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Chapter 5: Catching a Break
Amazing chapter image by ginnyfan4life (isn't she the best?)
I got a new chapter image up for the previous chapter and it is beautiful if anyone wants to check it out...
The day had not proved to be as productive as she had hoped. She found that her mind refused to focus on the task at hand and constantly drifted off in the direction that she swore to herself it would no longer go. After three hours of attempting to write, she called for a break and decided to go to the kitchen to make herself a snack. When she opened the door, she was surprised to see Twinkles small form sitting curled up on one of the chairs.
She looked up at Hermione's entrance and immediately wiped away a stray tear from her eyes and curtseyed. "Mistress will excuse Twinkles. Twinkles is not knowing you are needing anything."
Hermione, forgetting her own troubles for a moment, went over to her house elf and knelt down to eye level. "No apologies necessary Twinkles." Hermione patted the elf on the arm. "Now tell me, what has you so upset?"
"No, no, no, mistress should not be worrying about poor Twinkles. Twinkles is fine." The elf stood up straight and put a smile on her face.
"Twinkles, really tell me what is wrong. Maybe I can help."
Even though it wasn't meant to be an order, the elf was compelled to now answer her master. "It is poor Boof. She is being very sick, and I is just getting a letter that says Boof will not be making it." The elf broke into tears once again, and Hermione embraced her tiny form and did her best to comfort Twinkles.
Hermione pulled herself back from the elf's heaving form and looked at her tear filled brown eyes, "You should go to Boof. You can take the week off."
The elf wiped at her eyes, "No, I is not able to leave for a week. I is just having my day off."
Hermione stood and looked at her elf. Rarely had she ever given an order to her Twinkles, but she would not allow the elf's compulsion to take care of them to let her miss out on seeing her sister just before she died. "I am not making a request Twinkles. You will take this week off and visit your sister, starting right now." She turned and walked straight out of the kitchen in order to give the elf some time alone, as well as make it harder for Twinkles to protest anymore.
That night at dinner Hermione sat across from her husband as she always had. The door to the kitchen opened up to reveal an older woman with graying black hair and a crooked smile with a tray in her hands and an apron tied around her waist. She brought Hermione her dish first and then went over to serve the master of the house. Draco, who had been reading over some paperwork, hadn't noticed her entrance.
He looked up at her approach. "Who are you?" His voice came out thick and accusing.
"She is Miranda, and is going to be our cook and housemaid for the week." Hermione rang back with a slightly icy edge.
"Oh? Where is Twinkles then? Don't tell me you have given her another day off already."
"As a matter of fact I have given her a week off." She cut fiercely into her steak and looked down at her plate in anger.
"A WHOLE WEEK?" Miranda, who had just placed the plate down in front of Draco, jumped back at his yell and scurried into the kitchen as quickly as her stumpy legs would take her.
"Yes," Hermione kept her voice even and calm, "a whole week. Her sister Boof has fallen ill and I have ordered Twinkles to her side." She took a bite of the steak.
"Boof?" Hermione was pleased to note that his face had paled slightly in guilt.
"Yes, Boof. Her sister. You have met her before. She works for the Nott's, though I gather that they do not give her nearly what she deserves. A mere sickle a month and only one day off every two." Hermione continued to ramble on about the mistreatment of Boof and other house elves. She knew that Draco was hardly listening to her; he had never been interested in her attempts at gaining freedoms for the house elves, though he did not usually complain about the way that she handled Twinkles.
Once dinner had been cleared and Draco had become resigned to the elf being absent for a week, Hermione knew that the night would progress as it always had on Wednesdays. She had been bracing herself for this all day. It wasn't that she didn't want to have sex with her husband; what she didn't want was for it to be a catalyst for her to remember the way that she had been with Ron. She wanted to be able to start over the way that Ron was given the chance, though losing her memories was not the way in which she wanted to do it.
He combed his fingers through his blond hair, an action that she found he did when he was anticipating something. She hadn't seen him make that gesture on a Wednesday night since the first month of their marriage. She considered this, and figured that it must be due to their interlude the previous Saturday.
Hermione couldn't bear to have a repeat performance of that, because while it had been the best sex that they had ever had, the after affects had completely worn her down. She had gone to bed that night and cried herself to sleep, not allowing herself even the privilege of looking through her treasure box of memories.
