Chapter 23 : Interlude
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So she loved him too, so what? It didn’t mean anything. It didn’t matter in the whole scheme of things. She was married. Why should he care anyway? As far as he was concerned, all they shared was a kiss and a couple of extremely awkward conversations. So what if they had dated in the past? Did it really matter if he couldn’t remember?
He just needed to let her be. There was no point in pining over something that you couldn’t even remember ever having, was there? No! So, with that determination in his mind he set out to forget the past few weeks and focus on building a future for himself. A future without Hermione Malfoy.
It surprised Ron that he was even able to ask her to pass a glass of champagne in his direction. He didn't allow himself to notice the dejected look that graced her face at his casual manner. This was the beginning of a new life and he would not let the past weigh him down.
His resolve almost dissolved at the point in which he saw Draco come from the main house and pass into the garden. A scowl formed on his lips at the sight of the ferret strolling down the back steps. He expected to watch a loving scene between the git and his wife, but the icy glare that Draco shot in her direction and the way that she was unable to meet her husband's eyes amazed him.
Hadn’t Ron just seen the stupid prat forgive her for their little interlude? He continued to watch as Malfoy made his way to what Ron knew to be their personal balcony and into their bedroom. He looked out of the corner of his eye at Hermione once the door to her bedroom had closed and saw the tears that she tried to hide.
He feared that was the moment that shook his determination. He couldn’t bear to see her cry, not over the prat that was Draco Malfoy. No matter what anyone said to him, he was convinced that he had a role to play in Ron’s kidnapping. Malfoy could assure Hermione time and time again, but Ron knew that something was off.
Just because he didn’t want to see her upset did not mean that he would go and help her. His presence would only cause her more pain, of that he was certain. Ron would wait, he would wait until he had proof of his suspicions and then he would tell her. Then he would put it in her hands, that was when she could decide if her love for Draco would be able to withstand the ferret’s guilt. Until that time Ron would be her friend. They had been that before, and he was sure that they could do so again. Friendship was okay, right? He could do that, couldn’t he? Ron stiffened his resolve.
Yes, he most certainly could handle being just her friend.
So what if she smelled like blue bells. So what if he felt electricfied just being near her. Those feelings would fade in time, and he would eventually get used to her intoxicating scent. Besides, if he was ever going to be able to convince her that her husband was the scum of the earth, then he would need a more recent foundation to build that trust on. So instead of approaching Hermione himself he sent Harry to take care of her. It would be too soon to do so himself, but eventually he would be able to be there for her.
She wiped a thumb underneath her eye before turning around. “Yes, of course I am.” She said with false cheer.
“Uh-huh. You’re not a very good liar you know.”
“Oh, Harry!” She moaned and swooped in to hug him fiercely. She was able to stem the flow of tears, but hugged him with all her might none the less. “Everything is so screwed up.”
He rubbed her back and let her sniffle into his chest.
“I’m sure it isn’t that bad.”
Hermione broke from his embrace and looked up at him incredulously. “Not that bad? It’s terrible! I have really messed things up.”
“You could never mess anything up.”
Her lip quivered and almost turned upwards to smile, but then the weight of her predicament came crashing down on her and she frowned instead.
“You would be amazed.” She mumbled more to herself.
“Well, then why don’t you tell me about it?” Harry led her away towards Percy and Audrey’s balcony and sat down on the wooden steps, dragging Hermione down beside him.
“Harry, this is your wedding day. You should be celebrating, not listening to me moan over my stupidity.” She looked around at the gathered party and noticed that she couldn’t see the white robes of the bride anywhere. “Where is your blushing bride
He shrugged, “Dunno, haven’t seen her for a while.”
Hermione gasped, “Harry, you don’t think anything bad has happened do you?”
“Nah, she said that she was getting sleepy earlier, she probably went to take a nap. It wouldn’t be the first time she abandoned me for a slight doze.”
“On her wedding day?”
“She fell asleep the other day while we were…” he blushed, “…you know.”
Hermione just laughed until Harry punched her lightly on the shoulder, then they both began to chuckle after that.
“Besides, I’d know if anything were wrong.” Harry played with the shiny platinum ring on his left hand. “I had them charmed, if anything bad were going on it would glow red.”
Hermione could only nod in appreciation at his forethought. She couldn’t say she was surprised, more and more people were getting that particular charm placed on items for their loved ones after the war. Even though there had been peace for some time now there had been a lesson learned, and Harry of course played it safest of all.
“So tell me, what’s going on?”
