The clouds covered the once laminating sunlight as Hermione walked briskly with Ginny by her side. The two were late for her own wedding rehearsal. Having taken more time than expected with the cake and the flower preparations, it left them both very little time to fix themselves up and apparate to the gardens. After days of consideration, Hermione had finally decided to have the wedding in the gardens near her childhood home.
There was still a bite of cold in the air, but the tent being set up would do wonders to block that. Hermione pulled her coat in tighter around her as the two of them rounded the corner, and the rest of the family came into view. It was a small rehearsal, only the parents and wedding party allowed. Most were busying themselves with planning still. The Weasleys had been so helpful with the arrangements; perhaps Molly was just excited to have another wedding so close to the family. As Hermione peered ahead, a gnawing feeling developed in her stomach. “Ginny, where is Ron?” She asked, his tall frame missing from crowd ahead.
Ginny, slightly bewildered, responded with curiosity. “He wasn’t sure if you wanted him here. With the mess going on between you two, I assumed it’d be better if he stayed home.”
Remembering the fight, and all the words spoken between them, Hermione agreed. “I suppose, you’re right. I had hoped he would apologize by now. He’ll be at the wedding though, won’t he? Even if we’re not on speaking terms, I would-”
“He wouldn’t miss that. You can count on it.” Ginny confirmed, stealing a glance sideways at Hermione’s reaction.
“Good. I don’t think I could get through that day without him. I mean, he’s always been there, for all of my big days. We shouldn’t ruin that because of some stupid fight.”
“He didn’t have a problem with your other ‘big days’.” Ginny rebutted.
“He hardly approved of S.P.E.W. taking flight, but he was still there.”
Ginny scoffed, “Hermione, that was completely different. And you know it.” Ginny knew Hermione’s brain was working overtime, digesting new information about Ron, overcoming old feelings. She had to have pieced two and two together by now. She was Hermione after all.
“Yes, I know. I wish we could go back to when our indifferences consisted of whether or not I would do his History of Magic homework.” Hermione huffed, as they made it up the hill. Before either could say another word, Molly caught sight of them and beckoned them closer.
“Just a butterbeer today. Thanks.” Ron mumbled to the bartender.
The short, blond witch nodded and served up one frothy drink. Sliding it towards him, she smiled. “Tough day?”
Ron sighed, “You could say that. My best mate’s getting married tomorrow.”
“That’s exciting,” The woman started, her voice kind and polite. She nodded in the direction of a burly wizard at the other corner of the bar and pulled two glasses from the shelf behind her.
Ron shook his head, staring into his drink. He tapped against the glass, in no particular rhythm. “It’s been a mess, finally made it to the rehearsal though.” He added bitterly, “She’s at the rehearsal dinner right now, with the rest of my family.”
“And you’re here because…?” She asked sweetly, mixing another concoction behind the counter. Her eyes lingered on him, waiting for a response.
“I suppose because the groom hates me. Which I can understand, considering he knows I’m in love with his fiancée. Then again, she seems to have decided to hate me as well. It’s not like I can help the fact. I tried not to be, dated other people, and all of that nonsense, but you know how that goes.” Ron waved off nonchalantly.
“Yes, I know how that goes.” She said. With a wave of her wand, she sent the two glasses she had just mixed down to the other end of the bar. “Everyone has that one person, don’t they?” She smiled at him weakly.
“The hardest thing about this one is that I’ve known her since… forever.” He finished lamely. “It’s not as though I can rip her from my life, you know? She’s my best friend. How do you get over someone when you have to see them live their new, amazing life every day?” He looked expectantly up at the woman.
She shrugged, dragging a rag across the countertop. “I suppose the real question is do you want to get over her?”
Ron didn’t need to think long for that answer. The answer wasn’t debatable. “No.” His voice broke slightly. “But I have to.”
“Hmm, I’ve seen this before.” The blond muttered, causing Ron to have to listen closely. “I wonder… have you told this girl how you feel?” Her stare was frighteningly similar to Ginny’s.
“Well, yes-no, not exactly.” Ron started, his eyes falling back to his drink. “It’s not like it’s that easy!” He exasperated, his voice turning to a mumble, “There would be no going back.”
“It’s not like you’re better off here, are you?”
“I happen to be having a pleasant time right now, thanks.” Ron
responded with a soft laugh.
