Apparition into the Weasley’s yard knocked me off my feet. I fell into the grass on my hands and knees. Hoping that everyone was still asleep (it was eight in the morning) I pushed open the door and made my way upstairs.
There was no denying that I was a little on edge; I had just slept with Draco Malfoy for goodness sake. There was no other situation which could trump this one. The worst part was that, of what I can remember, it was a great experience. Especially for my first time. I had to make sure that nobody found out…
I opened Ginny’s bedroom door to find her Great Aunt Muriel collapsed on what was my bed. Rolling my eyes, I turned to mount the staircase again. Then I paused. I couldn’t just waltz into Ron’s room at this hour for a nap. I mean, did I smell like Draco?
A diversion to the bathroom was due, so I quickly had a shower and then went down to the living room for a two hour nap.
I awoke to the sound of singing. Ginny was making a cup of tea, looking cheery.
“Morning,” I muttered, yawning. My voice was still strained and sore from the drinking. What possessed me to drink so much wine…?
“Morning,” she sang back.
“What have you got to be so happy about?” Her brother had just died so I didn’t expect her to be so chirpy. Ginny was a tough girl, though. She had been so strong and so supportive to her family. True, she had completely broken down at the funeral, but tried to get back to normal almost straight afterwards, willing everybody - particularly George - to do the same. It was a lost cause though. We all knew it.
Ginny squealed, nearly pouring hot tea all over her arm. “Harry and I are officially back on. We had a long chat last night and - Speaking of last night, what were you doing for so long?”
“You came back only two hours ago. Don’t deny it because Harry and I saw you leave and I didn’t see or hear from you until you came into my room this morning.”
“Oh…”My head was thinking of something. Lie, Hermione, Lie. “I - erm - went home.”
Ginny raised an eyebrow. “And raided the liquor cabinet? You sound terrible. As if you’ve just had a tankard of firewhisky.”
“I was crying,” was the first thing I thought of. “Ron and I…had a fight. I went home to have some time alone. You see, nobody has bought our old house yet, so I just went inside for a while. Almost forgot that I didn’t live there anymore.”
Ginny sat by my side and I tried my hardest to look sad. That story would explain my red eyes. “Oh I’m so sorry Hermione. Ron can be such an idiot sometimes. He had no right to call you a liar.” I shrugged. “Hang on. Mum has something here for sore throats…” Ginny scampered off to the kitchen cupboards and came back with a purple bottle of a black tar-like potion. It didn’t look safe to drink but I took a swig anyway and my voice seemed to be back to normal almost instantly.
Ten minutes later, I has snuck into Ginny’s room - careful not to wake Muriel - and changed into a black vest and trousers. Then I went back into the kitchen, where Mrs Weasley was preparing breakfast for whoever it was that was still there.
“Good morning, Mrs Weasley. How are you?” I gave her a warm hug.
“As well as can be expected, so not good at all.” She sighed and glanced out of the window as if she was waiting to see Fred walking across the yard.
Smiling, I said, “I can help with breakfast. Who’s still here?”
Mrs Weasley jumped as if she had forgotten I was waiting for her to answer. “Oh…um…Harry, Ron, Arthur, Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fr- George, Ginny, you, me, Muriel, Fleur and Angelina. Full house,” she muttered.
Thirteen, I thought. Someone must have been sleeping in the hallway or something because this house was far too small to hold so many.
Taking over making breakfast wasn’t an easy job. I had to wrangle in Ginny to help me with the toast and the drinks and we eventually set the table as people began to appear. Ginny pulled some extra chairs from the living room beside the dining table so that all thirteen of us could eat together. We needed some comfort after yesterday.
Harry smiled at me as he sat down with Ron - who wouldn’t even look at me (after last night he finally has a reason to) - his eyes temporarily trained on the plate of food before him. I chose the spot next to the window, beside Ginny, for the cool air seeping through from outside. Beside Ginny was her mother, then her father, then Bill, Fleur, Muriel, Percy, Charlie, Ron, Harry, Angelina and then George, on my right.
