“Now, don’t get me wrong Mitz, that was nice, but what the bloody hell?”
Mitzi was staring at the spot that Hermione and the man she had been with were just moments before. She didn’t seem to have heard him, so he shook her shoulder gently.
“Hey, snap out of it.”
She looked up at him, fresh tears floated in her eyes. Mitzi was crying, something that Ron didn’t think she was capable of.
“What’s the matter?” He said in a softer voice.
“Nothing,” Mizti choked out. Her face set and the tears suddenly seemed to dry up. She turned heel and began walking in the opposite direction, her back straight and legs stiff. Ron jogged a couple of steps to catch up with her, for such a small girl she could really set quite the pace.
“C’mon Mitz, you just up and snog my brains out and you expect me to believe that nothing is wrong?”
“Drop it,” she said sternly.
“No, tell me,” Ron persisted.
“I said drop it!”
Ron pulled her by the arm and swung her around; she squirmed and tried to release herself from his tight hold.
“Let go of me you giant brute!” She wriggled her fingers beneath his, attempting to force them to open on her arm, but Ron held fast.
“Not until you tell me what in Merlin’s sodding name just happened.” His warm blue eyes stared fiercely into her hazel ones.
Her fingers unwound themselves from his and her shoulders sagged.
“That was Captain.” She looked towards the ground.
“Captain? Oh, Captain.” He was shocked. What were the odds that Hermione was now dating his partner’s ex? Only three weeks after her husband left her, at that. His stomach churned. He had temporarily forgotten about seeing Hermione kissing that bloke, but the rage of it all came back.
He clenched his fists; Mitzi seemed to notice his sudden anger. She looked back up and smiled weakly.
“It’s okay. It’s been over between us for a couple of years now; he has every right to move on.”
“Not with Hermione he doesn’t!” He growled, surprised that he had said that out loud.
“That was Hermione? Wow! She looks so much different in person.” It was Mitzi’s turn to try and calm down Ron. “It’ll be okay you know? We’re probably better off anyway, right?” Her smile was wider this time, but no dimple creased her cheek and Ron could tell it was a fake.
“Yeah, right.” He nodded in agreement and began walking once more.
Ron decided to stop avoiding them. Whatever Harry told him seemed to have worked, because he was there at their house for dinner a week later. Ginny was thrilled. At first she worried when Ron still hadn’t come around after his chat with Harry, but when he flooed that morning to say that he would be coming by, Ginny couldn’t help but be excited.
Ron was no longer avoiding them. She had gone too long without him in her life; she hated not having her brother there, especially at a time when she needed all the support. Being pregnant was not all it was cracked up to be. People who thought it was a gift were obviously crazy.
Her back hurt, her feet were swelling, and to top it all off she had completely gone off of red meat, her favorite. Anything worth eating was made from a cow. Stupid baby! Next time she would make Harry do it, somehow.
“So, how was your day?” She asked both Harry and Ron.
“Nothing special,” Harry said through a bite of pork chop. “Got a dud lead on the guy who’s been terrorizing the West End, spent all day chasing my tail.”
“That sounds, er… nice,” Ginny said.
“Yeah, just terrific.”
“Well, how about you Ron? How was your day?” She was trying to keep the conversation going smoothly, but at the look on Ron’s face she feared she had failed miserably.
“I saw Hermione.” His tone was cool, but she could see anger swimming behind his eyes.
Harry’s head popped up from shoveling mashed potatoes in his mouth. He thankfully didn’t speak, but he raised his eyebrows in question. Ginny chose to remain silent as well, hoping Ron would appreciate her acceptance to not butt in – something that Harry made her swear before even allowing Ron to step foot inside the house.
“She was kissing a bloke named Captain.”
“You’ve got to be joking?” Ginny blurted out, then covered her mouth.
“Maybe it wasn’t her,” Harry suggested.
“Nope, it was definitely her. Couldn’t even wait a month after Malfoy’s gone, and she’s already off snogging other gits.”
