Hermione slammed the front door behind her. The house was empty, she was still meant to be at work so the kids were still at the Burrow. She threw her soaking jacket on the back of the dining room chair and threw a spark into the fire. It burst into flames, giving a warm glow to the room. Hermione headed to the kitchen and made herself a mug of hot chocolate, slamming the mug down on the worktop and flicking her wand aggressively. Rage was flooding through her and she had no idea why, just the way George had brushed off what she had done for him, acting like it was nothing when she’d spent a fortune to try and make him happy, it made her feel furious. As she turned round she was confronted by the silvery figure of a huge horse. Hermione jumped in shock, spilling a lot of the hot chocolate down her front. She muttered in annoyance and wiped her hand down her front to whip the liquid away in disgust, and then she lifted her head to look at the horse. It was Ginny’s Patronus and it clearly had a message for her.
“Would you like me to come over, I know you’re upset?” Ginny’s voice chimed from the horse. Hermione couldn’t doubt the fact that Ginny’s Patronus was astoundingly beautiful, the way it tossed its head and the glittering way its coat seemed to shine. She couldn’t admire it for long though because as soon as the horse gave Ginny’s message it disappeared, the glow disappearing with it and leaving the room much darker than before. Hermione took her wand out and sent out her own Patronus, an otter.
“No, it’s okay, I’m fine, George is still up on the mountain though,” Hermione told the otter. As soon as it heard the message it went, leaving Hermione alone.
Hermione sat herself down on the couch and looked into the flames, watching them dance, throwing angry shadows across the room. She had told George that she’d meet him at home but now she thought about it she couldn’t be dealing with him, not with his annoying remarks or his complete ignorance. However even if Hermione didn’t want George with her right now somebody else would be incredibly comforting. She’d been holed up with George in the house for so long that it would be nice to have somebody else here with her instead, if only for a while, but she didn’t want anybody even closely related to George, she didn’t want to be reminded of him in any way, and she didn’t know anybody like that. The only possible thing she could think to do was go to the pub, so that’s what she would do. Hermione finished off her mug of hot chocolate and then, pulling on her coat and scarf, she disapparated.
Hermione landed outside The Three Broomsticks, she would have usually gone to the Leaky Cauldron but if she had gone there there may have been a chance of bumping into George, even if that chance was a little slim. Quickly she bustled inside, the large door banging shut behind her. The pub was warm, as it always was, and fires were raging in the many hearths. Almost all the tables were full and Hermione recognised many of the faces from one place or the other, a lot of them even smiled at her as she stepped up towards the bar. Already Hermione could feel her previous anger starting to seep away from her body, coming here was a good idea indeed. She propped herself on one of the bar stools in between an elderly man and a witch round about her own age, possibly slightly younger. The bar man, whom Hermione identified instantly, leant his capable hands on the work top and leaned forward invitingly.
“So, Miss Granger, what can I get you today?” Oliver Wood asked politely, his voice deep and rugged. He had a bout of stubble, as though he hadn’t shaved for a couple of days, and his apron hung loosely down his front as it wasn’t tied behind at the back.
“Hello Oliver, I didn’t realise you had started working here, I’ll have a Butter Beer, please,” Hermione smiled. Oliver set to work and poured the Butter Beer efficiently before setting it down in front of Hermione, a grin set upon his face.
“Oh yes, I retired from Quidditch this season, decided it was my time, and I’ve always liked this pub so I enquired and the job was mine, the boss has always had a soft spot for me since my days at Hogwarts,” Wood said, rubbing his hands on his thighs.
“Really? Ginny will be so chuffed; she hasn’t been able to get the Quaffle past you for the last seven seasons,” Hermione grinned. All memory of what had happened on the top of Ben Hope was slowly slipping away in a cloud of warmth and the welcoming air that The Three Broomsticks always possessed. Even George, who played on her mind almost every minute of every day even though she wasn’t about to admit that herself, had slipped to the back of her mind. Oliver let out a light chuckle.
“Well yes, there is that, but hopefully Puddlemere United won’t suffer too much, my keeping skills didn’t make the team plus they were good to me so they were.”
The witch next to Hermione, who had been listening in on the conversation, decided she wanted to join in.