She sighed inwardly and rose from her chair. Though she did not look at Draco, she could feel his eyes on her as she left the dining room. It would be only moments before he followed her. Carefully she walked up the steps, each footfall feeling heavier then the last, as if she were walking to her death and not her bedroom.
The sound of the dining room door opening jolted her slightly, and his steady footsteps could be heard walking across the tile floor. She took another step and found herself on the second floor landing. When she didn't hear him coming up behind her she turned to look down at him. Draco was standing there, watching her with a pained expression on his face.
"Is everything okay?"
"Yes, yes, everything is fine," he said distractedly. "I just have some work to do. I'm afraid we will have to postpone our usual activities. Don't wait up." He walked out of her view and towards the den.
Hermione stood there, shock and relief being the two most dominant feelings coursing through her. She took her chance and ran back down the stairs and into the back parlor, where she sat on her favorite chair and pulled out the book that she was currently reading. She didn't dwell on his reasons; all she did was bask in the freedom of her escape.
"Ron!" Ron groaned and pulled the pillow in on his ears to drown out the sound of his little sister. After about ten minutes of her constant yelling his name and pounding on the door, he gave up. Ron glanced at the clock and saw that it was only 7 in the morning.
"Alright, alright, I'm up." His voice grew progressively louder with every syllable. He yanked the door open. "What?"
"Good morning?" Ginny sang and with an eerily cheery smile on her face she sauntered into the bedroom.
Ron scratched at his head. "What are you so happy about?"
"Oh, nothing. It's just a beautiful day for practice." She danced towards the window and looked out.
"Yeah, well it's seven-bloody-fifteen in the morning! It will still be beautiful at eleven. You can tell me all about it then." Ron slipped back into his bed and pulled the covers over his head. Just as quickly as he was able to put them on he felt Ginny tug them off, and the light from the now completely opened window glared down on him.
"I thought it might be nice if you came to see my practice today." Her sing-song voice replaced with the sterner one that Ron had always associated with his mother. It was the you-are-going-to-do-as-I-ask-or-else voice.
He groaned and turned to look at her. "Your practice isn't until ten. That gives me two hours and forty more minutes to sleep." He pulled the covers back over his head.
"Yes, well I think you should consider getting some new clothes before practice."
"What for?" He peeked out from under the covers at her. "Those are perfectly fine."
Ginny walked to the clothes that were draped over the back of the desk chair and picked the trousers up with her thumb and pointer finger. "These…" she said as she dropped them back down, "do not fit, nor are they clean, and frankly they stink quite a lot." Her hands were on her hips, and being gone for four years did not mean that he did not recognize her do-not-argue-with-me-because-you-wont-win posture.
"Fine!" He sat up and flung the covers off of himself. "Do I have time to take a shower master?" He bowed to her slightly.
"Yes, I should think so. Your clothes aren't the only things that stink in here." She grinned as she walked out of the room and shut the door. Ron stomped out of his room, towel in tow, and went to the bathroom. The shower had revived him somewhat, but he would never be a morning person, and he still continued to yawn throughout breakfast.
Shopping was the last thing that he wanted to be doing at the moment, or ever actually unless it was for a new broom, and he trudged along Diagon Alley slowly hoping to delay the inevitable. Ginny, he could see, was getting impatient with him and began to drag him along at a faster clip.
"C'mon Ron, it'll only take a few minutes."
However, it did not, and an hour later they left the shop with three bags of robes, trousers and shirts, all of which had needed to be altered to fit his unusually tall form.
"See, that wasn't so bad!" Ginny said cheerfully.
"Yeah right, as much as fun as sticking quills in my eyes."
She rolled her eyes, but Ron hadn't had any time to respond because the next moment brought him face to face with Draco Malfoy.
"Weasley." Malfoy gave him a slight nod, and then gave Ginny a small smile that looked as if it were trying very hard not to be a sneer.
"Malfoy." Ron nodded back and went to grab Ginny's arm in order to rush her away, but she stood firm.
"How is Hermione?" Ginny asked him, and Ron watched Malfoy's face change to that of concern.
"She's okay." Malfoy darted a quick glance in Ron's direction. "Better than, actually." He smirked at Ginny, but Ron noticed a slight tremor when his eyes yet again grazed over him.