“You have to be mistaken!” Ginny insisted more calmly, “Hermione doesn’t even know anyone named Captain. Besides, she would never go out and snog some random bloke. Especially not when she still in love with y…” She broke off at the glare from Harry.
“I’m not mistaken. Can we just forget about it? Tell me, what’d you do today Gin?”
Ginny couldn’t believe that Hermione had already moved on to someone new, especially someone that wasn’t her older brother. She went straight to Hermione’s parents’ home when she woke up the next morning. The soil lining the walkway was freshly turned.
When Hermione answered the door, Ginny didn’t waste any time. She pushed past her friend and once she was in the entryway she blurted out, “Who the bloody hell is Captain, and why are you snogging him?”
Hermione looked bewildered. “I’m not snogging any Captain. What are you going on about?” Hermione walked Ginny towards the kitchen, where the smell of eggs permeated the room.
“Ron said that he saw you kissing some bloke named Captain.” Ginny eyed the cooking eggs with want.
Hermione paused while she scraped some eggs onto a plate. “It was Linus.” She brought the plate over to Ginny. They were a little rubbery, Hermione was no gourmet, but Ginny didn’t seem to be bothered by it.
“You kissed the Professor?” She said around a mouthful of eggs.
“No, Linus kissed me. I think he was attempting to make the girl that Ron was snogging jealous.” She looked at Ginny sideways, trying to gauge her friend’s reaction. She wanted to know more about the girl that Ron had been kissing, but she wouldn’t ask.
Ginny choked on her eggs and began to cough roughly. She pounded on her chest and Hermione conjured a cup of water for her. Ginny took a large sip and swallowed hard.
“Ron was kissing someone?”
Hermione nodded slowly. “Yes, a short, cute girl. Looked kind of young though…”
“I mean Mitzi. Ron’s partner, of sorts. I didn’t realize… There has to be a reason, he couldn’t like her.” Ginny’s face, that was red from the coughing fit earlier, became more tomato colored with anger this time.
“He seemed to like her just fine.”
"Well, you were kissing the Professor.” Ginny shot back accusingly.
“Not by choice. He took me by surprise, but it was only one small kiss; nothing compared to the snog fest that I witnessed.” She tried to keep the hurt out of her voice; she had no right to be upset.
“So you don’t like the Professor?”
“Will you stop calling him that, he has a name? And, no, I don’t like Linus, not like that anyway.”
“I’ll just call him Captain then.” Ginny grinned.
It was then Hermione understood the reference; it must have been a nickname. “Captain Wentworth…” Hermione said thoughtfully.
“It’s a name of a character in a book by a muggle author, Jane Austen.” Ginny continued to look on in confusion. “Never mind, it hardly matters.” Hermione waved the thought away. It did however, give Hermione the information that Mitzi was probably a muggle born, at least partly anyway. It wasn’t often that you found purebloods reading the works of great muggle authors.
“So you’re not interested in Captain?”
God she was persistent.
“No, for the last time, I am not interested in Linus. I just got a divorce; I am not interested in anyone.” A lie, but admitting the truth was too painful. Ginny might be positive about her brother’s feelings, but Hermione was not.
Ginny didn’t contradict Hermione, though there was a glint in her eyes that showed that Ginny didn’t believe her for one second.
“So, what flowers did you end up planting?” Ginny asked as the girls slipped into a less tumultuous discussion.
Ron had come home from an exhausting day at work to find Ginny sitting in front of the fireplace with a scowl on her face.
“What’s got your knickers in a twist?” He passed a hand through his lengthening hair.
“YOU!” Ginny shot up and poked at his chest.
He rubbed the spot with his hands; she could really bruise when she wanted to.
“What’d I do now?” He asked exasperatedly.
“You snogged Mitzi in front of Hermione?!”
He grimaced, but then got defensive. What did it matter who he snogged? Hermione was nothing to him anymore. “So?”
“So? Merlin, Ron, you are greater prat that I thought.”
“Ginny, I thought we talked about you getting the bloody hell out of my business,” he admonished.
“I would, if you would stop mucking it all up. What were you doing kissing her anyway?”
He blushed and moved his head to the side to avoid her piercing gaze.