She sighed, “Well you know most of it. Ron came back.” Her big brown eyes looked at him, hoping that he wouldn’t require much more explanation than that. He nodded, but motioned for her continue.
“It’s just been hard, reconciling my feelings that I had for him and the ones that I have now for Draco. I have been so confused. I love Draco so much; he has really been there for me.”
She sighed again,”…but I can’t help what I feel for Ron. He was my best friend and my first love, and it broke me when I lost him. Now he’s back…” Her voice became so small and then quieted completely.
“Well these thoughts seem natural enough Hermione. I don’t know why that means that you screwed anything up.” He patted her back for encouragement, but it only made her feel worse.
“Because I kissed Ron, and he has me doubting my husband, and that has me doubting myself. What kind of person am I that I don’t trust the man that I married? What kind of person kisses someone else? Now Draco won’t speak to me, and to top it all off I told Ron that I loved him too.” She began to cry again, this time into her hands. Through muffled sobs she mumbled, “I know that you never liked Draco, but he doesn’t deserve this.”
“I can’t deny that kissing Ron was probably not such a good idea.”
She looked up from her tear-filled hands with a disbelieving stare.
“Okay so it was a really horrible idea, but you can’t change it now. All you can do is hope to rectify what you have done and reconcile your feelings for Ron. It’s been a long time since you two were actually together, and though I am sure Ginny would absolutely kill me for saying this, maybe all you are feeling is residue from your former relationship. Either way, you need to find out if you want to move forward with Draco? You can’t just hope that he will stick around while you sort out if you love Ron or not.”
“Ginny was right, you really have become too wise.”
Harry laughed. “Yes, well when I am the voice of reason in our group then we know that things are pretty bad.”
She woke with a start, something was shuffling nearby. She jolted up to see the house elf standing near the head of the couch with a pillow in hand.
“I is so sorry miss. I is trying to make you more comfortable.” The docile creature placed the pillow down by the foot and slowly backed away with a small bow.
“It’s fine. How long have I been sleeping?”
“I don’t know miss. I is just finding you.”
“What time is it?” Ginny looked around the room for a clock, but the shadows outside the window indicated that it was well into the evening. “Never mind.”
She had just gone into the library to think over what Akiko had told her. She hadn’t intended on falling asleep. It figured though. Lately she found that exhaustion would just creep up on her. She stood up and had to grip onto the corner of the couch to steady herself. The rush of blood sent spots behind her eyes and for a moment, everything went black. As quickly as the moment came it went and she righted herself.
“Is miss all right?” The elf asked.
“Yes, just a bit of a head rush, nothing to worry about. Thank you for waking me.”
The elf looked sheepishly at her and then popped out of the room.
Ginny followed the little creatures lead and left the room herself. When she stepped into the garden, a pair of soft gentle lips immediately attacked her. She fell into the kiss easily, glorying in the familiar taste of Harry.
With their lips still pressed against each other he managed to ask, “Where have you been?”
He laughed against her mouth and then pulled away. She loved the way that his emerald eyes danced when he laughed.
“I told Hermione not to worry.” He was smiling so brightly at her, but just as he mentioned their friend's name, everything came back to Ginny in a snap.
“Hermione!” Ginny practically shouted, taking Harry by surprise. She looked around
frantically for her. “Where is she?”
“She went to bed a couple of minutes ago. Why?” His forehead crinkled in that cute way that it did whenever he was worried about her.
Ginny pulled him aside and told him everything that she had discovered from the little tart that had interrupted their wedding. Harry’s face went from worry, to shock and then to anger in a flash. It took all of Ginny’s efforts to ensure that he did not do anything rash.
She convinced him that it would be best if she just spoke to Hermione first, then Harry could display his anger in any way he saw fit. Begrudgingly he agreed, and they determined to speak with Hermione the next morning before leaving for their two-week honeymoon to tour the rest of Japan.
Her talk with Harry had really helped. She was no closer to figuring herself out, but finally being able to get everything out there had felt cleansing. They sat on the porch a little longer in comfortable silence. When Draco emerged from their bedroom, she noted that he was now wearing his traveling cloak. Evidently, he did not plan to stay the night. Part of her was relieved, she didn’t know if she could take another confrontation today. Another part of her regretted his going, wanting to just curl up into his arms and drift off to sleep.
At the thought of sleep she yawned and realized how tired she actually was.
“Well I think I am going to head off to bed.” She stretched out and then stood, holding her hand out to help Harry get up.
“Everything will work out, just get some rest.” He hugged her and she felt him watch as she crossed the yard and stepped onto her own little porch. Glancing back, she gave him a weak smile, which he returned more reassuringly.
