Life Goes On.
Hermione left the office frustrated, she had sat there all ready to rat Charlie out, to vent some of the anger that she felt, but when the opportunity had presented itself she found that she was unable to form the words. Instead she had mumbled something about the possibility of getting some over time now that she was back home before shuffling back to her desk to sit and be annoyed at herself for the rest of the day.
Unfortunately there was very little work to be done that day and by two o' clock most of the office staff had absolutely nothing to do and so they were all sent on their way, home early as a 'rare treat'. Hermione found it hard to feel that way, seeing the afternoon stretch out before her with nothing to fill it.
She stopped as she reached the exit of the Ministry, causing an old witch to bump into her rousing many 'tuts' and a scathing look. Muttering her apology Hermione shuffled off out of the way from the doors and over to the fireplaces instead. Knowing that if she went home she would sit and mull over the situation at hand and not solve anything, she instead Floo'd to a pub nearby Godric's Hollow and made the short walk over to visit Harry.
She was amazed when she saw the house, the outside now completely resorted, the roof fixed, new panes of glass in all of the windows; it had come on extremely quickly since she had last seen it.
"Harry?" She called out as she made her way down the small garden path, pushing the front door open wider than it had been to see him coming out of what she guessed would have been the living room.
The inside, although fully constructed needed a lot more work doing to it, empty of furniture and walls still drying from a new coat of plaster to make them as smooth as they had once been. But it all clearly had potential and she could see that her friend had been very hard at work.
"Hey Hermione." He grinned at her, "Good to see you."
"You too, this is looking amazing Harry! So different to the last time I was here, you've done brilliantly."
"It's not too hard when you get the hand of the construction spells, you should have seen some of my first attempts at sorting out these walls, you wouldn't have been so impressed." He still however looked very proud of himself, glad of the praise that she had given. "So what brings you here?"
Hermione shrugged, "Finished work early so I just thought that I could do with seeing a friendly face instead of sitting on my own all night."
She wasn't sure why, the sentence had seemed simple enough, but saying it brought tears to her eyes and tightened her throat with the pain that sadness brings.
"Oh Hermione." Harry said softly and pulled his friend into a hug, "I wish I could make things better for you."
"Me too." She whispered quietly.
The rest of her evening was spent helping Harry salvage what was left of the kitchen, neither mentioned Charlie's name, but a sadness emanated from Hermione that made it seem that no matter what it was they were discussing her mind was really with him.
When Hermione came home she found a letter from Ginny, but she put it aside, too tired to read it at that time and instead went straight to her bed. But once there she tossed and turned and could not get comfortable. It was cold and cramped alone in her single bed, and although she had only been sleeping differently for just shy of two months she could not seem to be able to get the feeling of comfort and ease that sleeping alone had come to her after just a few short days when she and Ron had ended things. So when morning came at last she felt even wearier than she had the previous evening.
Days passed and Hermione remained in her restless state, and soon a month had gone by since she had returned home almost without her realising it. This was only brought to her attention when, one evening, returning home from work she found a howler sat atop the ever growing pile of unread letters that she still had not found the energy to open and read.
Knowing that this one at least she could not ignore she gave a sigh and opened it, bracing herself for the onslaught that she had coming to her.
"HERMIONE GRANGER!" came Ginny's voice, impressively shrill for someone who was still only seventeen. "IT HAS BEEN WEEKS AND NO ONE HAS HEARD ANYTHING FROM YOU! YOU HAVEN'T OWLED; HARRY SAYS YOU WONT EVEN OPEN THE DOOR. IF I HAVEN'T HAD AN OWL FROM YOU BY WEDNESDAY MORNING I AM LEAVING MY EXAMS AND COMING TO SORT YOU OUT MYSELF! IT'S GEORGE'S BRITHDAY NEXT WEEK AND YOU WILL BE THERE. NO EXCUSES."
With that the letter tore itself to shreds and each tiny piece of paper exploded in a small puff of smoked.
Knowing her well enough Hermione was sure that Ginny would be true to her word and forget about her exams if the need arose, and so, with no other choice she sat at the kitchen table, pulled a sheet of parchment and a quill from her bag and began to write –
I'm fine there's no need to worry, I've just been busy with work so haven't really been at Grimmauld Place a great deal.
Sorry I didn't write sooner.
I don't think I'll be free next week so I'll have to give the birthday party a miss.