"Nothing, she kissed me all right? It was no big deal.”
“Didn’t sound like that to me? The way Hermione tells it you were practically naked in the street with that bint.”
“She is not a bint, and we weren’t practically naked. It was a kiss, that’s all.” He plopped down on the couch to emphasize his lack of interest in the subject.
“Why, why were you kissing her, and in front of Hermione of all people?”
“What does Hermione have to do with it?”
“She has every everything to do with it. You can be so dense.” She plopped right next to him. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“She kissed me, I told you. It was just to make her prat of an ex jealous anyway.”
“I knew you didn’t fancy her.” Ginny looked smugly at him.
“But you don’t,” she said matter of factly.
“No, I don’t. But she is fancy-able.”
“Not the point.”
“What is the point?” He turned to look at her. “Hermione was off snogging some random bloke and you are giving me the third degree. Go pester her about it.”
“I already did.”
There was silence. She was waiting for him to ask more, but he would not give in.
He crossed his arms behind his head, relaxed back into the couch, tapped his foot against the floor and was tempted to whistle as well, but thought that might be a bit much.
Ginny rested her head against the back of the couch as well, seemingly exhausted. He was expecting her to crack, to be bursting to tell him what she had found out from Hermione, but she wasn’t. What if what she found out was that Hermione was now going to be with Captain? He would be okay! He had to be. Hermione was nothing to him. Nothing.
“So what did she say?” He finally asked, not able to keep his morbid curiosity at bay any longer.
“Pretty much the same thing.”
Vague. Why did Ginny have to be so vague? She was just aching to have him beg for information. He loathed giving into her, but he hated not knowing even more.
“That he had just kissed her to make your Mitzi jealous.”
Ginny just smirked at him, and he blushed remembering the Lavender situation.
“So, she doesn’t fancy him then?” He peeked at her from the corner of his eyes.
“Nope, not a whit.” Ginny smiled a toothy grin, which ordinarily would have made Ron nervous, but the butterflies that were dancing in his stomach were distraction enough.
It had come! Her book, finally, edited and almost ready for printing. Excitement welled within her and she felt she might explode. Her mum and dad were at the office, so she couldn’t go to them with this yet. Harry would be at work, along with Ron, not that she would have gone to him. Not after seeing him with that woman, or girl, or whoever she was.
Ginny was with Molly shopping for baby furniture. So Hermione went to the only other person she thought might be interested-- Linus.
Linus answered the door and Hermione couldn’t hold back the squeal as she wrapped her arms around his neck.
“It’s done! It’s done!” She kept shouting and jumping, pulling him up and down with her.
He gave her a wan smile and removed her hands from around his neck. “What’s done?”
Hermione flushed, realizing her reaction might have been a little much, especially for one as stoic as Linus.
“The book. It’s done, I just got it today.” Hermione held the bound parchment in front of her as an offering.
He replaced his former wan smile with a genuine one. He gave her a weak hug and pulled her into the house.
“That’s really great Hermione,” he said as he led her back towards the library.
She was glad to note that though he still didn’t seem to be his normal self after that incident the other day, he was responsive. That was improvement, right?
They talked for a while about the book. He perused some of the passages, and the more that he read and they talked, the better his mood became.
Hermione felt it was time to broach the subject of the other day. She hadn’t felt comfortable discussing it with him at the time due to his shock, but now that he was more responsive, it needed to be addressed.
“So about the other day…” She looked up from under her lashes.
Linus’s back stiffened. “I believe I apologized for that earlier.”
“Again, I am not talking about the kiss, although perhaps you should not do that again. I mean what happened after. Who was that girl?” Hermione knew who of course, but not who she was to Linus.
“What girl?” His stony voice asked.
She huffed, “Please. The girl that was kissing my… that was kissing Ron.”
He shrugged, trying to give it his normal casual air, but it did not fly.
“Don’t take me for a fool. You kissed me in front of that girl and Ron, whom I might add now thinks that we are dating. Thank you for that. I deserve an explanation.”
His shoulders relaxed, though he kept his normal stiff posture.
