Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing from the Harry Potter universe. This fanfiction is written purely for entertainment purposes and nothing more.
A/N: Alas, the sequel is finally here! I sincerely apologize for how long it has taken me to update and get this rolling, but here we are at the start of a brand new journey. A special note to bear in mind as we venture forward: Do not expect the same characters you saw from Destiny, because Destiny took place 11 years in the future, in an alternate universe. Yes, they are going to be different, more immature, etc. That's normal. In 11 years, as all of you know, they become more mature, but this is the area in their life where the choices they make develop them into the people we see in 11 years. For instance, Hermione is more impulsive, daring, insecure, and emotional. This doesn't mean they will always be that way. Keep that in mind, please. Remember that this is the story of Hermione re-discovering herself, making some changes, and learning to be true to herself.
Also, I hope that you at least had some time to go back over Destiny and read the things I changed about the story.
P.S. - This is what I consider the "prologue" to Serendipity. It basically covers a compilation of scenes that give us a brief glance into what led Hermione to The Wedding Day and her encounter with Destiny and why Destiny got involved. It starts off where Deathly Hallows left off (minus the epilogue, obviously), and continues onto The Wedding Day.
The Dark Before Dawn
May 2, 1998
I would not feel safe for a very long time. I knew that for a certainty as my eyes drifted over the rubble and debris that once stood as my home away from home and the only place I ever I truly belonged. The scent of burning flesh and mortar made my lungs capsize in my chest, one breath sputtering unevenly after the other from my lips.
Ash drifted through the evening air, twinkling oddly in the gray sunlight as it lowered over the horizon. I no longer knew if the salty moisture trailing down my sooty cheeks were due to my heart ripping into shreds at the sight in front of me, relief that the fighting was finally done, or the ashes of my loved ones.
So many had died. Lord Voldemort was finally dead. In the span of one evening, our childhood and innocence were stripped without our consent. We had lost so much in such a short time, and yet we had also gained. It felt wrong to feel happiness and I felt guilty as I stared among the dead. After the battle had finally ended, the bodies were rounded up, friends and family were consoled, food and drink were passed around. Mostly everyone had left, unable to bear the grief, the destruction. I remained, roaming the fallen corridors and empty classrooms until I found the one place I had always felt safe in - the library.
But my library was gone, withered to a piece of ash-laden rubbish. We were able to save most of the reading material, but it would never be the same. It was here in the library, peering out an open window over the remains of what used to be, that I finally allowed myself to weep. It wasn't until the sun had departed from view that I noticed a pair of light footsteps behind me.
"I've been looking for you."
Hearing his voice steadied my gasps and sobs and his hand found mine, unsure and limp. He smelled like smoke and butterscotch and I breathed him in deeply as he wrapped me in his embrace. Now with Voldemort gone, perhaps our lives could finally move forward. Maybe we actually stood a chance at being happy together, Ron and I. Again, I felt guilty for finding comfort and happiness within these walls when so many had lost their lives defending them just hours ago, and a fresh batch over tears brimmed over, streaming onto his dirty shirt.
"We're going to hold a wand ceremony in the courtyard if you want to join us," Ron informed me despondently.
I squeezed his hand. "How are you doing?"
Ron let out a sigh, looked for a moment as if he would cry again, swiftly released my hand, and swallowed loudly.
"I'm not really up to talking about how I'm feeling right now," he told me softly.
"You need to at some point," I pressed but when he refused to speak further, I instead asked, "How'd your mother?"
"She's just trying to make sure all of us are okay. Typical Mum, caring about everyone else before herself. She and Dad have already made arrangements for a funeral."
"So soon?" I exhaled.
"Wednesday. Just a private service for family and close friends," Ron replied hollowly. "I would really like it if you would come."
I blinked through my tears and pulled him into a fierce hug. "Of course I'll be there."
We stayed locked in each other's arms for several minutes before Ron finally pulled apart, placing a small kiss on my forehead.
"We should go. They'll be waiting for us."
I nodded solemnly and followed him out of the library, leaving everything I used to be behind in its remains.
May 19, 1998
"You're really leaving, then?"
I nodded, rolling over in the grass and propping myself up on my elbow so that I could see him better. We were lounging on the flowery hills a few paces away from the Burrow, resting in each other's arms under a large oak. On the other side of the tree sat Fred Weasley's grave marker, the soil still freshly moist. Ron had taken a comfort in coming to the oak tree every day and visiting Fred. Sometimes, like today, I would join him and we would exchange conversation. Sometimes we would talk about the war, about the past, but we focused mostly on the present now.
"Tonight," I told him and Ron gave a hefty sigh in displeasure.
"I don't like the idea of you being so far away," Ron confessed.
I smiled softly, welcoming his comment. It was going to be difficult for both of us to be apart from each other. We had spent every day together since the funeral.
"The sooner I find them and remove the memory spell, the more likely I'm able to prevent permanent memory loss," I responded, gathering a handful of colorful poppies and arranging them nicely next to Fred's grave.
"How long will you be gone?" Ron inquired, staring up through the leaves at cotton ball clouds.
"It honestly all depends on them and whether they need time to adjust to their memories. A lot of time has passed and I have a lot of things I need to speak to them about." When he simply nodded, I took his hand assuringly. "It won't be for too long, hopefully. I'll be traveling with Aurors and meeting with Healers as soon as I reach Australia. There's nothing to worry about."
He nodded, finally meeting my eyes. "I know. Just hurry home, okay?"
I smiled as he brushed aside a lock of my curly hair, his fingers lingering on my lips. To my surprise, I soon found myself with my back on the grass, Ron's lips caressing mine and knocking the very breath out of my body. He pulled away after a few seconds, his blue eyes boring into mine, uncertain. We hadn't kissed since the day Hogwarts fell. With the funeral and all of the award ceremonies and hearings we've had to attend, it's been hard to focus on much else.
"I hope that was okay," he said after an awkward pause, growing red. "I know we haven't really had a chance to talk about the chamber of secrets - "
I stopped him. "Ron, we have all the time in the world to talk about what happened in the chamber of secrets when I get back. Let's just enjoy today."
For reassurance, I pecked him on the cheek, sending his cheeks a bright red.
"You're right. Blimey, I can't be without you for too long, I'll go mental," he whispered into my hair, flopping back on the grass and pulling me onto his chest. "Let me know when you find your parents?"
"Of course," I replied.
"And promise to come back as soon as you can?"
I couldn't remember smiling this much. Our fingers danced together as we stared up at the sky.
May 24, 1998
Australia is just as beautiful as I dreamed it would be, but it is far too hot and dry for my liking. As I write to you, there's not a cloud in the sky - just your type of weather. The good news is, I've found my parents. Healer Devonna and Healer Arnett are doing everything they can to assist me. It's been a pretty long process, but it seems they're coming around more and more with each day. For the most part they understand who they really are, but sometimes they will start talking about things that they know as Wendell and Monica Wilkins. It's been exhausting and very emotional on both sides. The bad news is, they're quite angry with me for keeping so much from them, as is to be expected, but I never imagined that they'd be so against the Wizarding World. Last night, they actually asked me to give up magic and return to the Muggle world. I know they are just frightened and don't understand. They probably never will.
How are you doing? How's Harry and Ginny? Tell me everything I've missed.
I can't wait to return to England. I miss you very much.
All my love,
June 1, 1998
You don't know how happy I was to see a letter from you. I'm glad you found your parents. Things at home have been pretty rough. Mum's redecorating the entire house. We went through Fred's things last night as a family to see what we should keep and throw out. It was really hard. I'm keeping his old Quidditch posters and his old chess set. I figure I can teach my kid with it one day, like he taught me. Mum and George are the ones really taking it hard. George cracks jokes and stuff still, but he just doesn't feel the same without Fred. None of us do.
Harry's feeling a bit dodgy - I don't know whether he's sick or if everything is finally starting to hit him. Remember when I had my break down after Fred's funeral? Well, I think he's close to having one, but you know how Harry is. Other than hearings and meetings with the Minister of Magic (Can you believe Kingsley's Minister now?) he's been avoiding us like the plague. Ginny doesn't understand him like we do, not yet anyway. She keeps getting pissed off that he won't make time for her, but in his defense we've been really busy. She's been pretty busy, too. She's been helping George out at his shop.
They started rebuilding Hogwarts last week. The first thing they did was put up a memorial on a wall with all of the names of the deceased that fell during the Battle of Hogwarts. Harry and I attended the two-day trial for the Malfoy family, which started yesterday. In fact, I'm writing you from the Ministry of Magic. The stupid prat and his mummy and daddy got pardoned. Harry spoke in their defense, of course, just like we knew he would. I know, I know, I shouldn't be so hard on them, they saved Harry's life, but he's still a prat and no matter what you say his dad is still a prick. Anyway, they were all put on probation. Lucius Malfoy was stripped of all magic-using ability and placed under house arrest for six months and then probation following immediately after. Narcissa and Draco were sentenced to one year without use of magic and Draco was given the Trace. It will lift in one year on his birthday. Can you imagine? Malfoy without the ability to use magic? He's probably mortified.
