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Chapter 3 : A Not-So-Clever Trap, a Not-So-Clever Fly
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Not to mention the little scene he witnessed at the leaky cauldron. Potter and Granger? Who would have thought? Draco supposed that it was Hermione Weasley now, which made it all the more sweeter. She was a married woman having an affair with her husband’s best mate. And she called Draco a loathsome evil little cockroach in third year? She had bullocks. Draco Malfoy was floating on air and no one could bring him down. It was only a matter of time before he figured out a plan… And he could guarantee that it wouldn’t be pretty for some involved.
Sunday dinner at the Burrow was teeming with red headed Weasleys and their guests. Ron sat between Hermione and Luna, eating loudly as he listened to the interesting turn of conversation between his mother and his secret lover. George and his very pregnant wife Angelina sat on the other side of Hermione, while Harry sat across from her in between Fleur and Percy’s girlfriend, Audrey. To Fleur’s left sat Bill and beside him sat Ginny who was playing quietly with her uneaten food; To Audrey’s right sat Percy droning on about one Ministry happening or another. Charlie was home from Italy, where he was currently stationed, and was talking to Arthur who was sitting at the head of the long table. Meanwhile, Molly was laughing nervously at something Luna had said on the other side of the table.
Hermione smiled as Harry gently nudged her foot with his. It was a small gesture but it alleviated some of the tension that the secret couple was feeling. They had made it thus far without too many awkward moments and they were grateful for it. But they were surrounded by the people that they loved most in the world, which meant that they were surrounded by the people that they were hurting the most by being together. Hermione’s cheeks flushed when she saw Harry’s smirk and she quickly focused her attention on her plate. He always made her flush at the worst of times, but she adored the attention he gave her. She cherished the way he made her feel loved with the smallest gestures and gifts. She loved the way he enjoyed doing small things for her.
He laughed at something Fleur said but Harry’s eyes never left Hermione. He was thankful that everyone else was caught up in their own world to notice how his eyes ate away at Hermione’s figure. He couldn’t get enough of her beauty and kindness. She was understanding in the best way and Harry couldn’t imagine a world without her. Her eyes were still trained on her plate but he knew that she could feel his eyes on her. The other occupants of the table seemed oblivious to the obvious fire between the young pair. They talked and chatted while eating Mrs. Weasley’s delightful cooking.
As the evening wore on Harry continued his quiet flirting and Hermione tried her best to not let it show. After dinner, the party retired to the drawing room and Harry became the source of entertainment. He was a clown in the worst way that night. Comically retelling stories of his fights with Voldemort, impressions of both Ron and Hermione, almost making Mr. Weasley choke on his butterbeer in the process, joking and laughing, and never taking his eyes off of Hermione, Harry was the joy of the night. When the laughs died down Mrs. Weasley stood up with her glass of warm butterbeer and commanded the attention of the room.
“Now dears, it’s getting late and you’re more than welcome to stay here as long as you like, but I’m going to say goodnight. Thank you Harry, dear, for the most laughs I’ve had in a long time.” It was quiet for a moment as everyone’s thoughts drifted to the much missed Fred Weasley, but Mrs. Weasley continued strongly, “It was a pleasure. And welcome home Ginny. We’ve missed you and we’re glad that you’re home, even if it is for a short while.” Ginny blushed a bit but otherwise remained quiet and sullen. She really didn’t miss the Sunday dinners with her family. They were embarrassing and awkward for her. She had been gone so long she almost forgot how much she disliked them. Still she was a good sport and stayed to make her mother happy.
Molly and Arthur retired to bed and George and Angelina headed home for the comfort of their own bed. Charlie left to go out with a few friends in town and Bill and Fleur left soon after. The rest of the Weasley clan lounged in the drawing room trying not to kill Percy as he talked none stop about his job while Audrey listened intently. Hermione was crushed between Ron and Harry on the love seat, her head on Ron’s shoulder, her fingers intertwined with Harry’s out of sight. Ginny sat across the room in her father’s armchair with Luna fitting comfortably next to her. The fireplace was warm as they all ignored Percy’s rambling and enjoyed the otherwise quiet room. Hermione gently squeezed Harry’s fingers and he smiled looking out the window to the barely lit garden.