Almost as soon as her head hit the pillow she was asleep, flashes of red and then blond swept through her mind, and if anyone had been watching they would have noted that her eyes twitched manically beneath her closed lids. She was alone, however, so no one was there to see her shiver slightly and curl even more into herself, or note that she would whimper every so often. Hermione was all alone, and she felt it more deeply than she ever had before.
Morning came, and with it all the same doubts and questions that had plagued her. Her fingers trailed along the cold side of the bed, and she sighed as her mind remembered that she had slept alone. Though she knew that she had gotten some rest, her body didn’t seem to notice. She was sluggish in her movements and her mouth felt sticky and warm
She padded lightly across the room and looked into the mirror that hung above her dresser. She pulled at her eyes, noting the bags and dark circles that seemed to make her face look almost skeletal. Pushing off from the dresser, she went to the closet and donned a muggle ensemble that would make her husband cringe.
She was going to be a tourist today. Hermione had been in Japan for a week and had yet to see anything of Okinawa, and since she would now be heading back home she figured she would take this day to tour around the island and see what she could.
It would be good to get off on her own, no red heads to remind her of her past, and no calm soothing voices to remind her of her present. Just Hermione, alone with her thoughts. She was thankful to note that no one seemed to be awake just yet.
Not wanting to completely abandon her house guests, she set the task to Twinkles to say her regrets that she couldn’t be there to see them off, and let them know that she would be in touch. No one knew that she would be coming back to England shortly; Hermione was at least grateful for that much. No one would be there to hound her, and she could take the next few days to figure herself out, maybe even get some work done.
Hopefully by then she would be able to tell Draco what she wanted, and if that answer was him, he would be able to forgive her. Only time would tell.
“Did Hermione eat already?” Ginny walked into the kitchen and noted that she couldn’t spot the familiar bushy coif.
“Not that I know of, dear.” Her mum came and put a plate of pancakes down in front of Bill, “I haven’t seen her all morning and I have been here since seven.”
Ginny sighed and sat down next to Audrey, waiting for her mum to make her a plate as well.
“Missus Hermione has gone out for the day. She is saying that she is sorry she cannot say good-bye. She will be writing to you soon.” The little elf was in the corner of the kitchen flipping the pancakes that Ginny’s mum was serving to the family.
The elf just nodded and continued to flip.
Ginny began to worry her lip until Harry ran a soothing thumb along her mouth. He leaned over and whispered into her ear.
“It’s okay Gin. We’ll come back tomorrow on our way to Tokishiki.”
Ginny nodded, and as soon as her mum placed the pancakes down she dove right in. Everything would be fine. They would talk to Hermione tomorrow. Nothing to worry about.
The day had not been as distracting as she had hoped. The sites were beautiful, but even the ruins of the castle held no interest for Hermione. With a heavy heart, she made her way back to their compound, dreading the task of packing again.
When she got to her bedroom, she noted that there was a small suitcase already on the bed. She opened it up so see that a lot of clothing and books were already shoved inside, shrunken down to fit into the small case. She closed the suitcase back up and looked around the room.
On the dresser, there was an envelope with her name scrolled across in sharp black handwriting. She opened it with shaky hands, fearful of what her eyes would find.
I have asked Twinkles to pack a bag for you. I have gone to Osaka on business and will be returning home around eleven. Feel free to take the elf along with you back to England as I don’t expect to be home often enough to have need of her. I will write you again once I have had time to think things over.
It was short and to the point. She was to be gone before he came home and would just have to wait until he was ready to speak to her again. Not taking the time to see if anything was missing, Hermione gathered up the small case and called for the elf.
She felt as if the walls were slowly closing in on her, and Hermione couldn’t bear to be there any longer. She led the elf to the fireplace where they both left in a flash of green flames to their home in England.
The relief Hermione had been hoping to feel upon her return did not come, and she realized that she would probably get no relief for a long time. Not until she had worked everything out and knew exactly where she stood. With a resigned sigh, she went into her little sitting room and sat on the couch, using the time to map out the rest of her book instead of focusing on the real problem at hand. She would address that another day, not today. No, she was much too tired today.
A/N: Well it was mostly just filler, but they were important things that needed to happen. This has now been beta'd by the lovely Georgia Weasley! Thanks so much for helping me...
If you have come back to read the beta'd version you mmight note that the last part with Ginny and then Hermione were not originally here... it is because I am a moron and forgot to include them in this chapter but didn't add them in the next one either. It isn't massively important, but still hope you enjoyed the addition.
Thanks so much to all for reading and reviewing.
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