Chapter 6 : Strawberries and Icing
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I heard a loud noise of pots banging together followed by a crash of medal hitting my linoleum kitchen floor that echoed throughout my apartment. My stomach lurched. I bolted up out of the couch picking my wand up from the coffee table and pointing it straight at the intruder in my kitchen. My eyes were blurry and my head spinning, I must not have slept well last night. As I became more aware of my surroundings last night came flooding back, of course Darden must have spent the night. My vision became clearer, and the site of my friend standing there with her hands in the air and her mouth wide open was almost comical. My kitchen was so bright, filled with white walls and silver appliances, it nearly blinded me.
"I was... I was going to make you some eggs," she sputtered, obviously shocked by my sudden gesture. I wasn't always this jumpy, but after living alone for five years it’s certainly not an everyday thing to hear someone tearing up your kitchen at...I looked at the clock on my stove...
"Merlin Darden, it's only seven."
"I know, I know. But last night was just so exciting," even being a journalist she wasn’t too good with words, "Well not exciting. Oh never mind I just thought you'd like a nice breakfast for a change instead of your usual muffin."
I dismissed the idea of (literally) throwing Darden out of my apartment when I saw that giddy smile on her face.
"So you like that boy don’t you?" she blushed, as if that wasn’t answer enough.
"What boy?" she looked nervously at her tiny bare feet, sometimes her gestures reminded me of a child’s.
"Fine, never mind," I smiled and made my way back toward the couch, and the next thing I knew Darden came running behind me- pan in hand. "Darden! Put the pan down before you injure yourself. Or worse injure me." I almost laughed. She's not a very coordinated person, and that’s an understatement.
"Oh Hermione, he's absolutely amazing. We talked for a full hour last night, I’ll pay you back of course for the phone bill," I smiled and tried to remember what it had felt like to be so excited about a relationship with someone. I had never really dated anyone, and had only expressed my feelings once, so I guess I had never felt that new spark as she was feeling now. And as she sat on the couch with her legs curled under her and a huge smiled plastered on her face I was nearly envious of her.
"What's his name?"
"David." I nodded; it was quite a nice name. "He used to live in Australia! Really he did and...” she continued talking for several minutes as I shook my head up and down not really paying attention. Its not that I didn’t care, but there was honestly no point in learning about this guy, she’d probably dump him in a week. After what was probably five minutes of solid David-talk she seemed to be finished. "So how about those eggs?" I kept staring outside through my sliding glass door that lead to my balcony; my apartment was on the third floor. I shook my head to clear my thoughts.
"Sorry, I have none," Actually, unless she liked meatloaf, she wasn’t getting anything for breakfast.
"Let's go to the market then!" wow who ever this David guy was, he sure as heck was making my blonde haired friend happy.
"It's seven in the morning," I glared at her.
"If you are worried about your appearance this early in the morning, don’t be, you look fine."
"I don’t care what I look like," and I didn’t, I just wanted sleep. A lot of sleep for that matter.
"Hermioneee, get up!" She jumped up and was about to grab my arm when the phone started to ring. She made a mad dash for the phone.
"AH ah ah... my phone, don’t answer it," now that was definitely one of my pet peeves. Darden WAS my friend, and a great one at that...but it wasn’t her phone to answer. "Let the machine get it." I wasn’t up for talking to anyone, as I wasn't quite awake yet. I buried my head back in the armrest of my sofa and tried to ignore the pouting noises Darden was making. I heard my answering machine beep and then my voice coming from my bedroom.
"Hello you've reached Hermione Granger. I'm not in right now, but if you leave your name and number I will make sure to get back to you as soon as possible." I made a mental note to change that recording later, I sounded so falsely cheery it made me cringe.
I pulled my blanket back up over my body thinking no one would leave a message at seven in the morning. I began considering what excuse could get me out of going to the market as I could still feel my best friend staring at me. Maybe I'd let her call David or something while I slept.
