Luna Lovegood looked out of place in the sitting room of the Burrow. She was wearing a bright orange summer dress and around her neck was a black cord with a small, glass bottle hanging from it.
She was sitting on the couch, telling Mrs. Weasley about a recent trip she'd taken with her father. Luna was staunchly ignoring her fiancée who sat beside her, albeit reluctantly. He shot her a glare every time that she opened her mouth.
Molly had invited the younger girl over for tea and, by some miracle, had persuaded Ron to come down from his room. It was progress. Though, he still hadn't spoken to her.
Hermione, who was the only other person home, had been wrangled by Mrs. Weasley into being there. Hermione sat in her favorite chair with legs crossed and an awkward smile. She couldn't remember ever feeling more uncomfortable than she did at that moment.
In an effort to keep the conversation flowing, Hermione asked, "What's that bottle around your neck, Luna?"
Luna beamed as bright as the sun. She grasped the bottle tightly between her fingers. "It's powdered asphodel. It's to ward off sprackans."
Hermione, as usual, had no idea what the other girl was talking about. But she nodded and said, "That's … interesting."
Ron scowled and shot up from his seat, upsetting his cup of tea as he did so. "You've got to be kidding me."
"Ronald Weasley!" his mother scolded. "Sit down this instant!"
"I can't bloody do this," he said as he stormed out of the room.
Hermione shot Luna an apologetic smile as she followed Ron. He had gone through the kitchen and out the back door. She hurried her pace and finally caught up with him in the garden.
"Ron, come back here!"
He came to a halt and whirled around to face her. His expression was one of fierce loathing. Hermione shrank in the face of his fury. During the many times that they had fought, he'd never once looked at her like that.
"What do you want?" he spat.
"I want you to stop being a total prat!"
"Did you hear her in there?" he screamed, pointing back at the Burrow. "That's the person that I'm supposed to spend the rest of my life with? Whoever decided that must be completely daft!"
"Open your eyes, Ronald! Everyone else is very happy with their pairing. The Ministry must have known what they were doing when they made these decisions. If you would just give her a chance, I think you two could be happy together."
His eyes were venomous. "Everyone else is happy? Does that include you, too? Now you have feelings for my brother?"
Hermione's eyes prickled with tears when she realized what she'd said. Her mouth opened and closed a few times as she struggled over what to say. Deciding to go with the truth, she breathed a great sigh. "Yes," she said in a resigned tone. "I have feelings for your brother. He's very sweet."
Ron looked at her like he didn't even recognize her anymore. He crossed his arms. "I always thought that when it was all over, it would be you and me."
Hermione's heart was breaking. She didn't want to hurt him, but she had to tell him the truth. "C'mon, Ron. You can't honestly believe that a relationship would have lasted. I mean, look at us. Arguing. Again. That's all we ever do."
He shook his head bitterly. "We could have made things work. But now, I guess we'll never know."
Hermione could only watch as he turned and Apparated away.
The next day, Ginny dragged Hermione away from her book and into the sunlit streets of Diagon Alley. Ginny said that she was going stir-crazy at the Burrow and she desperately needed a girl's day out.
"You know, the Hollyhead Harpies are having tryouts soon. I think I'm gonna go," Ginny told her as she pulled her to a shop window filled with shoes. "Oh, look at those!" she squealed.
"That's great, Ginny. I'm sure you'll make the team. You're terrific."
Ginny beamed at her. "Thanks.
After a moment of Ginny drooling over the window display, they continued on down the street. Hermione was feeling a bit dejected at Ginny's announcement. It seemed as if everyone had an idea of where their life was going. Harry and Ron were training to be Aurors. Ginny had Quidditch. The twins had the shop.
Hermione had no idea what she wanted to do. For a long time, she'd considered becoming a Healer. But then the war had happened and she'd decided that she'd seen enough blood and injuries for one lifetime. So, now she was lost and feeling completely useless. That wasn't something she was really accustomed to feeling.
Ginny grabbed her hand and dragged her to another store window. This one was full of Quidditch supplies. Hermione groaned inwardly, but it wasn't long before they were moving on.
"Do you wanna stop in at the shop?"
Those words chased away Hermione's black mood. She tried not to appear too eager as she nodded. But Ginny could always see right through her.
She grinned and grabbed Hermione's hand again, dragging her in the direction of the shop. "C'mon, let's go see your looove."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Would you stop calling him that?"
A few minutes later found them standing in front of Weasley' Wizard Wheezes. As Ginny opened the door, the sound of several pops and bangs spilled out onto the street. Hermione stepped inside and, as always, was in awe at the sheer amount of products that filled the store. The twins definitely had a knack for this.
There weren't as many customers as there usually were. A handful of people, mostly children and teenagers, was scattered about the shop.
She followed Ginny over to the checkout counter. George was leaning against the counter with his back to them. A very pretty, blonde girl was standing beside him and laughing loudly at something he'd said. Hermione fought back a scowl when she saw how close the girl was standing to him.
Ginny cleared her throat and George jumped. He turned around and, when he realized who it was, grinned widely at them. "Hello, girls. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Just came to visit," Ginny said with a shrug of her shoulders. "Where's Fred?"
"Somewhere in the back, I think. Verity," he said, turning to the girl next to him. "Would you mind going back and sending him this way?"
"Anything for you, Mr. Weasley," Verity said with a flirty smile. She turned and headed towards the back of the store, her hips swaying every step of the way.
An iciness settled in the pit of Hermione's stomach. The thought of sending a nasty jinx at the girl's back crossed her mind. She struggled to keep her expression neutral. She didn't want George to know that it bothered her.
But Ginny had always been blunt. Her eyes narrowed. "What was that?"
"What was what?" George replied, baffled.
Ginny scoffed. "That bimbo! Anything for you, Mr. Weasley," she imitated in an exaggerated, seductive tone while batting her eyelashes.
George looked as if he was trying not to laugh. "Okay, a couple things. Number one, don't ever talk like that again. It's creepy. Number two, Verity is not a bimbo." Then his gaze came to rest on Hermione. "She's just a friend."
Before Hermione could think of how to respond, Fred had appeared. Thankfully, the blonde did not follow.
Fred smirked. "Hello, Granger. I'm glad you're here. Georgie here has been yammering about you constantly. No offense, but, after a while, hearing how wonderful you are gets a bit old."
George glared at his twin and leaned forward to smack him across the back of the head. "Oi! Shut up."
Hermione stifled a giggle. Fred stepped towards his sister and offered her his arm. "Let's give these lovebirds some privacy. Well, as much privacy as you can get in a crowded shop. I'll show you some of the new products that we're working on."
Ginny linked her arm with her brother's and the two skipped to the backroom. George was watching her and the intensity of his gaze reminded her of how he'd looked at her in the dark of the tree house. Suddenly, she couldn't catch her breath. He leaned down to place a gentle, chaste kiss on her lips.
George chuckled. "In case you can't tell, I missed you."
"Is that so?"
He nodded. "Fred threatened to hex my bits off if I brought you up in conversation one more time. It's only fair, though. Merlin knows how many times I listened to him whine about Angelina."
Hermione snorted and then stood on the tips of her toes to kiss him again. "Well, that's good, because I missed you too."
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