A/N: Hello, my dears! I do apoligize for a delay in updating - recently got a new job and for the past three months it has been taking nearly all of my time. However, I am finally managing everything, and you shall be seeing new chapters much more often now! And that concerns all of my ongoing stories.
And even though this sequel is not proving to be as popular as it's predecessor, I'm still stubbornly elated to be continuing this tale *hehe*
Ms Velvela XD
"Are you certain? 'Cause I spoke to the proprietor of the restaurant, and I might have mentioned Harry's name here and there—just a bit, mind you—and was assured that no one with the description of one sodding–"
"I really appreciate your concern, Ginny," interrupted Hermione firmly, though not unkindly, "but Ronald Weasley is certainly not the reason why I'm simply too tired to go out with you guys tonight. And neither will he ever be that reason again, believe me."
Keeping her eyes firmly on the documents in front of her, Hermione absentmindedly wondered how long the tranquility would last this time around. She did not hold out much hope that it would be very long. Her earlier expectation of finding very much-needed peace at her apartment in order to finish some reports was detonated into oblivion the moment a very determined Ginny Potter née Weasley decided to drop by for an unscheduled visit.
"Hmmf," snorted the witch in question, somehow pulling it off in a very lady-like manner. "I still don't know how you can speak so calmly about him, even now. I might be the unfortunate sister of that imbecile, but even I cannot stomach the sight of him. The last I heard, Mum blasted his face off the family clock and forbade him to cross the threshold of the Burrow unless it was a life or death situation. But without him on the clock, it would be interesting to see just how she determined what was life or death. If she planned on doing that at all, that is.'
Hermione finally lifted her eyes from her futile attempt at concentrating on her work with an audible sigh.
"The past is just that—the past," she responded. "Believe it or not, I do not hold ill feelings for Ron. Not anymore. I might not be on good terms with him either, but I earnestly hope that we will be able to mend at least a portion of our friendship...in time. I have said it before, and I will say it again: I'm just glad we broke up when we did, Ginny. I was a fool to think that anything permanent between the two of us could ever work. We're just so...different, you know?"
Another snort. "Different? Now that is the understatement of the century," said Ginny, her lips twitching.
Hermione smiled back ruefully. "It probably is one, actually. Look at our tastes in music, for example. Merlin, if I had possessed just a little less naïveté all those years ago, I would've perhaps recognized it as a sign of our sheer incompatibility. Do you remember that time he knocked back one glass of Butterbeer too many and danced at the second War Remembrance Ball?"
"I doubt an Obliviate has the power to make me forget that. Though I wish it did. What was that song called again? Something Muggle, I think."
"'I Will Survive'."
Agonizing seconds ticked past as the two witches strove in vain to retain utmost sobriety. Despite that, the shared image of the half-naked Ronald Weasley gyrating his hips jerkily smack on top of the Minister's table flashed mercilessly before their eyes. Forgetting any notion of self-control, the two of them promptly burst out into thunderous cackling, the mere volume of which would have made any self-respecting fairy-tale witch green with envy.
"That was simply," forced out Ginny a number of minutes later in between hiccups, "unforgettable."
Too preoccupied with wiping her own tears off her face, Hermione failed to see the moment when her friend's mirthful gaze turned into one of suspicious speculation.
"Speaking of which, Hermione...whatever happened with your last dance partner?"
All of the older witch's remaining amusement melted away in a flash. Pursing her lips irritably, she closed the folder still held in her hands with more force then was strictly necessary.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Ah, something did happen then?"
"Ginny," groaned out Hermione beseechingly.
Her best friend's wife, however, could have easily given those born under the astrological sign of Taurus lessons in patent stubbornness.
"Now, now," cajoled her red-headed nemesis, "don't take me for a fool, Hermione. I, and the better part of the club, saw just how indifferent you and Mr. Malfoy are to each other. Actually, I can't believe I'm saying it but...there just might be something good there. However, if you really don't want to talk about it, I understand."
Finding herself face-to-face with Ginny's genuine, encouraging smile, Hermione mentally rocked back on her heels in momentary indecision. Once again she grasped the full consequences of the lack of girl friends in her life. Having tons of male friends was all jolly and good, but it instantly canceled out any impulse to engage in emotional talk on her part, whenever that rather infrequent desire struck her.
Surrendering to some kind of feminine urge, Hermione sighed in defeat before proceeding to methodically spill everything. Starting from the beginning of her apparent denial of Malfoy's effect on her that night, and leading right up to the point where it all ended up—at the Ministry of Magic, right on top her work table.