“I hear you’re one of the sole reasons Puddlemere have stayed up for so long,” she chimed. Her voice was high and she sounded incredibly happy. Hermione took an instant liking to her.
“Personally I think it’s down to the rest of my team although it’s your opinion and you could say that, but don’t be letting my team mates hear you saying things like that else I’ll be the one that’ll get it in the neck,” Oliver laughed. Hermione couldn’t help herself; she let out a chuckle too.
“Yes, yes I am,” Hermione nodded. It felt weird being called Hermione Granger, she’d been known as Hermione Weasley for so long.
“How wonderful!” the woman grinned, “you helped Harry Potter defeat Lord Voldemort, didn’t you? My my, without you I doubt any of us would be standing here today, and now look at you, my husband tells me you’re the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, you really have made a name for yourself, tell me, what are you doing here of all places?”
“I don’t think I would go as far as to say that we wouldn’t be standing here today without me but yes, I helped Harry defeat Lord Voldemort,” Hermione nodded again, “and I just wanted a drink, I’ve been having trouble lately and this place just takes the stress right out of you, what’s your name by the way?”
“Jemima Turtlefloss, pleased to meet you,” the witch set out her hand so Hermione could shake it, then, once she had, continued on, “really though Hermione, you shouldn’t be so modest.”
“I swear, I’m not being modest,” Hermione chuckled.
“Yes you are,” Oliver Wood butted in, he was cleaning a glass with a rag but had been listening intently to the two witches across the bar from him, “you’re the best witch of your generation so you are, I don’t know anyone quite as good as you, although I have heard there’s a student at Hogwarts this very minute who goes by the name of Harriet Wood that is currently excelling and looks to have an extremely bright future ahead of her.”
“Let me guess, Harriet Wood is your daughter?” Hermione laughed. She felt a warm feeling run through her at Oliver’s complimentary words.
“Yep, the one and only!” Oliver smiled.
“You have a wife then?” Jemima asked.
“Oh, no, we split up a while back, we married young you see and well, it didn’t quite work out, I see her almost every other week though, Harriet I mean,” Oliver said, the smile disappearing from his face.
“You and me both, although Ron died in a crash,” Hermione said, feeling her heart break just thinking about it.
“Yes, I heard about that, he was a chuffing good guy, a pretty decent keeper too, if he hadn’t got so nervous during games I reckon he could have made it, just like Ginny,” Oliver smiled.
“Yeah, I guess so, erm, can you not talk about Ron please? Or any of the rest of them, if you don’t mind?” Hermione asked, feeling her cheeks flushing, “and could I have another Butter Beer please?”
“What’s caught in your throat?” Jemima asked, intrigued.
“What do you mean?” Hermione frowned.
“Why don’t you want to talk about the Weasleys?”
“It’s George, isn’t it?” Oliver said whilst filling Hermione’s glass, “I heard you and him were getting close, what’s he done?”
“Nothing, he’s done nothing, and we aren’t getting close at all, please, can you just leave it?” Hermione asked.
“If you say so,” Oliver nodded, setting the beer down in front of Hermione. Hermione smiled in appreciation.
Hermione was sat on one of the long benches to the side of the dance floor. She’d been in The Three Broomsticks for a couple of hours now and the dancing had started. The tables were stacked to the roof along the sides of the pub and the benches at the edges of the room, leaving an empty space in the middle for the dancers. Hermione sipped at her Butter Beer, it was her sixth one and she felt a bit tipsy, but she didn’t really care, she was happy. People were sat down either side of her but she had absolutely no idea who they were and she didn’t much give a damn. The happiness and joy that seemed to be bursting from everyone in close proximity to her was enough to keep her where she was. Oliver and Jemima were dancing in the centre of the dance floor, whizzing round with smiles on their faces, and the music was fast paced and enjoyable. Hermione set her drink down behind her then turned to the man next to her. He was older than her, but not by much.
“Do you come here often?” Hermione shouted over the deafening music.
“Yes! My wife and I, we always come, there’s nothing better than doing a jig on a Thursday night, don’t you think?” the man replied happily.
“I can’t think of anything better at the minute, no!” Hermione grinned.
“You’re Hermione Granger, aren’t you?” the man said, lifting his finger and pointing at her.
