Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me and I am gaining no profit in the making of this story.
AN: Thank you to my beta for this tale, TenthWeasleyWriter!
Chapter Two: Desiring Normalcy
Hermione stared up at the oddly slanted roof of Ron's room from her place on his bed. She had been eager to leave Mrs. Weasley —or Molly, which was what she had insisted Hermione call her — the moment she had spotted her best friend. If she was being honest, she thought the woman had been acting rather strangely, and had wanted to distance herself from her until whatever thoughts were fluttering through Molly's head regarding Hermione and Ron's relationship had died down a bit. Hermione loved Molly like a second mother, but she definitely didn't want to be in the middle of one of her sudden pushes to marry off all of her boys. Or, to be more specific, just Bill, Charlie, and Ron. Percy was still distanced from the family for his loyalty to the late Minister of Magic instead of his own flesh and blood. And, well, even their own mother seemed to have given up on arguing with Fred and George about settling down anytime soon. The twins were too focused on their blossoming careers as their joke shop exploded in popularity to have time to do anything but work and visit with their family.
Ron sighed, fiddling with his hands from where he sat. He was at his desk, a creaky old thing that shook entirely whenever something new was added to the clutter that already filled its surface. When she had initially walked into the room, Hermione had nervously eyed an ink bottle that sat precariously near the edge of the desk. It sloshed from side to side whenever Ron shifted on his elbow impatiently. She had vaguely supposed that it would wind up on his lap sooner or later.
The pair had passed about ten minutes in complete silence. Ron hadn't managed very easily, which was made apparent by his blatantly frustrated scowl. Hermione, however, had been counting the grooves in his ceiling with tolerant persistence while waiting for her best friend to finally ask the question that was on his mind. She was rather surprised he had held it together for as long as he had. After all, he wasn't particularly known for his tact.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Ron finally asked, standing up from his desk and then falling onto the bed just to her side. Her whole body shook as the mattress rattled in its frame. "It's pretty amazing that you actually did it. You're brilliant, really."
Hermione cast a glance over to him, taking in his long, lanky figure and the red hair that fell over his ears and in front of his baby-blue eyes. The hair almost managed to hide the open curiosity written in his expression from her, but she knew him too well not to notice it immediately. Ron was an open book to her. He felt so comfortable to be around after all the years they had spent together. It was amazing how far they had come. One minute they were first years with their panties in a twist just sneaking out of the Hogwarts castle to visit Hagrid after curfew, and the next they were young adults with the weight of the world on their shoulders.
"Thanks," she whispered, heaving a sigh. "It's just a shame that such an accomplishment was due to such miserable circumstances, isn't it?"
Ron gave her a sad smile and changed the subject. "I'm sorry. How about we talk about something else for a bit?"
She could read the disappointment on his face. He had wanted her to open up to him,the way she may have done if Harry was there as well. Harry had always been the more sympathetic one who was easier to talk to, and more predictable. Ron, as much as she loved him, tended to be all over the place. She didn't doubt that he would be supportive, but she was nervous the support would come with a comment or two that just weren't what she needed to be hearing after the traumatic day she had just had. He never meant to be inappropriate about her feelings, but sometimes he'd put his foot in his mouth. In fact, some of the most foolish, insensitive statements she had ever heard had been uttered by Ron Weasley. It was with that thought in mind that she jumped at the opening he presented her to switch topics.
"That sounds perfect, actually. I kind of feel numb to the whole thing right now, anyway. Like it happened in another life..." Hermione trailed off, looking once again to the ceiling.
She meant it. She felt like the whole situation had happened ages ago. She didn't feel any of the raging emotions that she had initially thought she would; however, she still could picture the blank look that had appeared on her parents' faces as she altered most of the last twenty years of their memories. She could remember how her body started quivering near the end, and how she had tightly held it together in order to finish the task, only giving in to the shivers when she had left the house completely behind her.
"Hey!" Ron exclaimed suddenly. "Did Mum tell you that this is going to be the new headquarters for the Order?"
"Really? Isn't that a bit dangerous?"
"Well, we're at war. There's nothing safe anymore," he said somberly before continuing. "Anyway, when Dumbledore died he weakened the Fidelius Charm on Grimmauld Place. The Order has been scouting locations among its members for weeks. Professor Lupin and Kingsley didn't want to take Mum and Dad up on their offer unless it was absolutely necessary. They didn't want us to give up our home."
"I'm guessing it became necessary," Hermione supplied, sitting up on the bed and turning to face him.
