The Burrow was seemingly filled to the rafters with family, and close friends. It was loud, incredibly hot, just like it should be. Ordinarily it would fill her with a sense of warmth, the easy familiarity of it all. Tonight the hole inside of her grew with every passing minute, leaving her empty, and incredibly anxious to go home.
Leaving wasn't possible at the moment, there were really no reasons she could give her husband that would convince him that it was a good idea. He had been working hard all week; right now he was enjoying himself immensely having a drink with his brothers. Hermione couldn't force herself to play the pushy wife card, so she left him where he was, and attempted to find a quiet corner where she could avoid anyone, and everyone.
This discomfort she felt was a new feeling, she had felt that she had finally found her space in this crazy family, but all it took was one decision; one lack of judgement of any kind, and she realised she didn't belong at all. The feeling of family was something that she didn't understand, and she shouldn't be here, masquerading as one of them.
Ron had no idea, in his eyes everything was perfect, and it was only going to get better. Hermione had decided that she wouldn't do anything to jeopardise the relationship more than she had. Things had been done, lines had been crossed, but that was done, there was nothing she could do to take it away. She didn't have to ask him if he agreed. The fact that he had greeted her somewhat amicably this evening was enough of a hint that it was something that wasn't going to be discussed.
She wanted to though, to tear it apart, and dissect it piece by piece. What made her do it, made her go to him of all people? That afternoon had been running on a constant loop all month, she had been examining her words, all her actions, trying to see that it was her that had done those things. Her mind couldn't rationalise it all, it didn't feel like something she would do, and without talking about it with him; she was starting to think that maybe it was all some really bad dream.
A dream with nightmares, each and every time she saw her husband. She could see his face when he realised what she had done, could feel his anger, his sense of betrayal, and she knew in those moments that he could never know. To ensure that happened, Hermione would have to talk to him. Swallow the horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach, and do it, as soon as possible.
To fortify herself she hastily swallowed the last of her drink, and headed into the kitchen, almost running into a fast moving Ginny.
The plate in her hand almost as round as her rapidly growing bump, they turned awkwardly letting the other past. "Isn't this fun!" Ginny laughed loudly, shaking her head. "Just wait till you get one of these, then you'll really know comfortable."
"Right, one of my own," Hermione said slowly.
"We can talk later," she said quickly, waving a hand at her mother. "Have to feed the hungry hoards, but I do want to talk. We haven't talked properly in days."
"Have you seen the guys? I haven't seen them in awhile," she asked, trying to not let too much show in her tone.
"I think they went outside, bloody freezing out there. Mum kicked them and their cigars out."
Hermione thanked her, heading through the crush to the back door. They were gathered several feet from the door, a thick cloud of smoke hovering over their heads as they smoked. She could see the joy on their face as they stood in the snow, they were all happy to be there, all but him. He was the only one with a smile that didn't quite ring true, whose laugh stopped quickly.
She pulled her attention away from him, focusing on their conversation. As was the case with most exchanges these days, it was centered on Harry and Ginny's growing family. Babies seemed to be all anyone could talk about anymore. Ron included. While her best friend thought this was the best thing that had happened to him, Ron couldn't wait to get started, and Hermione had just done her best to appease him when he brought it up last month. Then she ran straight into the fast lane to hell.
"It's great, Gin is just beside herself. James doesn't quite realise just how different things are going to be, he just thinks he's getting a new buddy to play with, not seeing all the attention that he's not going to get."
"Don't worry yourself mate, we figured it out," George smiled. "Fists come in handy; I imagine you and Gin will sort them out if it comes to that, in a good while."
"Yeah I imagine Gin will figure it out, she's been reading all these books, caught the Hermione syndrome."
As if by some force, the moment Harry said her name she could feel his eyes on her. She held his gaze as they continued to speak, seconds, possibly minutes faded away. He looked so far away. He was looking at her, but it didn't feel like he really saw her. He was looking at her like she was in her mirror every morning. Like she was a stranger, someone he used to know, but didn't understand anymore.
It was only when her name was mentioned again by Ron this time that she drew her attention from his brother. "Well Hermione and I are going to start trying, already started. Had a chat a few weeks ago, and we realised that it was about time."
A chorus of supported greeted his announcement. His brothers, and his best friend patting him on the shoulder. She could feel his attention back on her as they were congratulating his younger brother, the smile once again not reaching his eyes as he offered his support, before excusing himself. He didn't meet her eyes as he pushed past her, his eyes dark and his expression even darker.