"Uh...Hello? Er Mione? I guess that means that I just say something and you will get it later? Well this is Ron, you know Weasley." I shot up into a sitting position and I was suddenly more awake than I had been in weeks. My neck began to turn pink and I saw Darden out of the corner of my eye staring at me. "It took me quite a while to look you up and find your number. I guess I just wanted to… well apologize for last night, I didn’t mean to upset you. If you want to talk I'll be at the train station all day." I found myself wanting to smile. Even after all of these years that Ron had probably been using phones since he left, he was still unsure about how to leave a message. My body froze with realization; did he just ask me to go to the station and talk to him?
"Why would he be at the train station all day?" Darden asked me.
"Well I guess if you really want to know, we could find out," I knew I was just looking for an excuse to go see Ron, but so what. I was up and running into my bedroom before Darden even replied.
A mere thirty minutes later, I found myself standing inside the train station in my best skirt. Darden stood next to me wringing her hands as though she was the one who should be nervous.
"Where do you suppose he is?" she asked me anxiously, it was quite obvious that despite the nervousness of meeting someone new she was buzzing with excitement.
"Platform 9 and three quarters?" I really didn't know, but where else would a wizard be?
Even after all of these years of walking through the brick wall to platform nine and three quarters it sent a chill up my spine. Just as I emerged I saw a flash of red and knew immediately it was Ron. Its funny how there is always one characteristic about someone that makes him or her different from everyone. I know many people have red hair...but there was just something about his hair that made it his and only his. I began looking around as if I hadn't seen Ron yet. I didn't see a piece of trash anywhere; they always kept this place so clean.
"Well he's not here!" I lied, "I guess we should go."
"No wait! Isn't that him right there?" she asked pointing to Ron.
"Don’t point!" Too late, he saw us and flashed me a smile. Oh goodness, I could feel myself melting. He walked over to us, his long legs carrying him quickly. He held out his hand to Darden.
"Hey I'm Ron," he said although it was quite obvious she knew who he was.
"Oh hello, I'm Darden."
"So what are you doing here Ron?" I needed to say something, and that's all that came to mind.
"I work here."
"Yeah I work here...I am kind of the security person. Ever since Voldemort was defeated," I saw a flash of sadness cross over his eyes briefly. "They have hyped up the security some. So er... here I am, making sure some bloody idiot doesn’t try to pull something." It seemed so weird that his aspiration to become an auror and mine to become a hearler had faded away just as the lives of our friends and the war had faded.
"Wow I haven’t been here since...since we came home from Hogwarts after our seventh year," I muttered more to myself than anyone. Ron looked really uncomfortable when I said this.
"Yeah, I uh...still remember what you said to me." Darden seemed to have walked off noticing she wasn’t really a part of our conversation. I was grateful.
Ron shifted his weight from one foot to the other uneasily "Oh?"
I sat on the Hogwarts Express with my three best friends: Harry, Ron, and Ginny. None of us talked, we knew we were leaving Hogwarts forever. Ginny wasn’t returning for her 7th year because the war was at its highest point. I laid my head on the back of my seat and felt the vibrations of the train engine go through me. The air felt stiff and thick. We were all going to The Order of the Phoenix head quarters for the whole summer, or however long it took for the war to end.
I felt Ron's arm snake around my waist although he wasn’t looking at me. His eyes were closed and his face stiff with worry of what would come this summer. Across from us Ginny was sleeping, her head on Harry's shoulder. Harry just stared at Ginny for the whole ride as if she would disappear any second. We all knew that it was a possibility that we might not make it through the war.
The silence started to eat away at me, not even Neville’s frog Trevor could be heard from the compartment next to ours.
Finally I felt the train come to a stop and I was lurched forward slightly. We filed off the familiar train and found our trunks. It felt as if leaving that old train was like leaving a life I had always known and felt comfortable in. I stared at the train until it began to ride off, taking some of me with it.
"Hermione, come with me a second?" it was Ron and as we made our way over to a nearby bench I was aware that his gaze never left me.
"What is it Ron, is everything okay?"
"I...I er just wanted to say that no matter what happens this summer just remember that I care for you, ok?" his eyes shot to the ground, clearly embarrassed. It was the closest he ever came to truly telling me how he felt.