Ron nodded. "Yeah. They weren't finding anything, and the Fidelius Charm was about to completely disappear from Grimmauld Place, so they made the decision yesterday. It's a good thing that you came today, because they're putting the Charm up here tomorrow with a new Secret-Keeper and a bloody ton of protection wards."
"I'm rather surprised that wards haven't already been put up." Hermione looked out the window towards the lake and meadow surrounding the Burrow and tried not to think of how the home was about to go from quaint and comfy to busy and stressful. "Voldemort isn't exactly a fan of 'blood traitors,' as they call you. Your family can't be very safe right now."
"Actually, there are wards on the house. Right now, no one can move onto the property without being a member of the family. The wards only recognize Weasleys."
Hermione looked up in shock. "I didn't know that. So I wouldn't have been able to Apparate here on my own even if I had wanted to. I only got in because of George."
"Well, yeah. If you had Apparated on your own, you would've rebounded off the wards," Ron explained. "Mum originally was going to alter the wards to allow you specifically in, but it worked out well when you asked for someone to help you instead."
Prior to that moment, Hermione had never really given Molly Weasley's power any thought. After Ron's comments, though, she was surprised by the pride she felt for the woman. It was incredibly difficult to alter powerful protection wards, especially the ones they must've used to protect the immense land of the Burrow. It was quite astounding that the woman would have been able to do the charm.
"Speaking of which, did everything go all right when George went to get you? He wasn't late or anything, was he?" Ron asked, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and turning his head to look back at her. "I would have got you myself if I was better at Apparating."
The subject of Ron's older brother felt uncomfortable to Hermione, but she couldn't quite put her finger on why. She guessed it had something to do with the more intimate exchange they had had when she first arrived. He had been so nice, a friend and confidant. But, there was nothing more to it.
Or was there?
It was interesting to look at someone whom she'd known for so many years and suddenly feel like she was looking at a stranger. Perhaps the twins had both matured into people with more in common to Hermione now. That would explain the civility of her conversation with George, after all. At Hogwarts they hadn't often exchanged kind words, usually sticking to their routine bickering about the testing of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes products on innocent first years.
"It was fine," she said, being sure to keep it vague. "He was already there when I got to the spot that your mother had designated. We met up just down the street from my house, Apparated here, and then I went to find your mum. I ran into Fred in the hallway for a moment, actually. He seemed to be doing fine."
When she had been on her way up the stairs to meet Molly, she had passed by Fred. He had given her a rather long and enthusiastic hug, which had been quite uncomfortable due to the stairs and how they made the height difference between the pair seem astronomical. He had even gone as far as to tell her that she was like one of the twins' Patented Daydream Charms: she just got more pleasant the longer she lasted. She wasn't really sure what to make of the comment, but had smiled and waved when he said he needed to find his ugly reflection immediately. It was rather strange to have conversed with both Fred and George without any bumps or bruises in one day.
Hermione found herself slightly put off by how different everyone seemed to be acting. Fred and George had forgone the pranks and annoying bickering, Molly had hinted at marriage, and Ron had managed to drop a sensitive subject instead of saying something inappropriate. She couldn't say that the changes —outside of Molly's — were unwelcome, yet they made her feel like the world was drastically different on a day when she already desperately desired normalcy.
She felt her frustration building. Hermione knew she was just being sensitive to how different the Burrow was now, compared to how it had been the last time she had visited. Despite being aware of it, though, she couldn't seem to stop herself from feeling as if it weren't fair. Her body felt tense and she fought to calm down. Her eyes started stinging, a sure sign of impending tears. Half of her felt relieved to release the emotions, but the other half felt even more frustrated than before because she wanted to be strong. She didn't want to fall apart.
She was spared from her meltdown, however.
"Shite!" Ron yelped loudly, stumbling backwards from his desk. She hadn't even noticed that he had gone back there to sit.
Her eyes moved to the splotch of shiny black that streaked the floor at Ron's feet. Following the trail, she immediately could pin point what had happened. The entire front of her friend's body was covered in ink. Hermione, whose emotions had already been frazzled, burst out laughing. She only laughed harder when Ron gave an exasperated eye roll and told her to "piss off". She giggled and huffed in a way that could only be described as hysterical. Her face turned red as she pressed her hands over her mouth to quiet down.
She didn't stop laughing until the laughter had dissolved into tears.
AN: I know, I know. There was hardly any mention of George in this chapter, but I wanted to get Hermione to breakdown a little about her experience with her parents. After all, she did tell George she needed to think about it for herself before talking about it with someone else! So, now that that's over...Review! Let me know what you think!
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