There was silence mostly as we ate. Everybody must have been thinking different things. Ginny had to remind me not to place Fred’s plate and glass at the table and was also staring at her parents worriedly, Mr and Mrs Weasley were no doubt reliving yesterday’s funeral, Bill was gritting his teeth and looked as though he was going to murder somebody while Fleur stroked his face lovingly. Muriel was eating heartily - double servings - and Percy hadn’t even taken one bite. Charlie ate slowly and steadily while looking over at George every few seconds - probably remembering how painful it is that he and Fred were - are identical. Ron ate savagely, probably imaging that the egg he had just sliced was my face, Harry seemed really out of place and looked over at Ginny giving her a small smile, Angelina looked as though she wished she never accepted the invitation to stay the night because she felt like she was intruding - either that or she was going to be sick - and George - poor poor George - was looking down at his food as if it had all the answers, as if it were going to start speaking, as if it were going to explain to him why his twin brother and best friend was not there with him.
Me, on the other hand…all of my troubles about the previous night had fallen away, given the fact that more important things were happening in the here and now for me to worry about the past.
After a large squawk, everybody at the table jumped with fright; juice fell into Mr Weasley’s plate and knives and forks hit the floor as an official-looking owl settled himself on the window sill.
Everybody resumed their previous positions as if nothing had interrupted them.
“That’ll be the Prophet,” Bill whispered very quietly.
Nobody made a move to get it, so I went across the room to fetch it. Leaning into my pocket, I pulled out the subscription fee, put it in the leather pouch and the bird flew away.
I sat down quietly and unrolled the paper.
A small but very pronounced scream left my mouth. I wished I could take it back because despite the fact that nobody jumped, a few faces turned to look at me, Ron’s, Harry’s and Ginny’s included.
“What is it?” Percy asked as I read, SEX SCANDAL BETWEEN POTTER FRIEND AND SCHOOL ENEMY. I bet he probably thought it was something to do with the Ministry of Magic. Ever since he resigned, he always seemed to be very interested in its goings on as if it were suffering without him.
Nobody could have imagined what the Prophet would read this morning, certainly not myself - especially not on the front page and written by that idiotic loser, Bernie Swattle. I bet he was having a bloody heart attack now that his front-page wishes had come true. Although it was only a small accompanying article to the important headline: ‘WAR CAUSES LOSS OF GALLEONS FOR MANY’, it was the front page nonetheless.
THE DAILY PROPHET
BERNIE’S DAILY BRIEF
SEX SCANDAL BETWEEN POTTER FRIEND AND SCHOOL ENEMY
By Bernie Swattle (the UK’s number eight wizarding gossip columnist!)
It is as I had predicted. At approximately 8:14pm last night, a plain yet attractive young woman was seen meeting a blonde wizard by the name of Draco Malfoy, 17, in the Leaky Cauldron pub, London. My very old and very doddery Source told me that the young man had been sitting waiting as if this was a prearranged outing and she was certainly inclined to believe so when this young woman arrived.
Let us cut to the chase. My Source says she was a brunette so I believe this to be concrete evidence that this mystery lady was none other than Harry Potter’s dear friend, brainy yet adventurous, Miss Hermione Granger, 18. Thanks to her secret affair - which I have previously written about - I am now the UK’s number eight gossip columnist and in line for the Fastest Gossip Story to Print Award. Thank you all for your -
STORY CONTINUES ON PAGE 12
I flicked the pages while trying to keep the front page hidden.
But enough about that, this story is much more interesting so please permit me to fill in the blanks.
After drinking countless bottles of firewhisky together in the bar, muggleborn Granger and pureblood Malfoy exited upstairs to a room they had previously booked. The same free-tongued Source described the ‘god-awful amount of noise’ they had made for hours into the night.
We do not need Albus Dumbledore to figure out what they were up to behind Harry Potter’s and more importantly, Ronald Weasley’s back; I think he may have just been promoted to ex-boyfriend by Miss Granger.
