“Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears
Men reckon what it did and meant
But trepidation of the spheres
Though greater far, is innocent”
-John Donne, “A Valediction of Forbidding Mourning“
The twin’s swept her up in a bone crushing hug when she approached them, surrounding her on both sides.
“We missed you Hermione,” they both said in unison, stepping back to look at her.
“You saw her over the summer,” Ron pointed out, scowling at his older brothers. “And all you did was talk about her che-”
Fred elbowed Ron in the ribs as Hermione looked at the twins with narrowed eyes.
“My what?” she questioned, her voice starting to rise.
“Hermione, dear,” Fred began, motioning for her to go into the store.
“We were just discussing-”
“-your womanly attributes.”
“What?” Hermione shrieked, folding her arms over her chest. “You were talking about me? That’s disgusting!”
“Oh please,” Ron put in, rolling his eyes. “They couldn’t stop talking about how much you’ve “grown up”, Hermione. All they did at dinner was stare at your chest or bum, when you got up.”
Her cheeks began to turn red with embarrassment. “I should hex both of you, but you’re lucky that I’m exhausted.”
They both grinned at her.
“Take it as a compliment,” one of the them said, although she couldn’t tell who was who now. “We think you’re pretty. Ron, here, does too.”
Ron blushed to the roots of his hair and he punched his brother on his arm.
“May we go in?” Meier asked, his eyebrow raised. His appearance was back to normal and his hair seemed to shift in the moonlight.
“Sure, old chap,” one of the twins. “Anyone who’s with the bee is with us.”
They began to walk in, but one of the twin’s stuck out his arm when Malfoy approached the doorway, blocking his way in.
“Except for you, you little cockroach. You sleep outside.”
Malfoy narrowed his gray eyes at the twins. “As much as it would be an improvement from the hovel that you live in, I was ordered to stay with the group.”
He pushed his way past the two brothers, scowling blackly.
The inside of the store was vibrant, with reds and ambers and golds that went together magnificently. There were shelves and shelves of their products and even books on how to be a prankster and jokes to say. Small, round, wooden tables were set out across the store for eating and reading purposes. There was a small animal shop in the far corner of the store, and the birds that they had were screeching loudly. Hermione looked at them, grimacing, before turning to the twins, who were locking up the doors.
“You’ll silence them before we go to bed, right?” she asked, motioning towards the birds.
“No,” Fred answered. He had pulled on his sweatshirt that had a large “F” on it. “The bottom part of the store has a silencing spell on it. You can’t hear any noise in the rooms upstairs, unless it’s an attack of some sort. Then the alarm will go off.”
“Good,” Hermione said, sighing softly and rubbing her temples with the tips of her fingers. “Well can you show me to my room? I need some more sleep.”
“You do,” Malfoy spoke up, from where he was sitting at one of the tables with a sneer on his face. His long hair was up in a ponytail and he had bags under his eyes. “ You look like a corpse.”
Hermione scowled. “Well at least I’m not like you and look like I’m dead all of the time.”
“Ouch,” Harry said. The twins grinned at her.
“It would be my pleasure, Hermione,” George said, offering her his hand. Hermione took it with hesitation; this was usually the time when they sprang some other trick on her.
She said “goodnight” to her friends and the others, before making her way up the steps, arm in arm with George. The upper hallway was quite long, with five rooms, two of them bathrooms and the other’s bedrooms. He showed her to the second one and opened the door.
It was nicely decorated in Gryffindor colors, with a large bed that look incredibly soft. Hermione made a sound of approval, dropping her trunk on the floor, before she turned back to George, who had his arm crossed over his chest.
“Are you going to tell them?” he asked her.
“Tell them what?”
“Don’t give me that innocent bullshit, Hermione,” George snapped harshly. His boyish humor had faded and she could see that he was deadly serious. “That act ended over the summer.”
“When are you going to tell them that you were attacked?” he pressed, leaning his tall frame against the doorway. “Or that you were there when Lupin was attacked and put into comatose? Or what that bastard, Raldophus, did to you-”
“Stop!” Hermione exclaimed, sitting on the bed and putting her head in her hands.
“When are you going to tell them that you almost died?” he added quietly. His expression had softened and she could see that he was never really angry with her.
“I’ve told Dumbledore about happened to Remus,” Hermione started, her voice shaky. “Everything else…everything else needs to stay buried.”
George sat next to her, taking her hands into his own large ones. Hermione lowered her eyes; she couldn’t bear to meet his gaze.
“So you’re going to ignore everything that happened when you went on your internship?” he asked, his voice sad.
She sighed again and pressed her fingers over her eyes. “ I can’t, George. I don’t know how they would act. I’m already a handicap and they don’t need another broken toy to fix. And I don’t need the extra security that would occur if they were to find out…”
“You may need it,” he concluded, still gazing at her. “Your wand may not always be around. Without it, you’re helpless.” He paused, licking his lips as if he was thinking. “They deserve to know.”
