Hi all! For QLFC this round I decided to rewrite a little of my own history, and use it to have a character confess a truth, in keeping with the prompt. This plot bunny actually came to me from a tumblr friend who's on here - thanks, my love! :) I think that's everything. Love you all!
29 July 2004
"Are you all right? Want me to carry anything?" Hermione asked, as she and Ron walked up the front path to Harry and Ginny's house. He was currently holding two heavy takeaway bags from the Leaky Cauldron.
"No—Hermione, just keep walking, they're heavy," he said irritably as he passed her on the path.
Hermione scowled and took one of the bags from him anyway, and marched straight up to the door. She knocked twice and pushed it open, calling in a tone of forced cheeriness, "Hello! Anyone home?"
"Back here! I'm in the kitchen," called Ginny's voice, just as Hermione rounded the doorway—and laughed at the sight before them.
Ginny was leaned over in front of seven-month-old James, who was in his high chair. He had one chubby fist wrapped securely around a hank of Ginny's flame-red hair, so she was hunched in a sitting position before him, her hands occupied by the task of spooning up something mushy and green to the baby's mouth. He was chewing solemnly, studying Hermione and Ron with serious brown eyes as they came into the room.
"Help," Ginny groaned, and Hermione hurried forward to free her.
"Hi, Jamie, hi," Hermione cooed happily, crouching down and uncurling James's fat fingers from Ginny's hair. "Yes, let's let Mummy go, we'll let her go, won't we?"
James's expression shifted to one of suspicious mistrust, but he released his mother, and Ginny sat up with a laugh.
"Thanks," she said, hopping right up and handing Hermione the pot of baby food and the spoon.
Hermione grinned and sat down before the baby, tugging her brown curls back from her face with a clip before she got too close.
"Ooh, what'd you bring us?" Ginny asked eagerly, coming to peer into the Leaky Cauldron bags that Ron was unpacking on the kitchen counter. She patted her brother's back and smiled up at him. "Had a good day?"
"Fine," Ron grinned. Hermione glowered; now he was cheerful and friendly. "You?"
"You're looking at it," she said, pointing at James, "that was supposed to be his lunch—yesterday. I've been a hostage."
"Harry here?" Ron asked, pulling a stack of plates out of the cupboard and seizing a dinner roll from an open container to stuff in his mouth.
"He's in the shower," said Ginny. "He'll be down in a minute."
She was waving her wand where she stood in the center of the kitchen; four wineglasses flew from the cupboards, and a bottle of Madam Rosmerta's mulled mead flew to meet them, pouring itself out.
"Don't drink it yet," Ginny told Ron, who had reached for one of the glasses as it settled on the counter. "We'll do a birthday toast when Harry gets down here. There's butterbeer in the cupboard if you're absolutely dying," she said, correctly interpreting Ron's expression.
Hermione was still feeding James, who was now giggling as she swerved the spoon back and forth on the way to his green-smeared mouth. He leaned all the way forward in his chair, his fat little arms resting on the food tray, absolutely breathless with laughter.
"You're early," said Harry, appearing in the doorway, his black hair still wet, but already sticking in all different directions. He passed by Hermione and James first, tousling the baby's hair and leaning down to greet Hermione with a kiss on the cheek. Then he went and clapped Ron on the shoulder, helping him move the food to the dining room.
Ginny smiled and came to sit down next to Hermione. "Nice we've domesticated them, isn't it?" she asked with a laugh.
"It's really very useful," Hermione agreed, with an attempt at a smile.
"Ah!" shrieked James, sticking out one green-stained hand towards Ginny's long hair, which was hanging over her shoulder.
"Oh, no sir, I don't think so," Ginny told him, drawing her hair back into a ponytail, like Hermione had done. "Here, I'll take him and give him a quick bath," she said, indicating that Hermione could put away the food. "Give me fifteen minutes!" she called to the dining room, where Harry and Ron could be heard having a debate about the Harpies' chances for next season with Ginny back from her maternity leave.
"I'll come with you," Hermione said, getting up and following Ginny to the bathroom. "I've got something to talk to you about."
Once James was settled in the shallow water of the tub, splashing happily with his rubber kelpie toy, Ginny faced Hermione. "What's up?" she asked, wetting a washcloth.
Hermione hesitated. "Did Harry tell you about that opening in the Department of Magical Games and Sports?"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "If you're trying to support my mother's insistence that I ought to retire from the Harpies because I had a baby—"
"No, no," Hermione said dismissively, waving a hand. "I meant—did he tell you who got the job?"
Ginny shook her head as she wiped mashed peas off the baby's face, and he jabbered at her, waving the kelpie to fend off her attack. "No. Why?"
"It was Cormac McLaggen," Hermione whispered, and Ginny gave a shout of laughter that James mimicked with a shriek, splashing his arms in the water.
"Seriously?" Ginny asked, running her hand through the baby's wet hair and then lifting him from the bath in a fluffy yellow towel. "Haven't thought about him in a few years. How is old Cormy?"