By mere coincidence, I had strolled into the Leaky Cauldron this morning for a trip into Gringotts Bank - terrible news about the value of a galleon falling - when I saw my lovely Source sipping on a cold mug of Earl Grey tea. She told me that only minutes ago she saw a young lady rush downstairs looking flushed and a young man follow her with barely any clothes on his back. The young man - bullying Slytherin, Draco Malfoy - asked the girl - enthusiastic Gryffindor, Hermione Granger - what they should do and when they should next meet. After telling him that she would send him an owl, she disapparated as quickly as she could - probably back to the ignorant Weasley - while Mr Malfoy went back upstairs to collect his things.
Well, it would seem that along with the demise of the worst dark wizard we had seen for centuries, comes the demise of a seven-year relationship between Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger. Their schoolmate from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Ernie Macmillan, commented while in a long queue in Gringotts that ‘the three were inseparable - except for the few little arguments. This story is bound to split them up. I mean, even I’m shocked at this. Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy? Has hell frozen over?’
Yes, the pairing seemed unlikely to those they knew, but I am the one with the truth - the saddening truth. This trio will definitely be down by one by the time breakfast is over and if it isn’t, I’ll be there to let you know.
NEXT TIME: Draco Malfoy in hiding? Where will Hermione go now that she is no longer welcome with her friends? Will she hide in the muggle world? Will she stay with her new lover? Will the couple go public? Will there be a tiny new addition to the wizarding community? Swattle’s on the case…
Shaking, sweat threatening to fall down my face, I folded the paper up and wanted to throw it back out of the window. If I hadn’t left my wand in the living room, I would have set it alight there and then so nobody so no one would see - but that would be too obvious. Of course, the whole wizarding world would know, but that was beside the point. As long as the twelve people before me stayed in this protective bubble for at least two days, ignorant to the news and without warning from other friends and family, everything would be fine.
Fat chance of that though.
Ginny sat me back down while my sweaty hands caused the newspaper to stick to my clammy skin. Nearly everybody was looking at me now.
Mrs Weasley had her face in her hands. “Oh and poor Lupin and Tonks’s funerals are in a few days…”
“What?” Ron spluttered, suddenly turning to his mother. “Why didn’t we hear about this?”
“It’s a small funeral. Mainly close friends and family. And Harry of course, being Teddy’s godfather. But really there’ll only be about a dozen of us…” Her voice trailed off once again as she stood up and left the room. Her distant wailing could be heard and Mr Weasley went off to comfort her.
“I’m sure you three could come with me,” Harry said quietly.
“I don’t think I like funerals,” Ginny muttered honestly. “But if you want me to…”
Harry looked at Ron. “Of course I’ll come - if mum’ll let me.”
Just as Harry turned to me, his eyes found his largely printed name on the newspaper I was clutching. “Is that my name I see on -?”
“Nope,” I say while holding the Prophet behind me. “Did you know the value of the galleon has fallen? Hasn’t been like this since 1932 apparently.”
Ginny laughed. “You’re telling us about the state of the economy?”
Harry walked around me and grabbed the paper from my grasp, my eyes instantly falling to a small brown spider weaving its way into a crack in the stone floor.
He said nothing for a while; he just read, flicking to page twelve and then he folded the paper smartly to put it under his arm. Harry looked at me and then calmly said, “Is this true?”
I was about to exclaim, “Of course not,” but before I could tell such a lie, Ron pulled the paper from under Harry’s arm and as soon as he saw the headline, he yelled, “I KNEW IT! I KNEW YOU’D BEEN SNEAKING OFF BEHIND MY BACK!”
“Ronald please, this is just a silly story,” I yelled.
Those at the table looked over at us curiously.
Charlie said, “What’s going on?” and then stood behind Ginny as she was reading to paper. Ron hadn’t even bothered to read more than the first line. “Oh.” Charlie sat down, choosing to stay out of the argument, but still to be close enough to hear it.
