Chapter 20 : Surprise!
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“Pass?” said the burly security wizard in a bored monotone. Ron held it out. The man looked at it, back at Ron, nodded and waved him through with a lazy sweep of his hand. Ron passed through the glimmering archway, which he now realised was a barrier, into another room filled with long conveyors of luggage. He set his down and followed it to another large wizard, dressed in the same heavy navy robes, who was making an intricate triangular shape with is wand, muttering under his breath. He looked up, nodded at Ron, a terse smile briefly crossing his face. Ron picked up his bag and exited the bright room.
Next he found himself in a smaller, darker room, with crowds of people all trying to get into a long queue that was forming towards a large door on the opposite side. Suddenly he heard squeals coming from one corner. A group of around 3 young witches were making their way towards him.
“Oh my…is it you? Is Harry Potter with you?”
“I can’t believe it…really, though, is it you? I bet you know the Weird Sisters!”
“It must be, no one else has the same hair. You’re so handsome in real life! Oh sweet Merlin, I can’t believe it!”
The barrage of questions and tumult of noise had taken him a little by surprise. Ron was used to a bit of attention but was only ever quiet mutterings of ‘Look who it is!’ and occasional requests for photographs; this was on a whole new scale.
“Um…yeah, I’m me…I mean I’m Ron Weasley…that is who you’re expecting me to be yeah?” Ron replied, a tad bemused. His words were met by a chorus of squeals and before he knew it he was being pulled into a tight hug by them and being forced to smile for a camera that floated in front of them and puffed a foul smelling purple smoke into their faces when it clicked.
“You are like, completely amazing, you know that?!” said the blonde girl.
“Yeah, you are!” Agreed the one with glasses, whose arm was still around Ron’s shoulders, “You are just…oh, so incredible!”
“And brave” pitched in the little one, her curly hair bouncing on her shoulders as she bobbed up and down with excitement. “That Hermione Granger is so lucky to have you as a boyfriend! Oh! I bet that’s where you’re going now, isn’t it? To see her? Oh that is so sweet! I wish I had a boyfriend like you…”
“Well, actually yeah, I am. Um…do you mind if I…” Ron tailed off, gesturing lamely towards the door at the far end.
“Oh! Sorry, we didn’t mean to keep you!”
“Yeah, we just wanted to make sure it was really you!”
“I can’t wait to tell my mum that I just met Ron Weasley! And he was going to see Hermione Granger!” The three of them squealed again as Ron made a swift exit towards the door. Harry had had to deal with stuff like that a lot after the war ended, but Ron not so much. The Prophet had got tired of writing stuff about him and Hermione as there wasn’t much to report on, other than how well things were going for them which got boring after a while, and the press interest decreased slowly over the years until it had got to the point when now it was only subtle nods and waves in his direction. Apart from today, obviously.
Once through the crowds, Ron found himself in a bright room about the size of a large wardrobe. It was a little cramped, but perfectly adequate for simply turning on the spot. Just as he was wondering what it was he was expected to do to leave a cool, female voice came from nowhere into the room.
“Welcome to the Internationl Apparation Point.” It said, “Please ensure that all luggage is secured and nothing exceeds the perimeter of the red circle on the floor.” Ron looked down and saw a scarlet circle about a metre and a half in diameter painted around his feet. He tucked his travelling cloak around him even tighter. “Concentrate on the address or image of your destination and turn the correct number of times. For Ireland, please turn 4 times. For European destinations please turn 5 times. For Asia please turn 6 times. For any other destination, please contact the Portkey Office.”
Ron took a deep breath, pictured the address on the top of Hermione’s letters and turned on his heel 5 times, holding tightly to the suitcase clasped in his right hand. The familiar squeezing sensation he had expected was there, only 5 times as strong as he had ever experienced before. Even Ron, who quiet enjoyed Apparation, as much as one could ever enjoy squeezing themselves through the nozzle of a toothpaste tube, was beginning to feel queasy. After a moment or so, he felt his feet his solid ground. Gingerly he opened one eye.
He was stood in the grounds of a large brick manor, the soft landscaped lawns leading towards a neat gravel path that bordered the house. He began to make his way towards the door, his breath shallow and his heart racing.
