled one out. "If you two will just touch your wands there and repeat the identifications, it will all be nice and official." They obeyed and Tonks returned the scroll to her pile. "Back in a minute to walk you guys out!" She let the door slam behind her.

And while the glass was vision-proof, it was not entirely soundproof. Both men jerked up at the vibrations of the door and turned toward the glass. Hermione gasped involuntarily and stepped back when Neal's gaze caught hers, even though he was not seeing her.

Harry was behind her in an instant, wrapping her in his arms. He buried his nose into her hair and leaned in to whisper, "I've got you. As long as I'm here, I won't let anything happen to you."

She began trembling and Harry tightened his hold. But Hermione was trembling for a completely different reason: being in Harry's arms, feeling his breath as he whispered so intimately into her ear, sent a tidal wave of desire though her. She covered his hands with her own and leaned into him.

I love you, Harry.

"I know, Harry. I know."


For the first time, Hermione truly understood Harry's occasional worship of magic. She had been a bit sceptical of his reaction at the World Cup long ago upon entering Mr Weasley's borrowed tent and discovering the large space inside. (To be fair, she had seen quite a bit of the old Doctor Who show thanks to her father's passion for it. Bigger-on-the-inside was not new to her.)

But to be a victim of assault and not have to testify thanks to Pensieve memories, to not be doubted thanks to the use of Veritaserum on the defendants…these things were truly magical to Hermione. She knew full well how such cases, especially involving the possibility of sexual assault, often went. Without magic, she would have been blamed for drinking too much in a public place, for talking to a stranger and not watching her glass, for how she was dressed. The man Harry had blasted away from her would have claimed to only be helping some poor girl too drunk to walk. Even Harry's status as the Vanquisher of Voldemort would have only done so much to prevent the defence from trying to tear her reputation down.

It helped that Ron was there, standing in solidarity with the other two of the Golden Trio. Hermione still felt uncomfortable in his presence, but was profoundly grateful. His open support of her made mincemeat of the rumours spread by Rita Skeeter's successor that the Cannons keeper had dumped her when she showed interest in her attacker.

The two men were sent to Azkaban to await any possibility of extradition and serving out their sentences in their native countries. The impromptu press conference in the Atrium was over, with reporters scurrying back to write their stories. Ron had shaken hands and departed in order to meet with the team in Wigtown for the next day's match.

Harry turned to Hermione. "Shall I see you home?"

She was very tempted. Harry had been her rock the last few weeks, eating lunch with her in Diagon Alley or bringing takeaway to her flat after work if he couldn't meet her during the day. His constant presence had been exactly what she needed to get over her nerves.

"I can still get a half-day in if I go directly back to my office. I'm expecting a report from the centaurs any day now and I want to be able to respond right away-"

Harry put a finger to her lips. "You know that it's not going to arrive today. They said they would communicate with the blessings of Venus and Libra to foster peace, and Venus won't be hanging around Libra for another week. Come on, we deserve a trip to Fortescue's. Madam Caulfield probably has new flavours out."

Hermione shook her head, grinning. Ever since Madam Caulfield had reopened the old ice cream shop, keeping the name, Harry was a regular. "All right, I suppose tomorrow will be soon enough."


With the chilly weather, they chose to sit inside and Madam Caulfield greeted them cheerfully. After much debate, Hermione settled on a dulce de leche sundae with cinnamon sauce. Harry scoffed at her conservative choice and went with a new Thai combo that the shop keeper said was an idea from her muggle brother-in-law. The result was a lime ginger ice cream with a spicy peanut-butter sauce garnished with basil leaves and Harry professed to love it.

He scooped another large mouthful and shoved it in his mouth enthusiastically, making Hermione think of Ron and his early years at Hogwarts. Despite that, Hermione was entranced for a moment, thinking of just how much she had come to rely on Harry in the past few weeks. She didn't want their closeness to fall back into the old habits of "just good friends".

Harry noticed her staring, a dab of ice cream on the corner of his lips, and paused. "Do you want a bite?"

Before she could dissuade herself, Hermione leaned over, past his proffered spoon, and licked the ice cream from his face.

They both flinched: Harry from the touch of her tongue and Hermione from the noise of his spoon clattering on the table. They stared at one another, each afraid to speak first.

Finally, Hermione broke the silence. "Harry? Are you all right?"

Harry swallowed, trying to get both his throat clear and his sudden surge of hormones under control. "I…yeah. Yeah. Never better." He managed a smile and when Hermione relaxed slightly he was able to calm down a little more.

"Good. How about we go somewhere nice for dinner this weekend? My treat. I owe you for all the takeaways you've been bringing lately."

Since he had been trying to figure a way to get Hermione to go out with him without coming on too strong like Ron, he nodded. "That sounds great. Magical or muggle side?"

"Muggle side. There's a restaurant in Picadilly that I'd love to visit again. My dad used to take my mum there on very special occasions, and they took me for my tenth birthday."

"Sounds posh."

"It is. You'll need a suit and tie to feel comfortable and I'll need a bit of luck to get a table at short notice."

"And you're buying?"

"I most certainly am. You deserve it after everything you did for me." She sat back and attacked her melting ice cream with satisfaction.


As six o'clock approached, Hermione was staring at herself in the mirror and biting her lip. She was in a new dress, the one that fit perfectly and was just the right length and cut just low enough to be interesting without being flashy. But the colour was all wrong: what had been advertised as "dusty rose" in the shop looked like a muddy pink in her flat and would probably be even worse in the dim lighting of the restaurant.