My body would not stop quivering as I prepared myself to lie through my teeth in order to keep my friends. I knew that if I admitted the truth - even if I begged on my knees for forgiveness - that they would turn their backs on me forever and I did not want to lose the only friends I had. They were like the siblings I had always wanted and needed.
“SO WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOU DISAPPARATED YESTERDAY, HUH?”
“Oy! No arguing!” Bill said from the table, while Fleur muttered disapprovingly.
“I was -”
“There’s no need to think of a lie now, Hermione. We all know! The whole bloody country knows what you were up to! SCREWING DRACO MALFOY IN THE LEAKY BLOODY CAULDRON!”
“I didn’t,” I whispered with my face in my hands. Once again, it hurt when he shouted at me, but it hurt more knowing that he had every reason to.
Ginny rushed to my side, rubbing her hand on my back comfortingly. “If you must know, Ron, Hermione told me where she was last night and what she was doing.”
“So you’re in on this too? Harry, you shouldn’t be dating my backstabbing sister, she’s -”
“You shut your mouth Ron and listen to me,” Ginny ordered her big brother. “Hermione went home - yes, to her empty home - to cry over the horrible things you’d said to her. She came in this morning with a sore throat, red eyes and in a terrible state. She’s tired, so don’t you go shouting at her again.”
Ron hesitated for a moment and then started again. “But it’s in the Daily Prophet, Ginny.”
“Have you completely forgotten the utter rubbish they used to print not long ago, Ron? And this is a gossip column for goodness sake. I didn’t even know they printed that kind of crap since Rita Skeeter.”
Harry stood between Ron and I as I began to whimper pathetically. “Apologise,” he muttered.
“I’m so -” I began.
“Not you.” He pointed at Ron.
Red hair ruffled between his fingers, Ron said, “I’m sorry. But you’ve got to understand why I’m upset.”
I nodded. “But you must understand why I need an escape too.”
Mrs Weasley had re-entered the fray as Ron and I had apologised to one another, only to begin a fresh cycle of disdain. The newspaper had eventually been passed around the dining table, nasty looks been given to me - mostly from the Mrs Weasley, Muriel and Fleur. They were livid and kept on badgering me with why Swattle would even suspect me had I not been up to something. But I lied of course and very well might I add. Bill, Charlie and George sort of stuck up for me saying that I wouldn’t do such a thing because I was smart enough to know what Draco Malfoy is like while Percy gave me shifty looks. I felt as though throughout the arguments he had been watching me eagerly like those body language analysts. Maybe he had sussed out my secret and was saving it for later to lay into me about my dishonour. But it turned out that he felt sorry for me - extremely.
“I think this fellow is just trying to get a big reaction from the public to further his career,” he told me in the garden at noon as he was about to leave the burrow to look for a new job. “Don’t take it to heart, Hermione.”
“How can I not when Ronald will barely look at me? And when he does, all I get from him is hate and, even worse, disgust.”
The truth of my words sunk in as the wind cradled my fragile body. Ron really would be disgusted if he knew it were true. I should feel disgusted at what I had done, but somehow did not feel the immediate need to scratch ten layers off my skin.
“He’ll come round,” Percy reassured.
When he left me, I decided to see if there was an empty room upstairs for me to sit in as the rain began to pour. I knew Harry and Ron were in the attic room (probably where Harry was trying to convince Ron not to find Draco and interrogate him) so I went to check in Ginny’s room. She was sitting by the window, reading a book.
Yes, I had wanted to turn away and find somewhere else but she beckoned me over. Her book went away quickly. Laying on her small hard bed had never felt so comforting; I closed my eyes and pretended that the past twenty-four hours had not happened yet. I was thinking back to the funeral, to when I had written the letter to Draco telling him to meet me. Even then, I was conscious of the fact that it may have been a bad idea and now I wished I had never sent it.
