Chapter 17 : Explosion and Deflation
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She dealt with seven court cases, three which involved dark magic, two that involved the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts and two which were rather large misunderstandings. She helped out the Auror Department and did a few interviews, and even had a meeting with the Minister himself, asking for more Aurors to be trained as they were running thin on the ground, and all the while she didn’t hold a conversation about anything but work with anybody, not even with Harry.
Life had become so much easier, there were no complications; Hermione was back to doing what she did best, completing tasks and learning new things. She’d even given a couple of lectures at Hogwarts when she had had days off and nowadays, when she came home; all she had to do was pick up the kids from the Burrow and relax. It was exactly what she wanted, needed even.
She hadn’t seen George since the argument, and she hadn’t wanted to. He’d sent a few Patronuses; he’d even attempted to ring her on the telephone and had left a couple of rather jaunty messages, but Hermione didn’t reply to any of them. If George so wanted to talk to her he would come and see her in person, otherwise there was nothing to say.
It wasn’t until Harry barged into Hermione’s office at work and told her to meet him at the Three Broomsticks one evening that Hermione suddenly realised how badly she’d been living over the past month and a half. She’d been ignoring everyone, rejecting everyone in fact, and hadn’t been paying attention to Rose or Hugo as much as she should have. She’d just been gliding along, riding life as though it were a train and not a rollercoaster like it was supposed to be.
So now here she was, stood outside the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Harry had said he would already be inside. The air was cold with the winter chill, the snow wasn’t falling but it was thick on the ground and Hermione’s toes were freezing, despite only being stood there for only a couple of minutes. She had been debating whether to go inside or not.
Hermione shuffled side wards and peeked in through the ice framed windows. The place was busy, as it always was, and Hermione had to peer through and get a closer look in order to see Harry, sitting at a table by himself glancing at his watch, not noticing the people that were sat around him staring at him. Hermione resolved herself over the fact that she wouldn’t stand her best friend up and pushed the door open.
The warmth that hit her was instantaneous, almost knocking Hermione off her feet. Fires were burning in the many hearths, just as they had been only a few months ago when Hermione had danced with Oliver Wood. She noticed that the very man was stood behind the bar and because of this she ducked beneath the stair landing and sat herself down opposite Harry with a plonk, so heavily in fact that the stool almost toppled. Hermione swiftly removed her scarf, gloves and woollen hat.
“Hermione, I thought you would never make it,” Harry greeted her.
“I had been thinking the same thing,” Hermione nodded in reply.
“Busy at work?”
“No, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to come tonight,” Hermione admitted.
“I see,” Harry nodded, “I suppose you haven’t been very sociable recently, and I can understand that, but to be quite honest Hermione I’ve kind of missed you.”
“What do you mean? You know you could have visited me in my office whenever you wanted?” Hermione frowned incredulously.
“Well yes,” Harry said, his thumbs twiddling as he contemplated how best to say what he wanted to say, “but I don’t really like visiting you in your office, it feels far too…formal, and all you seem to talk about nowadays is work.”
“No I do not,” Hermione denied, “go on, why don’t you ask me a question? No work involved.”
“Okay then,” Harry said, “why don’t you go and get me a Butterbeer? I’m parched.”
“Harry!” Hermione chided, “that’s not what I meant!”
“See what I mean,” Harry grinned cheekily.
“Fine, whatever, I’ll go and get you your drink.”
Hermione stood and headed towards the bar, perching herself on one of the stools. Surely seeing Oliver Wood again wouldn’t be too bad.
“Hello Hermione,” Oliver came over, his voice rugged as it had been the last time they had talked. Hermione gulped.
“Hi Oliver, two Butterbeers, if you wouldn’t mind?” Hermione said, trying her best to smile.
“Of course,” Oliver nodded, grabbing a glass and pulling one of the levers, “and Hermione, no hard feelings right? I’m sorry I never contacted you after; I just thought that would have made matters worse, am I right?”
“Yeah, I mean, erm,” Hermione was a little flustered by Oliver’s smooth manner, “what I mean is no, no hard feelings, and yes, it would have made matters worse.”
“I thought so,” Oliver smiled, setting the two Butterbeers on the counter top, “how are you and George? I presume you’re together now?”