Rather than dig through her closet, she picked up her wand and began casting charms on the dress, cycling through colours. She was wavering between two shades of blue when the buzzer to her door sounded. Quickly going for the lighter periwinkle blue that echoed her Yule Ball gown, she dropped her wand in her magically-enlarged evening bag.

She checked the spyhole and opened the door for Harry. "Hi, Harry." She looked him over in appreciation. "No Apparition? I can see why you'd avoid the floo, given that dashing suit."

"I got us a taxi, since you said the restaurant was in Muggle London and it looks like rain. Easier to be dropped at the door instead of trying to Apparate into an unfamiliar alley."

As Hermione moved to get her wrap, Harry beat her to it and settled it around her shoulders. He moved to her ear, his voice dropping as he spoke. "And it would be very bad form to get such a lovely dress wet."

They were in the taxi and on the way before Hermione got her throat working again.


Harry was impressed by Hermione's father's taste. The restaurant was over a century old, steeped in tradition and history, and yet presented a vibrant menu to its clientele. Harry was about to ask for water when Hermione chose a bottle of wine from the list.

"Are you sure, Hermione? I don't think I've seen you drink since…"

She looked up at him with an expression of gratitude but steel in her eyes. "Yes, thank you. I have three reasons. First, I do need to work off the last of my hesitations caused by that night. Second, we'll be taking a taxi back. And third…" she trailed off and licked her lips nervously, making Harry focus on them for a moment.


"I'm with someone I trust to the ends of the earth."

Harry ducked to hide the sudden flush in his face and tried to distract himself with the starters on the menu.

After an excellent meal filled with chat about work and friends, they debated desserts. Harry chose a chocolate torte while Hermione surprised him with her selection of a gooseberry parfait. She shrugged. "My mother blames my grandmother, who always brought us gooseberries from the bushes on her farm. I love them."

As they began on the resulting confections, Harry broached the one subject that had not come up. "Have you heard from Ron?"

She shook her head. "Not a thing, but it doesn't surprise me. If I have a hard time thinking what to say to him, it must be a hundred times worse for him."

"If…you know, it hadn't happened, would you still be together, do you think?"

Hermione swallowed and shook her head. "No, I think we would have broken up fairly soon anyway. The fact that he even considered trying to get me into bed with alcohol is a glaring pointer. I was keeping him away but not explaining and he couldn't find a way to just ask me what was wrong."

"So, what happens next? George sent a letter saying that Su Li had dropped by twice in the last week to buy gifts for nephews and ask after Ron. What about you? What do you want to do?"

"Well, that's the beauty of it. I don't have to do anything. I have my friends, my family, my job and my cat. Unlike some women, I don't feel I have to be dating to make my life interesting."

"Fair enough. But if you were looking, what would you look for?" Harry took a large bite of cake, trying to calm his sudden nerves over her answer.

She took her wineglass and sat back, giving the question serious thought. "Well, I don't think I could date someone who wouldn't be comfortable in the Muggle world. Even after knowing us almost ten years and growing up with his father, Ron was still next to useless when we visited my parents."

Harry nodded. "I can understand that. It was annoying to have to explain every little reference to Ginny."

Hermione nodded. "And of course it has to be someone I can actually talk to without second-guessing what I say or how I say it. Someone who isn't judging my choices. I know that was something that bothered Ron…or Mrs Weasley. I wanted to be firmly placed in my career before marrying or even considering children, and you know how traditional some of the old wizarding families are about such things."

Harry nodded again. "Absolutely. Leaving your brilliance to do nothing but cook and clean and change nappies would be a waste."

She blushed slightly at the compliment and turned the subject around. "What about you? You can't fool me by pleading work the way you do with most of the women around. What is it you're looking for?"

Harry looked down at his plate for a moment, drawing circles in the praline mousse that had come with his dessert. Finally he met Hermione's eyes again. "I just want someone who can see past Harry Potter. I'm tired of being the Boy-Who-Lived, the Vanquisher of Voldemort. I've been just an Auror for three years now, and the only woman there who isn't blinded by my fame is Tonks. And she bats for the other side."

Hermione reached over and laid a hand on his, not needing words to convey her sympathy and caring.

He seized his chance to hint at the truth that had come to him in the last several weeks. "I think you're the only woman who has ever managed to see me for just me."

She squeezed his hand, giving him the first stirrings of courage to act on what he felt.


Back at Hermione's flat, he paid the taxi and escorted her inside. She led him up to her door, where he gently took the key and opened it for her, leaning into her a little in the shadowy hall. She swallowed before speaking. "Why didn't you ask the taxi to wait for you?"

"I can Apparate or Floo back easily enough."

She nodded. "Would you like to come in? Have some tea?"

They entered and Harry put his hands to her shoulders, sliding her wrap off them and laying it across the back of a chair. She moved to the tiny kitchen and put the kettle on. He watched her, smiling, as she prepared the tea without once thinking about using magic.

As she stretched for a little-used tea tray on a high shelf, Harry stepped up behind her and plucked it down. She took it with shy thanks, set it on the counter, and realized Harry had not moved away from her.

"Harry?" She turned to face him.

"Like I said in the restaurant, Hermione. You're the only woman who's ever seen me for just me." He leaned down slowly, giving her plenty of time to stop him.

Instead of stopping him, she reached up and pulled him to her, pressing her lips firmly against his. Thus encouraged, Harry wrapped his arms around her and deepened the kiss. When they broke off for air, Harry touched his forehead to hers, stroking her cheek, hardly daring to believe this was real.

"I meant it, Harry."


"When I told you I loved you, that night. I meant it."

"Well, then, I mean it, too."


Author's Note: As always, thank you for reading!