“Pi…Mitzi is an old girlfriend.”
“An old girlfriend you felt the need to kiss someone in front of?”
“Yes, quite stupid of me really. I was just shocked to see her. Not very good at thinking on my toes, I suppose.” His laugh was hollow and Hermione felt a pang of sadness for him.
“So you still care for her then?”
“Very much. I never stopped.”
“It’s a long story.”
“I’ve got time, besides you know mine, it’s only fair that I know yours.” Hermione crossed her arms, not willing to let him get away with not telling her. If he thought he could just go and kiss her like that without giving her a very good reason, he was quite mistaken.
Linus gave a resigned sigh. “We met in the charms section of Flourish and Blotts. She was trying to reach for a book on the top shelf and I helped her to get it down.” His eyes glazed over and Hermione could only imagine what was replaying in that head of his.
“She scowled at me…” he chuckled, “…I didn’t see her again for another week, when once again she was trying to reach something too high for herself. This time I did not come to her rescue, and she flicked her wand to get the book down from the shelf. The smile of triumph that was on her face bewitched me.
“I went to that damned bookstore every day for the next two weeks hoping to see her there. I finally gave up and went to that little shop I took you to. There she was, sitting on a small pile of books and reading. I made my move, and for two years everything was wonderful…”
His eyebrows furrowed and a frown creased his lips.
“She was a muggle born. I am a pureblood.”
“So?” Hermione asked indignantly.
“So, my grandfather would have disowned me if I had married her.”
“So you were a coward then?” Hermione asked, all sympathy for his plight gone.
“NO!” He shot up and shouted, louder than necessary.
Hermione flinched and Linus slumped back into the couch.
More quietly he said, “No. I stood up for us, but we would have had nothing. I had nothing to offer. I couldn’t offer her marriage without something to support us. So I asked for time. Time to make something of myself, enough to get me away from under his roof.” Linus scowled at the thought of his grandfather.
“She didn’t want to wait. Said she wouldn’t wait for me to ‘grow a pair’, and left. We haven’t spoken since.”
“When was this?”
“Over two years ago. I’ve been working hard ever since. Hoping that one day I would be able to go back.”
“After two years?”
“I don’t care if it’s been ten years,” Linus stated firmly.
"Well, you have money now. I just paid you quite a sum, enough to get a good start, not to mention what I am sure others have paid for your services.”
“I was hoping that after this it would be enough.” He sighed. “She’s moved on though.” His face hardened and Hermione could tell that story time had ended.
“It’s getting late.” He rose from the couch. “Thank you for listening. Congratulations on your book.”
Hermione rose and followed Linus’s lead out of the room, but she couldn’t leave before pointing out, “Linus? You told me that Ron and I were…” she couldn’t finish the sentence, but her meaning was clear.
“So, if that’s… if that’s true, then you should have nothing to worry about.”
There was a flicker of regret in his eyes, but then the cool exterior was back in place.
“She moved on, no matter if it works out with him or not. She didn’t wait.”
“And you did?”
“Of course I did.”
Hermione arched her brow at him, noticing that his little quirk seemed to be wearing off on her. “If that’s so, then why in Merlin’s name did you go and kiss me?”
“Like I said, wasn’t thinking clearly.”
“So couldn’t it be possible that she was doing the same thing?”
“Doesn’t matter.” He shrugged.
“Oh, to hell with that.” Hermione stomped her foot. “You men and your stubborn attitudes. She was right, you really do need to grow a pair.” She whirled around and stormed down the front steps. She didn’t look behind to see the shocked expression on Linus’s face. Hermione was so fed up with all these stupid men in her life. Why was it always up to the woman to get anything done?
A/N: Yay! queue is opened, and my chapter is posted! I know it is not an exciting one, but it is an important one. I hope you enjoyed it. Next one, I promise, will be full of excitement.
Thanks so much to all of you for readinf and especially those who have reviewed. It means a lot to a girl, especially one who has spent the last week renovating the kitching from hell, not to mention cleaning out the queue.
Georgia Weasley, you know you are the awesomest beta. Thanks as always.