* * * * * *
Hermione knocked on the door and stood back on the lower step once more, her hand gripped around Draco’s quivering forearm to stop him from either running, or hitting Madam. Cache, neither of which would get them very far. The door creaked open and Claudette Cache’s bony face appeared again in the gap.
“Well ‘zat didn’t take you long, did ‘eet?” she said, a hint of amusement tinged her voice.
“I am sorry about that Madam Cache. My colleague is rather…sensitive, about these issues after the war. We do apologise, don’t we Draco.” Hermione turned and looked intently at him. Sulkily he nodded, and a thin triumphant smile graced Madam Cache’s mouth. “Would it be possible to arrange another meeting, as I realise it was probably a bit of a shock for us just to turn up on your doorstep today? We can work around what is best for you, of course.” Hermione beamed at Madam Cache, her eyes steely and determined. She took the hint.
“Tomorrow. Midday, at ‘zee library in ‘zee centre of town.” And with that she shut the door in their faces.
Hermione release Draco’s arm and turned to face him.
“See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Draco just grunted. Hermione smiled, chuckling inwardly at his childishness. Without saying a word she took his forearm and turned on the spot.
They were greeted at the manor by an excitable Peep, waiting anxiously at the door. She was hopping from foot to foot, her large ears waving comically above her head.
“My, my Peep…what’s up?” Hermione said as she approached.
“Miss. Hermione has a surprise, Miss! A very big surprise! Oh!” Peep squealed and ran inside, pulling Hermione by the wrist. She shot a perplexed look over her shoulder at Draco, who looked just as confused as her, and allowed her self to be led. Peep pulled her over to the door just beside of that leading to the kitchen and pushed it open, a large grin plastered over her slightly squashed face.
“Hey, long time no see, Hermione” Hermione’s jaw dropped open, her big brown eyes widened and although she tried to speak, no words came out. “Well, don’t I get a hello?”
A laugh escaped Hermione’s lips and she ran towards Ron, enveloped him in a huge hug and kissed him firmly on the lips.
“Oh please…” muttered Draco, turning away disgusted. Hermione didn’t even notice he had gone she was so transfixed by the sight of Ron…in Malfoy’s holiday home…in France!
“But what…what….I mean…” Hermione stuttered.
“What am I doing here?” Ron filled in, smiling. “Merlin Hermione, you’re normally the articulate one! I just wanted to see you…you’ve been away for so long…and…I missed you.”
“Oh Ron!” Laughed Hermione, burying her head in his shoulder, “You came all the way to France because you missed me?”
“Hermione Jean Granger…I would go all the way to the moon and back to see you, you know that.” Ron said, looking down at the glowing face of his soon to be wife, content with the fact that now they were together again, they would be stronger than ever before.
* * * * * *
Draco left the room, fuming. What on earth was he doing here? Surely he wasn’t allowed to be here when they were on a Ministry mission. He stomped up to his study, pushing past the small elf, obviously thrilled with the excitement and romance of the gesture and the part she had to play in it. He slammed his door and threw himself into his seat, impatiently drumming his hands on the desk in front of him. He had been so close, so close to her letting him back in like she used to. He had thought he’d seen her looking at him when she thought he wasn’t looking, he’d thought that he’d seen the imperceptible shift in her tone of voice and softness of touch, but no. He had known all along that they could never be, so why was he kidding himself? Why was he letting himself believe that she was anywhere near to being his, because he knew full well she wasn’t? Malfoy’s are not weak enough to let any body affect them this much, and even though the war was over and the prejudices gone, he was still a Malfoy. And he shouldn’t need her approval or comfort or trust. So why, he wondered, does having those make him feel complete? Why does she, of all people, fill the hole left inside of him? Because it would be so much easier if she didn’t. ‘And then,’ Draco thought bitterly, ‘I would be able to move on.’ He buried his head in is arms and sighed a deep thoughtful, frustrated sigh. Damn Weasley.
Sorry it's taken so long to get this chapter up! A severe case of writers block combined with going back to school has meant that I have had either no time or no ideas - argh! But I'm back now, and hopefully the chapters should keep coming, albeit at maybe quite a slow rate, but I'll do my best...sorry!!
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