A flash of movement caught Harry’s eye but he shook his head to wake himself up.
“Harry, what’s wrong?” Hermione asked gently, her inquiring and perceptive eyes trained on her lover. Harry shook his head again and smiled at Hermione.
“Nothing, I just thought I saw something. But it couldn’t be. Don’t worry about it. I’m just tired. I think I’ll call it a night.” He stood up to leave and squeezed Hermione’s fingers reassuringly one last time before turning on the spot and apparating to his home. Ginny on the other hand was sure that she had seen something move in the window, she just sincerely prayed she was wrong. He couldn’t be there. He just couldn’t be. But to be sure she had to go and check. Standing up, Ginny yawned and smiled at her brother and sister-in-law.
“I think I’m going to take a walk in the garden before I head to bed,” Ginny explained as she stretched her stiff arms and fixed her crooked glasses.
“Goodnight, Gin.” Ron yelled as she walked out the kitchen’s back door. Ginny heard a loud thwack and a very loud yelp from Ron as she closed the door and she smiled for a brief second. Her brother was still the same insensitive loud oaf that she had left behind. She supposed some things would never change as she walked through the large dark garden. It was close to one o’clock as she strolled down the garden path near the woods surrounding the Weasley’s backyard. The air was crisp and the trees swayed gently in the warm summer breeze. Ginny stopped and leaned against a tree as she took in the sounds around her. He wasn’t there. Heaving a sigh of relief, she closed her eyes and smiled again as the wind blew her hair crossed her shoulders.
And then she was pressed against the tree, crushed underneath a familiar and distant weight. The bark ground against her thin blue tank top and tore her shoulders and back. She gasped in pain and opened her eyes in time to see light blue eyes close and soft pale lips meet hers. Despite his initial roughness, her assailant was soft and gentle as he kissed her. She barely fought the feeling as heat swelled in her chest and melted her bones. She kissed him back with all her might and her knees went weak as his tongue met hers in a sweet reunion. He smiled against her lips at how easily she gave in to him and her teeth caught his smiling bottom lip, biting hard, reminding him that she was not so easily won.
Ginny was in desperate need of air when her captor let go and the familiar weight was gone. Light, almost silver, blue eyes stared back into her own stormy blue ones. He had grown older, his eyes had dark sleep circles and he had a slightly more rugged look but he was still the same Draco Malfoy that Ginny had known four years ago. His cocky smirk was still in its place along his delicate pink lips, lips that Ginny wanted to ravish more than anything in the world at that point. His hair was platinum blonde as ever, neat and clean cut, but not slicked back like he used to wear it. There was something in his eyes that Ginny couldn’t quite place and before she could breathe a word, Draco turned and was gone with a resounding pop.
“What the bloody hell was that?” Ginny breathed in bewilderment.
Hermione frowned when she noticed that Ginny hadn’t returned to the Burrow after a half an hour of taking a walk. Surely the garden wasn’t that big and Ginny couldn’t possibly have meant to be gone for so long. Percy and Audrey had left a few minutes after Ginny, thank Merlin, and the drawing room was quiet. Ron and Luna had begun a game of wizards chess after Ginny left and Hermione was surprised to see that Luna was giving Ron a run for his money. Hermione was still curled up on the love seat but now she had a new book in her hands, instead of Harry’s warmth. Still, as Hermione tried to continue reading, the corners of her lips were dragged down by a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right about Ginny’s absence.
“Ron, don’t you think that Ginny’s been gone for a while now?” she asked timidly half hoping she wouldn’t get a reply.
“What? Oh, yea, sure ‘Mione.” Ron said without taking his eyes off of the game board and pieces. Hermione glared at the back of her husbands head and with a huff of indignation stood up.
“I guess I’ll go find her, because you’re too wrapped up in your chess game to care about your own sister.” Hermione commented when she still hadn’t caught Ron’s attention or interest.
