Chapter 1 : Chapter One: The Daily Prophet
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Hermione Granger was lying on her back in the backyard of the Burrow. Ron lay beside her, looking up into the sky. Ron’s fingers were entwined with hers, and his hand was warm. It was a month before they were due to return to Hogwarts, and Hermione was enjoying the last peaceful weeks of summer holidays before the chaos of the school year began. Hopefully this year wouldn’t be too bad, though. Voldemort was gone. There were no Horcruxes, and most of the Death Eaters were locked up. Harry still woke up sweating from nightmares, as they all did, but otherwise, all was well in both the Wizarding and Muggle worlds.
‘This will be our last year,’ said Hermione softly.
Ron turned to look at her. ‘I know,’ he said. There was a sadness in his blue eyes that had been there since the war. The Burrow seemed so quiet, compared to summer’s past. The Weasley’s were only a year in mourning, and it would take a long time before they could begin to heal from Fred’s death. They would never be completely healed, and Hermione wasn’t sure if she would ever get used to seeing George without his twin. Every time they sat at the dinner table, her eyes would always go to the chair that was always his. Sometimes Angelina Johnson came, and she sat in the chair, but she would always think of it as Fred’s chair.
‘This is the year that counts the most,’ she continued. ‘This is the year that plans our whole future. This year depends on us alone.’
‘The future,’ Ron repeated quietly. ‘What do you think we’re going to do, after Hogwarts, I mean?’
‘Well, I think I might go into Healing, or something that will help get house elves and werewolves proper rights. Something like that. I know Harry is going to be an Auror—both of you could have been Aurors instead of going back to school. And Ginny’s been approached by a couple of Quidditch teams that she’s considering already,’ Hermione said, smiling.
‘I tried to convince her to join the Chudley Cannons,’ he said. ‘But she said no, and threatened to hex me if I kept asking her.’
Hermione laughed. ‘I think she might join the Holyhead Harpies,’ she said. ‘She seems to be leaning toward it the most.’
Ron sighed. ‘Most likely,’ he admitted. ‘I’ve heard her and Harry talking about it. Although I’m not entirely sure she’s going to make a decision anytime soon. She’s too busy snogging Harry most of the time to make any decisions.’ He made a face, and she slapped him lightly on the arm.
‘Oh, be quiet, Ronald. Besides, we do plenty of snogging ourselves, so you can’t talk,’ she said.
He grinned at her. ‘That’s because I can’t help myself. You’re just too beautiful,’ he said. And he leaned over and kissed her on the mouth. Hermione broke the kiss after a minute, much to Ron’s disappointment.
‘And what makes you think Harry can?’ She asked.
Ron grimaced, sighing. ‘Oh, fine. But she is my sister, you know. It’s gross,’ he said.
‘Ronald,’ she said warningly.
He laughed. ‘Relax, Mione,’ he said.
She wrinkled her nose. Harry had given her the nickname, and Ron had picked it up. She didn’t quite like it, but if it made then happy, then she would just have to deal with it. ‘C’mon,’ she said. ‘Let’s go see if your Mum needs help.’
Hermione got up, and Ron followed, sighing. They went through the back door of the Burrow, where they found Mrs Weasley, running around, carrying a stack of clothes in her arms. ‘GINNY!’ She yelled. ‘Come and get your clean laundry!’
Ginny appeared at the bottom of the stairs, her wand in hand. ‘Accio laundry,’ she said, and the clothes flew towards her, landing in a perfect pile in her arms.
‘You could have just done that upstairs,’ Ron pointed out, unhelpfully.
Ginny just shrugged. ‘Have you put away your laundry, Ickle Ronniekins?’ She teased, grinning at him.
Ron’s face went as red as his hair, but he looked sad, probably remembering all the times Fred had called him that. ‘’Course I have,’ he lied. Hermione knew for a fact that the stack of clean clothes was still sitting on his bed.
Ginny laughed, rolling her eyes, and turned to Hermione. ‘Mione. Would you come upstairs with me for a minute?’ She asked.
‘Sure,’ said Hermione, wondering what she wanted. It better not be another attempt to give me a makeover, she thought glumly.
She kissed Ron on the cheek, and followed Ginny up the stairs. When they reached Ginny’s room, they found Harry lying on the bed, fast asleep, with his arms crossed over his chest.
‘UP!’ Ginny shouted, hiding a smile.
Harry awoke with a start, and blinked at her a few times. ‘Is it morning yet?’ He mumbled.
‘It’s the middle of the afternoon, Harry,’ Ginny said, rolling her eyes at him. ‘Now, come on. You need to get up and get out so I can speak to ‘Mione in private.’
Harry mumbled something they didn’t quite catch, and closed his eyes again. Ginny sighed. ‘Harry!’ She exclaimed. ‘Get up!’
He opened his eyes, and grinned up at his girlfriend. Ginny glared at him, and he sighed, rolling out of bed. He gave her a quick kiss as he left the room, and closed the door tightly behind him. Ginny had invested in silencing charms, fortunately. Hermione had a feeling she knew why, but she didn’t want to know the details.