“If you say so.” She shrugged again, tossing the rag into a sinkful of water. “It’s just, I’ve seen many wizards sit in that same stool you’re in, most of them afraid of changing, afraid of taking a leap of faith. Some of them still come back, always full of regret. And I’d hate to add another to that group.”
Ron glanced up at the woman in front of him. She was smiling at him. He wondered if she had ever sat in this stool herself. But that was far too personal to ever ask. “So what do you suggest?” He asked, tilting his head to one side and raising an eyebrow.
She shook her head. “If I was this girl, and my best friend had secret feelings for me, I would want to know.”
“Yes, no matter what.” She confirmed.
“So, I should really go tell her.” Ron stated, more than asked. He pushed his glass away from him, watching the water ring spread across the counter.
The woman grabbed the glass from his vision, causing his head to snap up in surprise. “Now or never, right? Just go already, before you chicken out.”
“You sound like my sister.” He mumbled, sliding himself off the stool. He rummaged through his pockets, and threw down some coins. “Thanks.” He said, grinning as he pulled his wand from his back pocket. “I owe you one.”
And with a pop he was gone.
The Flamingo was very pink and very muggle. When the two girls apparated outside the brightly lit stone building, Hermione wasn’t sure what to expect. She had only ever heard about bachelorette parties, most from muggle films and novels. She knew nothing could prepare her for whatever Ginny had up her sleeve.
She had told Ginny not to plan one. She didn’t want the attention, she never wanted the attention. But she was thankful that Ginny disregarded her wishes this time around. It made her story to Caden believable. And she definitely needed time to think before the wedding. Although, this didn’t look like the sort of place where that would be possible.
“Ginny, what are we doing here?” She asked hesitantly through gritted teeth. She brushed the somewhat dampened hair out of her face, getting a closer view of her surroundings. The pink, the blaring music, the dancing, they weren’t her, definitely not a comforting place.
“We’re going to have fun. Just you wait, it’ll be a blast.” Ginny smiled, steering her way through the crowd at the bar. “You go find a table, big enough for… 6 or 7 people probably. I’ll get the drinks!”
Hermione raised an eyebrow and glanced around the room. No one looked remotely familiar to her. With a hurried, slightly nervous feeling in the pit of her stomach, she asked the question she’d been dreading since the party had been finalized. “Ginny, who exactly should I be expecting?”
But Ginny didn’t need to answer Hermione, assuming that she heard her over the music, someone else did for her. “Hermione Granger!” A voice cried from the side of the counter. “It’s been too long!”
Hermione’s eyes closed, fearing she recognized that voice. “Parvati?” She said, managing to place a smile on her lips as she turned towards the voice.
Seeing her again was like stepping back in time a few years. She was still as beautiful as she was in Hogwarts, her glossy brown hair shined in the Flamingo’s bright pink and purple lights. She had a smile that stretched from ear to ear as she rushed towards Hermione, arms open.
“Oh no,” Hermione whispered just before being engulfed in a hug.
“How are you? Well of course, you’re wonderful, getting married! I was so surprised when Ginny owled.” She said in a rush, pulling back
but keeping Hermione at arm’s length. “Who would have thought that Hermione Granger would be the first of us to tie the knot?”
Hermione had opened her mouth to say something, what she wasn’t quite sure, when saved by Ginny’s reappearance, holding a tray of drinks in her hand. “Come on girls, we can chit chat at the table.” She stated, leading the way through the crowd.
They found a large table near the stage. Hermione wasn’t quite sure what it would have been used for, it was bare that the moment aside from a few speakers on each side. Thinking back to the muggle movies she had seen, she hoped it wouldn’t be part of one of the most common bachelorette activities. There weren’t any poles, or anything though, so that was relaxing to see.
“So, Hermione, how’d you finally get Ron to pop the question?” Parvati asked with the utmost interest. “I mean, he could be a few knuts short of a sickle something, you know?
Hermione, who was taking a sip of her drink, choked at the mention of Ron’s name. “W-what?” She spluttered, grabbing a napkin to cover her mouth.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” She said quickly, reaching her hand across the table to pat Hermione’s hand. “Love is love, I should know. I’m with Seamus and we both know how far off he can be.”
For a moment, Hermione’s confusion turned to anger. Sure Ron wasn’t
the most observant wizard around, but that didn’t mean he didn’t have smarts. He was a brilliant wizard; she had done her best to help him with that. “Excuse me?” Hermione raged.
