Hermione stood at the edge of the fire pit. The cold bite of the late autumn air didn't bother her. She hadn't expected the fire to be so large. The little community she lived in really did it up. Pulling her jumper down nervously, she examined the assortment of items stuffed in among the kindling and logs. She knew the odds and ends were symbols of what the other members of her community wanted to purge or release from their lives.
She looked at the shoebox of disappointment for a moment, examined its plain brown cardboard, and shoved it in amongst the tinder. It was full of rapidly scribbled excuses and single ticket stubs; the only actual proof that she'd been in a relationship with the great red haired menace. Ron Weasley was of the past, a boy, and the god of her girlhood fantasies. When the fires were lit, they would destroy her disappointments, and she would be free.
She walked over to where the offerings were being laid out and pulled out the apples from her favorite beaded bag. She had harvested them at dawn. They were perfect. She smiled at them, proud she had cultivated her own offering. The apple tree in her tiny garden had flourished under her care. She touched the shiny red skin of the one resting on the top of her basket.
"Hermione." Luna's dreamy voice broke through her quiet moment. "It is good to see you."
Hermione nodded and smiled back at her blonde friend. The two women fell into step next to each other. Luna touched Hermione's arm. The gentle warmth of her magic brushed against Hermione's offering comfort.
"It's good." Luna pulled Hermione into a hug. "Letting the past go. He never treated you as he should."
"He never made me any promises. I think he's happy now." Hermione shrugged. "I decided to come here, and let come what may. I am done waiting for my life. I finished my apprenticeships last week."
"Hermione Granger, mistress of potions, charms, transfiguration, arithmancy, and auror extraordinaire." Luna grinned. "You truly should have been a Ravenclaw. You are the only witch or wizard to complete four apprenticeships at once in over two centuries. It is very impressive."
"Thank you, Luna." Hermione blushed. Very few of her friends had understood her dedication to her studies. It was nice to see her effort appreciated.
"Have you carved turnips or are you leaving a western door open?" Luna tucked a few stray locks of her long hair behind her ear.
"I'm opting for the door." Hermione shrugged. "The notion of seeing Remus, Sirius, or Severus again is too hard to resist."
"I leave the door open for my mother every year." Luna nodded her head. "She hasn't come to visit me yet, but I keep hoping."
George Weasley trotted up to them and bussed Luna on the cheek. The lanky wizard swung his wife around in a happy twirl before turning toward her. His happy grin was back and Hermione found one of her own for him.
"If it isn't my beautiful wife and a ravishing stranger." He winked at Hermione. She blushed and dropped her gaze.
George grabbed her shoulders and pulled her flush against his body. Hermione returned his embrace. His magic pushed against hers for a moment before folding around her in a friendly manner.
"I've missed you." Hermione pushed back and looked up at him with a shy smile.
"My brother is a fool."
"You shouldn't say that. Ron isn't completely to blame. We weren't suited." Hermione shrugged. "It just took me a bit longer to realize it."
"Ickle Ronniekin's loss." George nodded his head and smirked. "The boy never could see the bower for the faeries."
"I just want him to be happy." Hermione forced a smile and swallowed down the urge to run.
"Of course you do. There is no sweeter lioness than you, Mione." George playful tweaked a wayward curl. "Are you attending the celebration?"
"Yes." Hermione nodded. "I decided to set my muggle tendencies aside. I'm not a fan of divination, but this celebration isn't only about that. I'm a witch. I need to honor that part of me, so I'm leaving my biases behind."
"Listen to you. Next you'll be reading the tea leaves. Though this is the holiday to start you off; lots of whiz-bangs for your knut. Wish I'd come as a child, but Mum never let us go." George shook his head. "She said the flames lied to her brothers."
"The flames lied?" Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"They saw some future that never came to pass. Not that her issues hold much sway anymore." He shrugged. "I think if you drink enough, the flames will show you pretty much whatever you want. I'm sure Professor Trelawny would see Harry's impending doom."
"I'm sure she has moved on to someone else by now." Luna shook her head. "Wrackspurts have a limited lifespan after all."
"They surely do." George nodded and smiled.
"So, if your mother objects to this celebration why are you here?" Hermione tilted her head and watched the couple from the side of her eyes they walked toward the apparation point.
"Pure, unadulterated rebellion, my dear. Percy is the only one that still toes Mum's line. I imagine that will last a few more years. Even his guilt has to come to an end at some point. Charlie comes, but he stays with some mystery lass until after the celebration then he heads to the Burrow. Harry and Ginny will be here tonight. It'll be their first time. Bill and Fleur, too; they usually go to France for Samhain and Beltane."
"And the two of you as well." Hermione snickered. "Have her howlers lost that special zing?"
"They do lose some punch when you get them weekly." Luna scrunched up her nose in obvious distaste. "We still haven't been forgiven for the getting married at the Ministry."
"No one holds a grudge like Mum." George smiled. "Our getting married with no fanfare about drove her spare. We won't be off the hook until the grand-babies arrive. They'd best be cute little dickens, too."
"The woman needs to rid her house of nargles." Luna sighed. "She'd be much happier."
"Wouldn't we all?" George chuckled. "See you tonight, Mione."
Hermione nodded and watched George swing his wife in a large circle before apparating with a pop.
She looked over at the large pyramid of logs and tilted her head. She'd be back to light the fire and celebrate Samhain at sunown. She took a deep breath of the crisp air. Doing this was a good idea. The weight of her failures with Ron was lightened already.