Harry poured himself another cup of punch and looked around the lawn. Seamus' parent's house had such beautiful green grass it wasn't hard to see why Ireland was called the Emerald Isle. It was a lovely summer day with a light breeze blowing off the ocean, which was keeping it from being too hot. He sipped his punch and looked over at Ginny laughing with Fred and George. Trouble, he thought, the whole lot of them, which made him smile. He still couldn't believe his luck at having such a fabulous witch for a wife.
He noticed Ron's date was standing talking with Hannah Abbott. What was her name? Cindy, Sally, something, whatever. It didn't matter. He'd probably never see her again. Actually, he hadn't seen Ron for a while. He looked over the lawn. It was usually pretty easy to spot Ron, since he generally stood a head or more above most of the crowd. Harry didn't see him, so he walked down to where the tent was set up. There was still a crowd in the tent congratulating Seamus and Lavender on their nuptials, but Ron wasn't among them.
Past the tent was a wooden walkway leading down to the dock where Seamus' father kept his boat. Ron was leaning against the railing, staring out at sea. Harry joined him at the rail and saw that it wasn't the ocean that had captured Ron's attention. Hermione stood at the end of the pier, smoking a cigarette and staring off at the horizon.
Ron acknowledged Harry's presence by saying, "She smokes now?"
Harry shrugged. "I guess."
"Did you ever think when we were kids that you would ever see Hermione Granger standing on a pier drunk and smoking a fag?"
"What makes you think she's drunk?"
Ron scowled. "I watched her walk down there, if you could call it walking."
"Have you talked to her?" Harry asked.
"Only to say hullo when she and Viktor arrived. I hate that slimy Bulgarian git. I can't believe he's got her smoking."
"I don't know that the smoking is his doing, Ron. Viktor doesn't smoke."
Ron glared at him.
"Or maybe he does," Harry said, backpedaling, "and I've just never seen him do it."
As if on cue, Viktor appeared at the top of the stairs leading down to the pier. If he saw Ron and Harry, he didn't acknowledge them. He had two glasses of wine in his hands as he walked toward Hermione.
"Doesn't he realize she's had enough?" Ron groused.
"Why do you do this to yourself?" Harry asked. "There's a pretty girl over there waiting for you."
Ron shook his head. "I don't know why I brought her. She's intolerable."
"More intolerable than standing here glaring at Hermione and Viktor?"
Ron turned his gaze back to them. "Yes."
Harry sighed and leaned against the railing, but facing the party instead of the pier. He hoped Ginny would see him and come and rescue him and insist that Ron come too.
"Percy says she's always at the Ministry."
"How's that?" Harry asked.
"He says she seems more like herself there. She doesn't wear her hair all straightened out and up in that stupid bun and she's always working."
"That does sound like our Hermione," Harry said wistfully.
"Right," Ron grumbled. "So, who the hell is that?"
Harry turned around to see Hermione finish her glass of wine and light another cigarette. Viktor draped his arm over her shoulder and she leaned into him. "I don't know, mate."
"I hate this," Ron said.
"I know." Harry sympathized but there didn't seem like much anyone could do about it. Hermione was a grown woman; she could do whatever she wanted. They were all grown now. It was hard to imagine, that after everything they'd been through, this was how things had turned out. No wonder Ron had such a hard time accepting it. Harry couldn't believe it himself. "You should talk to her," he said.
Ron shook his head. "I can't."
"I just can't."
Harry put his hand on Ron's shoulder.
"How am I ever going to set this right?" Ron asked, his voice cracking just a bit.
Harry shook his head. "I don't know, but it would be great if you could."
Just then, a fellow appeared at the stop of the stairs and shouted that there was an owl for Viktor. Harry could see Viktor say something to Hermione and she made a clear gesture for him to go. A moment later, Viktor was hurrying up the stairs and following the messenger. Ron looked at Harry.
"Go," Harry said. "No time like the present."
Ron hurried down the stairs toward Hermione. Harry glanced after him for a moment and then went back to the party. He wished Ron the best of luck, but he couldn't bear to watch.
Ron slowed his pace as he approached Hermione. She was leaning heavily against the railing and staring out at the ocean. She didn't seem to notice him, but just as he was about to say hullo, she beat him to it.
"Hullo, Ron," she said without turning around.
"Hermione," Ron said. She was smoking another fag.
"What brings you out to the pier?" she asked, her words slurring ever so slightly.
"I saw you from up top. You smoke now?"
She turned around and glared at him. "You came all the way down here to complain about my smoking?"
"It doesn't seem like you," Ron said. There was more anger in his voice than he'd intended.
"Really?" She took a deep drag on the cigarette.
"I'm just saying." He shrugged and shoved his hands into his pockets.
She blew out a long stream of smoke. "I can never win with you, can I?"
"How's that?" He was regretting coming down here. The conversation wasn't going at all like he'd hoped.
"You're a bore, Hermione. Lighten up, Hermione. Why do you have to be such a drag, Hermione?" She mimicked his accent perfectly.
He hated her for rubbing his nose in it, hated her for dating a famous Quidditch player, hated her for believing him when he told her he was done with her, hated her for leaving him when he told her to go. His hate left him speechless.
She stared at him for a moment, waiting for the comeback. When there wasn't one, she pushed past him to leave.
He wasn't even aware of grabbing her arm. It was just that the very idea of her walking away from him again was inconceivable.
"Let go, Ron," she growled and the air around them crackled with electricity. Ron could feel the hair on his neck stand up. "Or you'll find I have far worse to throw at you than a few canaries."
He dropped her arm and stepped back. His rage was suddenly drowned in hers. She stormed up the stairs in a palpable fury. Without his anger to shore him up, Ron was left feeling weak and shaken. He leaned against the railing to catch his breath. At least she was still angry, she wasn't indifferent, which meant she still cared. He wasn't sure how, and he didn't know when, but he was going to get her back. They were meant to be together, he knew that. How he was going to make that happen was just a matter of strategy. He was good at strategy. He just needed a plan.