Then a little voice said, Do you really, Hermione? Draco actually listened to you no matter how drunk he seemed. He listened. Unlike Ron. Ron just shouts and then apologises gruffly later if at all. Draco took your cares away. Forget the alcohol. Forget it, because that was not what made you sleep with him. You wanted to. You weren’t drunk. You wanted it. Plain and simple. And the thing is, you know he wanted it too, but he just won’t admit it. Is that what you’re really upset about? The fact that Draco Malfoy will never admit it? Is that what you want? Because, tough luck - it is most likely that you will never see that blond wizard again, so relish in the thoughts of his body against yours now, because it will never ever happen again…
I was staring at the ceiling at this point, my fingers interlocked, my eyebrows knitted together in a concentrated thought.
“Please don’t tell me that I just lied for you back there,” Ginny muttered. She was staring out of the window, so I did not wonder whether the look on my face had given me away. “Something you said earlier…‘But you must understand why I need an escape too.’”
“I meant my - my parents’ house,” I stammered unconvincingly.
“Yes…” Ginny looked at me. “You apologised. To Ron. It was obvious that Harry meant Ron, but you were about to apologise. Why would you do that unless you really did spend the night with Draco Malfoy?”
“I - I was sorry. I am sorry. Sorry that Ron had to read the paper,” I thought up feebly.
Ginny sighed, disappointed. “Just don’t let it happen again.”
A tear fell down my cheek. “I won’t,” a whisper told her.
Ginny was by my side in a second. “So you really did it? Hermione, are you stupid? Harry and Ron will kill you if they find out. And this is Draco Malfoy. You let him play his mind games with you! He hates you, so the only reason I can think of him sleeping with you is to get at the two of them.”
“I could think of other reasons…”
Ginny cackled heartlessly. “You think he likes you? I’ll say it once again: this is Draco Malfoy. The only way he’d like you is if he’s been in some horrific accident which wiped his entire memory and altered his sanity.” I winced as she said that. “I - Hermione. I didn’t mean it like that.” She tried to touch my arm but I yanked it away - nearly taking my own eye out with a sharp fingernail.
“I knew exactly what you meant it like.” Storming from the room, I left Ginny feeling awful. I did know how she meant it. She meant that the only way he would like me would be if he had miraculously forgotten the past seven years. But he hadn’t. I knew that for sure. Yet he still willingly had cornered me, predator on prey. Then, as if out of nowhere, I wasn’t served for afters. I had been reprieved, given a second chance, so to speak - and in a way that I could never have imagined.
* 31st July 1998
It had been over two months since that dastardly newspaper arrived at the kitchen table and no other stories concerning me and Draco had arisen. With that came the drop of Swattle’s columnist rating; he was number seventy-five now, lower than he was at first which I was happy with. I guess the people were sick of his big stories which were followed by months of nothing.
Harry and Ron had joined the Ministry of Magic under Kingsley Shacklebolt - in the Auror Department, Law Enforcement. I was asked but I was not quite ready for that at the moment. Ron had finally been acting normally with me again. He hugged and kissed he more often - that was for sure. I never knew he had so much love in him, but I couldn’t complain really. After all, this was what I wanted, wasn’t it? For Ron to show me more affection? Anyway, the days passed without much excitement - until the evening of Harry’s birthday.
While a small party was in full swing in the garden, I had taken a break and went inside. I felt ill. Mrs Weasley must not have cooked the food properly because I could have thrown up right then. Queasiness and then a bitter taste in my throat told me to dart for the kitchen sink. Nasty. I turned the taps on and then wiped my mouth. That was the fifth time this week! Mrs Weasley must be losing her touch. Bladder bursting, I went up to the bathroom only to find that it was occupied by a sobbing somebody.
I tapped on the door. “Are you okay in there?” I called.
“Hermione, is that you?” It was Angelina. She had come back for Harry’s party - so she said - but I knew she had wanted to see George again. Or in a way, to see Fred again.
The door unlocked and I slipped in. The door was locked again once I was inside. She did look a state. Her eyes were extremely red, her entire face wet with tears and her hands shaking.
“What’s up?” I muttered. “Is it -? Do you miss him?”