Anyway, it's been a while since I've heard from you. Are you and your parents coming back home?
See you soon. Miss you loads.
June 27, 1998
"When do you start training?"
My voice broke the silence at the table and I set down the thick letter of instructions.
"Beginning of July."
I deadpanned. "What, exactly, were expecting my reaction to be?"
"Uh, congratulations, maybe?" Ron scoffed.
"I'm sorry, but we just got out of a war and you're signing up to go right back into the middle of everything? It's still incredibly dangerous out there, Ronald. There are still Death Eaters out there and followers that would love to see your head on a spike!"
"That's exactly my point, Hermione!" Ron protested fervently, growing more and more agitated. "Someone's got to help out and round them up. Why not me? Harry got accepted right after the Malfoy trial and you didn't freak out at him about it."
"I very well did!" I snapped haughtily. "And I'm sure Ginny's talked his ear off about it."
"She actually understands where he's coming from, unlike you. She's proud of him."
I sucked in a frustrated breath. "I'm proud, too, Ron. But I really don't like this and I don't think you should be doing this. You aren't ready. It's way too soon."
"There are still bad guys out there, Hermione. People that killed my brother and our friends, that destroyed our school, our homes, our lives. The sooner the better I say. Right now the Ministry needs all the help it can get, especially since they lost so many Aurors during the war."
"Do you hear yourself right now? You're trying to persuade me to your point of view by telling me there's a shortage in Aurors due to a high death rate? Don't you think we should have at least discussed this before you decided to sign up for Auror training?"
Ron glowered, growing red. "Why? It's not like we aren't dating or anything."
My chair scraped against the wood panels of the floor of Grimmauld Place as I stood up.
"What? Why are you leaving?"
"Not that it's any of your business but I'm volunteering at St. Mungo's this evening."
"When did you start doing that?"
"I signed up earlier this week, remember? Ron, I told you this. You said you'd go with me next week. I signed you up for the third of July."
"Well, why'd you go and do that? I wasn't really serious. You know how much hospitals freak me out. And besides, I start training next week. You'll just have to take me off."
"How embarrassing," I scoffed and stalked out of the kitchen.
"Why are you so upset with me?" Ron hollered after me. "I thought you'd be happy I'm doing something with my life!"
I swung open the front door. "I'm not upset with you, Ronald. You're a free man and you can do whatever the hell you please, as far as I'm concerned. But you're the one that's going to have to break it to your mother."
And with that, I slammed the door.
July 13, 1998
"Are you still mad at me?" Ron asked quietly.
I sat on his bed at the Burrow, drifting over a stack of school records and transcripts.
"No," I sighed. "I just really wish you would have discussed this all with me before you just went off and became an Auror."
He gave a throaty chuckle from across the room and continued to pack his bags.
"Well, I'm not one yet, if that makes it any better," Ron joked.
I sent him a withering look. "It doesn't."
"Hermione, I know what I'm doing, okay? Just trust me. I can do this. I'd really like your support."
I pinched the bridge of my nose. "You know I'll support you in whatever you do, Ron. But I still don't like it and I wish you would have included me in your decision."
"How many bloody times do I have to tell you I'm sorry?" he flared. "Can't you ever just be happy for me? Proud of me?"
I felt like I'd been slapped across the face.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have exploded," he apologized quickly, seeing the look on my face. "It's just that we've been arguing so much lately. We were finally getting to a good spot and I'm leaving in a few hours. I want to leave on good terms with you."
"I don't know how that's possible, Ron. I'm really confused on where we stand. Ever since I came back from Australia, we haven't really talked much about where we're going."
"What do you mean?"
"We kissed, Ron. More than once. I have feelings for you and have for a very long time. The war is over and we finally have a chance to do something about it and you're running off to Auror camp. You keep giving me mixed signals. I just don't know how you feel about me anymore."
"How can you say that?" Ron wondered. "You know how I feel about you."
"Do I? I know that you obviously don't care enough about me to tell me ahead of time that you're applying to be an Auror and that you don't think of me as girlfriend material and don't think you should have to discuss important things like shipping off to Germany for two months with me. You don't tell me how you feel, we hardly see each other because we're always so busy doing other things."
Ron stammered, coming to sit beside me on the bed. He grabbed my hands.
"I'm sorry," he said sincerely. "I really didn't see it that way. When the war was over and my brother was killed, I wasn't really thinking of a relationship and it wouldn't have been fair to either of us to start out that way. Then, you went to Australia for a while and when you came back last month, I was finally finding the motivation to do something with my life and had to make some quick decisions, so I did. And we've both been so busy, I guess we should have made more time to talk. You just always seem so irritable with me."
"I'm irritated because I feel like I don't know where we're going. You know how I am. I always have to have a plan. I really care about you, Ron and I want to be with you."
"You do?" He broke out into a wide smile.
"Yes, you idiot," I laughed, thwacking him on the chest. "I just want you to be safe and happy and I want to spend as much time as I can with you."
"We will spend all the time in the world when I get back in September, I promise. I was going to wait until I got back to give you this, but after talking to you just now, I feel that maybe right now is the best time," Ron said and dug in his pocket.
My heart started hammering chaotically in my chest as he pulled out a wooden box. He snapped it open, revealing a beautiful sterling silver chain and dangling from it was a silver-backed circular ruby. He passed the box to me and I gasped, tears springing to my eyes.
"Ron, this must have cost a fortune."
"It did to have it engraved," Ron laughed nervously. "It was my grandmother's. She gave it to Ginny, but Ginny's always hated rubies. Do you like it?"
"I love it," I insisted. "But I can't accept this. There's no way I can accept something so expensive."
"You deserve it," Ron protested, grabbing the chain from the box. "Here, put it on."
I did as he asked and snapped it around my neck. "It's beautiful. Thank you, Ron."
Before I could stop myself I was kissing him deeply. When we broke apart, we were panting.
"Blimey, if I knew giving you jewelry would make you react that way, I would have given you some years ago."
I shoved him playfully. He was adorable.
"I'm hoping that you'll wear that while I'm gone," Ron said, scratching the back of his neck. "And think of me and only me."
"You mean, like a promise necklace?"
"What does that mean?"
"It's a Muggle term," I explained shyly. "When a boy cares for a girl, he presents her with a piece of jewelry, usually a ring or necklace, and they promise to be each other's significant other."
"Er, yeah, I like that," Ron said, smiling.
"So, is this your way of saying you want to stop being friends?"
His eyebrows shot up. "No! I don't want to stop being friends. We've been friends for years, why would I stop being friends with you? This was supposed to be a - "
"Ron," I laughed, interrupting him. "I'm asking if you want me to be your girlfriend."
His jaw dropped. "You - You really mean that? You want to be my girlfriend?"
I nodded, smiling widely as his blue eyes lit up.
"This is the best day of my life," he exclaimed, attacking me with a hug.
We cuddled for quite a while before he got up and resumed packing.
"I'm going to miss you so much while you're gone," I sighed, staring at his bags in the corner of his room.
"I'll be back before you know it. Just don't go running off with any other blokes while I'm gone, okay? You're my girlfriend now. I gave you promise jewelry and everything."
"Alright," I conceded.
"Even though we're dating, I still want to be your friend. You're the best friend I've ever had."
August 10, 1998
No letters, no phone calls, no communication. That's what my first month of being Ron Weasley's girlfriend consisted of. Part of his training in Germany was cutting off all communication with the outside world so there would be no distractions. Today it was affecting me the hardest it ever had, so Ginny and I decided to get together. She and I had been spending a lot of time together while the boys were away. While she worked at the shop with George, I spent my day helping out at Hogwarts.
"It's coming along quite nicely, I'd say," Neville Longbottom shared with me that afternoon.
Hogwarts looked almost normal again, much to my delight. It felt surreal to be back.
"I've missed it," I confessed.
"Me, too," Neville agreed. "They've given me an internship in the Herbology department."
"You're joking," I exclaimed. "That's wonderful. You'll do an exceptional job. I never knew you wanted to teach."
"Neither did I," Neville laughed. "Luna actually opened my eyes to it."
"Are you and her still dating?" I wondered.
He shook his head. "No. It was a short-term thing. We're just very different and want different things out of life. She's staying the summer in Brazil actually."
"That's kind of random," I stated.
"Well, that's Luna."
