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Chapter 1 : Whispers and Secrets
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Five years had come and gone since Harry Potter had defeated Lord Voldemort and returned the Wizard World to an era of peace. The turmoil that had ensued in the wake of the resurrection of the dark wizard was no longer, the world was at ease once again. The Ministry had regained power under the careful watch of Minister of Magic Kingsley Shackelbolt.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione, known to the world as the Golden Trio, all had gotten jobs at the Ministry, all making sure the peace continued. Harry and Ron both worked part-time as Aurors, specifically when the task was large and needed people with real life experience. Compared to their seven year ordeal previously - which included a treasure hunt for horcruxes and defeating the darkest wizard of all time - the tasks at the Ministry were child's play. Hermione found herself working in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, where her primary motive was to bring further justifications to the lives of house elves. Every time she looked in to one of their big eyes, she saw Dobby, their devoted friend who stuck by them until the end, and she knew she had to bring justice to their lives as well. House elves liked to please, most of them at least, but she wanted the owners to treat then less like property and more like a family member. Her ideas weren't popular but the world was changing.
On this particular day, a slow day indeed given that the week before they had dealt with a fourteen year old who "accidentally" turned his little sister into a parakeet, Hermione was spending her lunch break perched on Ron's desk, the two of them having the ever debatable discussion of Rugby vs. Quidditch. Hermione was in favor of Rugby, but Ron was adamant that this was solely because she was muggle born and wasn't raised to appreciate the brilliance of the game of Quidditch. They were, however, interrupted by the loud sound of the intercom echoing throughout the cramped office.
"Mr. Weasley, you have a visitor waiting downstairs." The nasally voice of the receptionist announced in a bored tone of voice.
Ron pressed his index finger down on the large, red call button on his desk."Send 'em up," He replied coolly, enjoying how powerful and official and just plain grown up he felt sitting in his office, his stunning fiancé on his desk.
After a moment he diverted his attention back to the beautiful woman perched on his desk.
"Hermione, you know I really have work I need to do." He said the words in a voice that he intended to be serious and authoritative, but a wide, child-like grin broke out across his face.
Both of he and Hermione knew fully well that he would choose spending his time talking to over doing paperwork any day. The decision of fiancé vs. work was an easy one to make. Besides that, he was glad to have a break given how busy he had been the past few days. He could really use a distraction from the trials of day-to-day work life, especially when said 'distraction' was in the form of his beautiful girlfriend-turned-fiancé Hermione Granger.
She twirled his maroon tie around in her fingers, making the small diamond engagement ring on her hand sparkle in the light. He had proposed two months prior in the backyard of the Burrow after they had had a big family dinner. She remembered that day vividly in the back of her mind, from what she was wearing, to the way the sun was just peeking out from behind the clouds. She often lost herself in the blissful memories of the day she vowed to spend the rest of her days with the man she could happily call her best friend and the love of her life. She now had a man she adored, a job she enjoyed and the company of amazing friends, along with a wonderful family of in-laws that she loved. She couldn't imagine her life any differently.
"You know, I -" Hermione was abruptly cut off by a quiet, timid knock on his heavy, wooden door. She slid gently off the desk stood behind Ron with her hands on his shoulders, slightly massaging them, a more appropriate scene. Although they weren't doing anything particularly wrong she didn't want anyone to get the impression that they were. She was keenly aware of how she placed herself in society. She didn't care what people thought when it came to her defending herself and those she loved, but she didn't want to jeopardize the respect she had worked so hard to earn in a world where blood lineage was important. Granted, it was only important to select families, but it was still an issue nevertheless.
"Come in." Ron called, using his authoritive, in charge, voice that Hermione loved to hear so much. To her, that voice signified just how much time had passed. He was no longer the boy she met on the Hogwarts Express eleven years ago; he was now a man.
Slowly, the heavy door swung open and Hermione's stomach twisted and jealousy she had not felt since their sixth year burst from deep inside her body. Ron's ex-girlfriend Lavender Brown stood in the doorway, curly blonde hair hanging limply on her shoulders.
"Sorry to interrupt," She murmured, not sounding sorry at all
Hermione suspected that the only thing she was sorry about was that Hermione was in the room as well, which would indicate there more than likely was a relationship past friendship between the two of them.
Ron's eyes widened in shock and confusion as he allowed himself to fully come to understand the fact that she was indeed, for some reason unbeknownst to him, standing rather awkwardly in the doorway, a look of disappointment and utter annoyance on her face.
Hermione immediately tried to suppress the jealously raging inside her because Lavender Brown had not been a factor in his life in six years. She was engaged to Ron, Lavender was not.
"Um...may I speak to you out into the hall?" She spoke the words in the form of a question, but it was clear that it was more in the form
of a demand rather than a request.
Just the thought of the two of them having a conversation and being alone together just made her sick. She knew it was wrong, but after all the pain Hermione went through sixth year due to this girl did not exactly make her desire to see her fiancé alone with her. She knew just her cunning and manipulative the girl could be. Nevertheless, he was a grown man and Hermione trusted him. So, there was not a valid reason for her to try and tell him he couldn't go.
"Um," He looked to Hermione for reassurance, who urged him to go, then back to Lavender, who looked worried. "Sure," he said, stretching the word. "I'll…um…be right back."