“Actually, we’re kind of on the rocks,” Hermione admitted.
“Oh, well, if you ever want someone to talk to, or a good old Firewhiskey, then just pop by.”
“Sure, I’ll see you later Oliver,” Hermione replied, taking the two Butterbeers and heading back to join Harry. Harry was grinning as she sat back down.
“What’s got you so cheerful?” Hermione said darkly.
“Was that a bit awkward?” Harry chuckled.
“Oh shut up Harry!” Hermione exclaimed, “and as a matter of fact no, he was very nice about it.”
“If you say so,” Harry laughed, taking his Butterbeer and having a sip, leaving a white froth on his top lip.
“You’ve got a bit of-” Hermione smiled, gesturing at Harry’s lip and mimicking wiping it away. Harry turned a little red and used his shirtsleeve for the job. This time it was Hermione’s turn to chuckle. Harry readjusted himself and let his cheeks turn back to normal colour before he spoke again.
“So have you heard from him?”
“Heard from who?”
“George of course,” Harry said.
“Oh, well, he’s tried to contact me, you know by owl, Patronus, telephone-”
“He knows how to use a telephone?” Harry frowned.
“Not quite,” Hermione shook her head, “the messages were quite funny actually, but yeah, he’s tried to contact me but I don’t want to talk to him. In my eyes if he wants to talk to me he should come and talk to my face.”
“That’s why they’ve invented video calling Hermione.”
“Oh you know what I mean Harry!”
“I don’t actually; you’re far too stubborn for your own good.”
“You think I should talk to him?” Hermione frowned.
“I think perhaps you should answer one of his calls, how is he meant to know that he needs to see you face to face if he wants things sorted out if you won’t tell him that?”
“I thought it would be obvious.”
“No Hermione, it’s far from obvious, I think sometimes you seem to over-estimate the male race,” Harry laughed.
“Or perhaps it’s your fault; perhaps you just don’t pay enough attention?” Hermione jibed. Harry’s face fell though, his smile fading into nothing and being replaced with a thin line.
“Did I say something wrong?” Hermione frowned.
“No, no, I’m fine, I don’t want to dump anything on you, not when you’ve got enough on your plate,” Harry shook his head, trying to return the smile to his face. Hermione saw straight through him though.
“What’s wrong Harry?”
“Honestly, it’s nothing to do with you.”
“I don’t care, I want to know, I might be able to help,” Hermione pushed.
“Alright,” Harry nodded, looking up at Hermione so his bright green eyes met hers, “it’s Ginny. She’s been very off with me lately, telling me I don’t take enough notice of certain things, that I don’t do enough with the kids, I don’t spend enough time with her, but it’s difficult, I’ve got so many things going on at work that I don’t get home until late and I’m always so tired when I get back, I don’t really know what to do to please her?”
“When did this start?” Hermione frowned; neither Harry nor Ginny had mentioned this before.
“Only around a month ago,” Harry replied.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“Well you’ve been so caught up in work as well that I thought you would just get annoyed, plus you’ve been so distant lately.”
“Honestly Harry, I’ve never heard such a stupid excuse in my life.”
“Sorry,” Harry sighed, “I’ve told you now though, right? Have you got any advice? Written that book yet on female sub-meanings?”
“As a matter of fact no, I haven’t, but have you not thought about Ginny’s perspective? What she’s feeling?”
“I’ve tried, but you’re just so complicated.”
“I assume when you say you’re you mean the entire female population,” Hermione smiled, “well, I’ll try and enlighten you I suppose. Ginny is a professional Quidditch player, it’s half way through the season, a time when each match really counts and when stress levels reach their highest, plus Ginny is desperate to look after the kids herself and not let Molly help her which only adds to the stress levels, not only that but she’s also got to deal with James’ constant pranks and of course she mustn’t know who to side with when it comes to George and I. All of it has got her completely stressed out and, seeing as you are her husband and are away for long hours at work, she sees you as an outlet for all this stress. That’s why she’s being so off with you.”
Harry was silent for a moment, thinking over what Hermione had explained.
“Wow, I never thought about any of that,” he eventually replied.
“I suppose it’s a good job you’ve got me then.”