Hermione abruptly pulled away and stood by the window, leaning her head against the cool glass. “I’m sorry, George,” she said softly. “I need…I need time to think about it. I’m perfectly fine and safe with the people who I’m with right now-”
“Malfoy,” George interrupted, protesting against her declaration of normality. His eyes narrowed. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you-”
“He’s a prat, George, but I think that he’s changed, even if only a little. I need to believe that change isn’t out of reach for someone like him.” She paused, smiling. “Besides, I can kick his arse with, or without my wand.”
George cracked a small, lopsided grin, although his eyes still seemed troubled. He walked to the doorway but stopped before he stepped out into the corridor, turning to look at her.
“I won’t tell them about it,” George told her. “I understand...but you‘re going to have to tell them, even Dumbledore, about what you’ve been through eventually.”
“Okay George,” Hermione said, hugging him tightly with relief. “When the time is right, I promise that I will.”
“And I want you to stay away from Malfoy, Hermione. He only looks out for himself.”
Hermione nodded. “I know, George. I know him well enough to not trust him.”
The red head took one last look at the witch who sat on the bed before him and shut the door as he went back downstairs.
Sighing with exhaustion, Hermione lowered herself on the bed and almost as soon as her head hit the pillow, she was asleep.
Hermione was sitting at one of the tables downstairs in the shop, which was bustling with activity, trying to read on extra material that Professor Vector had given her. Harry and Ron were at the table next to her, once more playing Exploding Snaps and Meier was sitting behind her, the twins showing him samplers of their new products. He was quite amazed at how much they had come up with.
The noise began to increase as Harry and Ron began to play more furiously and Hermione slammed her book shut with frustration. She slid her chair back and got up.
“Where’re you going?” Harry asked, looking up from the game.
“Out,” Hermione said shortly. “I have to get some air. I’m going upstairs and then I’m leaving.”
He looked at her worriedly as she stomped up the stairs, obviously upset at being disturbed so often.
She came back down a minute later with her school bag (devoid of any identification) slung over her shoulder and a murderous look on her face.
“Who’s been in my room?” Hermione asked them, her voice low with anger. “I’m missing over a dozen books from my trunk.”
Harry and Ron threw each other looks before shaking their heads. “We didn’t do it.”
Hermione rolled her eyes and pushed past them to get to the door. She was about to leave when Meier stopped her.
“Going somewhere without me, love?” he asked mockingly, moving to stand in front of her. He raised an eyebrow inquisitively when she scowled darkly at him.
“ I was, actually,” she said to him. “And in case you didn’t notice, I don’t want your company either.”
Meier narrowed his eyes at her. “I thought I made it clear, Hermione, that I was to protect you at all times.”
“For Merlin’s sake, I have my wand!” Hermione protested. “And Diagon Alley is full of people, not to mention the Aurors who should be tailing us.”
“If you die, don’t be like that Myrtle girl in the bathroom and blame me,” he said nastily, moving off to the side to let her through.
“I won’t” Hermione snapped back. “What makes you think that I’d take the initiative to see you in death when I can barely stand your presence while I’m alive?”
Before he could answer, the seething witch walked past him and into the bustling alley. It was a bright day and the remnants of last night, like empty Firewhisky bottles, lined the streets. It was rather crowded, more than it was usually, so it was easy for her to blend into the crowd.
She hadn’t been paying attention when she accidentally walked into someone. Her bag fell to the ground and a few books spilled out. Hermione looked up to see a handsome, brunette.
“I’m so sorry,” he said to her, bending down to pick up her books and her bag. He straightened slowly, meeting her eyes before standing fully. “I …I never really watch where I’m going.”
Hermione began to speak, but stopped, realizing that she was supposed to be from Brazil. She steeled herself for a short conversation and hoped that she managed to pull it off.
“It’s fine,” she answered, looking away from him shyly. “No damage was done.”
Hermione inwardly thanked Meier, who must’ve placed a charm on her voice before she walked out. Her voice held an accent that sounded half way authentic.
“None, despite the fact that I ran into such a beautiful woman,” the brunette answered, studying her face. Hermione resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “You aren’t from England are you?”
She sighed before she started to walk. The man walked beside her, waiting for her answer.
“I grew up in Brazil,” she told him, sliding her backpack over her arm. “My parents are researchers there. I’m here with my class.”
He nodded. “What’s your name, if I may ask?”
“Esperanza,” Hermione answered, telling him the first thing that came into her mind.
“Hope,” the man commented, looking down at her with a look she couldn’t place. “Did you bring your parents hope, Esperanza?”