"Oh, he's just fine," said Hermione darkly. "He—he found me in my office the other day. While Ron was there."
"What?" Ginny asked incredulously. She was doing a superb job of giving Hermione her full attention, while also managing to bathe a squirming baby. "Are you serious?"
"Now Ron keeps—well, you know—"
"Puffing out his chest and all but challenging him to a duel in front of Kingsley's office door?" asked Ginny sympathetically.
"Yes, that," said Hermione guiltily. She pulled a set of blue pajamas from a drawer in the changing table and helped Ginny wriggle James into them. "He's been driving me mad about it! He's been acting all tough about it at work, boasting about that stupid Quidditch trial—"
Ginny's eyebrows shot up.
"—Just to get a rise out of McLaggen," Hermione went on. "But when he gets home he's sulky and moody, and barely talks to me at all! He just keeps shutting himself up in the spare room, doing God knows what! I just—I thought we'd moved past all this, but clearly, I was wrong." She could feel color rising in her cheeks, her pulse starting to throb in her ears, just as it had every time Ron had been dismissive or withdrawn from her in the last few weeks.
To Hermione's surprise, however, Ginny did not immediately start in with indignant support for her. Rather, she looked hesitant and thoughtful, biting her lip as she hoisted James onto her hip. She took so long to speak that Hermione became even more annoyed. When Ginny finally looked up at Hermione again, she seemed as though she was teetering on the verge of saying something, but then Harry's voice echoed up the stairs.
"Gin? Everything all right?"
"Fine, Harry! Be right down!" she called back, rolling her eyes. "He's as bad as this one when he's hungry," she laughed. She put a bracing hand on Hermione's wrist and smiled at her. "Look—Hermione, whatever's going on with Ron—it'll pass. It always does, and when it does, you'll both forget all about it. If it's about Cormac McLaggen—well, he isn't worth the effort it takes to get mad about him, and you both know that. Just—don't do anything stupid, okay?"
"Pardon me?" Hermione asked, thrown off by this. "Don't do anything stupid?"
"You know what I mean," Ginny said evenly. She was not meeting Hermione's eyes, instead securing James into a handmade carrying sling that Hermione was sure had been a gift from Luna. "You and Ron get angry at each other, and then one of you ends up saying something you'll regret. Let's just have a nice night in, and I'm sure Ron'll forget all about this. Whatever it is has nothing to do with you."
Hermione scowled, but followed Ginny from the nursery. Far from sensing that she had received anything resembling helpful advice, she now felt severely wrong-footed and annoyed with Ginny, in addition to Ron.
Hermione knew she was behaving like a child, but she ate silently throughout dinner, listening with increasing annoyance to Ron, who was the life and soul of the evening—at every noise he made resembling enjoyment, Hermione felt her mood darken. She cleared the table herself.
Then, when James had been put to bed and the mulled mead poured again, a little more vigorously this time, Harry suggested they play a game. It started with several rounds of Exploding Snap, all of which Hermione intentionally lost. Then it evolved to charades, and she took great pleasure in partnering with Ginny and absolutely crushing Ron and Harry. Then, once another bottle of mead had somehow managed to disappear, they all simply lounged across the furniture in the sitting room.
Hermione had to admit, after her fourth or so glass of mead—how did evenings with Harry and Ginny always end up with her drinking for two?—her mood was lightening, although she was still feeling petty and resentful towards Ron. She threw him scathing looks whenever he spoke, which he was either ignoring or genuinely did not notice.
At one point, Hermione closed her eyes for just a moment—and when she phased back into the conversation, Harry was snorting with laughter.
"Didn't we tell you who our newest Assistant Head of Department is, Gin?" he asked, breathless with amusement.
Ginny glanced at Hermione, catching her eye. "No, who?" she asked casually.
"McLaggen," Ron grunted, and then he, too, snorted. "He's still a prat, if you were wondering," he informed his sister.
"We weren't," said Hermione irritably, and Harry giggled, but then sobered.
"Hermione got to enjoy the pleasure of his company the other day," Ron said, grinning as he swirled the butterbeer around his bottle. "Didn't you, dearest?"
Hermione frowned. "What does that mean?"
"Nothing," Ron laughed, with just a hint of sheepishness. He sat up. "I just meant—it's telling how amazing you are, that he's still got a thing for you, eh?"
Hermione sat up at once. "He does not, Ron, and I don't appreciate that!"
Ron looked genuinely shocked. "Sorry," he said, affronted.
Hermione took another gulp of mead and saw Ginny giving her a look that plainly said, have you gone completely barking mad?
She ignored it.
"So—McLaggen," Ginny said, trying to pitch the conversation back to her husband, who was looking more than a little nervous.
"Yeah," said Harry slowly. "He's been talking about redefining tryout rules for World Cup teams," he told Ginny.
"Tryouts," Ron sniggered, smacking Harry's arm, and Harry gave an appreciative laugh.
"Oh, not this again!" Hermione snapped, throwing up her hands in disgust. "Really? Must we?"