Parvati glanced from the brunette to the redhead in confusion. “I didn’t mean anything by it, no need to get defensive-”
“Hermione’s not marrying Ron.” Ginny interrupted, causing a stir from both girls.
Hermione’s glare broke and she regained composure. Parvati’s eyes widened as she took a sip of her fruity drink. She pinched at her straw, clearly puzzled. “Then why are we here?” She asked slowly, the brightness fading from her stare. Her expression now was rather bored.
“I am getting married.” Hermione stated, “To Caden.”
“Yes, you don’t know him. He’s an American. I met him on one of my trips over with the ministry.” Hermione answered, her hands had fallen into her lap. For once she wasn’t sure why, but she wanted to know what Parvati thought. She wasn’t disappointed as Parvati’s eyes lit up again, and her hands slammed onto the table, startling the girls and the glasses.
"An American? You do like foreigners, don’t you? Why didn’t you tell me?” Parvati asked, her words going at a mile a minute. “I’m sorry for the confusion. But you have to admit, everyone’s likely to assume that you and Ron…”
“No, it’s not likely. Ron and I were never a couple.” Hermione retorted, defensively, but quickly added. “No hard feelings though, you didn’t know.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Yup, so Hermione’s marrying Caden. Life is good. Oh Luna’s here!” She shouted, standing from her seat to wave her over.
“It’s better this way, anyway.” Parvati whispered to Hermione across the table. “Lavender is going to be so happy to hear this. She almost wasn’t going to come tonight, when she thought that it was Ron.”
Hermione’s stomach dropped and could only manage one word, “Lavender?”
“Yes, she may show up tonight. She got back from Spain only a few days ago. She’s dating this very attractive Quidditch player. Taken a page from your book!” Parvati said, making herself giggle. “Because you love foreigners…” She added with more giggles.
Hermione smiled weakly, glancing around the room, now in fear of who she may see.
Ron wasn’t sure what he would say. He couldn’t very well run up and exclaim his love, could he? Hermione had always said this was his problem. He rarely thought ahead. That bartender inspired him to go, and now he was here, staring at the large white tent in the distance, without a rational thought running through his mind.
It had begun to rain some time since he had entered the bar, and now the ground of covered with puddles, the grass a dull green. But they had to still be there, they had a tent after all. Without another moment of hesitation, Ron trudged forward, his feet squishing the plants beneath him.
There was a string of lights leading the way to the reception area. They were still on.
The chairs were set up in two columns. In between the two columns was a long trail of white, leading up to a beautiful white gazebo. The gazebo was covered with purple flowers, lilacs, maybe? Ron didn’t know much about flowers. But he knew this was definitely Hermione’s wedding. It screamed her name, from the colors chosen to the delicate placement of each individual chair. Ron felt his stomach turn.
He took a deep breath and made his way to the large tent behind the wedding area. He drove his hand in his hair, combing through it, shaking water from it. He could hear voices. This was it, no going back now.
Ron grabbed hold of the white plastic sheet blocking his view and ripped it open. He couldn’t imagine what he must have looked like to the people inside. People he definitely didn’t know.
“Can I help you?” A tall, white haired lady asked curiously from behind a large white table. Her wand was up, flailing in the air. Flowers hung in the air, slowly moving into their correct locations by her command.
“I-I’m sorry, is there a Hermione Granger here?” Ron tried, although knew it was quite unlikely.
“Not anymore, dear. She left about an hour ago with a friend, red hair just like you.” She added, nodding at his head. “I’m sure she’s very busy. A very determined girl she is. The wedding’s tomorrow, 2 o’clock.”
Her bachelorette party was tonight. As if he could find her now, they could have gone to a million different places. Ron shook his head and mumbled, “It’ll be too late by then.” He didn’t wait for any sort of response, simply stared at the ground and wished to be home, out of this cold, out of this rain, and out of this complete failure.
Tomorrow would be too late. But not completely impossible. It was a bit more dramatic than he had wanted. He only hoped he’d still have the courage.
Two rounds of drinks and so far no Lavender. A few more women had joined the table, Luna Lovegood, two fellow interns at the Ministry, Katie Bell and Angelina Johnson. It was a random crowd, but Parvati did well to build bridges quickly, letting loose on the latest gossip of the wizarding world. It seemed as if she knew some little detail about everyone and anyone.
“I suppose she decided not to come.” Parvati sighed, as if reading Hermione’s thoughts. “Not that I blame her. If I thought that my ex was marrying the girl who stole him from me, I would freak too!”
