Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. The idea (and VERY basic plot) for this fic came from "Brighter Than the Sun" by Julia Quinn. I don't own that. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Chapter Three: Secrets Uncovered
Hermione knocked on the door of the Burrow, waiting impatiently for someone to open it as she crossed her arms to ward off the May chill. She loved coming here. It always felt like coming home, no matter what. The Weasleys' home was nice like that, it always had been, even after she had broken up with Ron the second time. Lucky for her, Ron hadn't stayed at the Burrow, and Mrs. Weasley was always understanding.
The door was opened gently, and Hermione was greeted by a large hug from Mrs. Weasley. "Hermione!" she smiled, leaning back. "I'm so glad you're here. We haven't seen you in a few weeks now."
Hermione smiled. Mrs. Weasley had that effect on people. "I know, Mrs. Weasley, but I've been very busy lately."
The older woman nodded, opening the door and motioning for Hermione to come inside. "Yes, that job of yours does seem to keep you busy," she said. Mrs. Weasley did not believe that Hermione's job was fitting for a woman of her intelligence.
"Where's Ginny? I wanted to talk to her," Hermione said, walking into the house.
"Ah," Mrs. Weasley paused. "She's in her room. She hasn't talked to any of us in days. She comes down for meals, but that's it." She sighed. "I'm worried about her. Even Fred and George haven't been able to get her to speak."
Hermione nodded, her lips twitching at the thought of Fred and George trying to get Ginny to talk. "I know, Mrs. Weasley. She hasn't talked to me either. But," she said, straightening, "that won't be true for long," and marched up the stairs. She heard Mrs. Weasley say a soft, "Good luck," and she smiled. As soon as she reached Ginny's door, she knocked loudly, twice, before opening it.
Ginny was lying on her bed, facing the window. Her room was mostly clean, but there were a few dusty volumes sitting out. Hermione squinted, trying to make out the titles. She could see Magical and Muggle Ailments: The First Combined Desk Reference, and Knowing What's the Matter: A Guide to the Witch's Body.
"Gin?" Hermione asked, moving to her friend. As she neared, she could make out tear streaks on the younger girl's cheeks. "Ginny, what's the matter?" she asked worriedly, reaching out to rub Ginny's arm soothingly.
The young witch sniffed audibly; Hermione could feel her shaking slightly. "'What's the matter?'" she mimicked coldly. "There's nothing the matter."
Hermione narrowed her eyes. "It's obvious that something's not right, Gin. I'm not leaving until you tell me what it is."
Ginny sighed and rolled over, looking at her friend. She gave Hermione a small, sad smile before getting up. She walked over to the dusty volumes Hermione had seen earlier and picked one up, flipping through it. "You can at least make sure," Ginny said. She laughed bitterly, "Of course, I've already done it at least fifteen times; I doubt there's any mistake."
She handed to tome to Hermione, and the bushy-haired brunette looked down at the words. Are You Pregnant? A Simple Spell is All it Takes to Know! Hermione looked up at her friend, her eyes wide.
Ginny nodded. "Yup. I'm pregnant." She sighed. "Gods, why me?"
Hermione hurried over and hugged her friend. "Oh, Gin, I'm sure it will be wonderful. I'll help you as much as I can. Have you told Seamus yet? I know you two were trying to get pregnant for so long—"
Ginny laughed bitterly again. "It's not Seamus', Hermione. We haven't slept together for six months, ever since we started the divorce proceedings."
Hermione's eyebrows rose. She had never expected Ginny to sleep with anyone she wasn't married to. "Whose is it then?"
Ginny sat down on the bed again, staring at her feet. "Do you remember how I disappeared after the divorce was finalized, and didn't reappear until the next day?"
Hermione nodded, sitting down next to her friend. "Of course I do. That was one of the things I was meaning to ask you. What happened, I mean," she corrected herself.
"I went to a bar to get drunk," she said bluntly, looking up at Hermione. Her eyes were hard. "I don't know how much I drank, and I barely remember anything. All I remember is waking up the next morning, naked and completely hung-over."
"Who was it?" Hermione asked, staring at her friend. She was reminded vaguely of a Muggle soap opera.
Ginny laughed. "I'm extremely grateful that it wasn't a rapist or a murderer or someone. I mean, I was drunk, right? So I could have been laid by anyone."
"Ginny," Hermione said loudly, growing impatient, "Who did you sleep with?"
The younger girl looked at Hermione, her eyes bloodshot from fitful sleeping and endless bouts of tears. "I woke up next to Neville Longbottom," she said quietly, closing her eyes and falling back onto the bed, a few tears leaking down her cheeks. "Neville! I slept with Neville, Hermione!"
Hermione stared at her, still slightly confused. "But why is it so bad? I mean, Neville's not that bad. You know it was thanks to him that Harry's still alive—"
"That's just the thing!" she sobbed. "He's not that bad at all; he's wonderful."
"Well, for one thing, he doesn't deserve to be tied down to a child he had with a one-night-stand," she said, wiping her eyes, and looking at Hermione. "For another, he's one of my best friends! I mean, I didn't see him very much after I got married, but at school and everything, with the DA and then the Order of the Phoenix, we were friends! You remember, I'm sure; he came with us to the Ministry in my fourth year."
Hermione nodded. "I remember. I was surprised, considering up until then he had been so…" She frowned, unsure of how to word it.