Hermione felt the urge to follow him rise inside her. She had no idea what he would be thinking, but from the look on his face, it would not be good. His departure however brought his brothers attention to her, and Ron called her over. Pasting a smile on her face, she slipped into the offered arm of her husband, accepting the warm words from the family.
She let their words wash over her; smiling periodically she stood there with his arm around her. All she could see was his face as he walked by her. If he had looked at her like a stranger was before him earlier, she was now a stranger he despised. Hermione knew she had done some terrible things over the years, but using him like that was something she was far from proud off. When the topic of conversation as always took a turn back to the Quidditch league, she made her excuses, and left them to it.
Once inside again, she immediately scanned the room for him. He was on the other side, pulling on his coat as his mother said goodbye to him, pushing a large covered dish into his hands. When Hermione made it through the crowd the door had already closed behind him, Mrs. Weasley didn't notice as she pulled her coat from the closet, and followed him; hearing the light pop that signalled his Apparation from the Burrow.
She raced across the yard, pulling on her coat as she went, disappearing when she reached the perimeter. The lights weren't on in the shop when she arrived, but she could hear noises inside, so she didn't hesitate to bang on the door.
The door was thrown open moments later, and he glared down at her.
"What the hell do you want?" Fred spat at her.
"I want to talk to you, can I come in?" She asked quickly, stepping up onto the step.
"No. Whatever you have to say I really don't want to hear it, ever again. Just stay the fuck away from me," he snapped as he flung the door shut, rattling the glass.
Taking a deep breath, she tried the door, and it opened. The store was dark as she locked the door behind her, she could hear him walking upstairs. Stepping slowly through the dim light, she followed him. As Hermione climbed the stairs, she could feel the slam of the door to the flat reverberate through her, shaking her. It wasn't often that he allowed the anger show, preferring to leave it hidden, rather than explain what he was feeling. For a moment she hesitated on the steps, but she continued up. She needed to explain, to make him understand why it had happened how it did. He had to understand her intentions were never to hurt him, and the worst thought that was running through his mind wasn't true.
The door that he had slammed wasn't locked, so Hermione let herself into the flat. Taking a breath to steady herself, she shut the door behind her. She found him in the kitchen, an empty glass in his hand. If at all possible, his scowl deepened when he saw her.
"What part of stay the fuck away didn't you get, Weasley?"
Hermione started at the venom that dripped off the words, "I have to explain."
"Believe me, there is absolutely nothing that you could tell me that would make me trust a single word you say ever again. Save it, and get the fuck out."
He pushed past her, heading further into his flat. "Fred please, it wasn't what you think it was. I honestly didn't mean for any of it to happen, that's just not who I am."
"Oh I am starting to think it's exactly who you are. Every little thing you did at Hogwarts, to that girl, to Umbridge, it doesn't make one think that you are the innocent girl that you wish you were," he said fiercely, stopping in front of the smouldering fireplace. "You think about everything, you calculate the odds in everything. There isn't anything you don't do without thinking it through every possible way, so don't tell me you didn't mean it to happen."
"I didn't want it to happen that way," Hermione whispered, swallowing the lump that was quickly forming in her throat.
"You wanted it to happen then?" A growl sounded from deep in his throat, as his grip tightened on the mantle. "You certainly are something else. Didn't plan on Ronald spoiling the party did you then? Didn't factor your husband into it?"
"It wasn't about Ron! It has never been about him."
"That's a load of crap; every single moment is about Ron. If it wasn't for him you wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't be looking at a complete stranger."
A wave of nausea rushed over Hermione then, seeing the look in his eyes as he glared at her. For the first time in their history she saw hate there, and she had put it there. It hadn't been her best moment, things had been swirling the drain for months, and as always the catalyst had hit her swift with a punch. She didn't feel like she was in control anymore, it had always seemed that someone wanted something from her, and for the most part she was willing to share.
She had found herself agreeing without reasoning with him, unable to hurt him, only to go and betray him in the worst possible way.
"It wasn't about him then, for the first time in a long time, it was about me, what I wanted."
"I didn't come here because of Ron, I wouldn't do that. I was here before I realised what I was doing, and once I was, I didn't see a reason to go."
"Sure! Let's fuck my husband's brother; there isn't a reason why you shouldn't do that."
"It wasn't a fuck, I would love to explain this to you," Hermione said quietly, stepping forward, only to stop at his glare. "I would love to explain, but I can't understand it myself. It was like I stepped out of myself, and could do all that I've wanted to do, but always told myself I couldn't. Fred you have always meant more to me, I would never want to hurt you..."