Hermione opened her mouth to counter such an absurd statement when Luna suddenly exclaimed, “This place is crawling with Crumpkins.” Her head was tilted to the side, staring at her napkin. “Muggle buildings are full of them, so is Neville’s grandmother’s house.” She trailed off. No one looked more out of place at the table than Luna did. She played absent-mindedly with the dew falling from her glass, humming occasionally.
Hermione, too, had lost interest in the conversation early on, but she kept a smile on her face and was sure to nod occasionally. Ginny sat next to her, tapping her fingers on the table. She was swaying in her seat to the music playing over the speakers. The place was getting crowded, especially the dance floor. Hermione felt bad for Ginny. She wanted this to be fun, but Hermione had never been good with girly activities. She wasn’t one for gossip, dancing, or even drinking. It had taken her much longer than the other to finish her second glass.
“So, Hermione, how did he propose?” Katie Bell asked sweetly from across the table. Immediately, all eyes fell on Hermione.
Parvati’s eyes widened, as if she couldn’t believe she forgot to ask the same question. She giggled and bounced in her seat, “Oh yes, do tell!”
“Well, I had no idea it was going to happen. None at all-” Hermione started.
Beth, from the Ministry, quickly interrupted, “Didn’t you read the Prophet? There was a whole story about the engagement months ago.” She brushed her pixie cut, brown hair from her face. She sighed dreamily, “It was very romantic, absolutely perfect. Apparently Caden had to planned weeks in advance.”
The each woman smiled adoringly, causing Hermione to flush a light pink. “It was romantic,” She agreed, nodding her head. “He took me to a Tornadoes game, took out a ring, and then the rest is history I suppose.” She finished quietly.
Angelina shook her head. “And why couldn’t Fred do something like that? You picked a winner, Hermione. He seems like a true gentleman.”
“What, Fred’s not gentleman enough for you, Angelina?” Katie joked, bumping her shoulder into her friend’s. “I think you knew that when you signed up.”
“I know, I know, I said yes, I must live with the consequences.” Angelina grinned brightly.
“I always thought the twins were hot.” Parvati jumped in, shrugging and sipping her drink, the little umbrella hitting her nose. “I mean, they always had that mischievous look to them. Goofy, sure, but who knows what sort of devilish antics they could have done.”
Angelina raised her hand, “Well I know what one can do.”
The table rumbled with laughter, all except for the redhead.
Ginny scrunched up her nose, “Ew!” She exclaimed, holding her hands in front of her and shaking her head vigorously. “Not something I need to know about my brother, thank you!”
Lights began flashing against the dance floor, all sorts of colors. A loud hoot came from the crowd and more joined it. The music hastened. “Oh I love this song!” Beth shouted, over the tune. “Dance, anyone?”
A few nodded in agreement, and shuffled out on to the floor. “Come on, Hermione. It’s your party, get out here!” Katie beckoned. “I never get to have a night out with just the girls, please!”
Hermione laughed at her enthusiasm. And shied away from her grasps. But Ginny was behind her, pushing her out of the booth, laughing and singing with the music. Before she knew what was happening, Hermione was on the dance floor surrounded by people she didn’t know.
“You seemed stressed.” Angelina yelled, ducking out of Parvati’s flailing arms.
“I am.” Hermione shrugged, stepping from side to side, unsure what else to do. “There’s so much to do yet, so much to think about.”
Angelina smirked (Fred and George would have been proud). “Can you do anything about it now?” Hermione shook her head. “Then don’t worry about it. Tonight is for you. Let everything else go for now!” She ended.
Hermione smiled. Her problems would still be around tomorrow, or even later tonight. Now, she had a group of friends, free drinks, and music. It would be best not to let those things go to waste. She let herself be happy, and free. Her worries pushed into a corner of her mind, still present but only in flickering moments. She had to stop second-guessing herself.
Rebecca sometimes hated her job. Being an investigative reporter had its perks, obviously, but then there were also nights like tonight. She was spending her Saturday night pushing through crowds of drunk, immature muggles. She had to miss the Puddlemere United versus Wimbourne Wasps game for one of the most boring stories she ever been assigned. Did anyone actually care about the differences between muggle and wizard nightclubs? She highly doubted this would ever make the Prophet. But she couldn’t argue with her supervisor, though she’s tried.
Her Saturday night couldn’t get much worse, or so she thought.