We shared a wholesome laugh before McGonagall spotted me and waved me over.
"Miss Granger, how are you?" she greeted and surprised me by embracing me. "It's been a while."
"I'm doing okay, Professor. And yourself?"
"Doing well. The school has had lots of help in returning to its old self. If everything stays on track we should be opening for this school year."
"So soon? That's incredible."
"I suspect you won't be returning to Hogwarts like Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley?"
"Actually, that's part of the reason I'm here. I was thinking about going back to complete my seventh year but I've been offered a job at the Ministry of Magic in the Department of Regulation and Care of Magical Creatures, which is something I'm really passionate about. To advance my career in Regulations, I'm going to need to get my N.E.W.T's, but there's no possible way I'm going to be able to get the position they've offered me again if I decline to go back to school. I'm wondering what your advice would be?"
"Well, first of all, congratulations. I'm sure Hagrid will be happy to hear that. As for your schooling, if it is important to you, I recommend returning to Hogwarts and getting your N.E.W.T's."
"That's what I figured," I sighed heavily.
"I'm not quite finished, Miss Granger," McGonagall continued. "There are special circumstances for students of your prowess to graduate early and outside of the Hogwarts castle. We usually do not permit students to do this unless they are unable to return to the castle due to medical leave or parental involvement, but I'm sure we could work something out. You would need to dedicate yourself to an intensive program for six months and get special permission from both myself and the Minister of Magic and sign a waiver with your boss explaining you would need to work a certain amount of hours until you are done with your schooling program."
"Is that really possible?" I blurted excitedly.
"Of course," McGonagall said, smiling knowingly. "I don't think you will have a problem juggling the two, Miss Time-Turner. Let me contact Kingsley and sign your permission form and we'll send you the list of books and materials you'll be needing, as well as a schedule of when it should all be completed. There will be an intensive two week window at the end of January where you will need to submit all of your work and study for your exams. Starting February, you will return to Hogwarts where you will stay for the exam period. Our exams will be proctored here and submitted here."
I could hardly contain my joy as I followed McGonagall into the almost restored castle.
September 1, 1998
I'm sorry I haven't been able to write to you - policy and all. Things here have been stressful. The first two weeks were awful. Boot camp is absolutely hell. Training has let up a bit, but it's still pretty intense. I'm not allowed to disclose my location right now, so you won't be able to write back. How are you? I can't wait to hear everything when I get back. I should be home for your birthday. Fingers crossed.
September 19, 1998
"Nineteen years old," my mother sighed, fondly cupping my cheek. "Who gave you permission to grow up so fast?"
I smiled softly at my mother and turned to my father, kissing him lightly on the cheek. "Thank you for the presents and for the party."
He responded with a chuckle. "It was Ginny's idea to throw you the surprise party. She and Harry set that all up themselves. We just provided the location."
I smiled gratefully at my guests and then frowned when I noticed the one Weasley I hadn't expected to be missing.
"I'm sorry, Hermione," Harry sighed, rubbing the back of his neck as he came to greet me. "He had to stay a bit longer than I did."
I frowned deeply. "When will he be back?"
Harry shrugged uncomfortably.
"You aren't disclosed to tell me, are you?"
"I'm sorry, 'Mione."
I swallowed and waved it off like it was nothing, like I understood when I absolutely didn't, like I was happy.
But I wasn't.
October 21, 1998
Mr. Knowles' bark carried across the sea of cubicles until it hit me squarely in the chest. I jumped up, quills scattering across my desk. When my pudgy, red-faced boss noticed my attention, he stormed over to my desk.
It was not often that Mr. Knowles exited the confines of his office and I knew at once that he was angry. Usually, he preferred to handle things from his office or through memos or his assistant, Margot.
When he approached my desk, he threw a thick manilla folder at my face, its contents spilling onto the carpet after whacking me unpleasantly in the nose.
"This is rubbish," he snarled at me. "You can't expect me to accept this and give this to the Ministry for monthly reports, can you?"
I stammered, grappling to pick up one of the many reports I had submitted to him last week. After quickly scanning the fallen pages, I realized he was insulting my findings on house-elf mistreatment.
"Sir, if I may, what exactly did you not agree with in regards to my report?" I asked. "I followed every protocol, I was very detailed, I highlighted and tabbed my findings where I felt they were most - "
"Shut it, Granger," Mr. Knowles growled, slamming his fist on my table. I gasped, drawing back in my chair. From the cubicle next to mine, a fellow coworker, Alfred, snickered. "Exactly what was going through your frizzy little head when you wrote this?"
"Sir, I was simply reporting my findings on the house-elf community and how horribly mistreated they are. You asked us to report on something we're passionate about and their enslavement is something that I've always been - "
"Granger, what is your job?" he asked me darkly, glaring at me with beady eyes.
"To investigate and report any findings of mistreatment, unfairness, or abuse of magical creatures to you to be reviewed on whether or not it is a serious enough situation to address it with the Ministry offices."
"Do you really think that the time you invested in this pile of swine manure is a practical use of your time and mine?"
Offended by his attitude, I cleared my throat before answering. "Yes, I do."
"Pathetic," he scoffed, gesturing to my report. "This is waste of my time. It's quite laughable. House-elf mistreatment? I'll believe that when a monkey flies out my arse. When you have something truly interesting and serious, feel free to hand it in to my assistant. If I ever catch you wasting my time with such idiocy again, I'll have you sacked."
I balked as he tore away from my cubicle, shoving his assistant out of his way, causing the two coffee mugs she was carrying to capsize over her white blouse, and throwing his office door closed behind him.
"Damn it!" Margot hollered, and quickly cleaned up the mess with her wand.
She cast a glance my way through her black rimmed glasses and I knew she was just as disappointed as I was. She, of course, would be getting chewed out later due to the fact that she had read my report before Mr. Knowles and thought it important enough to be passed onto him.
At least I had one ally.
November 8, 1998
"I wouldn't worry too much about it," Ron told me over dinner a few weeks later, in regards to Mr. Knowles most recent blow up.
He'd just gotten back from his extended training a week ago and with my busy schedule with my Hogwarts courses and my job at Regulations, I was just squeezing in time to see him now.
"How can you say that?" I scoffed, setting my fork down roughly near my plate of parmesan chicken. "This isn't at all what I signed up for. We're supposed to be fighting for better treatment of all magical creatures, and when it comes to house-elves he blatantly refuses to hear my point of view."
"Don't get so worked up," he said, rolling his eyes. "I'm just saying, you're still pretty new. You can't expect anyone to take you seriously right now."
I folded my arms, seething. "I can't believe you."
"Don't be so dramatic. I just don't see the point in stressing out about something that will obviously blow over sooner or later."
"It's called passion, Ron," I argued.
"I know what passion is," he grunted. "But worry about it when you're at work, not while you're at dinner with me for the first time in like four months."
"Well, excuse me for wanting to share my personal views with my boyfriend who has been gone without contact for four months. Excuse me for - "
My jaw slackened and the words froze in my throat.
"Failed what?" I asked when I could find my voice again.
"Auror Testing," Ron snapped, setting his napkin on the table. "I failed the exam. That's why Harry got to go home and I chose to stay another two months."
"But you took the test again, didn't you? After the second time?" I prompted.
"I failed that one, too," he grumbled, sighing heavily.
I blinked and reached for his hand, which he swiped away.
"Ron - " I started, but he threw his hands up and cut me off.
"No. No, you don't get to sit there and pity me for always screwing up and never being as good as you or Harry. You don't understand what it is like to fail at something that for the past four months has been everything to you and all you wanted. You're sitting here complaining about how your boss doesn't take you seriously and how you've been so busy with getting your N.E.W.T's and working at the same time and doing something with your life. You don't know what it is like to have nothing to come home to. To have no passion, no drive."
"You have me," I said softly. "And just because you didn't do well doesn't mean you should give up. Can you take the test again?"
He sighed. "I've only got one more shot if the committee approves me. And I'd have to go back for training again and write an appeal letter to the committee expressing why I believe I should be an Auror, what I'd do differently, what was getting in my way previously that caused me to fail, and why they should give me another shot."
"How long for the committee to review your appeal?" I wondered.
"Well, that's not awful. I'm sure you could find something else until then."
"I haven't sent in my letter, Hermione."
"Why?" I asked, confused. "Don't you want to be an Auror?"
He shrugged despondently. "I'm not sure what I want anymore, Hermione. All I know is I want you and I want to start a life with you. I don't want to go another two or four months without hearing from you."
I started to protest but he took my hand and stopped me. "Being away for so long and missing you so much has really realized how much I truly care about you, Hermione."