"I know Ron, but nothing is going to happen."
"Just know that I'll always be here for you, no matter what, ok Mione?"
"Everything is going to be okay this summer, I just… I know we will all be okay."
"Please just promise me you understand," my skin prickled. Why was this so important to him?
"I promise," I touched his hand lightly, ignoring his surprised face.
"We er... we better go find Harry and Ginny. Mum and Dad are picking us up." We made our way over to Harry and Ginny to find them snogging, which seemed to be one of their favorite pass times lately.
"Gross...brother here...you can stop now," I smacked Ron's arm. Harry looked up with a cheeky grin on his face.
"Alright let's head out troops," Ginny said with a bright smile. I always admired how she could wear such a smile and be so positive when we were in the midst of such horrible times.
"Do you remember what you said to me?" I asked quietly.
"Hey, I'm real sorry but my break is over. We'll talk again soon though okay? I don’t want to lose touch with you a second time," he answered in return.
"You said you'd always be there for me."
"You know what Ron, I don’t think I can deal with this. I hate the past and whenever I am around you, I'm reminded of it. And when I finally let my guard down to talk about it...you back away. You have always been afraid of change or getting too involved with your feelings. I don’t even understand why you didn’t leave your family and me earlier. Oh yeah, that’s right, Harry was there still. Do you even realize how much you hurt your family? Well what’s left of your family!" He flinched and I realized I’d gone too far but I didn’t care. I found myself rambling on and on saying so many things I have always wanted to say, but at one time wouldn’t have dared to. "You left your family when they had already lost so much…you left me! I'm so sick of inventing reasons why you might have left, inventing reasons that don’t involve anything that I had done wrong. I thought you were going to be there for me Ron. Huh? Did you forget that I was hurt when our friends died too? I have been trying to forget about them, forget about you and move on with my life. Just my luck that I come in contact with you as I am beginning to do so." He just stared at me, his face stock white.
"Harry and Ginny are not dead."
"How can you keep pretending they are alive?" I screamed at him.
"Its better than acting like they were never alive! It’s better than trying to forget about them." he was yelling at me now, and many people were staring at us. God maybe Darden was right, maybe I was the one running away from my fears. I felt my heart beating madly from the anger that had aroused in me.
I began to walk away but he grabbed my arm.
"Hermoine I don’t think I could stand to lose your friendship twice." His eyes were pleading with mine and he looked desperate. Yet for the first time, my heart was indifferent toward his plea, my heart was cold and down-right tired of everything.
"You didn't seem to mind losing my friendship the first time, so this shouldn't be too hard on you."
How had my day turned upside down so quickly? I'd gone from wanting to see Ron so bad, to never wanting to see him again. What did he mean he didn’t want to lose my friendship twice; he's the one who left! He's the one who decided there was nothing to come back to. It's his fault, not mine. I walked away quickly looking for Darden. I had been acting like such an idiot! When had I started to act like such a drama queen? When had I turned into just another Lavender Brown? There was something truly wrong with me.
I saw a small girl with bushy brown hair who was carrying so many books she stumbled as she walked. She reminded me of myself, a lot. I had such a strong urge right then to run over to her and throw her books on the ground and tell her that no book could take the place of a friend. That I had tried that when I was younger, that it doesn’t work.
I found Darden sitting on a green wooden bench, that couldn’t have been less than fifty years old. She was eating a pastry and when she looked up at me she had a worried look plastered on her face.
"I'm guessing it didn’t go too well?" she asked slowly, standing up and wrapping her arms around me in a hug.
"Yeah, you could say that," I responded hoarsely, it was hard keeping down your tears. It was like having a great book in front of you, but not being able to read it.
"Want the other half of my pastry?" she asked me softly. I looked at it and shrugged my shoulders, not much of anything mattered any longer.
"Sure," I took the pastry from her and took a big bite. And as the sweet taste of strawberries and icing hit my taste buds I felt a traitorous tear fall from my eye.
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