CHAPTER I: Enough is Enough
"Good morning Miss Granger..."
Hermione's smile was automatic and her wave graceful as she weaved through the crowd. Diagon Alley was packed but, she didn't have time to chat or sign autographs. She had to find Ron. They needed to talk and it couldn't wait.
"Draco did accept that promotion at the Ministry," Narcissa explained to an associate. They were effectively blocking the sidewalk, intentionally not noticing that Hermione was maneuvering to get around them. "He's currently in Bethlehem, researching an artifact of some kind."
"Pardon me." Hermione walked in between them. Today was not her day for pettiness.
"You can always identify class, or lack there of," Narcissa said loudly.
Hermione didn't care. She marched on, letting her mind wander as her eyes darted left and right searching for Ron.
The Golden Trio. That's what they were called. Who knew it would come to this? This wasn't living. This wasn't life. This wasn't what she had worked so hard to achieve, what she had been dreaming of. This was superficial fame, idol worship, not private and annoying.
"That's Hermione Granger…"
"She's one of the Golden Trio…"
Granger, can I have your autograph?"
Noooo. I can't do this. I don't want to do this anymore. "Sure…but just one. I'm
in a really big rush."
Ten minutes later, she was still in a big rush, but hadn't moved from that spot. The hold up only aided her purpose, confirmed her choice.
we need to talk."
"Yeah, in a minute, Hermione. I'm almost done with my interview."
"Oh, no, Mr. Weasley," the reporter got up from the table. "You and Miss Granger take all the time you need, now. I'll just come back in a little while." She flashed Hermione a smile and left.
"She loves the book." Ron held up a copy of Weasley is Our King, and waved to his miniature self on the cover. Little Ron, smoothed his hair and waved back.
Hermione took the recently vacated chair and took the book from Ron's hand. "Were you even going to discuss last night with me?"
"Oh come on, Hermione. You know nothing was going on. Those girls were just after attention"
"I know that Ron. And, you gave it to them."
"Don't make it sound like I was doing something wrong. Harry was there too."
"Ginny and I saw him also. He, at least went over and talked to Ginny about it."
"Ginny's the jealous type. You're not."
"I shouldn't have to be jealous to earn an explanation."
"You're right. I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
"I'd like to believe you, Ron, but the thing is, it happens all the time."
"What do you want me to do, Hermione? I'm famous. You're famous. I don't blame you for it."
"I don't kiss strange men."
"Me either." He laughed at himself.
"You're also no fun. You have to lighten up. Once this new book dies down…"
"Oh, I've heard that before too. Once things settle down, once the tour is over,
once the book signing is done…it's never over."
"You know, Hermione, why can't you just be happy for me? I don't have a problem with your fame. I've never had this kind of attention before. Why can't you just let me enjoy it?" He looked about the room, trying to temper down his agitation. This wasn't a new argument.
"What's happening to us?"
"Exactly. Nothing. We're going nowhere. We don't have a life. It's just…attention."
"It's my life, Hermione. It's what I want. It's not going to be forever. Can't you just hang on and let me have this little bit, just for me? Just for now?"
Hermione looked about the room, trying to cover her hurt. This wasn't a new argument.
"Hey guys," Harry came over to their table. He was holding hands with Ginny. "We've been looking for you."
"I told you," Ginny said. "If you want Hermione, find Ron. If you want Ron, find the crowd."
"How'd the book signing go?" Harry held a chair for Ginny and took one opposite her.
"I signed until my hand stopped working." Ron shook it. "I was in the middle of an impromptu interview with Tara Minnes, she's a babe she's a lot nicer than Rita Skeeter." He avoided Hermione's stare. "So what's up? We're still making an appearance at the Quidditch match tonight?"
"Yeah, but I'm not scheduling anything else after that." Harry briefly looked left and right at his two best friends. "I'm done with the limelight"
"What?" Ron didn't think he had heard Harry right.
Hermione was quiet.
"I took a position at the Ministry. Auror." He grinned when he said, "Ginny and I are setting the date."
Ginny held out her left hand so they could see her new engagement ring.
"Congratulations!" Hermione shirked. The two girls hugged excitedly.
"Maid of Honor?"
"Yes. Thank you!"
course. What'd you expect?"
They hugged again.
"Are you mental?" Ron said, not loud enough to be heard by anyone other than Harry.
"But you're at the peak of fame. We all are."
"It's time." Harry was insistent. "I've had enough fame to last ten lifetimes. Most of my participation was for you and Hermione. She doesn't want it anymore and you have enough of your own fame," he touched Weasley is our King. "It's been a busy three years since Voldemort. Ginny is ready for our life, and quite frankly, so am I."
Hermione and Ginny were already talking wedding, so Ron felt safe enough to ask, "this is about those girls, last night, isn't it?"
"No. This is about me, knowing when it's time."
"What about you and Hermione?"
Ron grunted again.
"Oh, Harry, there's Luna and Neville," Ginny turned in her chair. "Come on. Let's go tell them. We'll be right back."
Harry followed Ginny across the restaurant.
In their wake, an awkward heaviness settled between Ron and Hermione.
knew about this, didn't you?"
"I guessed. Ron, look: Ginny wants a life, Harry wants a life, I want a life. What
do you want?"
"I have a life and I don't want to be forced into something I'm not ready for."
"I feel like I'm being forced here. I'm not stupid. I know you want to get married. You want to settle down and be happy being nobody. I'm not happy being nobody. I'm tired of being nobody"
"Ron, you're not a nobody."
"No, I'm not." He held up the book. "I've got a name. I've got money. I'm somebody, Hermione. I don't want to stop being somebody just because you want my name."
She felt like he'd just slapped her.
"Hermione, I didn't mean that. I just don't know anymore. I'm who I am and I like who I am. I'm not ready to lose that yet."
"And you think being with me will cause you to lose who you've become?"
"Not who I've become. Who I am."
"Look!" Hermione pointed to the floor beside their table. They followed the
extendable-ear's fleshy-colored string back to the table behind them. Tara Mimmes was holding the end with one hand while she dictated to a quick quotes quill.
Hermione could feel her control slipping. She hated losing control; it was too emotional…and not reasonable…and…and…she couldn't think…and…and… "Oh, Ronald!" She bolted out of her chair and was out of the door before Ron realized she was moving.
"Hermione! Wait!" He followed her out. "Hermione, come back!"
Hermione flung the tears from her eyes, determined not to cry.
"Lucius and I are planning to spend some time abroad, Mayhap Oh! You clumsy girl!" Narcissa yelled when Hermione ran into her.
Both women fell to the ground in a tangle of arms, hair and emotion.
Ron was almost to them.
"Sorry, Mrs. Malfoy." Hermione jumped up, too preoccupied to actually care.
She was focused on the gathering crowd. I hate crowds!
Without realizing what she was doing, Hermione turned on the spot and a second later, she was gone.