"Must we what?" Ron asked, again with that obnoxiously genuine look of shock.
"You know it was me, right?" she burst out furiously. "You know that I Confunded McLaggen from the stands? That maybe your insane jealous nonsense about him is just that, because I've always chosen you over him? And yet you practically ignore me every evening for weeks because he's still a stupid prat! I can't believe—"
Hermione stopped, and felt a bubble of something rising from her stomach. She clapped a hand over her mouth and sprinted towards the bathroom.
Moments later—or so it seemed, for Hermione was having a hard time focusing on anything other than expelling the excessive amount of mead she'd had to drink—Ginny was kneeling beside her, smoothing her hair back. When Hermione had finished, she dropped back against the wall, and Ginny reached up to fetch her a towel, which Hermione pressed to her face with a groan.
By the time her head had stopped spinning, Ginny was fighting hard not to laugh at her. "Okay, I know my tolerance is low right now, but I just had a baby. What's your excuse, featherweight?"
Hermione scowled, but she was already feeling the pangs of guilt for what she'd said. She groaned again and covered her face with the towel. "Has he stormed out?"
"Of course he hasn't," Ginny said, rubbing her knee.
"He should," Hermione moaned. "I was awful."
"Yes, you were," Ginny agreed. "And I warned you, didn't I? But very fortunately, three-drinks Ron is a very loving person, and I don't even think he fully understood what you said."
Hermione wailed into the towel. "Regular Ron is a very loving person! I'm such an idiot…"
There was a stifled snort, like Ginny couldn't restrain her laughter. "And three-drinks Hermione is very maudlin, isn't she?" she asked.
"I have to apologize," said Hermione. She teetered to her feet—with a great deal of help from Ginny—and left the bathroom, still holding her towel. She went back to the living room, where Harry was now sitting alone.
"Hiya," he said brightly, toasting her with his butterbeer. "Feeling better?"
"Where's Ron?" Hermione asked warily, looking around.
"Ron? Oh, he left," Harry shrugged, finishing the bottle and setting it on the table.
"He left?" Hermione and Ginny gasped in unison.
Harry shrugged unconcernedly.
"Harry, are you joking?" Ginny asked, sounding genuinely panicked. Hermione looked at her.
"You said he was still here!"
"He's not," said Harry, again, far too cheerfully. Hermione threw him a murderous look.
"I thought he was!" Ginny insisted.
"I have to go," Hermione said. She flew to fetch her handbag "Harry, I'm sorry—have a lovely birthday, I'm sorry for causing a scene—I've got to find Ron—"
The front door banged open suddenly, and Ginny yelped in fright. "Are you mad?" she hissed at Ron, who had reappeared suddenly, shutting the door behind him. "If you wake that baby, you get to stay up with him all night, I—"
"Gin," said Harry gently, grabbing her wrist and pulling her to his side. He gave her a look, and she shut her mouth at once, looking between Ron and Hermione with wide eyes.
Hermione, however, was completely focused on Ron, whose expression was stormy. "Ron, I'm sorry," she began at once, as he took a few slow steps towards her. "I shouldn't have said that the way I did, I shouldn't have gotten so upset—"
"Hermione…" he began.
Hermione, however, was on a roll. She squeezed her eyes shut and barreled on, "I was angry with you about—well—I just, I thought you were angry with me, so I was angry, and—and it was stupid, I know that, and—what are you doing?"
Hermione had opened her eyes, and for a moment, she couldn't find Ron. Then she realized that he was kneeling in front of her, looking amused.
"You know Harry told me about you Confunding McLaggen about three years ago, don't you?" Ron asked conversationally, still on one knee. "I mean, I appreciate the honesty, and it's always hilarious to imagine you breaking rules when we were at Hogwarts, but…not much on shock value."
"What are you doing?" she asked, taking a step back from him, alarmed. She looked at Harry and Ginny, who were both giggling, Ginny perched on the arm of Harry's chair.
"Hermione Jean Granger," Ron began, and Hermione whimpered, clapping her hands over her mouth. Ron laughed, holding up something small and square. "Will you please, please, take a break—for just a minute—from being the completely barking mad witch I love so much, and tell me whether you'll think about marrying me?"
"I've been working up the nerve all week," Ron said. "But I'm sorry I made you think I was angry…I really was just being my normal, idiot self."
"Ron," Hermione breathed, watching as he pulled the sparkling ring from its box and offered it to her. He put it on her fourth finger, and they both stared at each other in silence for a long moment.
Ginny, unable to restrain herself any longer, burst out, "Oh, will you just answer him already?!"
"Of course," Hermione gasped, "Of course I'll marry you!" And Ron rose, wrapping his arms around her at once and kissing her passionately, apparently—and rather disturbingly, she would note later, when neither of them was quite so drunk—not caring that she had just spent the last ten minutes being sick in the toilet. Hermione laughed and kissed him back.
"Now. Shall we Confund someone to celebrate, or is that just when you're competing for my attention?" Ron joked, and she smacked his shoulder, before kissing him again.