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Chapter 6 : Keeping Up Appearances
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"Hey!" Ron pulled out of her grasp as they landed in front of the house. "What's the big idea?"
"I wanted to get home. The smell from these robes was starting to make me dizzy." She moved past her brother and towards the front door.
"I can apparate on my own y'know. You could have let me stay behind." His eyes glazed over slightly, "I was having a good conversation."
Ginny rolled her eyes at him, pushed the front door open, and made her way up the stairs before he was able to protest anymore. She went straight for the bathroom and drew a nice warm bath; practice had been hard.
The scent of jasmine floated around the room as she poured the bubble bath into the tub. Little bubbles the size of peas erupted over top of the water and Ginny stuck her toe in tentatively before totally immersing herself into the water.
She sat back, her neck resting along the edge of the tub. Ginny didn't know why she was so upset about Blakely asking Ron out. Ron was a free man, and it wasn't as if this was odd behavior for her teammate. She tried to reason that it was just because it was her brother and he wasn't yet ready to take on the Amazon woman that was Blakely, but she knew that a big part of her just didn't want Ron to move on. She still hoped that there was a way to bring her best friend and her brother back together again.
Even though it had partly been her idea to let him stay in the dark (not that they would really have been able to get his memory back without knowing exactly how it was erased), she regretted that suggestion every time she thought of the happiness that those two had once shared. Ginny found that she constantly had to remind herself that this was what was best, that Hermione was now married to the ferret, and that this would make everyone's life easier. However, reconciling herself to this way of thinking was proving much harder than she had bargained for.
She stayed in the tub until the water cooled. The bubbles slowly died away, and she could feel the odd sensation of her pruney fingers rubbing along her skin. She had hoped that that bath would relax her, and though her body did feel refreshed her thoughts churned inside of her head, constantly at odds with what she felt to be right and what made the most sense.
When she got out of the bath she was shocked by the time. Ginny hadn't figured that she had been there for more than two hours, but one look at the clock showed her that it was already past two. She would have to start dinner soon if she wanted to have it ready by five.
Ron was in the kitchen when she got in, and he gave her a scowl as she walked towards the table.
"What are you doing in here? You haven't been eating the contents of the cupboard have you?" She put her hands on her hips and looked around for evidence that he had ransacked their weeklong food supply.
"No, I haven't been eating your food!" He looked at her resentfully. "I was just thinking, is all."
Ginny sat down next to him. "What about?"
He shrugged, "Nuthin' I guess, just…"
"Just what?" Ginny prompted.
He hesitated for another moment. "Well it's just that it feels weird, going on this date with Blakely. I don't know why but I feel guilty, like I am doing something wrong." He shrugged again. "Prob'ly just nerves." He got up and walked towards the kitchen door.
"Yeah, probably." He looked back at her and she gave him a wan smile. Then he pushed the door open and left her to brood some more.
There was a loud rap at the front door and Hermione groaned inwardly at the prospect of spending the entire evening with her in-laws. It was their monthly dinner, and she loathed every moment of the obligation. She had neatly pinned her hair up and gone to great lengths to appear to be what Narcissa felt was a worthy wife. She only bothered because it was easier then listening to her snide comments all evening.
Draco had never asked her to go to all the trouble that she went through for his parents, but especially now she felt that it was her duty to make this dinner go as smoothly as possible. Surprisingly enough, it was not Lucius's presence that was daunting, but that of Narcissa. Since the war, Lucius had slipped into a resigned hopelessness that actually left him bearable to be around. Narcissa was a different matter all together; she felt that she needed to take charge now that Lucius had slipped into a downward spiral of moroseness. Her view on Hermione, though not as harsh as Lucius's had been, was still enough to bring the ever-underhanded compliments that Narcissa was so good at.
It was less that Hermione was a 'mudblood' and more that Hermione was just not good enough for her son, if there was any woman who could be.
Hermione opened the door with all the composure that she was able to muster on such occasions, a plastic smile plastered on her face.
"Good evening Narcissa." And with a nod in his direction, "Lucius. Won't you come in?"
Narcissa pushed her way past Hermione and into their entryway while Lucius trudged behind his wife with a vacant look in his eyes. Draco appeared at the top of the stairs and shouted a greeting down to his parents.