“Yes! I helped Harry Potter defeat Lord Voldemort if that’s what you want to ask!”
“Everyone knows that!” the man laughed, “it’s great to be meeting you though, I’m Larry!”
Larry leaned over and pecked Hermione on the cheek, Hermione returned it with a peck on his. Then a figure appeared before them, sending a shadow across them. Hermione looked up. It was Oliver Wood with his hand out, waiting for it to be taken.
“Sorry Larry but I’m afraid I’m in need of a dance partner, would you allow me?”
“Why of course! A fine dance partner you’ve picked out too!” Larry grinned, sitting back and allowing Hermione to take Oliver’s hand. He pulled her up quickly, almost too quickly as Hermione almost lost her footing, and pulled her onto the dance floor, wrapping his arm around Hermione’s waist and placing his other hand in hers.
“Where’s Jemima got to?” Hermione asked, having to lean in close so she could say it directly in Oliver’s ear.
“Her husband arrived and she’s gone to dance with him,” Oliver said, leaning down to say so in Hermione’s ear just as she had done with him. He then gestured across the crowd to where Jemima and her husband were indeed dancing.
“I see!” Hermione nodded. She accidentally stood on Oliver’s toes and felt herself blush in embarrassment. She was incredibly unsteady on her feet.
“I think your skill with a wand rather outdoes your dancing ability,” Oliver laughed. Hermione smiled, Oliver’s laugh was inviting and intriguing, a deep rough sound that Hermione would expect to come from somebody like Hagrid, not Oliver Wood, who, although tall and muscled, was nothing in comparison to the likes of a half giant.
“I do hope so!” Hermione replied. Then, before she could object, Oliver pulled her up by her waist with his arm and set her down so her feet were on his. She was incredibly close to him now, her body touching his and his chest very close to her face, she could almost smell the musty odour of his aftershave on his jumper. He looked down at her.
“You don’t need to be able to dance when you’ve got me,” he grinned. Hermione gripped tighter on to his shoulder as he stepped forward and away they went, gliding across the dance floor in a motion so graceful that Hermione thought it impossible. Then the music suddenly turned much less quick and became slow and soft, a song only a slow dance could be done too. Oliver set Hermione down off his feet and Hermione looked up at him for the first time in the past ten minutes.
“You dance well,” she smiled.
“Thank you, I’ve always thought I did,” Oliver grinned, “shame about the Yule Ball, I missed it by one year, I heard you had a brilliant time though?”
Hermione felt her face flush again under Oliver’s gaze. His eyes were a deep brown, like hers.
“I can only say that Viktor Krum wasn’t half as good a dancer as you,” Hermione said.
“Well I’m glad of that, but, can I ask, was he a better kisser?”
“Now that I wouldn’t know,” Hermione laughed.
“Well why don’t you find out?”
Oliver’s hand dropped from Hermione’s and fell to her waist. Hermione raised her hand and wrapped it round Oliver’s neck so her other hand intertwined with it. They moved slowly now, from side to side, their eyes were met and not looking to see if anyone else was around them.
“I’m not sure that would be a good thing to do,” Hermione replied. She was falling into a sticky situation, she could feel it, but a drunken haze had fallen upon her and she was finding it hard to break free. Oliver was incredibly handsome too, his teeth a brilliant white and his hair short but sticking up at natural angles so he had the just out of bed look, his stubble was well trimmed too and Hermione liked the rugged look he had to him, it went well with his laughter lines and developing crow’s feet.
“You can make that opinion up once you’ve tried it,” Oliver smiled, then, slowly, very slowly, he tilted his head and lowered it towards Hermione, who, in a moment of madness and not thinking of the consequences, reached up and kissed him. His lips were warm, confident and inviting upon hers. He pressed his body forwards, pulling her towards him with the hands that were now placed upon her bum. Hermione felt herself descend ever deeper into the drunken haze and let herself fall into Oliver’s kiss. She wrapped her arms tighter around his neck and pulled his head further down so she could press her lips stronger against his. Hermione let her hand slide down so it was placed over his chest and let her other hand trail until it rested on his neck. She bit his lip tenderly and then, feeling the need to come up for air, she pulled away, a little short of breath. Oliver’s eyes were sparkling as his eyelids flicked open and looked at her. Hermione smiled and then, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted him. George. He was by the entrance.