"Well, tell her I said hi." She then nodded her head in the direction that they had been walking, a signal for Ron to follow her.
"Yeah. Will do." Malfoy said when they were a couple of steps away. Ron turned back to look at the former Slytherin. only to see his back and his blond hair bounce slightly as he walked.
When they had gone a block or so, Ron felt it safe to broach the subject that had been niggling at him since their little confrontation. "What in the hell was that all about?"
"What was what all about?" Ginny asked back.
He stopped walking and took a long look at his sister. "Since when do you talk to Malfoy? And why did he keep looking at me like that? It was creepy."
"I told you that Malfoy married Hermione Granger? Well, Hermione and I are friends, and therefore Malfoy and I have come to an understanding." She hadn't stopped walking, and at this she started to pick up her pace. "Now c'mon, I don't want to be late."
"Don't avoid the question, Ginny." Ron stated as he jogged a bit to catch up to her quickened pace, though admittedly with his long strides it didn't take long.
"I answered your question."
"No you didn't. Why was he looking at me that way?"
"What way? Do you think I know the inner workings of Draco Malfoy just because we are now civil to one another? Besides I didn't notice anything." She turned her head away from Ron so he wasn't able to tell from her face if she was lying, but her voice sounded steady, and he shrugged it off. Maybe he was just being paranoid after everything that had happened.
Five minutes later found Ron sitting in the stands of the practice Quidditch field for the Holyhead Harpies. Ginny hadn't had time to introduce him to the rest of her team before she had to be up in the sky, so Ron just sat back and watched as his little sister flew around the pitch in wonderful form. Ginny had been smart to drag him out here, for it was exactly what he needed. Ron became so engrossed in watching the practice that he had forgotten why he was so upset in the first place. He had spent too long out of the lives of the people that he loved, and he had just wasted almost a week in sulking. The hour and half flew by, and even though he had not been introduced to her teammates, Ron felt as if he knew them already.
There was the blonde chaser that always feinted to the right but shot in the center. Then there was the dark skinned girl who played beater; her swing would have put both of the twins to shame. There was the other chaser with the spiky brown hair that flew amazingly fast, but didn't have as good of an aim as Ginny and the blonde. The other beater and seeker looked very much alike, and though they played different positions they seemed to fly in similar styles. Last, there was the keeper. Ron watched her most intently, looking for any trick that he might be able to use when he played with his brothers.
When practice was over Ginny brought her teammates over to Ron for introductions. Their names were all spouted off in order, but as soon as he heard them they left his head. There was no way he would remember all of that. The only name that stuck in his mind was that of the keeper, Blakely Windsor.
She had appeared to be tall for a girl when Ron saw her from the ground as she attended her goals. Now that they were near each other he noticed that she was more than just tall, she practically an Amazon woman. She had to be at least six feet tall. Her dark blond hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail and it hung down to her mid back. She wasn't beautiful but she wasn't hideous either, and he had to note that she had just come from practice and that if she was cleaned up a bit she might be even rather nice to look at.
"Ginny says that you were a keeper at school?" Blakely questioned Ron as they all walked towards the apparation point.
"Yeah," he shrugged his shoulders and hoped that the slight heat he felt in his ears could not be seen through his mop of hair.
"Maybe we could practice together sometime." She winked. Ron felt his face flush slightly at her forwardness.
"S-Sure, that'd be…fun." He of course wasn't sure of anything that had happened during those four years of memory loss, but he doubted that he had been with a girl during that time. Since that was the case, he felt a bit rusty. He hadn't snogged a girl since Lavender Brown in sixth year, and he had never actually dated anyone because Lavender did not count.
"Blakely! Stop hitting on my brother! It's…" she looked at Ron's flushing cheeks, "gross!" She pushed Ron forward and further away from the tall keeper.
"Hey!" Blakely shouted after them. "Pick you up Friday at seven." She winked one more time and then Ron felt the familiar tug as Ginny had grabbed hold of him and apparated them both home.
A/N: I know there wasn't a whole lot of action, but this chapter was important. I hope no one was dissapointed. This chapter has now been beta'd by the wonderful Georgia Weasley (thanks!)
Thanks of course to all who have read and special thanks to those who have reviewed!