I stared at him, wanting him to understand how much I've missed him, too. How busy I've been. How desperately I wished I could speak to him. How insecure I'd been for four months without any word. And after hearing from Harry some of things they'd had them do during Training, how worried I'd been he'd never make it home.
"Hermione, there's something I've been wanting to tell you for a while now, but I haven't been able to."
"What is it, Ron?" I asked, worry etched across my face.
Had he found someone else while he was away? Did he decide he no longer wanted to be with me?
"I - I love you."
I opened my mouth to reply, but for the first time I had no retort. For the first time in my life, the know-it-all didn't know what to say.
December 5, 1998
"Ron, I'm so sorry, I completely forgot."
He stood in the doorway of my parent's house, soaked to the boots in snow and rain, his long red hair plastered to his pale freckled face.
He stared at me. "I made reservations."
"Ron, dear, what a surprise," exclaimed my mother, exiting the kitchen and wiping her flour-caked hands on her floral apron. "I wasn't expecting you. We just finished dinner, but you're welcome to stay for pie. It's blackberry - you're favorite."
Ron blinked at her, his lips twitching a fraction at my mother. When he returned his gaze to me, his eyes were dark and he frowned.
"The one night I asked you to clear your schedule so that we could spend an evening together and you can't even manage to do that?"
My mother stood awkwardly behind us, not sure what to do.
"Ron, I'm very sorry," I apologized. "I had a really big project for school that I have to finish. I'd forgotten all about it."
"Like you forgot about me?" he snapped.
"Ron, this is hardly the time," I warned, casting a glance toward the kitchen where my father now stood with his arms folded, surveying us with heavy disapproval. It was no secret that my father was not fond of my relationship with Ron. "Just, let me go get dressed and we'll go out, okay?"
"What are you planning on doing, watching me eat?" he snapped.
"If that's what you'd like to do, yes," I said. "We'll get a drink and visit a shop or something. Just let me get dressed, okay? I'll be down shortly. Mum, could you get him some tea?"
When I came back down, dressed in black stockings, navy skirt, and black blouse, Ron was not in the chair by the fireplace where I'd left him. I donned my coat and my scarf and poked my head into the kitchen.
There was a pointed cough from behind me and I turned to find my father in the dimly lit hallway, dressed in his pajamas and the sweater I'd given him for his birthday a few days ago.
"Have you seen Ron?" I asked him and he nodded.
"He left about ten minutes after you went upstairs, pet."
I stared at him, hard. "What did you say to him?"
"What makes you think I said a damn word to that kid?" he replied gruffly. "He started complaining to your mother about how selfish you are and I told him to be careful what he said in my house about my daughter when you're the one that's working hard to make a future for yourself and he still hasn't found a job."
"How dare you say such awful things to the man I love!" I snapped.
"Love? Hermione, you can't love him. You don't know what love is. You're too young. You deserve better and you know you do."
"Yes, Dad, I love him," I spat. "In fact, I'm going to go tell him such right now. Where's he gone?"
When my father refused to reply, I started toward the door.
"He's a wonderful man," I defended, "and we've been through so much you can't begin to understand, so don't stand there in front of me and act like you know me better than he does or better than I know myself. You don't know me and you never will."
My father stared down at me with hardened eyes. "I know you better than you think. And I know that lad is nothing but trouble and will bring you nothing but pain. That boy will be the end of you. Mark my words, young lady."
I tore the door open and started down the walk into the freezing Whitby night, determined to find Ron before my father could scare him away for good.
December 31, 1998
"Happy New Year!"
The three glasses of butter beer I'd sipped on during the evening festivities at the Burrow erupted in bubbles in my stomach as Ron pulled me toward him and planted a huge kiss on my lips. It wasn't until the cheering had died down and George began whistling that we pulled away from each other, coming up for air. He tasted like roast, chocolate muffins, and fire whiskey.
That evening found most of the Weasley's retiring early to their rooms. Harry stayed up with George, Ron, and I.
"Found a job yet, mate?" Harry asked, slapping Ron on the shoulder.
Ron sighed and cast a glance over at George, now asleep on the couch.
"George has offered me a job at the shop," Ron replied and I stared at him in confusion.
"You didn't tell me that," I said.
He shrugged in response. "It's not that big of a deal. It's just until I can find something better."
"Well, I think it will be good for you," Harry said. "Anyway, I'm going to go find Ginny before she burns my clothes."
"Did you two have another row?" I asked.
"We're just dealing with a lot right now," Harry replied and disappeared up the stairs to find his girlfriend.
"Are you tired?" Ron asked and I shook my head.
"Not really, but it's late and your mum is going to be waking us up early to help with breakfast."
"Yeah, you're probably right. We should head upstairs."
As we stood in the hallway leading to the bedroom I was sharing with Ginny for the night, we paused to kiss goodnight.
"See you in the morning," he sighed, not wanting to release me.
I stood on tip-toe and gave him another long kiss before he set off up the stairs. As I turned the knob to Ginny's bedroom, I realized that Ginny was not asleep after all and that Harry had not retired to bed in Ron's room, but instead rested with Ginny, their lips in a fierce battle. Scarred, I retreated from Ginny's bedroom, mildly annoyed. She could have at least put a sock on the door.
Timidly, I snuck up the last flight of stairs until I reached Ron's bedroom, quietly opening his door. He was in the middle of undressing, his shirt half way off of his head, standing in nothing else but his boxers. I swallowed and cleared my throat, a rush of something foreign and exciting bubbling in the pit of my stomach that was definitely not butter beet.
"Hermione!" he exclaimed and I shushed him, closing his door. "What are you doing here?"
"Erm, I was wondering if I could stay with you tonight? Ginny's with Harry and…they're going to be up for a while."
Ron smiled and shrugged, rubbing his neck. "Hell yeah, you can stay with me."
I rolled my eyes and gestured toward his dresser. "Also, I was wondering if I could wear some of your pajamas. My bag is in Ginny's room."
Ron's eyes darkened with an emotion I'd only witnessed a few times since we'd started getting a bit more serious. He handed me a large shirt that went down to my knees and a pair of pajama bottoms that were far to large for me. I changed while he kept his back to me and climbed into bed with him, letting him wrap me up in his arms. I could tell he was excited about my presence in his bed and after several minutes of giving in to his kisses and the loving, heated way he roamed my body, I stopped him.
"I love you," I whispered in his ear and he smiled.
'I love you, too, Mione."
We eventually fell asleep.
January 13, 1999
"Well, that's the last of it," Ron sighed, flopping down on his brand new couch. "My very own place, all to myself."
The flat he'd bought was fairly spacious for the low price he'd received for it. It came with a lot of broken appliances and stains which resulted in the landlord offering the flat for a significantly low fee, but to a wizard who had access to repairing spells, it was a steal. It was growing dark outside and I was exhausted.
"I should go home," I told him and he frowned. "Don't give me that look. I've got to finish my assignments by next week. I have finals next month."
"We just got done unpacking everything," he whined, reaching for me and pulling me down on his lap. "Stay for a little while. Show me how to work this television."
I sighed and despite how tired I was and how much work I needed to get done, I couldn't resist how adorable he was when he tried to learn Muggle things. A few hours later found me asleep in his arms on the couch.
February 1, 1999
I whipped around at the sound of a very familiar voice. Before me stood Draco Malfoy. Startled, I jumped for my wand until I noticed to two Ministry officials standing closely behind him. No posse in sight, just Draco and the Ministry officials. The halls normally would have been crowded at this hour in the afternoon, everyone heading to the Great Hall for lunch. But I reluctantly remembered that Hogwarts lost a lot of students, both alive and dead, when the castle fell. Many did not return to continue their education, others transferred schools.
"Draco," I greeted carefully. "I didn't know you had returned to Hogwarts."
"Well, it was the only place I could practice magic legally, wasn't it?" he responded nastily, almost defensively.
The two Ministry officials stepped out of the shadows, drawing back their robes to reveal their wands, sending me a heated glare.
"Stand down, for Merlin's sake," Draco snipped, brushing them off.
"Impressive," I muttered, releasing my own wand. "Quite the security they've stapled you with. Is that for your benefit or ours?"
"None of your damn business," he snapped hotly. I'd obviously touched a nerve. "Anyway, why the bloody hell are you here all of sudden?"
"I'm taking my N.E.W.T exam for the next two weeks, so I'll be staying here until I'm done."
When he regarded me, apparently confused, I continued. "I've been doing a program at home to earn my N.E.W.T's while I work for - "
"I don't really care," Draco drawled, annoyed.
"Mr. Malfoy, you're going to be late," said one of the Ministry officials, a big and burly man with buzzed brown hair. "If you're late again, you'll be on kitchen duty with the house elves."
"I've got to get to class," Draco muttered darkly, excusing himself and shoving past me.