“Well yes, of course,” Harry blinked, “oh Merlin, what do you think I should do?”
“Perhaps take a couple of days off work? You have a few holidays left, I checked up on it yesterday as a matter of fact.”
“Well you could use them? Maybe to give Ginny a day off you could take the kids out for the day? Or perhaps you could even take Ginny out, on a date or something, just you and her, I’m sure she would like that? I don’t know; just do something that might relieve some of the stress?”
“Has anybody ever told you you’re a genius?”
“Quite often actually,” Hermione grinned.
“I suppose they must have!” Harry chuckled, “but really, thank you Hermione, that’s made it so much clearer.”
“It’s no problem, honestly.”
“So, George?” Harry continued, which was met by a laboured sigh from Hermione.
“You really think I should answer one of his calls?”
“I do,” Harry nodded, “if only to say he needs to arrange to see you face to face if he wants to talk to you.”
“Wouldn’t that be me giving in though?”
“Oh for goodness sake! Right, I’ve told you what I think, and if you don’t want to take my advice then you don’t need to take it,” Harry said.
“Okay then,” Hermione nodded.
“You never actually told me exactly what happened?” Harry muttered in reply.
“You never told me what actually happened down at the graveyard? All I know is you had one massive argument which led to George pushing you over and you breaking your wrist,” Harry said, a little louder this time.
“Oh, well, do you want me to tell you the full story?”
“Okay, well, I went down there and I heard George crying by Fred’s statue, and I was in two minds whether to approach him or not, after what Ginny said about him grieving alone, but then it got a bit much, hearing him cry like that, so I decided to go and join him. At first he looked really upset, more upset than I’ve ever seen him, but then he got angry, said I had no right to be there, and that’s when the argument went into full flow, he told me to go away but I wouldn’t so he went away instead, pushing me over in the process. There, that’s all there is to it.”
Harry studied Hermione’s face for a moment, seeing if there were any weaknesses in her poker face. There were of course, in her eyes.
“There’s something else you haven’t told me about,” Harry concluded.
“No there isn’t…” Hermione blinked. She knew she’d been caught out. It was impossible to keep anything from Harry, even with her best lying face.
“Yes there is Hermione.”
“Okay, fine, when I got there George was reading one of the memoirs from Fred’s statue and when he left I checked which one it was he had been reading, just out of overwhelming curiosity, and it kind of came as a shock really, I thought he would be reading Molly’s or Ginny’s but…”
“It was yours, wasn’t it?” Harry said, connecting the dots, “he was reading your letter.”
“Yeah,” Hermione admitted.
“I suppose that could complicate things.”
“Complicate things? Harry what am I supposed to say to him? Did you enjoy reading my letter; I hope it was up to your expectations?” Hermione exclaimed, “I don’t even remember what I wrote!”
“Didn’t you read it?”
“No, I thought it would be wrong, an invasion on my eighteen year old self.”
“Of course you did,” Harry sighed, “look, I’m sure whatever you put in there was completely satisfactory and I doubt George will even mention it.”
“I suppose, but it just makes things all the more awkward, and adding the argument on top of that, I don’t know how it’ll pan out when I eventually talk to him.”
“You’ll never find out if you never try.”
“Thanks smart alec, that’s great support.”
“Better to do something than to become an emotionless robot though.”
“Have I really been that bad?”
“I didn’t even realise,” Hermione gulped.
Harry had made her realise a horrible truth and it made her instantly depressed. She’d blocked out the people she loved because of George, she’d missed out on important moments with her children, hadn’t paid any attention to her friends and family, but it was more than that because Hermione knew exactly why she’d done it. It had been the same for the months following Ron’s death. It was because she had been trying her best to stop herself from missing George. That was the worst part.
The two of them fell into silence. Harry sipped at his Butterbeer whilst Hermione fiddled with the rim of her glass. She was clearly thinking about something but Harry didn’t want to pry over what the subject of her thoughts might be. Harry cared about Hermione, she was his rock, she had always been there for him and he did love her, that was why he wanted her to be happy, that’s what he’d always wanted for her. He wasn’t about to tell her that though, she knew already how much she meant to Harry.