"What about Ron? Do you even realise how fucking devastated he's going to be if he knows about this? You can forget about your marriage, and I'll be an outcast in my family, all because of you doing what you always wanted."
"Of course I know that! It's been all I can think about for the past month, I've been terrified of being in the same room as you, in case I gave it away or something."
"Don't have to worry about that, I don't want to see you anymore. How could you do that Hermione?" He asked bitterly, leaning against the fireplace. "You two make this huge decision, and you go and screw him. I really didn't think you were that type of girl, that destructive."
"I can't explain it, but it wasn't that. I could hardly believe what I'd agreed to, I always expected that Ron would want to have children at some point, but I think part of me hoped he'd be happy enough with just me."
"That would never have been enough."
"Yeah, I realise that now. I'm not ready to have a baby, I don't know if I'll ever be ready."
"You need to tell Ron, not me. You never should have said you'd start a family if you don't want to, bloody hell Hermione, it's not like it is some pet you can return to the Menagerie if you get tired of it."
"I know. I've felt so guilty about everything. I can't tell him now, you've heard Ron tonight. He's thrilled about this; to tell him now would destroy everything we've built together."
"And the fact that you slept me with wouldn't? You have to think of what is more important. Being happy with your husband - but you're lying to him every day. Or telling him the truth about what you really want, and maybe letting him find someone else who will give him that."
"I love him," Hermione whispered, shaking off his suggestion.
"You slept with his brother! You say you love him, and maybe you do. You came here Hermione, and don't claim it to be something else. You came here to be with me, if you even remotely loved him, you would never have done that," he said firmly.
"I love him," she whispered again, closing her eyes. "But I've always loved you."
"No! Don't try that, do not even fucking think it."
"It's true!" She exclaimed, ignoring his backing away as she moved towards him. "The whole time you were in the hospital, and we weren't sure if you would make it. I was terrified, and I couldn't say a word. I was supposed to be with Ron, but all I could think of was what if I could never see you again. To have you pull some ridiculous prank on me, you made me so mad back then, but the thought of life without you around; it was too horrible to comprehend."
"That's not true," Fred muttered, turning from her.
"Fred please, I would never have gone to just anyone. I came here because I wanted to be with you, I've always wanted to be with you. I never thought it would happen, I told myself I never would."
"Go home Hermione," he said so quietly she could barely hear it.
Nodding, "I know we won't even talk about this again, but I need you to know. Despite everything, I don't regret that night, and if I was given a do-over, I'd do it all over again."
He didn't move as she spoke, a sigh passed her lips as she turned to go. Hermione didn't make it far before he broke the silence. "How long did you know?"
"Know what?" She asked as he moved behind her.
"How you felt."
"Since that day in the hospital, I think it had been there for a long time before then. There were flutterings when you left Hogwarts that day - I just thought it was something else. I was in love with Ron. I always thought that was it for me. Till I thought you were going to die, it was then that I couldn't pretend it was something else."
"You should have told me..."
"I couldn't! Things with Ron were developing; I assumed it was a crush, and it would pass before too long."
"It didn't, it never diminished."
"Only gets stronger, every time I see you."
"I wish you'd have told me."
She turned back to him as he placed his hand on her shoulder, "Why?"
Fred pulled her to him, an arm around her waist holding her firm. "I should have known," he whispered.
"I'm so sorry Fred," Hermione whispered into his shoulder, shaking her head. "It's never going to happen again. We just have to forget it ever happened."
"As simple as that?"
"It has to be, what we did was wrong. I can't hurt Ron like that again. We can't hurt him like that again."
Hermione stepped from his arms, squeezing his hand gently as he let her go. "Goodbye, Fred."
She turned away from him, and didn't look back as she walked out of the flat, through the shop below. She made it all the way home, getting there before Ron. After a shower with the hottest water she could manage, Hermione crawled into bed, cuddling Ron's pillow to her chest.
He could never know; he would never know what had happened. Removing an arm from around the pillow, she pressed her hand to her stomach.
There was going to be a baby, and it was going to need a father. Ron was going to be a brilliant father to this child.
For those who were reading Something Stupid. It hasn't been abandoned, even though it's been a really long time. It will be finished, and updated fairly soon. How it finishes has always been in my head, just been mojo-less, busy, distracted, all the excuses under the sun. But will be finished.