Absolute silence. That was the sole thing that remained hanging in the air for the longest time after Hermione's confession. Ginny Potter, who simply sat with her mouth hanging wide open in the midst of it all, continued to scrutinize her with the most bewildered expression upon her face.
"Amazing," breathed out Ginny when she at last found her voice. "I heard that it was always the quiet ones—you know what I mean? But Godric have me, you've surpassed all of the expectations I could've possibly imagined for you, Hermione."
The curly-haired witch gave an abashed half-smile in return.
"But I get the feeling that not everything ended up as lovey-dovey as it should have."
"Hermione." It was Ginny's turn to give her friend an imploring look. "Just keep in mind that I'm here to help you, no matter what. Nothing of this will ever reach a certain messy-haired hero of ours, unless you wish it to. You have my word."
The younger woman continued to contemplate her friend for a couple of more moments before diving in headfirst. "What did he do?"
With that seemingly innocent question, all of Hermione's pent up frustration and anger finally decided to lash out to freedom.
"You really wanna know what he did?" she practically shrieked. "He walked out on me, that's what! Stayed long enough to fix his precious hair before flouncing out of the room like a peacock without so much as a 'by your leave'! But that's not the worst of it, oh no! A week later, the pompous arse sends me an emerald necklace with a note offering to continue our 'alliance' like I'm some Knockturn Alley whore! He's nothing but an arrogant, chauvinistic, filthy…Slytherin!"
"Sounds like someone stroked your fur the wrong way," murmured Ginny, her eyebrows dangerously high up her forehead.
"So I guess you sent the necklace back?"
Hermione's lips stretched into an uncharacteristically malicious smirk. "Let's just say there's a very posh house-elf working in the Ministry's kitchens now."
Returning to her task of shuffling through the scattered papers in front of her, the curly-haired witch didn't notice anything amiss until the hanging silence became practically unbearable. Upon reluctantly lifting her gaze, she found her friend staring at her with the most incredulous look she had ever seen upon Ginny's freckled face.
"What?" said Hermione defensively. "It's not as if I gave her clothes."
"I'm more concerned about your apparent refusal to see what's right in front of you than your future as a house-elf fashion designer."
"What in the world are you talking about?"
Falling into the chair opposite her friend, Ginny let out an exasperated sigh. "During all the years you were with my idiot of a brother, he could never make you raise your voice at him even once. Everything between the two of you was so…lukewarm. Even when you walked in on him cavorting with those two bimbos right there in your bed, what did you do? You calmly told him to pack his bags and walked out of the room!" she cried.
"Your point?" Whatever the consequences had been, it was still an unpleasant memory.
"What I am trying to tell you, Hermione, is that it's not only perfectly normal for couples to fight. It's necessary. You think Harry and I are always cooing at each other? Ha!" she exclaimed with a laugh. "But that shows that the passion between us is still alive and that we're in no danger of dying of boredom from perfect routine any time soon. And knowing you as well as I do, you need someone who will keep you on your toes practically twenty-four/seven."
"I don't like where you're going with this."
"Just try to look at this situation from another point of view, that's all I'm saying."
"There is no other point of view where I'm concerned, Ginny. Whatever your scheming mind has come up with, it's insane. Lucius Malfoy was nothing but a fleeting distraction, and that's final."
"Sure. I completely understand."
Hermione scrutinized her friend's angelic expression with sinking suspicion. She knew too perfectly well that if Ginny got something into her head, it was practically a lost cause to try to change her mind. She had a better chance of slipping a bone from underneath Fluffy's nose.
"So, tell me," continued the red-headed witch in that playful tone that Hermione feared the most. "You listed just the crude facts, but what I'm most interested in is how was it?"
She stopped herself short of groaning out loud. Unless she found a way to distract Ginny, and fast, she knew there would be no stopping her until she had found out everything she wanted to know. Thinking furiously, the witch watched her friend lazily pick at the white markings left from the one time she had attempted to use whiteout on a magical document.
A slow smile crept up Hermione's face as her sadistic side let itself be known.
"Actually," she intoned as carelessly as possible, "the desk got quite a work out that day, as I remember; it nearly collapsed. But as you see, all's well with it. It may be a bit…stained…but it fits just exactly right in my living room."
Her mild amusement turned into outright hilarity as a now very wide-eyed Ginny attempted to skid her chair away from the huge desk in one yank. She might have succeeded if her momentum hadn't sent her and her chair sprawling onto the floor with a loud crash.
Giggling shamelessly, the older witch leaned forward onto her elbows for a better view.