She spluttered uncontrollably at that and I put my arm around her. “Hermione, every day it gets harder. I feel like I’m forgetting who he is, what he looked like, the things he used to say, how he said them. And then I’d come back here and see George and it would be like Fred was back.”
“But he’s not,” I whispered. “I know it’s hard -”
“What do you know?” She looked at me apologetically and I gave her a warm smile to say that it was okay. “I’m just selfish, you know? Thinking that he was mine and mine alone. His mother is mortified at his death and here’s me sobbing in a bathroom because I’ve -”
She was crying again.
“Ssh … what is it? What have you done?”
“I’m pregnant,” she whispered.
I looked down at her stomach. She can’t have been that far along, could she?
My frown must have shown through much more than I would have liked because she said plainly, “It’s not Fred’s.”
She shook her head solemnly, water - more watery tears - falling onto our laps.
“George?” I said softly.
She shook horrifically and nodded. “It was just one time. The day of the funeral. I went to George’s room to get him to come downstairs but he was only half dressed! He shouted at me for a moment, saying eventually that he hated himself for being his twin. He said he would never be his own person because whenever people would look at him they’d see someone else, wish he was someone else. Fred, the brother that he’d never see again. I hugged him, telling him that he could be his own person if he’d just give it a go. Then he was kissing me. It was over quite soon. Charlie had come up to tell him that it was time to go - to bury Fred - and he sort of snapped out of it. He told me that I should forget what happened because I only did it because I wanted Fred. It was true, I wanted Fred, but that wasn’t the only reason why…”
“Don’t pity me, Hermione. I brought this on myself. I had the opportunity to do more than kiss Fred when he was alive, but I didn’t. I thought we had forever.” She wiped her nose. “At breakfast the next morning, I felt angry at George. But more than anger, I felt sick. Sick to the stomach at how he had just pushed me aside. But I don’t blame him. He misses his brother. Then when I left, I started to feel nauseous. All the time. Whatever I ate, I felt like I needed to throw up. Thought my mum’s cooking was getting worse.” She laughed, yet an uncomfortable cramping set itself in my chest. Had I not a moment ago thought the same thing about Mrs Weasley’s food?
“This isn’t funny. Have you taken the test?”
She nodded. “Bought a couple of muggle ones on the way over. It’s positive. I hoped that it was faulty and was going to do another one, but I used a spell to check. It confirmed it.”
Somehow I already knew before taking any test that my body was not the same as it was a few months ago, before I had slept with Draco Malfoy…
“So…do I tell him?” she said as we heard laughter from the yard.
“I was thinking the same thing,” I said distantly. What would Draco say? What would Ron say?
“Hermione, please help me. I don’t know what to do. How do I tell him that I did want him? I tried to talk to George when I arrived but he regarded me as if nothing happened.”
I sighed. “Probably because to him, nothing did. He still thinks that you were using him to get your moment with Fred. Just tell him that you weren’t.”
“Are you kidding? He won’t believe me. Probably because it’s partly true…” She sniffed a little, head in her hands.
“You’re only human, Angelina, and so is he. If you got carried way in the moment, no one is to blame.” Now I was speaking more to myself. “But the best thing now is honesty, I think. Tell him how you felt when you were with him and let that help you decide what to do next.”
She hugged me. “Thanks.” Sighing, Angelina said, “My mum’s not gonna be happy.”
“She will be once you have your baby,” I reassured happily. “Now get back to the party and pull George aside for a moment. Maybe his bedroom?”
Angelina picked up her used pregnancy test, smiled and sighed as she pulled open the door and left me alone with the other one. I pulled it out of the brown paper bag and peed with the stick between my legs. I waited.
Yes, it was positive.
Tears prickling in my eyes, I prayed for a moment that none of this was happening. Pulling myself together, I washed my hands and stared into the mirror. I was going to do what I had told Angelina. Tell Draco that the result of our night together was a growing embryo inside me and let his reaction govern my decision.
If he was happy, I’d keep it. If not, I wouldn’t. Or should it be the other way around?
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