The two Ministry officials had to run to keep up with his brisk walk and they soon disappeared behind a corner, leaving me in an empty hallway, wondering what I'd just witnessed.
February 16, 1999
"What do you mean you have to leave?" I laughed incredulously. "I just got back. I've been at your flat all of thirty minutes."
Ron sighed roughly, running a hand through his hair. "Hermione, I'm sorry, but I've got this thing and you caught me off guard and - "
"What thing?" I demanded, rising from my chair at his small dining table. "I had been hoping we could enjoy a nice meal, unwind, enjoy each other's company? I was at Hogwarts on Valentine's Day; I was hoping we could celebrate tonight instead."
"Well, I mean, you could have given me some notice," Ron replied touchily.
"I told you when I would be back," I argued. "I believe that's what you could call 'notice'."
"It's just that I already made plans," Ron said, flustered.
"Plans? Who've you got plans with?" I questioned.
"Remember I was telling you in my letter about Posey Paskins?" Ron said. "She's the daughter of the coach of the Hollyhead Harpies?"
"You mean to tell me that you made plans with another woman and are now leaving your girlfriend after she just got home to see you to go out with some woman you met two weeks ago to what, discuss Quidditch?"
"You're twisting my words! It's not like that. I'd already made plans, hadn't I? Anyway, I'm not meeting her because I want to. I'm doing it as a favor for Ginny, really. We'd started this recreational Quidditch team - me and some mates from the pub I started going to down the street from George's shop - and when Ginny heard I was on the team with Posey, she demanded I mention her to Posey. She's determined to get on the Hollyhead Harpies. I would have just had her join the Quidditch team herself, but we already have enough players. You really should come sometime and watch us. We just play at Posey's house. She's got a wicked pitch at her house. She lives close by my mum's actually, in Devon."
I stared at him in disbelief, watching as he dug a deeper hole for himself the more he prattled on.
"Well, she seems like a gem," I said finally, cutting him off. "I'm sure that Ginny will be thrilled."
"Herm - "
I was out the door before he could finish my name.
February 26, 1999
"You're a tad late," Ron noted as I entered his flat, depositing the spare key he'd given me when he'd moved in into my pocket.
"I know," I responded tiredly, yawning as I unclasped my robe and hung it on his coat rack. "Mr. Knowles had me stay an extra hour after I was supposed to be off to go over the details of my report on endangered species."
"I made dinner," he said lamely, gesturing to the bowl of stew at my side of the table. "You must be freezing."
"I am, thank you," I said as stepped out of my shoes and pecked him on the cheek, plopping into my seat at the table. "Do you mind grabbing me a glass of wine?"
Ron's eyebrows shot up. "That bad, eh?"
I very seldom drank anything stronger than butter beer, but tonight I didn't care.
"Now that I'm working full-time, he's given me so much more to do," I explained as Ron went to fetch me a glass. "I'm up to my eyeballs in cases. I've had to go on sight three times this week to investigate a man who has allegedly been butchering hippogriffs and selling their meat in his shop. What's even worse is he can't speak English and my French is incredibly rusty. I asked Knowles to send a translator with me, but he hasn't gotten back to me all week and every time I approach him, he bustles out of the room on 'urgent' business."
"It's just a job," Ron replied. "Don't let it stress you out so much."
It was much more than just a job for me, but I was too tired to argue tonight. Instead I just sipped my wine and enjoyed my warm stew. After dinner, I helped Ron clean up and we went to relax on his couch.
"I smell like a furnace," I complained, sniffing my blouse. "I don't understand how Mr. Knowles gets away with smoking cigars in the office. He smoked so many today that Margot actually had an asthma attack and had to leave early."
"Want me to run you a bath?" Ron suggested and I shook my head.
"Tempting, but I should probably go home. It's late and I'm exhausted and have to work tomorrow."
"I'll grab your coat," Ron sighed, lifting himself from the couch.
Several minutes later, Ron was at my side with my coat, shaking me.
"I've been calling your name for over a minute now," he said. "You just kind of zoned out."
I shook my head, groaning at the sudden pang in my head. "I'm sorry, I'm just so tired I can hardly move."
"You don't have to leave, you know," he reminded me.
"Believe me, I don't want to," I insisted.
"Then don't," he said, grabbing my hands. "Just stay here."
"Why do I get the feeling you aren't asking me to stay the night?"
"Come on, Mione. You're here all the time anyway," he reasoned hopefully. "My flat is close enough in walking distance to the Ministry. I've got plenty of room. You wouldn't have to worry about leaving exhausted and listening to your dad complain about the way you're living your life. You're constantly complaining about how much you want to move out anyway."
"What are you asking, exactly, Ron?"
"I'm asking you to move in with me," he said. "Or at least think about it."
"Okay, you'll move in with me or okay, you'll think about it?" he wondered.
I didn't know whether it was the wine or exhaustion or just how bad things had gotten between me and my father at home, but I soon found myself answering,
"I'll move in."
March 9, 1999
I jumped in my seat at the small table, gazing up at Ron over my eggs and tea. His face was buried in the Daily Prophet.
"You'll never believe what I've just read," Ron exclaimed, throwing the paper down and knocking over his glass of milk.
"Ron!" I admonished and quickly cleaned up the mess.
"I'm sorry," he said quickly before throwing the paper at me, gesturing toward the front page headline.
Lucius Malfoy - Missing. Suspected Foul Play.
"What do they mean, missing?" I inquired, returning the paper to Ron.
"According to the Prophet, dear old Malfoy Sr. has been missing for over a week."
"Do you think he was kidnapped?" I wondered. "There's been quite a few of those happening lately. You should ask Harry if he's heard anything more about it."
Ron set the paper down on the table, frowning.
"Why are you upset?" I sighed and he glowered at me. "So, what, I'm not allowed to talk about Harry anymore just because he's an Auror and you're not? Ron, this pity party is really grating on my nerves. If you want it so badly, then do something about it and send your letter in to be appealed."
His chair scraped against the hardwood as he stood to dump our breakfast in the sink.
"I wasn't done with that," I snapped and stood up.
"You just don't understand what it is like to be second best to everyone at everything. My entire life that's all I've ever been. Second-rate, poor. I'm fine with that."
"You are not fine with that," I scoffed. "And you shouldn't be. You have a chance to make something of yourself, to change the world, to make a name for yourself outside of Harry, outside of your parents. But you can't do that when you're sitting at the shop sulking. Do something about it. Or do you really want to be working at your brother's joke shop for the rest of your life?"
"What wrong with my brother's shop?" he snapped.
"Nothing, if you're fine making meager income and living in a small flat for the rest of your life."
"George makes great money!" Ron flared. "And what's wrong with my flat?"
"George owns the shop. Of course he makes great money. He's a business owner. He's trying to expand all over the country and internationally! He's hardly ever in the store. Besides, you are not your brother. What are your ambitions? What are your dreams? What's your plan for life?"
"Why the hell do I need a plan for my life right now? Just get off my back, Hermione!"
"I have to go to work," I said, opening the front door. "I don't have time for your childish antics. Grow up, Ronald."
March 27, 1999
"Ginny, I can't understand a word you're saying."
She sobbed in response, throwing her fist into the cushions of the couch.
"I - had - a row - "
"With Harry?" I assumed, rubbing her back.
She shook her head fervently.
"Mum," she said, hiccuping as her sobs slowed. "We had a row."
"What happened?" I asked her, concerned.
"Remember last week when I asked you about how to make a pregnancy potion?" she asked.
I gasped, my hand flying up to my lips. "No. Tell me you aren't pregnant. Ginny, oh my God, are you pregnant?"
"No!" Ginny cried. "But Mum found the ingredients and put two and two together. She threw me out of the house."
She erupted in a fresh bout of tears, soaring into my arms. Ron was at Quidditch practice with Posey and the guys and I was grateful he wasn't here to hear the conversation we were having.
"Did she kick you out for good?" I wondered, stroking back her claret hair.
"I don't know. I think she's just pissed," Ginny sniffled. "I can't go back there and I can't go to Harry's. I can't tell him about the pregnancy scare. You know how responsible and self-depricating he can be. I just…this really just woke me up and made me realize that things are moving so fast…too fast."
I definitely was surprised to hear this coming from Ginny. I knew she cared deeply for Harry and the fact that she was responsible enough to admit things were moving too fast was eye-opening to me.
"You're welcome to stay here until you get things figured out," I assured her. "I'll make up the couch for you."
Meanwhile, I had to wonder where Ron and I were going. We seemed to just be stuck with no future, no plans, and it was really starting to worry me. It seemed Ginny and I both had relationship problems, both opposite of each other. One was headed to a future that Ginny wasn't ready for and one was stuck with a future that didn't seem to exist.