Maybe she could spin this into an actual story? Standing as far from the crowd in the center of the room as she could, Rebecca observed her surroundings. The people were dressed in tight, brightly colored clothes, the drinks seemed fruitier than ones she has had in the past, and the lights and music was controlled by electricity. She laughed at the absurdity of the observations. Of course, all these things were true.
Hands behind her back, she leaned against a muggleless table and sighed. It probably would have been a decent idea to invite someone. It could have been a fun night. She hadn’t had many of those in the past year. She found herself swaying to the unfamiliar music, and closed her eyes briefly.
She still missed him occasionally, especially in moments like this. He would have loved this place. The dancing, laughing, everything about it. Her eyes opened slowly as she smiled. They had fun together, but fun couldn’t last. Her mother used to tell her to be careful with her heart, and to never, ever fall in love with someone who loves another. But Rebecca was never one to follow the rules.
She snapped her head to the left as a flash of red caught her attention. It wasn’t just any red. That bright, ginger color could only belong to someone of the Weasley name. Rebecca’s breath caught in her throat when she saw them. It wasn’t Ginny that startled her, Rebecca loved Ginny. It was the girl with the fuzzy chestnut hair, flashing a brilliant smile. This was the girl she had to surrender to so many months ago, and she didn’t even know it.
At least they haven’t seen her yet. She could just sit here, do her job, and leave. No awkwardness needed. But seconds later, Rebecca’s stomach began to churn as the two girls—followed by two others she didn’t’ recognize—began walking towards her. They were all laughing.
“I’m parched!” One of the girls proclaimed, taking lead. Before Rebecca could make a run for it, the girl skipped over, smiling at her brightly. “Hello! Excuse me, ooo watch out, you’re crushing the Crumpkins.” She cried, causing Rebecca to jump sideways.
Ginny and Hermione stopped in their tracks. “Rebecca?” Ginny asked curiously. “What are you doing here? How have you been?” She added her own smile matching the blond’s who was now sitting at the table behind them.
“Ginny, you look great. I’ve been all right, been busy with work. But
I’m sure you know how that is.” Rebecca answered, trying to be enthused. She could feel Hermione’s stare on her. May as well face it, she thought, and turned towards the girl she was always so envious of, “Hermione.”
The corners of Hermione’s mouth turned up only slightly as she
spoke. “Hello Rebecca.”
With an awkward nod, Rebecca scooted sideways, putting as much room as she could between her and the other girls. “Well,” She started, thinking fast. “I better get going…”
The other girl that followed them from the dance floor looked the most excited of them all, her eyes lit up with an idea. “You three know each other? Rebecca? I’m Parvati. You should stay; join in on the fun! Your first marriage only ever happens once!” She cried, throwing an arm around Hermione’s shoulders. Hermione cringed under the unwanted attention.
Rebecca’s eyes widened. She could only manage, “Oh, wow. Congratulations, Hermione.” Hermione gave her a nod of thanks. The girl, Parvati, stared eagerly awaiting an answer. Rebecca swallowed hard, “Well, in that case, I wouldn’t want to intrude.”
Rebecca made a move to leave; she couldn’t seem to breathe in here, right now. As she brushed past Hermione, earning confused glances from Parvati, she managed to squeak out a request. “Can you tell Ron I’m happy for him?”
Suddenly, Rebecca heard both Ginny and Hermione suck in a deep breath. Hermione froze, her eyes searching. “Please don’t make a big deal out of this, Hermione. Honestly, you two should be together. I’ll be fine. You don’t have to sugar coat it for me, I’m glad I know.” Rebecca added, misjudging Hermione’s reaction.
Parvati burst out in a fit of laughter. Through screeches, she managed to say, “I thought the same thing!” She collapsed into a chair, her words dissolving into another fit.
“I’m not marrying Ron.” Hermione stated. Her voice was calm, as if she was trying to keep herself under control. “And I would appreciate if people would stop saying that. I can’t understand why anyone would assume that.”
“You two were so flirty in Hogwarts. How could anyone not?” Parvati interrupted, throwing her hands about.
“We were never a couple. You knew that, Rebecca.” Hermione said defiantly, sending a chillful glare her way.
Rebecca couldn’t understand the dislike behind Hermione’s eyes, but she didn’t like it and definitely wouldn’t stand for it. “Yes, I knew that. But I also know that you may as well have been one.” She snapped. She had never spoken Hermione like this, never wanted to talk about this masked feelings. It felt good.