Hermione was soaking wet. Her hair hung in thick ropes and her t-shirt was a far darker shade of blue than it should have been. The worst part was her jeans which were stiff and rubbed harshly against her skin as she moved. It wasn’t being soaked that was the dilemma for Hermione though; it was the fact she was stood outside George’s flat debating whether or not to knock on the door.
She reached up and tapped twice, pulling her hand back instantly, as though she’d just set off a bomb or something. Hermione even thought twice about running away before George opened the door, acting as though it were a knock and run, but then she realised that that would be stupid, she had borrowed the spare key to the shop from Ginny and as far as she knew that was the only spare. So instead she had to wait patiently and incredibly nervously for George to answer.
It hadn’t been long at all when George pulled the door open, even though it had felt like a lifetime for Hermione, and he looked quite shocked to see Hermione stood there, drenched to the bone and visibly shivering.
“Hermione,” he said. That was all. Hermione presumed he was too shocked to say anything else. Hermione had not taken Harry’s advice, instead she had decided just to visit George out of the blue, she felt she would control the situation better that way.
“Hi,” Hermione paused, “I was just…I was outside, picking up a package from Gringotts, and it started raining so I thought I’d stop by, you know, to talk to Ron.”
“Oh, of course,” George nodded, pulling the door wide and allowing Hermione to step inside. Hermione heard him close the door quietly behind him followed by a shuffling of feet, signalling he’d turned round to face Hermione.
“The portrait’s just through there in the spare room, like, well, like the last time,” George gulped. He was fighting the urge to reach out and pull Hermione into a hug, to tell him how sorry he was, but he resisted. He was quite sure Hermione wouldn’t appreciate the notion too much anyway.
“Sorry, that was a lie,” Hermione sighed, turning to face George. George was looking at her strangely, as though he didn’t quite know what to say to her, which was odd as he’d had plenty to say in all his messages.
“What I meant was that…well, what I meant was that I’m here to talk to you,” Hermione continued awkwardly. Still George regarded her in silence, not uttering a word, his eyes studying her face and making the hairs on the back of Hermione’s neck stand on end.
“I mean, I wasn’t lying in that I had to pick up the package, that’s true, but I’m here to talk to you, not Ron’s portrait, because I think we have some things to sort out,” Hermione babbled. Still George said nothing.
“I think what you said to me in the grave yard was out of order and that you acted wrongly, that’s why I’ve been avoiding you and your messages for so long, I, well, I wanted you to realise how much I mean to you,” Hermione gulped, feeling more awkward by the second. George opened his mouth but then shut it right away again.
“Could you just say something before I start pouring out all my feelings?” Hermione finished, falling into silence just like George. For a moment they considered each other and then George made his move.
“I don’t know what to say.”
“You left me all those messages and now, when you have the chance to have a conversation with me, you don’t know what to say?” Hermione frowned.
“No,” George admitted.
“Well that’s just brilliant,” Hermione said, “I came here to give you another chance, which by the way you thoroughly don’t deserve after breaking my wrist and reading my personal memoir to Fred, and you don’t have a word to say for yourself? Not even to tell me that I’m completely wrong?”
“I told you, I don’t know what to say,” George replied quietly, very aware that Hermione was on the brink of explosion.
“An apology would be a good start,” Hermione growled.
George didn’t reply; he was still at a loss for words. Hermione had sprung upon him without any bit of warning and even though he’d rehearsed several times what he would say down the phone if she ever picked up he had not prepared for such a confrontation. So instead of saying something that he knew would not be good enough he said nothing at all.
“You don’t want to apologise?”
Hermione had had enough of George’s blank face and advanced towards him. She noticed him recoil slightly as she passed, as though he was scared she might strike out at him which felt rather satisfying. Hermione pulled open the door and made to leave, just as George reached out and grabbed her arm.
“What are you doing?” Hermione growled, “if you don’t want to apologise then there’s no point of me being here.”
“I do want to apologise,” he said, in a bare whisper. Hermione straightened up.
“Go ahead then.”
“I don’t know how to word it.”