"You're an evil witch, Hermione…pure evil," groaned Ginny, making no attempt to stand up. That would have been rather problematic anyway, seeing as she had somehow managed to entwine herself in the chair's legs and, as a result, was practically hugging the overturned furniture to her chest.
"Well, I can't always allow myself to be a goody-two shoes, can I?"
"I think we've already established that with your latest escapade."
"How interesting - do tell."
Startled, both of the witches' heads whirled to the side. In the midst of all the bedlam, neither of them had noticed the moment when their company was joined by another. Equally shocked, for some time they simply stared at the newcomer in complete silence.
"Draco Malfoy, what the hell are you doing in my flat?"
The tall blond man leaning against the doorframe lifted his shoulder in a nonchalant shrug.
"I could say that I've missed you, but I have a feeling you won't buy it," he said with a smirk.
"You're right, I don't. But what I would like to know the most is how you managed to enter my flat in the first place," Hermione fired back with a none-too-pleased expression on her face.
The wizard's smirk visibly widened. "Granger, you were making such a racket with your Weaslette, a whole damn battalion of Death Eaters could have broken through your mediocre wards without you batting an eyelash."
"That's Mrs. Potter to you now, Malfoy," declared Ginny, who by that time had managed to shakily stand back up.
"My apologies, Potterette; I keep forgetting that you and Scarhead are practically one and the same until death do you part."
"Didn't I hear that the tomcat had exchanged his pair for only one ball plus a chain himself?" asked the redhead snidely.
"As I remember, it is female cats that screech whilst in heat. That time of the month, Freckly?"
Affronted gasp. "What did you call me, Ferret?"
And here we go again, thought Hermione with a touch of bittersweetness, watching the bickering couple in front of her.
In the months before the end of the war when the Malfoy men joined the Order, it was decided that for safety reasons, every member of the Light had to make Grimmauld Place their main living residence—indefinitely. What came as a result was the creation of a battleground of its own. On the same side or not, it soon became clear that placing the Weasleys and the Malfoys under the same roof wasn't the brightest idea.
Strangely enough, it hadn't been old school nemeses who found it the hardest to face each other on a daily basis. Demonstrating remarkable maturity, Harry was the first to extend a proverbial peace offering towards the two purebloods, who in turn accepted it with majestic silence. Reasonably repentant, the rest of the Order soon followed the young wizard's lead. All in all, for some time there it had looked like the danger of total chaos was actually avoidable.
Hermione did not know whether it was Draco Malfoy who had discovered that the absence of a nemesis in his life was just too boring or if it was Ginny who simply had nowhere to release her fiery energy after being banned from exiting Grimmauld Place by the Weasley matriarch. But the result remained the same; the two of them discovered within each other perfect punching bags for their frustration.
And as for herself…
The Muggleborn shook her head. There was no point in burying herself once more in distant memories. No matter how many times she attempted to review the time she had spent at Harry's place during the war, she still did not fully understand what had made her behave in such a preposterous manner.
If Draco and Ginny's battles had been awe-inspiring, they held nothing in comparison to the ones between Hermione and Draco's father.
"-the colour of a fire-cauldron. Ever consider taking a job as a study-target at the Auror Academy?"
"At least I'm not going bald."
"I. Am. Not. Going. BALD! It's the translucency! No appreciation whatsoever for the fine qualities of good selective breeding - or are you just jealous?"
"Of a pointy face and general arseholeness? Gee, I think I'll pass."
Malfoy opened his mouth to give another "witty" comeback, but Hermione beat him to it.
"If the two of you dum dums are finished, I would really like to finally find out the reason why you've honoured me with your presence."
The blond wizard, whom the last comment had been addressed to, looked quite pleased with himself.
"Ah, finally some gratitude! You still have lots to learn from your elders, Weaslette," he proclaimed haughtily, promptly dropping himself into the chair previously occupied by the redhead.
"How can I get in touch with Nancy Moore?"
At first, Hermione was genuinely lost. With a confused frown marring her forehead, she rapidly shuffled within her mind for some clue. For some reason, the name sounded very familiar. Ginny, on the other hand, appeared to have recognized it immediately.
"Nancy Moore?" she shrieked high enough to make the unicorn figurines on the far shelf shudder. Hermione winced. "What do you want with that trollop anyway?"
The blond wizard gave another shrug. "Me? Absolutely nothing. Charlie is the one who appears to have some unfinished business with her."
It finally clicked. Nancy Moore. How could she have possibly forgotten that name? With all that had happened since, those particular memories had receded deep into her mind. But now everything began to come back, which included some facts she was still ashamed to think about to this day.
Thinking of the American witch she had known what seemed like an age ago, she watched Ginny's rapidly reddening face with curious detachment.