“What are you talking about?” She asked anxiously.
“You honestly don’t know? I can’t believe he still hasn’t told you.” She stated, disbelieving. Rebecca shook her head. Hermione stood there as if she’d been slapped.
“Ron shares many things with me. He’s just-he’s been through some tough times at work. We haven’t gotten to talk as much…” She trailed off, as if waiting for Rebecca to jump in, but not wanting her to at the same time.
“I assumed you were engaged to Ron because you were the reason we broke up.” Rebecca stated plainly. She had never seen Hermione so confused before, and after all the stories about how brilliant this girl was, Rebecca felt empowered. Ron would kill her if he knew what she was about to say, but frankly she didn’t care.
“But he said-” Hermione started.
Rebecca cut her short. “He would tell you something else, especially since you had Caden on your arm.” Hermione looked slightly hurt, her eyes cloudy. “I broke up with him. And would you like to know why? Every time you were around, it would be as if no one else was in the room. Do you know how that feels? Knowing your boyfriend is gawking at some childhood crush? Not good. And to make matters worse, I found the pictures in his dresser.”
“Ooo nudie photos?” Parvati asked giddily from the table. Rebecca chose to ignore this comment. She had seen a light go on in Hermione’s eyes once the pictures were mentioned. She, too, must have found them.
“I-I didn’t know.” Hermione said quietly, her words were barely audible over the music playing around the room. “I’m sorry.”
Ginny, who had taken a step back to witness this exchange, jumped
forward, placing a hand on Hermione’s shoulder. “You have nothing to be sorry about. It’s Ron’s fault.”
At this, Rebecca laughed. “No, she knew what she was doing. Even while he was with me, she knew his feelings. She had to have. She’s Hermione Granger.”
Hermione glared. “It’s not that easy. He’s such a hard person to read… And so stubborn.” She rambled.
“Well now you’re getting married, to someone that is not him. So you’ll never have to worry about his stubbornness again.” Rebecca said, ready for this night to be over. There was nothing to report here. It was old news, and something she had thought she was beyond. “I’m sorry. But I need to go.”
She brushed past the two, and melted into the crowds of dancers, leaving Parvati’s laughter behind her. She had willed herself not to choke up again over this situation. Instead, she let anger surge. She wasn’t generally an angry person, but tonight, she’d let herself be.
Hermione’s eyes closed. Without a moment of hesitation, she pictured the Burrow clearly in her mind. Most of the Weasley’s had been invited to the Quidditch game with Caden, while Molly and Arthur were out with the Miff’s. Only one redhead would be there tonight, and he was just the one she needed to speak too. If she had to sit in his room for a few hours, she would. He would answer her questions.
With a slight ‘pop’, Hermione felt her feet hit dirt-covered ground.
Her eyes opened as she fought for her balance. The house was pitch
black inside, matching the rest of the hill it sat on. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a light flicker in one of the rooms. She craned her neck to decipher the exactly where he was. High up, a light glow came from the uppermost window. Perfect, she knew that room well.
With another swirl of her wand, and a loud ‘pop’ she was gone again.
“OY!” Ron jumped and twirled around; away from the bed, he was uncovering. A loud crack pierced through the air of his small room. Half-stumbling onto his bed, he reached for his wand.
“Don’t you dare.” Hermione growled from the doorway. “You leave that there.”
Ron’s eyes widened. “Hermione, wh-what are you doing here?” His hand dropped the willow wand at his nightstand, and then immediately second guessing himself. She had a wicked look in her eyes. With a gulp, his gaze moved to the ground, realizing then that he was clan only in his emerald green pajama pants.
Hermione’s eyes wandered the same path Ron’s were. She hadn’t thought that he’d be half naked when she apparated. Her eyes traced over his broad freckled shoulders, past his toned chest, and down to the light red hair that trailed over his stomach and beyond. She shivered slightly; she had never truly been able to take in Ron’s features like this before. She could feel her cheeks flushing pink.
Ron cleared his throat, shifting uneasily. Hermione’s eyes snapped back up to meet his. “You are going to answer some questions, Ronald Weasley. So take a seat.”
“Now wait a minute. You can’t just waltz in here and command me to do something!” Ron ranted. His ears were growing redder by the second. Hermione glared at him.
“We both know you wouldn’t listen to me any other way. I want to know why you said those things to me. Why you would choose now to tell me how horrible Caden is? He’s been nothing but nice to you.” She retorted. Her hand tightened around her wand, waiting for any sudden movements.