Hermione paused, thinking. “I don’t know. I don’t know what it is that they hope for.”
“Anything,” he pressed, stopping and moving to the sidewalk. He leaned against the wall of a store. She followed. “A new life perhaps? Hope doesn’t always have a specific situation that it’s applied to.”
“Well if there’s no situation, I guess I can’t answer you,” Hermione said, grinning.
Hermione shrugged. “Perhaps. But my parent’s wouldn’t know… my grandmother named me.”
Still smiling at him, Hermione turned and walked away, making her way through the crowd.
“Wait!” a voice called from behind her. Hermione spun back around to see the brunette running to catch up with her.
He stopped in front of her, out of breath, with his hands on his knees. He stayed like that a few minutes before he caught his breath.
“You don’t know my name,” he told her, looking up at her face through his bangs.
“What makes you think that I want to know?” she asked, raising her eyebrow.
“Besides the fact that you stopped to have a conversation with me?”
Hermione considered that. “Yes.”
“It’s Steven by the way,” he told her, ignoring her comment with a grin. “Steven Armesto.”
“That’s a nice name,” Hermione complimented, holding her books to her chest. “It was a pleasure meeting you Steven.”
“The pleasure was all mine,” Steven said, taking her hand and placing a gentle kiss on her skin. “Could we possibly meet for coffee one day?”
Her breath caught in her throat as her mind scrambled for an answer. “I would love to, but I’m leaving soon, Steven.”
His face visibly fell when she gave her answer but he composed himself and tenderly dropped her hand so that it was back at her side.
“Well I won’t forget you,” Steven told her softly. “I may see you again, in the near future. Perhaps someplace else other than this crowded alley.”
“I hope so,” Hermione said. “Well goodbye, Steven.”
He said something, which sounded like “at nine” but was probably that’s fine, before he said goodbye and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. He walked off into the crowd and disappeared.
Hermione shook her head and walked on, entering a random shop to gather her thoughts. She looked around and saw that she was in a book shop and she felt herself begin to grow excited. There were shelves upon shelves, not to mention the stacks of books that lined the walkway that she had to go through. There were several large armchairs scattered throughout the store.
She walked over to the nearest bookcase, dropped her bag beside her foot and began to read the spines of the books. Hermione jumped when she felt a breath in her ear and saw a long arm reach around her to grab a book from the shelf.
“Away from your bodyguards?” a male voice asked softly, although his tone was taunting.
“What do you want Malfoy?” Hermione asked, turning around and narrowing her eyes at him.
The tall blonde stepped closer, as though he was trying to get a better look at a book. She found that it hadn’t been a good idea for her to turn around since they were now only an inch apart. Her hand began to tremble although she wasn’t sure why. There was something about him that made her feel things that she shouldn’t be feeling towards the boy…no man that she had hated for seven years. She found that she couldn't think when he was standing this close to her, his body radiating a heat that met hers. His mercury eyes looked down, almost accusingly, and there was a foreign emotion there that she couldn’t read.
“I’m looking at these books,” he said, answering her question. “I do read, you know, despite what you think.”
“Since when do you care what I think?”
“ I don’t,” Malfoy answered shortly.
Rolling her eyes, Hermione pushed past him and sighed, trying to sort out what she was about to say to him and the consequences it would have. Her hands were still trembling slightly and she found ridiculous that she could let Malfoy affect her so much.
“I wanted to say thank you,” she said slowly, tasting the words as she said them. Malfoy raised an eyebrow. “For the whole Stan thing on the Knight Bus.”
“I was only saying what Potter or Weasel was going to say ,” Malfoy answered, crossing his arms over his toned chest.
“Well I just wanted to thank you,” Hermione pushed, meeting his gaze.
He looked at her a moment, but for some reason Hermione didn’t feel like he was calculating her, like he always did. It looked as though he doubted her sincerity, for a reason unknown to her, and was searching her face for an answer.
“You’re welcome,” he said back, his eyes stormy.
They had grown closer, both staring to find something that wasn’t there, something that was absent. Hermione vaguely realized that they were leaning into each other to kiss, but she couldn’t have cared less at the moment, when all she could think about were his eyes,
As he went to capture her lips with his own, coughs erupted from behind Malfoy, and the blonde turned slowly to see who was interrupting them.
It was George, obviously upset at seeing the two enemies in such a position. Hermione’s cheeks flushed when she remembered that she promised the red head that she’d stay away from Malfoy.
“All of us are wanted at the shop,” he said coldly, his eyes narrowed. “It would be wise to stop what was ever going to happen and come back now.”
It all seemed to happen in slow motion, when Hermione pushed Malfoy away from her as gently as she could manage and tried to ignore the look in his eyes that told her something completely different from what she had been expecting. Too afraid to see Malfoy’s reaction, Hermione followed George back to the shop.
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