"Oh Draco, it's been ages." Narcissa said, heading towards the bottom of the stairs to await her son. When he arrived she gave him a small hug and then a quick look over.
"You look a bit thin, has Hermione been feeding you?" Her voice was soft, but the accusation was clear.
"Yes, mother." Draco moved past his mother to shake the hand of his father and Hermione noted the limp way in which Lucius grasped at his son. It seemed to be getting worse, and though she knew that Lucius had deserved everything that he was now feeling, a part of her felt bad for the shell of the man standing in front of her. Mostly because she knew how it affected Draco to see his father in this state.
Hermione ushered them into the dining room and Narcissa quickly grabbed Draco's attention with mindless chatter about nothing in particular. Lucius and Hermione sat in silence, sipping at the wine Draco had opened for the occasion.
Miranda bustled in with the soup that would serve as their first course. Narcissa eyed their temporary housekeeper warily.
"And who is this lovely woman?" She asked Draco.
"Miranda, Mother. She is working here temporarily while Twinkles visits her sister." Hermione was pleased to note that his voice was free of any hint of the incredulousness that he had displayed only the night before. He took a measured sip from his spoon.
"Twinkles is visiting her sister? Why ever for?" Narcissa gave Hermione a flash of a tight smile.
"It seems that her sister is rather ill mother, Hermione felt," at this Hermione gave Draco a pointed look, "and I agree," he added, "that it was only proper that she spend the remaining moments that Boof has left with her."
Narcissa smiled at her son with a glowing gaze and patted his arm. "How very generous of you, Draco."
Hermione knew that she felt her son was a saint for putting up with Hermione's ideals about house elf rights. She bit her inner cheeks in order to prevent herself from saying something that would upset them all. The rest of dinner past at an agonizingly slow pace, and Hermione found herself drinking more wine than she usually would. Her head buzzed slightly as she showed her in-laws out of the house once the evening had ended.
As she shut the door behind them the air suddenly felt lighter, and dizziness enveloped her. She wobbled slightly and Draco, who had been standing behind her, had to hold her steady. His arms circled around her and she let herself fall into them. The stress of their family dinners always made her feel drained and empty.
Draco fingered his hands through her hair, undoing the tight pin up that she had done earlier. "It's all over," he whispered in her ear as her hair fell down around her shoulders.
She mumbled incoherently into his chest and felt his body shake as he chuckled lightly.
"How about we go out to dinner tomorrow night? Just the two of us."
Hermione nodded into his chest as he continued to run his fingers through her hair.
The care that she took to get ready the following night was different from how she had prepared the night before. She let her hair fall loosely in untamed curls around her face and down her back, and instead of the high collared black dress robes from the night before she wore light green robes that flowed and let her breath.
This was just what they needed, what she needed, not only because of the night before but to get back to where they were before Ron had come home. Granted, she knew it hadn't been all roses then, but since his return she sensed a tenseness in Draco that had made her think of Ron even more. If this marriage was going to survive, she would just have to put the past behind her and move on.
Draco pushed the door open to the restaurant and gently guided her in with his hand on the small of her back. It was where they had gone on their first real date. The Avalon was always crowded, but even more so because it was a Friday night. Hermione and Draco squeezed their way through the crowd to the podium that held the hostess.
"Table for two." Draco then slipped a galleon covertly into the witch’s hand.
She nodded, "Right this way sir, miss." She led them through the crowd towards the center of the restaurant where there was a small table for two.
Hermione glanced around the room taking in the site of all of the other patrons eating, talking, and enjoying their Friday night. Her breath hitched in her chest and her heart stopped as she saw a shock of red hair sitting a few tables behind theirs towards the back of the restaurant.
Thankfully, Draco had been preoccupied with pulling out her chair and didn't notice her little spasm. Hermione quickly collected her wits and spoke her new mantra over and over again in her head as she placed a smile onto her face. She sat down and focused on the place setting in front of her. The leaf pattern of the plate that looked to be hand painted in gold was very interesting, and she mentioned to Draco her amazement at the beautiful china.
Draco looked at her archly, and Hermione blushed. She felt nervous, almost the way that she had felt on their first date; though this time the nerves were not from being near Draco. Her fingers fidgeted with the napkin that had been placed diligently onto her lap.
"So, how was your day?" Draco asked as he took a sip from his water glass.