April 1, 1999
"I'm sorry... I just don't understand. When did you go for an interview?" Ron asked, setting down his broomstick by the door.
"About a week ago. And don't walk on the carpet! You'll drag mud around. Take your shoes off by the door."
He huffed in response, removing his shoes.
"There. Now, what's this about a new job?"
"It was an interview. It was pretty spur of the moment."
"You didn't tell me you were looking for a new job," he accused.
"I wasn't. They reached out to me, expressed an interest, and I just thought I'd go for it."
"But you didn't think to mention it to me?"
"Ron, you're being silly. It was just an interview."
"Yeah, but I didn't know you were so dissatisfied with your current job that you had to go and find another one," he scoffed.
"Why are you getting so emotional about this? Look, they offered me the job this morning and I'd really like to discuss this with you like adults."
"You piss me off," Ron snarled.
I gaped at him. "Excuse me?"
"You're incredibly selfish."
"How am I being selfish? Ronald, this is my opportunity to do something I'm passionate about and actually set things in motion on getting some laws passed. They really liked me and my views and the things that I want to do when I get a position. I actually care about my job and my future."
"What the hell do you mean by that?"
"Oh, stop being dramatic! I just meant that my career and future is important to me in a way that obviously isn't important to you."
"It's just a job!"
"Not to me, Ronald! It's a means of security, income, stability! It is a way to make a difference and do the things that I love and change the world!"
"My job is perfectly stable!"
"Yes, but I want a career. I want something that drives me everyday and challenges me. If you're happy to stay in a low income job, barely getting by for rest of your life like your dad did, and never make any decent money, then fine! But that's not what I want."
"Maybe I just think that money isn't that important in the long scheme of things."
"Hah! You have always cared more about money and material things than I have. That's all you ever thought about and complained about. Poor me, I come from a family of hand-me-downs and too many mouths to feed. Let me play the victim my entire life and be jealous of others who have more than I do!"
"You're really crossing the line!" Ron snarled. "I'm going out."
"You just got home!" I argued, furious.
"Yeah, well, I'm going back out!" he snapped and bounded back out the door.
April 1, 1999 - 5 hours later
It was close to midnight by the time he finally got back in. His dinner was on the table, cold and clammy where I'd left it. Dishes were done, laundry moved along, bathrooms scrubbed, carpets vacuumed. After three hours and him still not being home, I'd started working on one of my cases to get ahead of my deadline.
"Where the hell have you been - have you been drinking?"
"What's it to you?" he slurred nastily.
"God, look at you! What a mess. I just cleaned. Go wash up!"
"Don't tell me what to do!"
He reeked of fire whiskey.
"Since when do you go out drinking for five hours?" I demanded.
"Since you started caring more about work than me!"
"That's hardly accurate. You're being irresponsible, Ronald. Seriously, what do you want to do with your life? Don't you have any drive?"
"No! I just want to be happy, Hermione. I'm not dead like my brother and that's good enough for me right now."
"Do you really think Fred would be happy with the way you're living your life?"
It was a low blow and I knew it, but it didn't stop me from saying it.
"Fred loved me no matter what! It was you he always had a problem with!"
I gasped. "What?"
"No, you opened that can of worms, now you have to tell me."
"He just always thought that you had a twisted view on life," he slurred. "He said I wouldn't be happy with you because you would end up caring too much about your job."
"Who else in your family thinks I'm not good enough for you?" I snarled, greatly offended.
"Well, Mum for one!" Ron snapped.
"Of course she does! Who is surprised by that? Not me."
"What the hell does that mean?" Ron hollered.
"Your mum has never hidden her dislike of me in regards to my career. All she ever does is ask me about children and marriage and how I should just stay at home and be with my kids."
"What's so bad about that?" Ron demanded. "I thought you wanted that."
"What, to be a housewife?"
"No, just kids and marriage and all that," Ron said softly.
"Eventually, but right now I'm not ready for children. I want to establish a career for myself and start bringing in some decent money before I even dream of marrying and bringing a child into the world."
I sighed and watched as Ron went to change his clothes.
"My parents have invited us to dinner on Saturday," I called through the door.
"I'm not going."
"Of course you are! We were invited."
"You can go, but I've got plans."
"What plans? Plans with Posey? With your mates?"
"Why do you care? You obviously don't give a damn about me anymore."
"How can you say that?" I shrieked.
"I'm not going to your ruddy parents', okay? If I wanted to sit and be screamed at and bullied all day and told how unsuccessful I am and how I'm not going anywhere and I'm no good for you, I would just stay home and listen to you run your mouth. I don't need that from your bloody parents, too!"
"Why are you acting like a rotten, spoiled child?" I screamed.
He suddenly threw open the door and I barely had time to move out of the way before the lamp from my bedside table came flying in my direction, smashing in pieces of swirly blue and white all over the hallway.
"Do you even know what day it is?" he hollered and I gave out a cry, backing away from him on the carpet.
He grabbed my wrist forcefully and dragged me into the bedroom where he shoved my face into the calendar I had on the wall.
"What's today?" he demanded.
"Ron, you're hurting me - "
"The date, Hermione!" he bellowed.
"April 1!" I sobbed. "Now let me go!"
"No!" he snarled, shoving me at the wall. "You still don't get it, do you?"
I began crying hysterically. I hated it when he drank and pushed all of my buttons.
"It's Fred and George's damn birthday! The first year our family has had to celebrate a birthday for someone who is dead!"
Guilt washed over me like a hurricane and fury boiled up in my veins.
"Ron, I'm sorry. I had no - " He shoved me again.
"Bull shit. You're a horrible human being. I can't believe you'd forget today. You're a horrible, selfish, stupid person."
And I believed him, even as I cried myself to sleep on the sofa in tears of fear and anger and guilt, I sincerely believed every word he had said.
April 3, 1999
"Have you seen my wand?"
Ron sat at the table, sipping a cup of Earl Grey.
His fingers tightened around the morning paper but he did not look at me or respond to me.
"Are you seriously still ignoring me?"
An hour later, I finally found my wand. Ron was long gone and I ended up being a half an hour late for work.
April 4, 1999
"How much longer are you going to be?" Ron snapped from the hallway.
"Just a few more minutes," I responded, pointing my wand at my still frizzy roots.
"And how long is that going to be?" he continued.
"Ron, can you not see the state of my hair?" I snapped.
He huffed and continued to pace in the den.
"Hermione!" he yelled. "It's been twenty damn minutes. How much longer?"
"Just a few!" I responded, frowning at my halfway tamed hair.
"That's what you said the last two times! It's been a bloody hour. We're running late."
"Ron, will you stop badgering me? I'll be done when I'm done!"
"Stupid, embarrassing," he muttered.
Fifteen minutes later, with my hair finally almost done, he stormed into the bathroom.
"I'm almost done!" I protested hotly.
"I'm done waiting around for you. This is so embarrassing. I can't believe how rude you are. My friends take the time out of their evening to invite you to spend time with us and meet everyone and you make me late to my own damn party."
"I'm not making you late!" I shouted, throwing my wand down. "If it's such a big problem to have me there, then just go yourself! It's obviously more important than me."
"Fine, I will," he said, turning on his heel.
"I didn't even want to go to your stupid party anyway!"
When the door slammed, I slid to the floor and cried, ruining the make up I'd just been ten minutes applying to perfection.
April 4, 1999
I heard him come in. I pretended to be asleep, even when I felt him curl up beside me and kiss my neck. He smelled like rain water and fire whiskey.
Soon, his snores snuffed out my silent sobs.
April 10th, 1999
"I'm moving back into the office," I announced when he came home from work and questioned why I was moving my things from his room to the room I'd stayed in when I first moved in.
"I don't feel comfortable sleeping in the same bed with you anymore. It's just putting more pressure on me to be physical with you and you know I want to wait."
"There's more to it than just that," he accused.
"Maybe I'm tired of having you wake me up every night at 3:00 am smelling like fire whiskey."
"Oh, here we go again," he snapped. "I just got home. Can we not do this right now?"
"Alright," I conceded and continued to move my things.
"I don't understand why you even moved in if you weren't ready to be more physical," he grumbled.
"Excuse me?" I scoffed. "That's incredibly disgusting of you. You just assume that's all I'm good for and that's the only reason people move in with people?"
"I'm just saying, don't you think it's about time?" Ron griped. "You can be such a tease."
Something within me snapped.
"Sex is a little more important to me than just 'timing', Ronald. I'd like to be married first."
"Fine, then let's get married."
"Why, so you can screw me?" I scoffed.
"No, I just - I mean - Don't you - ?"
"Sometimes, I really hate you," I said tearfully and slammed the door to the office.