“Ginny’s a big girl. She doesn’t need me to follow her every waking second of the blooming day.” Ron said irritably turning his eyes away from the chess game to his wife. Hermione’s cheeks glowed red but she bit her tongue hard. She was sick of fighting with her insensitive husband. Ron was a really good bloke, but when it came to the way he treated his wife… Hermione couldn’t say anything nice about him. Ron held her eyes, daring her, challenging her, wanting her to say something. He was expecting a witty come back that would start another huge row between them, but he watched as something changed in her cold eyes. Her determination fled from her countenance and she sighed dejectedly.
For some reason, this angered him more than any comeback she could throw at him. Her defeat only made him disgusted with himself and he wanted to put her head through the wall for making him feel guilty. Ron knew his face was turning purple from rage and he tried to hold back, but he couldn’t hold on much longer. Hermione looked at him one last time with empty eyes and left the drawing room without so much as another creak of the floorboards, without giving Ron a chance to say anything more. Ron growled under his breath and returned his gaze to Luna.
Luna’s brow was knit together and a frown covered her usually serene expression. She was thinking hard and Ron got the feeling that she wasn’t too happy with him at the moment. Ron let out another growl of frustration and crossed his arms over his chest.
Luna pursed her lips and stood abruptly making the small wooden chair behind her fall.
“She didn’t really deserve that,” Luna spoke softly but Ron felt as if her words had punched him in the gut. Ron stood now too, barely keeping the venom out of his voice as it shook with his anger. The chess board landed with a loud clunk and the pieces scattered, muttering angrily about the poor treatment.
“So now you’re defending her?”
“No. I’m saying all you ever do is fight with her. It’s trying on you both and I’m stuck in the middle without her even knowing. You’re making this hard on everyone Ron.” Luna was surprisingly calm and Ron felt a sting on his cheek as if she had slapped him. He ran his hand through his hair and let out a long, stressed breath.
“Are we seriously having that discussion? Because honestly I don’t need this right now Luna.”
“It’ll never be a good time, Ron, because you aren’t ready to let her go. I don’t ask for much Ron and I’m not being selfish here; you are. I hate giving you an ultimatum Ron, so I’m not gonna do it. Just owl me in a few days. Maybe then you’ll come to your senses.” And with those last chilling words Luna apparated, leaving Ron confused, frustrated, and alone in the drawing room. Ron sat back down on the love seat and waved his wand to pick up the chess board and pieces that he had knocked to the floor. The chess pieces were still muttering their disapproval but Ron ignored them as he put his head between his knees, trying to calm down.
The window that was ajar to let the night breeze in slammed open and Ron lifted his head, startled by the noise. A tawny brown owl that Ron recognized as Athena, Hermione’s owl, swooped in and dropped a bright red envelope into his lap and quickly flew out the way it came in. Ron stared at the howler for a few moments and then opened it. The way he saw it: his night couldn’t get much worse unless the exploding howler caused a fire. Hermione’s voice was soft but angry. Probably so that the howler wouldn’t wake up his parents, Ron deduced. He rolled his eyes. Even anger couldn’t shake his wife’s awareness of others.
“Don’t expect me home for the next few days,” came Hermione’s cold howler voice, “ I’m safe, that’s all that matters. And don’t try to find me. I won’t be at work and I don’t want to talk to you until I’m ready. Goodnight, Ronald.” The envelope tore itself to shreds and threw itself in Ron’s face. Ron stood, made sure that the drawing room was in order, and apparated to his cold and empty bedroom. Grumbling to himself, Ron grabbed a towel from the hall closet and prepared himself for a nice, long, hot, shower.
The next day Ron went to work with dark sleep circles under his eyes. He hadn’t gotten much sleep and though he hated to admit it to himself, that howler hadn’t been reassuring and he was worried sick about Hermione. Not to mention the fact that Luna wasn’t answering his owls yet. He knew that she would eventually talk to him but it would be when she was ready and he wasn’t sure when that would be. Still, his personal affairs were no excuse to miss a day of work and he trudged through the Ministry corridors like a zombie.