Hermione glanced from Oliver to George and then stepped back, almost tripping, trying to increase the distance between herself and Wood and make herself look innocent. It was futile though, George had seen the whole thing. He looked incredibly angry, but more than that, in his eyes Hermione could see, even from the distance she was at, a sadness and a hurt. Oliver, noticing Hermione’s gaze, spun round to face George too. George looked between them both and then stalked out of the pub faster than Hermione could have said wand.
“I’m sorry Oliver,” Hermione said quickly and then pursued George, running out of the pub and onto the main street. She looked left and right; then again, George was nowhere to be seen. He couldn’t have gone far though; he didn’t have his wand back from the Ministry yet.
“George!” Hermione yelled. There was no reply, and then, as Hermione looked up towards the Shrieking Shack, she saw him. He must have run in order to get up there so fast. Hermione took off at a sprint.
George was sat on a rock when she got there. Hermione doubled over; heaving in deep breaths, sprinting had not been the best idea. George didn’t even look up; he just sat there, his hands clasped between his legs and his chin rested against his chest.
“George, please,” Hermione panted, “I didn’t mean for you to see that.”
George looked up then, a fire seemingly burning in his eyes, replacing the sadness that was there before.
“You didn’t mean for me to see it?” he shouted, “what? You were just going to kiss some stranger you didn’t even know and make sure I never heard about it? Was that your plan?”
“No!” Hermione argued, “and he wasn’t some stranger, it was Oliver Wood!”
“I don’t care who in the devil it was!” George shouted, and then quieter as he realised what Hermione had said, “Oliver Wood?”
“Yes, I didn’t mean to, it just sort of happened, I know it’s no excuse but I was a bit tipsy,” Hermione said, also quieter.
“You seem fine to me now, how can you suddenly not be tipsy only three or four minutes after?” George said in a mocking tone.
“I’m sorry George.”
“Well sorry doesn’t cut it!” George suddenly stood and advanced towards Hermione, Hermione cowered slightly, “what did you think you were doing? Were you teaching me a lesson because it’s exactly what I did to you last time?”
“No, I told you, it wasn’t like that,” Hermione gulped, feeling tears start to well up in her eyes.
“I kissed you on that hill and what I felt was real, and I think you’ll find you’re the one that kissed me, are you going to tell me that I made all that up? Or maybe kissing someone isn’t that big a deal to you? Maybe you go round and break people’s hearts for the hell of it because you want other people to know what it feels like!”
Hermione bridled a little under George’s harsh words but then stood up, reaching her full height.
“I wouldn’t wish what I felt over Ron’s death to be put on to anyone so don’t you dare accuse me of that!”
“But it seems Hermione that whenever I get close to somebody I end up losing them in one way or another!”
“You haven’t lost me! If you want to lose me then fine, you can pack your stuff and you can leave my house and go somewhere else, but you haven’t lost me yet, not if you don’t want to lose me.”
“Have you ever thought that maybe I do, you see, I don’t think I’m the person you really want to be with, I think you’ve hidden away from men for so long since Ron’s death that the first chance you had you took it, it was just my luck that meant that chance was me and that I decided to fall in love with you, there, I said it, I’ve fallen in love with you and now I think I better leave before I decide I can’t live without you because otherwise things will just end up down the bloody toilet!”
“George, please,” Hermione whispered, choking on the tears that she was trying so desperately to keep back.
“Go back to The Three Broomsticks Hermione, I’ll move in to the flat above Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes tonight and you won’t need to have me as your burden any longer, oh, by the way, I’ve decided that running the shop isn’t all that bad of an idea so if you want to see me again just pop by,” George said harshly, and then, without another word, he walked away, heading towards Hogsmeade Station where he would undoubtedly get a ride back to Kings Cross Station. Hermione didn’t chase after him, she didn’t follow him, instead she merely turned and walked in the opposite direction, heading indeed back to The Three Broomsticks, the tears she’d been attempting to hold back suddenly bursting out and streaming down her face like tiny waterfalls. She’d truly blown it, all because of a stupid silly decision.