"Precisely!" Ginny said. "But I'm going to have to tell him. He deserves to know. And I have no idea how. How do you tell a guy who used to be your best friend that you're pregnant with his child?"
Hermione laughed. "It can't be that difficult, I'm sure." However, the 'best friend' part made her think of hers and Ron's former romance.
Ginny smiled. "I guess not. I'm just a little irrational right now."
Hermione grinned. "I've heard that happens when you're pregnant. Have you had any strange cravings yet? My mum used to complain that she always wanted anchovies on mustard sandwiches when she was pregnant with me." The mention of her mother didn't hurt nearly as much as it used to.
Ginny grinned back. "Actually, I did, last week. Luckily, it was in the middle of the night, so no one found out. Strawberries and pickles…"
Hermione wrinkled her nose. "That's disgusting!" They both grinned at each other and then burst out laughing. Growing serious again, Hermione asked, "How long have you known?"
"Just two days." Ginny sighed. "I can't believe I didn't do anything before. I mean, I knew it was unprotected, but even then, the mood swings and the cravings should have clued me in."
Hermione sighed. "Well, you weren't thinking clearly. I don't blame you, Ginny. It's a lot to go through."
Ginny nodded. "I know, but still."
"Do you want me to go with you when you talk to Neville? I think he's the new Herbology teacher at Hogwarts."
Ginny grinned. "I know. We talked a little bit after…" She reddened. "After we…" She cleared her throat. "You know."
Hermione nodded, a tiny smile on her lips. Ginny was adorable.
"Right, so, we talked, and he mentioned that. He also said that if I turned out to be pregnant—we did discuss that possibility—then he wanted to know."
"Er, Gin, I was wondering…" Hermione trailed off, unsure whether she should ask the question that had been bothering her ever since Ginny's revelation.
"Why did he sleep with you?" She blurted out. Realizing how rude that sounded, she said, "I mean, he doesn't seem the type for a one-night stand."
"Oh." Ginny reddened again. "Well, he'd had a few drinks as well, not very many; he'd just had a bad day at work. The Slytherins, I think he said. But apparently it was enough that he didn't put up a lot of resistance when I, uh," she paused and looked away, trying to bring her coloring down. Her face was almost as red as her hair. "Well, I apparently wouldn't take no for an answer."
Hermione raised a brow, trying desperately to keep her laughter at bay. Ginny glanced at her and sighed.
Hermione obliged her very willingly. When she'd finally managed to control her giggles, she said, "You know, I wasn't laughing at you—"
Ginny snorted and rolled her eyes. "I know. You were laughing with me. Uh-huh. I know."
Hermione sighed. "So do you want me to go with you? I know it must be intimidating."
"No," Ginny shook her head. "I need to do this by myself. But," she glanced at her friend. "I could use some help getting ready. I look like something the ghoul dragged in."
Hermione chuckled, hugging her best friend. "I'd love to help you."
Hermione smiled. After two hours, Ginny was finally looking normal again. First they'd gotten her into a bath, washing away a few days worth of grime. That had taken an hour. Then they'd worked on her hair, which had become a rat's nest in the few weeks she'd let herself go. It had taken forty-five minutes to get it detangled, even after using enough charms and potions to detangle an army.
The remaining fifteen minutes had been used to find something clean and professional-looking to wear. Ginny, like Hermione, didn't use any make-up or charms to enhance her natural beauty. Not that Ginny considered herself beautiful—it was just that she had just never bothered, and didn't feel like starting then.
Ginny turned from the mirror to look at her best friend and smiled. "Thanks, Hermione."
Hermione smiled warmly and shook her head. "Don't worry about it. I had fun. And I'm glad you're finally out of your shell." She grinned. "Good luck."
Ginny smiled in return and took a deep breath. She took the wand that Hermione handed her and Apparated, leaving Hermione in the now-empty room.
The former Gryffindor smiled to herself and walked down the stairs, stopping in the kitchen to let Mrs. Weasley know that she was leaving.
"Of course, dear. I hope you'll come back soon."
"Definitely, Mrs. Weasley." She turned to leave, then paused. "Oh, and Ginny mentioned that she might be late getting back."
Mrs. Weasley looked confused, but Hermione left before she could ask any more questions. Hermione was ecstatic that she'd gotten Ginny up and out of the house. She couldn't believe that her best friend was pregnant. It was inconceivable. Sure, one of her best male friends was married, and Ginny herself had been married for five years, but still. Of all the people she had attended school with, Ginny was the last person she would have thought would get stuck with such a problem.
She grinned, her thoughts heading back to her other best friend. Who would have guessed that Harry would have married a Slytherin? Harry Potter and a Slytherin? Heaven forbid! It had hit the headlines for weeks, and still there were daily accounts of their honeymoon on page seven of the Daily Prophet. But Pansy wasn't all that bad, and Hermione wasn't too shy to admit it. The girl was exactly what Harry needed after all those years fighting Voldemort. She couldn't wait until they were back from their honeymoon.
She sighed. She wanted to go on a honeymoon. Then again, it probably wouldn't be too long, now would it? And thinking of Jeff, Hermione realized that she hadn't seen him in a few days. She smiled. Perfect. She'd just surprise him.
Hermione Apparated onto his doorstep with a soft "Pop!" She whispered the password, and the door unlocked itself. Letting herself in quietly, she tiptoed into the living room, smiling—
And tears of hurt and anger made their way down her cheeks when her mind processed what she was seeing.