She didn't even bother coming up with a reason, knowing that whatever lie she concocted would be picked apart by her friend if it was believed at all, and so Hermione simply signed her name and took the letter to the post office just in time to catch the evening post.
She returned home the next evening to find Harry sitting on the doorstep.
"What are you doing?" She asked as she got close.
"Waiting for you" he shrugged, getting up and stretching out his arms as though he had been sat there for quite a while.
"And did you not thing that, with this being your house and all, you could have waited inside?" she questioned, confused.
Again Harry shrugged, "Didn't want to disturb you, this way you have a choice whether you let me inside or not."
"Don't be stupid, of course you can come in."
Habitually they made their way into the kitchen to take a seat, it had been the place where they had all come together while this was the Order's head quarters and then when the three had stayed in what would have been their final year at Hogwarts this was where they had sat most days to plan their moves. Hermione found that, even when she was on her own she could not settle in another room as comfortably as she could in this one.
"So was there a reason for your visit?" Hermione asked bluntly, instantly regretting how hard her words had sounded.
"Ginny asked me to, actually, she's worried about you, we all are, and we want to know what we can do to help you."
"You make me sound like an invalid," She laughed, unsuccessfully trying to bat away his concern, "There's nothing wrong with me. I'm fine."
"Look at yourself Hermione; we can both clearly see that that's not true."
A month of little rest and little care for herself had left Hermione looking gaunt; she had lost weight, but too much too quickly, leaving her looking ill and weak.
"When was the last time that you had a proper meal?"
Opening her mouth to answer him, she was unable to make a sound, casting her mind quickly back she tried to give an answer but found she was unable to do so, last night she had nibbled at a piece of toast and the night before that she had gone straight to bed, not even stopping for food upon her return home.
"I'm fine." She said again, a little more forcefully, although this time she was unsure whether it was her friend she was trying to convince, or herself.
"Let me take you out for a meal?" Harry suggested, "It's been so long and I'd like to catch up."
After a short pause he added, "And Ginny will be home this weekend, she's going to have almost as big as fit as her mum will when they see you like this. You should at least prepare your stomach for the force feeding they're going to give you."
Knowing that he was right Hermione agreed.
She didn't eat much at dinner, just picked at the plate that was put in front of her, nor did she speak much, not that she had a lot to say having filled her time with little other than work. So instead Harry filled her in on the goings on in his own life. The house was finished, quicker than he imagined it would have been, but he was still living at the Burrow for now, he had decided that he would wait the further two months Ginny had left of school so that they could move in at the same time and make their mark upon the house at the same time, making sure it was truly theirs together. When he spoke of it, Hermione noticed that a serene look came about his face, a look of true peace and comfort that he had found the woman that he would spend the rest of his life with. As happy as she was for her friend she couldn't help but feel a twinge of envy, a month ago she had thought that she had found someone who could in time bring the same look to her own face, but it seemed that she was sadly mistaken.
For the next week Harry dropped in every evening and would either take her out to eat somewhere or he would have brought food along with him and by the middle of the week Hermione found that she was looking forward to his visits and to having human contact with someone other than her work colleagues, someone who she knew cared about her.
So by the time the weekend came, although she was still dreading the idea of the birthday celebrations she was more optimistic that she was going to go through them than she had been the previous weekend when Ginny's howler had greeted her. Which was just as well as a knock came on the front door at seven o' clock on Saturday morning, relentless until it had roused Hermione from her bed and forced her to get up to open it.
Ginny was standing on her doorstep, still dressed in Hogwarts robes, a large grin on her face, one that faltered slightly upon seeing the state of her friend, but returned within the second that followed.
"I assumed that you hadn't had it in you to get George a present, so I thought that it would fall on me to come and help you out. It's not like you can trust one of the boys to remind you now is it?"
"Ginny, what are you doing here?" It was still too early for Hermione's brain to fully comprehend what her friend was going on about.
"It's George's birthday," Ginny told her slowly, as though talking to a small child.
"Yes I know that," Hermione sighed, "I mean why are you here and not at school, I didn't think that they'd let you have a whole day out."
"Well what they don't know won't kill them." Ginny beamed, "There's a Ravenclaw Slytherin match this afternoon anyway so no one's going to miss me for the extra few hours that I'll be away."
She pushed past her friend and made her way inside the house, "Now I sent my bag straight home, so I'm going to have to borrow something of yours while we shop."