‘What is so important that Harry must be kicked out of the room?’ She asked. ‘I swear, Ginny Weasley, if you attempt to give me another makeover, I will charm your makeup so you can no longer use it.’
‘It’s not a makeover,’ Ginny assured her, and Hermione felt relieved. Ginny looked at her sadly for a moment, and then pulled out a familiar newspaper. The Daily Prophet. Hermione gulped. Nothing good ever came from that newspaper. ‘I didn’t want you to see this at breakfast, so I grabbed it from Dad. I don’t think Ron’s seen it yet, but I made Mum, Dad and George promise not to say anything.’
‘Ginny, you’re scaring me,’ Hermione said.
Ginny handed her the Prophet, and she unrolled it slowly, her stomach twisting uneasily. The paper was slightly rumpled from being in Ginny’s pocket all day, but Hermione saw the headline clear as day:
'RON WEASLEY: Caught in the act!'
Underneath the bold headline was an image. An image that Hermione thought she’d never have to see again. Seeing it made her stomach roll. There, on the front page of the Daily Prophet, was Ron, embraced in what looked like a passionate kiss with Lavender Brown. Over and over again, she watched them kiss, feeling slightly dizzy. But Ginny was watching her, and she forced herself to flip to the cover story:
Ronald Weasley, best friend to none other than Harry Potter himself, may (unfortunately) not be who we all thought he was. Precisely three days ago, he was caught in the act of snogging another woman who sources have confirmed was not Hermione Granger, his girlfriend. The pair were seen outside of Flourish and Blotts on Monday afternoon, and sources confirmed that he was indeed carrying a purchase from the bookshop. Several shoppers saw Mr Weasley buying 'Hogwarts: A History'. His girlfriend, however, was nowhere to be seen. We all know that he made it official with Ms. Granger shortly after the Battle of Hogwarts (in which many died fighting bravely, including Mr Weasley’s brother, Fred.) Our sources tell us that Ms. Granger was seen later that evening with Ginny Weasley (Mr Weasley’s sister and Harry Potter’s girlfriend) at the Leaky Cauldron. Another source said that it appeared that Ms. Granger is completely unaware of her boyfriend’s earlier activities. But no doubt she is now…
‘Hermione?’ Ginny asked her, almost hesitantly.
She looked up at her friend, tears blurring her vision. ‘Did you know anything about this?’ She asked quietly.
‘No! I swear I had no idea,’ Ginny said. ‘I would never keep something like that from you. Never.’
‘OK,’ Hermione said. She took a deep breath, forcing the tears back. She would not cry. She absolutely refused to cry over Ronald Weasley again. ‘Does… does Harry know about this?’ She asked, her voice trembling.
Ginny shook her head. ‘No. Like I said, I only just found out this morning, and I had to make Mum and Dad and George swear that they wouldn’t tell you. George looked ready to hex him, though. That’s why he’s been upstairs all day,’ Ginny said, smiling a little.
Hermione felt like she’d just had the wind knocked out of her. As if she’d fallen off a broom or something. ‘This is really happening,’ she said. ‘He really cheated on me, Gin. This isn’t some Rita Skeeter lie, either. This is totally, one hundred percent real.’ She was on the verge of sobbing now. It was a miracle she wasn’t.
‘Yes,’ said Ginny, looking rather angry. ‘It’s real. I even checked—Skeeter was nowhere near this article. I swear to Merlin, Mione, I’m going to kill—’
Hermione looked up, startled at the sound of Harry’s voice. He was standing in the doorway, a rather confused expression on his face. He looked at her, and then at Ginny, and back again.
Wordlessly, Hermione handed him the Daily Prophet. He only glanced down at the front image, dashed to the nightstand—where he’d left his wand—and raced downstairs, obviously fuming.
‘HARRY!’ Ginny yelled.
Both girls ran after Harry, who was storming down the stairs as though he were a madman on a killing spree—well, Hermione thought, close enough.
‘RON!’ Harry shouted, marching into the kitchen.
Ron was sitting at the table, eating a biscuit. ‘Hullo, mate,’ Ron said, oblivious to his best friend’s glare.
Harry slammed the newspaper down on the table so hard that Ron jumped at least a foot off his chair. ‘Care to explain that?’ He demanded.
Ron’s face went white as he stared down at the front page, at the horrid image, and his eyes flicked to Mione, who was standing at the other end of the table, her arms crossed, glaring angrily at him.
‘Mione… I’m so…’
She didn’t let him finish. ‘FLIPENDO!’ She yelled, knocking Ron out of his seat and sending him sailing into the counter.
‘HERMIONE!’ Ron exclaimed.
He started to stand. ‘LOCOMOTOR MORIS!’ She shouted, and his legs locked, rooting him to the spot. But it wasn’t enough, because Ron’s legs unlocked only half a minute later.
‘Mione, would you please let me explain?’ He begged.