"Fine. Just fine." She said distractedly.
Thankfully, the waiter had come to provide the much needed interruption.
"What may I get you to drink?" He asked in a slightly nasal voice.
Draco looked over the wine list and ordered one of the more expensive bottles. The waiter smiled in recognition of Draco's good taste and went off to fetch it.
"How was your day?" Hermione continued before Draco could get the chance to question her again. She reached one hand across the table to pat his in a loving gesture as she sneaked a glance over Draco's shoulder and at the table where the red head sat with a girl that had her long, dark blond hair flowing freely down her back. She couldn't make out the girls face, and then Draco called her attention away by answering.
"Good. It was rather busy, what with the confusion over the merger, but I was able to smooth everything out in the end." His face broke out into his familiar smirk, obviously satisfied with himself. Hermione smiled at him, hoping that he wouldn't catch the glimpse of annoyance that she wasn't able to contain.
He went off into a tirade about some work thing or another, which was fine with Hermione because she was then able to focus more of her attention at what was going on at the table in front of her. The blond had tilted her head back in laughter, and a pang of jealousy flashed through Hermione. She saw that Ron was telling the girl some story, and the smile on his face showed to her that he was enjoying himself just as much as his date seemed to be.
She looked back at her husband, who seemed to have stopped talking and was now looking at her expectantly. She hadn't been paying attention and wasn't even able to begin to hazard a guess as to what she was to say.
She finally decided on the safe bet of, "That's nice Draco," and hoped that it had worked.
It seemed to have been the response he had been looking for, because a rare grin broke out on his stony face.
"I'm glad you think so. It will mean us moving there for a couple of years, but I just can't trust anyone else to do the job for me."
She was stunned. One-she had no idea where he was now talking about moving, and two- she had just agreed to it. Why wasn't she just able to control herself and focus on the man in front of her instead of letting her mind wander to things that could no longer be? Frustrated with herself, she took a long draught of the wine that the waiter had evidently poured out for her while her mind was focused elsewhere.
"So, when do you think we would have to leave?" Hermione eked out, hoping to get some more information without it sounding like she had not been paying attention.
"Well, the deal will close up in about three weeks time. I figure in about a month we could have everything settled. I know it's rather far, but you can always take a portkey home whenever you want."
"Yes, but won’t that be expensive? I mean, a portkey from all that way?" She tried again to wheedle the information out of him.
Draco just shrugged. "What's a few hundred galleons once in a while when I will be making millions over there? Japan is the perfect place to open the new factory. The labor there is practically nothing…"
Hermione took an over large gulp of her wine. If she hadn't she would have scowled and scolded at his abuse of the working class Japanese, but as it was she was had stopped listening anyway and was now focusing intently on how she was going to live in Japan for a couple of years. Sure she had always wanted to go there, but more as a tourist and less as a resident.
She stared idly off into space, not realizing that she in fact was looking straight at Ron, so wrapped up was she in her own thoughts. Suddenly, it was like a bolt of lightning hit her and her eyes focused to see that Ron was now staring blankly back at her. She blushed and quickly averted her gaze, lifting her napkin to her face to hide the new pinky hue of her cheeks from her husband.
Draco was still droning on when the waiter again interrupted to bring them their salads. When had they ordered? She thought absently. The meal was passing by and she had hardly listened to a word that her husband said. She made her mind up to really focus and she pointedly ignored the table that Ron was sitting at.
Occasionally, a tiny prickle would make its way down her back and she couldn't quite get over the feeling that she was being watched, but she ignored it and played the role of the dutiful wife. Of course now that she had sort of agreed to Draco's Japanese invasion, she didn't know exactly how she was going to broach the subject of her not going. That was something that she would work out later she supposed.
A/N: So I thought I would be able to fit Ron's part of the date in here, but I was wrong and that will come next chapter. I hope you enjoyed this one and that the dynamic of Hermione's relationship with her in-laws was believable. What do you think about Japan? All feedback is very much appreciated.
Thanks so much to my beta Georgia Weasley for getting this to me by Sunday! You are the best. (Also ginnyfan4life who did the same with my chapter image). You guys must be in cahoots.
Thanks of course goes also to those who are reading and special thanks to those who have been reviewing, it really does mean a lot and I always take your feedback into consideration.
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