Ron laughed mockingly. “Really? You believe that? Caden is prick, Hermione. And he sure as hell isn’t the right bloke for you. I stand by everything I said that day. Everything.” He added, stretching the word out slowly.
Hermione stood by the door, shocked at how he just spoke to her, as if she was five years old. Ron glared back at her, waiting for a response. His hands were tightening into fists with frustration. “Is he a prick because he reminds you of Viktor? I can see it; you treat him as you did your favorite Quidditch player all those years ago. Or maybe you see that Caden will always be a bigger man than you, he’s more mature, dignified.” Hermione spat. She regretted it the moment it was said.
“Really, Hermione, that’s what you think? You think I wish I had Caden’s manners and looks?” Ron questioned harshly. “For once, you’ve got it wrong.”
“No, Ron, you do. You’re jealous of Caden because he has what you threw away.” Hermione lowered her wand. She was almost there. Sadness crept into her voice, but she brushed it off, letting anger fill her. She took a deep breath, willing herself to answer his next question.
Ron took the bait. He always did. Hermione knew him too well. “Oh yeah, what’s that?” He took a step forward, trying to intimate her, his eyes were shining. It had been weeks since their last fight, and they were both ready for it.
Hermione narrowed her eyes. It was now or never. She whispered, barely audible, “Me.”
Ron blinked. His mouth opened and closed a few times, making him
look like a fish struggling out of water. He crossed his arms over his chest, straightening himself up further. “You’ve lost your marbles. You really have this time.” He resisted. His ears flamed on.
“Really? What are all of these then, Ron, hm?” She turned her back on him to ransack through the bottom drawer of his dresser. They were hidden beneath several old Chudley Cannon posters, but still there, as they were the first time she saw them. She pulled out the stack of newspaper clippings, full of black and white pictures of her. A few fluttered to the ground.
“Hey! Those are private.” Ron grabbed for them, his hand clasped around her wrist, bringing her closer.
“Ha! Private!” Hermione reached her arm as high as she could, trying to keep the papers out of his grasped. Her body grazed sideways against his bare chest. “Just admit you’re jealous, Ronald.” She said, holding back a shiver.
Even on her tiptoes, Ron easily took the papers from her hands. “Fine!” He shouted, letting go of her, the clippings clasped in his other hand. “I’m jealous. Okay, that’s it. You’re bloody marrying a bloke you hardly know, and leaving me in the dust. So I guess I’ll just be on my merry way. You don’t have to sit here and rub it in my face.”
Hermione felt a rush of emotions. Part of her was relieved, relieved that she had been right. The other was heartbroken and angry that it took her being unobtainable for him to decide on this. Suddenly she backed away from him, as if being too close would burn her.
“You always want what you can’t have. It is always been this way with us, Ron. You never ask me first, even when I specifically told you! And-and now it’s too late.” She whispered. “I shouldn’t have come here.”
“This! This is why I never said anything.” He gasped, throwing his hands in the air. “You would go all barmy on me. We’d fight, and you run away crying. Maybe you’re right, maybe I only want what I can’t have. Would that make you feel better to hear, Hermione? Because either way you spin it, you’re wrong.”
Hermione felt the tears prickle behind her eyes. What had she expected would happen when she found out? When she heard the truth? She couldn’t. She promised. What could she do…? “I’m sorry.” She said quietly.
Ron saw something in her eyes, a speck of hope, maybe? He stepped forward, letting go of his anger. “Don’t say you’re sorry. When someone says their sorry, it is because they did something they regret. And the Hermione I know, the Hermione I love…” He spoke the last word softly, causing her to gaze up at him, her brown eyes wet with tears. “That Hermione doesn’t regret anything. She calculates, and decodes ever inch of everything. And even though it drives me mad sometimes, I know she’ll do what’s best for her. She’ll do what makes her happy. That’s all I want, Hermione. I’m here, no matter what, I always will be.”
She sniffled, and wiped the teardrops from her cheeks. With a deep breath, she held up her wandless hand. “I-Ron…” She started, her eyes melting into his. “I need to think. I need time. I need to be alone.”
Hermione shook her head, drew her wand up again and closed her eyes. Ron’s eyes widened and took a few more steps to stop her. It couldn’t end this way, she couldn’t end the night this way… But she was already gone. “Bloody hell… that didn’t go well.” He muttered, running a hand through his hair.
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