"Charlie?" hissed the redhead venomously. "No. I refuse to believe it! All of that nonsense of his was all done and finished with a long time ago! There are lots of fish to go around without that sniveling blonde!"
"Hmm… sounds like that particular salmon was simply way too tasty to forget," intoned Malfoy with a smirk.
"Even if your sick imagination is right, it just can't happen. I wouldn't tell you anything about her even if I knew it anyway. And with an ocean separating us from that…witch, I doubt any of us will run into her anytime soon."
"I wouldn't bet on that if I were you, Weaslette."
"And why's that, Ferret?"
The wizard's smile turned downright gleeful. "As you know, the Department of Magical Creatures is organizing a charity ball this Saturday, and both Charlie and I are guest speakers. Obviously, all of those invited have to come with someone. Even though your brother is outgoing and all, he has this absurd naïveté when it comes to witches. Therefore, it's logical that he would go with someone he already knows…and that's where that Nancy chick comes into play. Voila!"
"Then it looks like my dear old brother is out of luck!" proclaimed Ginny with a too-pleased expression on her face.
"I doubt that, seeing as how he ran into her in Diagon Alley just yesterday evening."
For a moment, everything went still, just as it does before a storm.
"SHE'S IN ENGLAND?"
What followed next was a detailed but rather garbled opinion (in high notes) of what the witch thought of blondes, vultures, and manipulative cockroaches altogether. Naturally, everything was delivered using a very colourful vocabulary, half of which Hermione didn't even know could be used in such a context. Finally she began to understand the foundation of Harry's fear of bringing on his wife's wrath.
"-over my dead body!" continued to screech the redheaded young woman, seemingly fully out of control now. "If that weak-spined brother of mine is so bloody desperate to take someone he knows, let him take someone else but not the Moore trollop!"
"You have someone else in mind?"
Ginny's eyes roamed desperately around the room, looking for some sort of inspiration until they abruptly landed upon the sole solution to her problem.
"Let him take her!"
Hermione, who was still in her thoughts, gave a start.
"Oh no, don't even think of pulling me into this again, Ginny! That one time was quite enough, thank you very much!"
"But Hermione, you must understand! The mere idea of seeing that woman wrapped around Charlie like a deranged squid makes me want to throw up. Just think about her, try to remember what she's like! Do you really want that fate for another male being? And what about the rest of the Weasley family? What would happen to mum when she found that skank shadowing her porch again? And what about me?"
Hermione suppressed a sigh. Her friend's ability to bring out shame in others both fascinated and worried her at times. Logically, she knew that she wasn't obligated to do or say anything. Irrationally, however, she understood that she would still do anything to help ease the potential pain of the family of which she had once thought to become a member.
Oh well, thought Hermione resignedly, looking into Ginny's pleading eyes, I never liked that Nancy character anyway.
"Fine. I'll go. If Charlie will have me, that is."
"That, you won't have to worry about."
She did not know whether it was the too-pleased tone or the expression of a feline who had gotten a piece of a chocolate canary, but there was just something about the way the Malfoy heir held himself that raised Hermione's suspicions to the fore.
However, the wizard in question lazily slithered out of his chair before she had the chance to further ponder upon her misgivings.
"I shall leave the two of you birds quacking, or whatever it is witches do when they're alone. I have another stubborn rooster to take care of for now. See you at the ball, my fair ladies," sing-sang the blond, giving the two women a mocking bow.
Once their obnoxious former classmate finally flounced out of the room, Hermione couldn't hold back her grimace any longer.
"Poor Charlie. I can just imagine what his best friend considers 'taking care of' to mean," she grumbled rudely.
"At least with them in Romania you don't have to suffer through apocalyptic Sunday dinners."
"Ginny, are you even listening to me?"
The younger woman obviously was not. Instead, she scrutinized the doorway Malfoy had exited through moments ago with the most peculiar expression on her face. Only when Hermione coughed a second time did she finally break out of her trance.
"Well, I'll be going now! A lot of things to do. Make sure you're all dressed and pampered for the ball, or I will drag you out of your flat, no matter what you're wearing. See you on Saturday!"
And just like that, the curly-haired witch found herself alone once more. But instead of feeling elated for the return of her precious solitariness, she was experiencing something else altogether. Even returning to her work papers did nothing to appease her worry.
As it was, Hermione Granger was very worried indeed. She had this inexplicable feeling that the deal she had just foolishly agreed to had something else to it. Something that would pop out into her face at the very last second.
It had really begun to look like, for all of her cleverness, she simply would never learn from some mistakes.
Reviews will be greatly appreciated )))