Hermione remained silent and just nodded quietly.
He looked uncertain about how to answer the question because he was aware of Hermione's distaste for her, so his first reaction was to read Hermione's face. He was more fearful of making her angry than looking "whipped" by his girlfriend to his ex-girlfriend. After all, option one had him kissing her, the other option had him sleeping on the couch when they got married for he knew that she would remember and hold a grudge.
When she begrudgingly nodded reassuringly, he looked back to Lavender and hesitantly spoke, "Sure...I'll um...just be a minute." The second part of his answer was directed solely at Hermione who nodded her head.
Lavender let Ron pass her and as she was shutting the door she turned and shot Hermione a devilish smile with a dark glint in her eyes. Hermione averted her eyes and squared her jaw, continuing to reassure herself that there was nothing to worry about. Ron had never given her a reason to distrust him so she felt guilty for the feelings rumbling deeply inside of her. The look she gave her then brought her back to sixth year when at every available moment Lavender rubbed it in Hermione's that she had something Hermione did not, the something which happened to be Ron.
A slight wave of relief washed over her as she reminded herself that the ring on her finger symbolized forever, a future with him that would go on until they were old and gray. They had seen each other at their worst and at their best and still stood by each other, through thick and thin and that was not likely to change after one quick hallway conversation with a girl from his past. The ring not only symbolized forever, but it symbolized the end of all the childish break-ups and make-ups, the childish fights, all the juvenile chaos they went through between declaring themselves a couple and the night be proposed. They were finally on track to get their long awaited happily ever after.
Upon Lavender's request, Ron placed a silencing charm around them to prevent outside ears from
eavesdropping on their private moments.
'She probably heard about the engagement and just wants to come say goodbye,' Hermione reassured herself as she straightened the papers on Ron's desk to pass the time to keep herself from having a severe anxiety attack.
Hermione thought about the long journey the pair had come through. Beginning when they were merely eleven years old, to now. Unlike most tales of people falling in love, they did not experience love at first sight, it was rather the opposite. This grew and grew into something much much more, although it took each other quite a while to realize it themselves, much less admit it to each other.
Ron and Lavender stayed outside talking for what felt like hours - each dreadful second longer than the last.
After the longest ten minutes of Hermione's life, Ron walked back in to the office, a dazed expression on his face. He looked extremely flustered and his hair was unruly - it was clear he had run his hands through it multiple times, disheveling it.
Ronald Weasley was as pale as a ghost. Correction, he was paler. If you compared his white skin to Nearly Headless Nick, Nick would look like a beach volleyball player who spent all day in the sun.
The normally flushed Weasley was no longer the least bit pink.
Hermione rushed to his side, cradling his face in her hands, staring at him worriedly. Concern was dropping from her face, utter fear flowing through her veins.
"Ron! Ron, are you okay?! Oh. Look at you, of course you are not okay, what's wrong? Is someone hurt?" These were they only questions Hermione was able to quickly get out, but her brain could have easily tangled with many more.
He shook his head and went back to his seat, which he collapsed in, without muttering a single syllable, much less an explanation. He put both his elbows on his desk and buried his face in his hands.
He looked as if he were about to be sick.
"Well…what is it then?" Hermione asked, frantically. The only thing she knew was that no one was hurt. She wasn't sure what else would cause this type of reaction, but it em had to be bad.
Hermione glanced over to the doorway and, to her shock and annoyance, Lavender was still standing there, a smug grin on her face.
Lavender raised her eyebrows up and down quickly, as if challenging Hermione, before turning her beady eyes back to the man slumped over in his office.
"Ron, what's going on? You have to talk to me!" Hermione cried.
He remained still, as if he hadn't even heard her.
"Ronald!" Hermione screamed, shaking him a couple times. He lifted his head up, but as soon as his eyes met hers, he quickly dropped his gaze back to his desk, unwilling to look her in the face.
"Ronald Bilius Weasley!" She said fiercely, unwilling to simply let this go. He jumped at the sudden sound of his full name echoing in the office, but he still couldn't make himself make eye contact with her. "Say something," she pleased. "Please. Anything."
Ron felt a rush of shame sweep over him. He wasn't just ashamed, he was utterly disgusted with himself.
"Hermione…I'm so sorry." Ron finally said, his eyes still diverted to the recently tidied desk.
In that moment she saw something in Ron that she hadn't seen in him since the first anniversary of Fred'a death rolled around four years ago: tears. He was crying. She knew this had to do with the exchange he and Lavender had just had in the hallway, but for all the life of her she couldn't come up with a reason that made sense. Whatever happened between them was bad, very bad. Whatever she had told him rocked his world which was previously in sync with a perfectly smooth orbit.
"Please forgive me, 'Mione..." He begged, looking at her for the first time, utter humiliation and disgust drenching his voice."I never meant for this to happen, it was a mistake."
And then he buried his face in his hands once more, leaving Hermione virtually alone once more to try and figure out what exactly he had done that was painting him so much. Whatever it was, they could well through it, right?
Nothing could have prepared her for what was the underlying reason behind his sadness because it was the last thing she ever imagined happening. She never imagined he would put her through something like that. Ever.
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