Hermione felt a surge of anger rush through her, she couldn’t believe how George was acting, there was no point trying to reason with him, she had to leave. Hermione shrugged George’s hand from her forearm and stormed out, careering down the stairs and exiting into the top floor of the shop. She could hear George’s feet pounding behind her but she flew down the next set of stairs at an alarming pace, not waiting to see if George would catch her.
“Hermione!” George’s voice echoed as Hermione reached a stack of perfumes, the perfumes made because of her. She spun round. George was stood on the balcony, looking down at her, his eyes giant brown orbs that were filled with a fierce desperation.
“What is it?” Hermione yelled, the anger bubbling up to the surface.
“I don’t want to lose you!” he whimpered.
“Well you should have thought about that before,” Hermione said, pulling her wand from her jacket, “but I guess now I’ll just have to do something to even us up.”
“What do you mean?” George blinked.
“I’ll need something to apologise for too,” Hermione replied.
Hermione’s arm swished in an arc and a red spark flew from her wand, causing a pile of Puking Pastilles to fly across the room. She didn’t stop there though; another flash of red erupted from the wand tip and caused hundreds of vials of love potions that lined one wall to fall to the floor, causing a great pink smoky love heart to burst upwards as they smashed in a clatter of broken glass. This was followed by boxes of Nosebleed Nougats to burst open and for the sweets to fly upwards and hit the ceiling, causing a rain of red and bogey coloured granules to batter down on both George and Hermione.
Hermione however has surrounded herself with a shield charm so it was only George that felt the blow of the hard pellets that pounded him. George cowered as the rain fell down upon him, trying his best to watch Hermione who, with the glittering shield charm surrounding her, looked absolutely and unbelievably terrifying. Her eyes shone with what George could only recognise as enjoyment and her lips were pursed in concentration, aside from that however Hermione looked as though what she was doing was completely effortless, her wand arm waved in swift arcs and lines and her hair, although wet, was utterly astounding, flying around as though it had a complete mind of its own.
The shop floor was now covered in the remains of George’s products, a mixture of every colour of the rainbow, and yet Hermione was not ready to stop yet. A pillar of Pressure Pills crashed to the floor along with George’s whole stock of Gordo Gobstoppers. A Pygmy Puff, which had managed to escape from its cage which had burst open when Hermione had sent it careering into the wall, managed to get a gobstopper in its mouth and instantly became the size of a balloon before bursting and sending blue feathers everywhere.
George thought enough was enough and picked himself up, grabbing at the bannister as he tried his best to get down the stairs. Hermione had completely ruined the shop in only a few short seconds, and she didn’t look like stopping anytime soon. Just as he reached the bottom of the steps though the carnage and noise stopped, as though somebody had hit a switch, and all that could be heard was George’s heavy breathing. George glanced up.
Hermione was stood in the centre of the room, her wand was still held in her outstretched hand but her shield charm had gone. Where the shield had been was the only space in the entire shop that was not covered in mess. It wasn’t any of that however that made George suddenly breathless.
Hermione’s eyes bore in to George with a glaring intensity and her lips were clamped together in a tight scowl, the rest of her features were blank and her hair fell around her shoulders naturally, framing her face. Her body was poised, like a lion ready to pounce, as though she were expecting an attack but also giving the aura that if she were attacked then it wouldn’t be her that would be dead at the end of it. She looked scary, scarier than Molly in fact, scarier than Bellatrix Lestrange, scarier even than Lord Voldemort himself.
George had always known Hermione was a brilliant witch, a completely untouchable act almost, but he had never thought she was great in the best sense of the word. Never had he thought she was as capable as Gellert Grindelwald, as capable as perhaps Godric Gryffindor, as capable even as the greatest wizard of all time, Albus Dumbledore, but seeing her now, he knew that Hermione Granger was a threat and someone never ever to be messed with. She was, in all aspects, unbelievably talented and incredibly gifted.
Then everything crumbled. Hermione’s shoulders slumped and her wand dropped from her hand, rattling against the floor and creating an eerie echo. Her strong defiant expression vanished to be replaced by tear filled eyes and downturned lips and her hair seemed to almost deflate. That’s exactly what had happened, Hermione had deflated.
George Weasley had managed to drain Hermione Granger and now she couldn’t go on pretending she was strong any longer, now was the time she would give up, roll up in a ball and stop.
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