April 13, 1999
"Ron, I - "
I couldn't find the words to tell him I love him. I couldn't tell him those words and I couldn't make him stay home with me instead of going out to the pub. There was no way I could convince him.
"What, Hermione? I don't have time to argue. I'm on my way out."
"What makes you think I want to argue?"
"That's all we ever do anymore."
I couldn't fight the tears that streamed down my face.
Or the sob that broke through my lips as he rolled his eyes and stormed out the door.
April 14, 1999
"I'm taking the job," I told him after he once again came home late from the pub. It had become a nightly occurrence. Except this time I'd stayed up for him.
"Figured you would," he replied.
"What does that mean?"
Ron looked at me pointedly. "You were always going to take it, whether I was on board or not."
"That's not true," I argued.
"Just shut up," he snapped and his voice was like a slap to my face. "I can't stand your voice."
"Well, maybe if that's how you really feel I should just leave," I said.
"Yeah, maybe you should."
April 15, 1999
I wanted to do this in person, but once again, you aren't home. I'm moving back with my parents. This was a mistake and I'm so sorry to have put you through this. It's evident to me now that you don't care about me and there's nothing we can do to fix this. I don't want to keep living my life in misery. We've been dating for quite some time and living with each other and I still don't know where we are going. I once pictured myself married to you, eventually with children, happy and healthy, civil and loving.
But you are not the man I fell in love with. That man was ambitious, driven, passionate, and kind. He was funny and caring, and very annoying at times. The man I fell in love with is not the alcoholic that I now come home to and wait up for all hours of the night, wondering if he's okay. He's not the miserable man that ignores me at the breakfast table and prefers to spend his time in the company of other women and single men that party at pubs all night. You are not heartless, you are not lazy, you are not a drunk. You aren't this person, Ron.
I'm sorry you are unhappy with me, but mostly I am sorry you are not happy with yourself. I love you more than you could know, which is why I have to walk away. We just aren't good for each other.
And I just can't see a future with you anymore.
All my love forever,
April 29, 1999
"You're not really going to meet him, are you?" my father said tightly.
"I am," I answered, still holding Ron's apology letter in my hand.
"Robert," my mother warned. "If she wants to hear him out, that's her - "
"Codswallop!" he shouted, throwing his fist down. "I've seen nothing but mistreatment and emotional abuse on both sides of your relationship for too long! And I've seen you give that bastard chance after chance after chance! For what? So he can physically hurt you again next time he dives into a drunken rage? You are a driven, beautiful, intelligent woman who deserves someone who is the same way. Ronald Weasley is beneath you and he always has been."
"You don't understand anything about this situation," I said fiercely. "I'm going to meet him. Don't wait up."
April 29, 1999 - 3 hours later
"Have you seriously been sitting there waiting for me this entire time?"
My father stared at me from where he sat in his armchair in his study.
"How did it go?" he asked.
"Like you care," I scoffed and turned to walk out.
"I do care, tiny," my father said. "I know I come down hard on you, but it's out of love. I just want the best for you and Ron Weasley is just not good for you. You deserve to be happy."
"I am happy."
"You aren't, Hermione. I wish you could see yourself and how you've changed over this last year. He's changed you. You're insecure, you're unsure of yourself, you're moody, you're exhausted. I listened to you cry yourself to sleep every single night you've been here because of that boy."
"Stop," I said. "People aren't perfect, Dad. Relationships take work."
"You're relationship is too much work. And for what? Living in the same flat with each other, fighting every night while you try to convince yourself everything will be fine? He's an alcoholic! He has no plan. You can't keep trying to do this before either he or you lose yourselves. I don't want you sacrificing who you are and what you want out of life just to be with someone. You should find someone who loves you and accepts you for you and admires your drive and work ethic, who doesn't want to change you. You have no future with him!"
"I do have a future with him," I snapped. "I met with Ron and we both decided it would be best if I stayed with Regulations. He's just become a partner at his brother's shop and they're doing really well. And that's what love is, Daddy. It's fighting through the pain and the trials together and sacrificing some things to make the other person happy."
"That's not what you two are doing, Hermione. You don't fix a problem like your relationship in one bloody night."
"I'm moving back in with him - "
"Over my goddamn body you are!" he howled, rising from his chair. "I'll be damned if I let you walk out of here and go back to that boy and continue to live your life this way!"
"He's asked me to marry him."
There was a hollow, pregnant pause where I thought for sure that my father was having a heart attack.
"I said yes."
From their bedroom across the hall, I could hear my mother sobbing.
"When?" was all he could manage.
"End of May."
He blanched, sinking into his armchair, pale and silent. After several seconds he stared at me with red, blotchy eyes.
"You can't marry a man you know will not change," my father whispered. "You're both stuck and unmoving and immature. And he's pulling you down with him, Hermione. A real man would support you in your ambitions and take responsibility for his actions and mistakes. All I've heard from Ron is excuses and maybe's."
"I'm marrying Ron Weasley, Father," I said and he blink back tears at my formality. I'd never called him 'Father' before. "You are welcome to attend the wedding. I would like it if you would walk me down the aisle."
He shook his head. "I will never support this and I refuse to accept him as a part of this family."
"Then you have lost me forever. And that's not because of my decisions or Ron's mistakes. That's all on you. And I will never forgive you."
May 17, 1999
I kept hearing the same song repeating in my head. It knocked around my brain loudly like an alarm going off.
Going to the chapel and we're gonna get married.
Gee, I really love you and we're gonna get married.
Going to the chapel of love.
It was a song from my childhood that my mother would often listen to as she cleaned the house. The song sent me back to a vulnerable, innocent place in my life when I was in primary school. It was a time full of sunny days and fresh salty air, bullying and often feeling lost before I found magic.
Before I found Ron.
It was rather ironic, I thought, that this song played like a broken record in my head today. Today, of all days, with my mother stringing white flowers in my stiffly curled hair and Molly Weasley just outside the dressing room of the modest country church, fussing about the lace on the lavender bridesmaid dresses that had been picked out a mere two weeks ago and bought in a flurry before I could even decide whether I enjoyed them or not.
I stared blankly at myself in the mirror. I was getting married today. The thought made me squirm and my mother swatted my bare shoulder.
"Stop shifting, dear," she said, pinning more flowers into my glittery hair.
I felt like I was playing dress-up, cloaked in my white empire waist wedding gown. It was bought the same day as the bridesmaid dresses in a shop just a few miles south of Whitby Bay where my parents resided. It was where I had always envisioned myself getting married. Somewhere simple, familiar, and easy.
But none of this was simple, familiar, or even easy.
With trembling hands, I slipped on a pair of white silk gloves, which had once belonged to Molly Weasley on her wedding day to her husband Arthur. She'd been married to the same man since she was eighteen years of age.
I swallowed hard. I was barely nineteen in four months, still on the fence between woman and girl.
On my right wrist I clasped the sapphire bracelet that Ginny had given me earlier that week at my small bridal shower.
"It was my Aunt Muriel's from her wedding day, back when she wasn't so crazy. It's tradition for every woman in the family to wear it on their wedding day and since I won't be getting married any time soon, I thought it could be your something blue," she had said simply when she'd given it to me while I was trying on my dress, shrugging embarrassedly.
We had always been close and sister-like, but after Ron and I announced our engagement almost a month ago, she could barely leave my side, eager for the distraction.
No one had asked me if I was rushing into this, getting married after only a month of being engaged and roughly nine months of dating. But I certainly had been asking myself that question a lot lately, along with an assortment of others. The other questions swirling around in my brain were due to my father, who had demanded an answer from me a month ago when he had brought up these same questions.
And that's exactly the problem lately. Whenever I asked myself the hard questions—the ones that my father had inquired heatedly from me within his study, the ones that made me face the reality of what I was doing, who I was going to spend forever with—I would find myself pausing, my stomach turning over like I wanted to be sick.
Could it be nerves? Perhaps it was the coffee that Ginny regrettably knocked back my throat this morning after I stayed up all night worrying about the day to come? Or was I just letting my father get to me and push his ideas of perfection on me the way he always had since I was a little girl?
It was easy for me to say yes when I asked myself if I truly loved Ron—I really did—but could I handle being married to a man whom I fought with on many occasions, everyday? Could I start my life this way. Were we really ready? Would he and I be able to work past everything we'd been through?
Suddenly, a pain like I'd never experience before erupted in my brain and I screamed, falling down through an abyss of startlingly vibrant colors.
My world went white.
May 17, 1999
Everything was white. My head hurt. And I kept hearing the same song repeating itself inside my head like a marching band.
"Going to the chapel and we're gonna get married. Going to the chapel and we're gonna get married. Gee, I really love you and we're gonna get married. Going to the chapel of love."