But she wasn’t having it. ‘NO!’ She screamed. ‘STUPE—’
They all froze at Mrs Weasley’s voice, and the red-haired woman marched into the kitchen, glaring at Ron. He shrank back, flinching. ‘I will not have fighting in this house,’ she said calmly. ‘Now, Ronald, we know you deserve to be hit with a few unfriendly spells. But you know perfectly well that I will not tolerate fighting in my house.’
‘But I wasn’t doing anything!’ Ron exclaimed exasperatedly. ‘I was just trying to explain to Hermione why I cheated on her!’
‘Oh, so you admit it?’ Hermione cried, forcing back her tears again. I will not cry. I will not, she chanted to herself. ‘I should have known something was up when you snuck out of the house! You were meeting Lavender, weren’t you?’
‘No. I swear—’ He stopped suddenly, realizing that excuses weren’t going to help him any. ‘OK. Maybe I did.’
‘I knew it!’ She shouted. ‘How long have you been sneaking around with her behind my back, Ronald?’
‘A… a few weeks,’ Ron mumbled.
She could’ve sworn she could hear the sound of her heart shattering, as she stared at Ron and he stared back. ‘How can you live with yourself, Ronald? How could you hug me and kiss me, tell me that you love me, and then turn around and be with another woman? How can you live with yourself?’
‘I don’t know,’ he said, refusing to look at her.
She ached to throw another curse at him, and barely held back. ‘When Lavender decides she’s done playing with you,’ she said slowly. ‘Don’t you dare come crawling back to me.’
Ron didn’t say anything. She almost relished in the guilty look on his face, but didn’t. Footsteps sounded on the stairs, and a moment later, George come downstairs to see what was going on.
‘You have the nerve,’ George said slowly. ‘After everything you’ve already done, you have the nerve, to do this? I can’t believe you. Hasn’t Hermione already been through enough because of you?’
‘Her? What about me?’ Ron demanded. ‘Don’t I deserve happiness, too?’
Hermione flinched. It would’ve been less painful if he’d just slapped her. ‘You had happiness,’ she said. ‘You had me. Why wasn’t that enough?’
‘It wasn’t enough because you’re always upset. You’re always crying. Every night you wake me up screaming. You’ve been torturing yourself with guilt for months now. You don’t think I hear you, whispering in your sleep, apologizing to Fred because you couldn’t save him? Or Tonks or Lupin? Do you think I don’t hear you telling Bellatrix to stop? Because I hear it, Hermione. But you’re just a ghost of the girl I fell in love with. And I can’t bear to watch you like this.’
Ron finished with a deep breath. The whole room was staring at him. Harry looked like he’d been punched. Ginny looked like she wanted to hit Ron a hundred times in the face, and her fingers were twitching towards her wand. Molly looked half-mad, half-sad. George was nearly crying. Hermione felt like she was going to collapse at any moment, and her heart was breaking. ‘You can’t expect that I’m going to be fine, Ron,’ she said quietly. ‘We’ve just been through a War. We’re not going to get over that in a day, or a week or a month. Yes, I’m hurting. We’re all hurting. Life isn’t going to back to normal, not after something like that. You’re being incredibly selfish if you think we’re all going to just wake up one day and everything will be fine. Because it’s just not going to happen.’
‘Fred wouldn’t want us to live like this,’ Ron said. ‘He wouldn’t want any of us to live like this. He’d want us to move on with our lives and be happy. Of course we’re going to grieve, I’m not stupid. Grieving is fine. But we can’t live like this. We can’t waste our lives grieving. It’s OK to miss him. I miss him, too. Merlin, I miss him so much. But just because Fred and Tonks and Lupin and Sirius and everyone else is gone doesn’t mean we have to stop living our lives.’
George was definitely crying now. Ginny was holding back tears, but only barely. Molly had tears running down her cheeks, and Harry had pulled Ginny close, comforting her.
‘You’re right,’ Hermione said at last. ‘Fred wouldn’t want us to waste our lives just because he’s gone. But that’s no reason to be selfish. That’s no reason to cheat on me. You were selfish, Ron. And yes we all deserve to be happy, but you should have understood what I was going through. You should’ve been there comforting me, not sneaking out in the middle of the night to go cheat on me. You weren’t thinking about me. You were thinking about what you wanted. And that’s not fair.’
Ron opened his mouth, and closed it again, at loss for words. He finally took a deep breath. ‘What? Do you have nothing to say?’ George demanded after a minute. ‘Are you not even going to apologize?’
‘I have nothing left to say,’ Ron said, guiltily.
That made Hermione mad for some reason. That he wasn’t even going to apologize. And apparently, it made George mad, too. His face was almost as red as his hair, and he glared at Ron.
‘You swine,’ he spat out. ‘You horrible, selfish swine.’
Ron stared at him, looking a little stunned. But he didn’t have a chance to say anything. None of them had a chance to even react, because before they even blinked, George had yanked out his wand, and aimed it at Ron. Ron shrunk under his glare, stepping backwards. He had his own wand out.
‘STUPEFY!’ George shouted, before Ron could even block the spell. He flew backwards into the wall, going unconscious.
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