As the day wore on he grew more an more impatient with everything. He snapped at everyone in his department, he threw a few large stacks of paperwork in less than an hour, and his coffee (which usually brightened his mood) did nothing to help improve the pattern of behavior. When one o’clock hit, Ron eagerly left his office for a much needed break. He walked through the Ministry with renewed vigor and reach his best friends office wearing a tired smile.
“How about we go to the Leaky for lunch today?”
“Yea sure, just give me a minute,” Harry told him as he organized his desk neatly. Harry, too, had circles under his eyes because of Hermione but they were much more subtle than his best mates. One look at Ron and Harry knew that Hermione’s “disappearance” had taken a toll on him. Ron’s hair was a rat’s nest, his eyes were bloodshot and tired, his posture was slouched, and Harry had the distinct feeling that Ron had his shirt on backwards under his robes. Sympathy tugged at Harry’s heart but he kept his mouth shut about Hermione. Of course, he knew exactly where Hermione was, her having come over his house that morning and explaining what had happened, but he knew Ron was a good man underneath the harsh exterior he showed Hermione.
Once the duo flooed to the Leaky Cauldron and took their seats, Ron felt much better than he had at work. They ordered their food and drinks and they ate in comfortable silence, both thinking to themselves about Hermione. When they were done, Ron called over the waitress and ordered another round of butterbeer.
“I have something I need to tell you,” Ron spoke so that the other patrons of the pub couldn’t overhear. Harry raised an eyebrow but said nothing as he waited for Ron to continue.
“Things with Hermione,” Ron paused and swallowed hard. How could he tell anyone? How would Harry react? How could he do this to Hermione?
“Things with Hermione,” he restarted, “aren’t good Harry. They haven’t been good for a long while now. I know that you know where she is.” Ron held up his hand before Harry could protest. “Don’t deny it. I’m not going to ask you about it either. I really invited you here so that you’d be the first to hear it. I can’t keep lying to everyone about my happiness. It’s eating me alive, Harry.”
“Spit it out Ron,” Harry commanded when Ron didn’t continue.
“I don’t know what to do anymore Harry. Hermione doesn’t love me anymore. Truth be told, I don’t love her in the same way I used to and Luna… Luna’s been the only person that’s been able to make me happy. And now she won’t even talk to me either. I can’t let Luna go, I—I love her. But I don’t want to hurt Hermione. And it’s eating me away.” Ron hung his head in his hands and let out a frustrated sigh. Harry sat and watched, torn between madness and sanity. He didn’t know if he should be enraged or elated on behalf of Hermione.
“So you and Luna are… having an affair?” Harry asked quietly. Ron nodded but kept his face in his hands. Shame stained his cheeks red but he felt like a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
“I don’t know what to tell you Ron. You’ve made a huge mess of things,” Harry told him honestly. Ron nodded again and sighed.
“I know, Harry. I just don’t know how to get out of it.”
“Does Hermione know about…”
“No! No, not at all. You can’t tell her Harry, please.” Harry’s eyes hardened at the thought of keeping something from Hermione but he nodded. If he said anything to Hermione, things would turn out disastrously for everyone, including him.
“I won’t. You will.” Ron looked up into Harry’s eyes and saw something he couldn’t put his finger on but he didn’t like it one bit.
“I can’t, Harry. I can’t”
“You can and you will. Or I’ll do it for you. The more you wait, the more it will hurt her. She’s my best mate too, Ron. I can’t keep something like that from her for long. I’ll give you until the Quidditch cup to tell her. After that, it’s fair game.” Harry told Ron. Ron nodded knowing that Harry was only right and then stood.
“Thanks Harry. You’re being way too easy on me.” Harry waved away the thanks and swallowed the guilt forming in his throat.
“You’re still my best mate Ron. No matter what happens. Remember that, will you?”
The red-headed man was confused by the comment but nodded nonetheless. They left the Leaky a few moments later, a weight lifted off both men’s shoulders, talking easily about the upcoming Quidditch World Cup.
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