"Jean?" exclaimed a voice, far too loud, and far too close. "Jean! Will someone get Jean, please? She's coming to!"
"Molly," I croaked.
Black spots appeared on my vision, breaking through the white.
"Don't try to move, dear," instructed Mrs. Weasley sternly. "You hit your head."
The spots were clearing and slowly I began to see again. My surroundings were fuzzy at first and I blinked several times to focus.
"Where am I?" I wondered, clutching my head. "Ow. What happened?"
"Sweetheart, can you hear me?" asked my mother.
"I'm right here. Focus on your breath," she commanded. In a lower voice, she muttered to Mrs. Weasley, "Panic attack. Must be the nerves. She used to do this all the time as a child."
"I'll get her some water," Mrs. Weasley offered, scuttling away.
When the door snapped behind her, my vision came slamming back. My mother kneeled beside me. Her dark brown hair, curly like mine but with a fringe of stylish bangs was swept up in an elegant up-do and her seashell pink lips were pursed in worry.
"I swear, I leave you for one minute to go and fetch your hairpieces from the van, and this is what I come back to," my mother clucked, shaking her head and smacking the flower clips onto the vanity.
I was in the bridal room of our church. The single window in the room was open, a light summer breeze toying with the blue and white floral patterned curtains.
"I don't know what happened," came another voice, this time from behind me.
It was then that I noticed Ginny, her long claret hair flowing in ringlets down her back. She stood, wringing her manicured hands. She was dressed in an ivory slip and half of her face was decorated in make up.
"One minute I'm doing my make up and we're waiting for you, talking about which of the two hairstyles she wants to do, and the next minute she's breathing all funny, rambling on about destiny and choices and the future, and then the next thing I know she's fainted! Mum was concerned she'd completely lost her marbles."
I couldn't remember a thing. My head pounded grouchily when I tried to remember the last thing I had been doing before I supposedly fainted. I caught a glimpse of myself in the vanity mirror as my mother helped me into the seat. I looked incredible, like something straight out of a fairytale, dressed in an ivory white empire waist wedding gown.
"Ginny, would you mind getting something for Hermione to snack on? I'm sure her blood sugar levels are low, which is probably why she fainted so suddenly," my mother asked kindly.
When Ginny had exited the room, my mother's smile slid off her face.
"What on earth happened?" she demanded, worry etched across her features.
"I honestly can't remember," I replied.
"Are you sure you don't remember what happened?"
I shook my head, gazing at myself in the mirror. For some reason, I looked a bit older, a bit wiser.
"Ginny mentioned that you were talking about the future and something about destiny?"
I felt something stir in my abdomen.
Icy blue eyes.
I'll love you forever.
I began to shake, confused by the fragments piercing my mind. A dream? A memory? Something else?
"Am I making the right decision?" I echoed aloud, hearing the words in my head.
"You're not getting cold feet, are you?"
There's an entire world out there that you have yet to touch on.
"How do you know?" I gasped, speaking to no one in particular.
There are many paths for you, Hermione, but only you can choose the path you are destined for.
"How do you know, what?" my mother pressed.
He'll die. He won't make it.
"That you are making the right decision."
He's stronger than you think. You don't have to meet the same destiny that he does.
"Well, first, you must ask yourself what that decision is," my mother explained, stroking my hair.
There is always a choice.
"And then you must ask yourself why you are questioning it."
Trust that your destiny can change.
"And above all," my mother continued, "you must trust yourself to make the right decision for you. You must trust what feels right in your heart."
The only way to move forward is to let go of what you are holding onto and trust what you feel is right in your heart.
"That's the only way you'll truly know. Have you tried asking Destiny?"
I don't believe in destiny!
Maybe you should.
"Destiny," I gasped, shooting out of my chair.
"Hermione! What on earth?" my mother hollered as I nearly plowed her over, catching herself on the chair. "What's gotten into you?"
"Mum," I spluttered, "Mum, I asked Destiny."
"You did?" Her eyes widened.
"When I was unconscious," I continued hysterically, "she showed me that I had the power."
"Power?" My mother looked absolutely flabbergasted. "What on earth has possessed you?"
Just then, Ginny burst through the doors of the dressing room, carrying a small tray of sandwiches, looking flushed and puffing in agitation. When she spotted me, she gave a howl of delight, setting the plate on the vanity before scurrying over to give me a crushing hug, her almond shaped eyes alight with excitement.
"Oh, Hermione!" she exclaimed, eyes watering. "You look simply stunning! How are you feeling?"
"Thank you," I replied weakly, putting a hand on my stomach to calm the sickening feeling bubbling up inside it.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Mrs. Weasley appeared at the doorway, poking her head inside.
"It's time," she announced. "Are you ready?"
Only you can answer that.
Three sets of eyes stared at me. The world began to spin. It suddenly was far too hot.
"Mum, I can't do this," I blurted, feeling sick.
"Still not feeling well?" asked Ginny.
"No, it's not that. I just-I need some-"
"Molly, did you ever get that water?" my mother wondered and Mrs. Weasley's eyes grew wide.
"Oh, dear, I forgot," she said. "I'll go get some right away. But don't take too much longer. The ceremony is starting."
"Ginny, some privacy, please?" I puffed. "I need my mother."
Ginny's eyes squinted together. "But..."
"Ginny, dear, it will only be a moment," my mother said.
When Ginny had departed, my mother turned to me once more.
"This isn't right," I sobbed, breaking down. "Mum, I can't do this."
"Sweetheart, are you sure? Is it just nerves? Where did all of this come from?"
"Mum, this is not the path I choose for myself. This is not where I want my life to be going," I hiccuped.
"Every woman feels this way on their wedding day, pet," she comforted.
"No, Mum, this is more. I shouldn't feel absolute dread."
I bit my lip.
"Daddy was right, Mum. I'm settling and it isn't fair to either of us. I'm just not ready."
"You are sure?"
Are you certain? Are you quite sure? You know what will happen.
No, I don't.
"Then we will call off the wedding. If you aren't ready, there's no reason to rush."
"It's more than that, Mum. For such a long time, ever since the war, I haven't been myself. I've been what everyone else wants me to be, what everyone else expects me to be. I can't keep pretending to be someone I'm not. Daddy was right and I was just too stubborn to hear him out. I've lost myself and I haven't been me for quite some time. You can't deny that."
She bowed her head, knowing it was true. Which is why, when I began furiously fiddling with my dress until the beads snapped off and there was an unpleasant tearing sound, she did not stop me. The blue sapphire bracelet hit the ground next to my fallen gown with a clang. I stood in just my slip and garter.
The wedding strain began to hum throughout the church, urging the bride out of her quarters.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
"Hermione?" called Ginny. "Hermione, it's time."
"One moment, dear," called my mother.
"I have to get out of here," I insisted, panicking.
My mother held her hand to her heart, tears flowing freely from her eyes.
"Tell them I'm sorry," I implored, sobbing desperately now, "and that one day, I hope they'll understand."
"You were right, Mum," I gasped. "You were always right about Destiny. She's real. But only I have the power to change my destiny. Only I have the means to be who I'm destined to be."
"I love you and I am proud of the woman you are becoming," she whispered, placing a kiss on my brow. "I'll tell Arthur what has happened; Molly will be too hysterical for me to calm and I don't want her persuading you differently from your decision. Here are the keys to the car. I'll meet you at the house. We'll make all the arrangements we need to when the time comes."
"Thank you, Mum."
I edged toward the back door of the bridal room as my mother slipped into the hallway. I heard Ginny's entrance into the bridal room, wondering what was taking so long, but by then I was already sprinting down the lawn. I knew what she must have found-a torn up wedding dress, a blue sapphire bracelet, and an empty room. I knew she would understand what that display meant and I knew that, in time, she would come to forgive me.
I could only hope the same for the rest of the Weasley's, especially Ron.
As I drove away in my mother's blue sedan, the clock in the bell tower of the church struck noon, and the sound bellowed after us for what seemed like miles, hollering my betrayal.
But with it seemed to echo another voice, a male voice, one I couldn't exactly place. From my memory? A dream? And with it gave me new hope.
"I believe we are meant to be, and one way or another you'll come to realize that, whether it be an act of destiny or choice, or something of a higher power. We were meant to cross paths, and even if we die this very instant, we'll find each other again. Our souls are connected. Enemies, friends, lovers, whatever it may be-I can't live my life without you in it."
"I will love you forever."
In my heart, I knew I would find the man, one day, who would say those very same words to me. And I knew with overpowering certainty that, at that moment, I would feel it in my heart that it was right.
And when asked the question, "Are you making the right decision?" I could finally, without a doubt, reply,