Over the next few days Fleur hardly ever left Hermione's side. They were growing extremely close and Hermione was beginning to feel that she could confide in the tall blonde. There were, of course, some things that she told no one. And those things ate away at her every second of every day.
Hermione numbed her loneliness by helping Fleur prepare for the baby. Fleur was a bit overly excited for her child to come. She was only a month and a half along and she was already buying white furniture for the nursery and planning her baby shower. When Hermione was at that stage in her pregnancy she was still in denial. Fleur wasn't even far enough along to discover the sex of her baby and Hermione didn't even accept that she was going to be a mother until she could feel the baby moving in her womb.
A week after the two women found themselves connecting over their extremely different maternities, Fleur and Hermione sat on the floor of the Burrow's sitting room sorting through Hermione's notes and books on raising a new born and pregnancy. The room was filled with pink shopping bags stuffed with baby blue tissue paper. They sat there giggling at Titus's many baby quirks as they waited for Mrs. Weasley to return from retrieving something that got her through giving birth to and raising seven children; Two of which Fleur and Hermione where married to.
"Sometimes, when I'm reading, he will sit at my feet and play with my toes and make them dance. Then when I go put socks on he'll clap and laugh like it was HIS victory, not mine!" Hermione laughed.
Fleur's melodic laughter filled the room.
They stopped abruptly as they heard footsteps on the stairs. They turned anxiously, thinking it was Mrs. Weasley. Ron emerged from the stairs and froze stock still, staring at the mess of baby stuff. The girls looked disappointed and that set Ron on edge. The muscle in his jaw danced about, his eye brows furrowed, and his neck turned that familiar shade of red.
Hermione recognised the signs before he had time to act on them. She stood up and walked over to him, "Ron, please," these where the first words she had said to him since she had announced that she was marrying his older brother.
Ron grabbed her by the shoulders and threw her on the ground. Fleur gasped and pulled out her wand.
Ron turned, "Stay out of this! It does not concern you!"
Fleur huffed, "I vill NOT zit by and let vou 'arm 'Ermione!"
"I SAID THIS IS NONE OF YOUR GOD DAMN BUSINESS!"
Ron disarmed Fleur as she raised her wand to hex him.
Hermione looked back across the room where she had left her wand. She looked back up at Ron, truly frightened. Ron had blown up on her countless times but he had never posed any physical threat let alone put a hand on her. This time he had a crazed look in his eyes that she had never seen before. She was too afraid to say anything. She opened her mouth but all that came out was a soft whimper. Well, there goes any chance of calming him down.
Ron aimed a kick at a cute little pink bag. It flew across the room with surprising force.
"I'm tired of all this god damn baby shit! It's sickening! You didn't have to go and let my brother knock you up! You shouldn't have married him! It should've been me! You should've married me! I was the one who has loved you since I was eleven fucking years old!"
Hermione pulled herself up off the floor. She placed a shaking hand on his cheek. "Ron,"
He grabbed her wrist and held on so tightly her fingers began to tingle.
"NO! Listen to me! I haven't said anything this whole time! I've been great about this! But now I'm tired of the bullshit! You said you married him because he's better for you, but I haven't seen him since your son was born. Have you?" he stared at her intensely, "Yea. I didn't think so. He doesn't do anything for you. I would've been there for you, but you left me for that git who left you! I would've been there for you through your pregnancy. I would've been at the birth of my own child, unlike my brother!"
"Ron!" tears dripped down Hermione's soft cheeks, "You don't understand!"
"Honestly Hermione! I think I understand you more than anyone else! I know you Hermione Jean! And I can tell that you're hiding something huge from me. Not just from me. From everyone. Probably from even yourself. I can see it everytime you look at that sodding kid!"
She used her other hand and smacked him hard in the chest, "You leave my son out of this!"
"Your son? Hermione! You are nineteen years old! You barely have a career! You should know that I was the only person who didn't whisper behind your waddling back when you were the size of a watermelon!"
Hermione glanced over at Fleur who was guiltily playing with a piece of parchment on the ground, refusing to look into Hermione's eyes.
"You left ME Ronald!"
Ron's grip on her wrist tightened and he growled through gritted teeth, "When?"
"When we found out Ginny tried to steal the sword," she whispered, almost inaudibly.
"But I came back,"
The tension between them was so thick it could be felt in the air.
"But you still left,"
"But you forgave me,"
"It was never the same after. I wasn't yours anymore,"
She watched a single tear fall from the face of the man who's heart she shattered. She heard a muffled sniff behind her and slowly turned to the sight of Fleur silently sobbing into blue tissue paper. She didn't hear Ron leave the room as she stared at Fleur, who refused to make eye contact. Hermione stared at her for a long time, tears streaking down her face.
It didn't bother Hermione that her family had said indecent things about her, the thing that really got under her skin was what she had done to Ron. <i>Had I really been so inconsiderate, so naive, that I had Ron feeling so betrayed? Had I really hurt the only living person that truly loved me so much that he had to resort to inflict physical harm upon me just to get my attention?
What kind of person was I?</i>
After a few minutes of silence, she walked over to the fireplace and picked up Fleur's wand. Fleur flinched as Hermione started walking back towards her. <i>Did she really think I would hurt my friend?</i> Hermione handed Fleur her wand, handle first. Fleur stared at her, wide-eyed and appologetic.
"I don't care, you know," Fleur stared at Hermione, confused, "Nothing any of you said could possibly be worse than what I thought," Hermione paused, staring at her sneakers, "think."
Fleur opened her mouth three or four times, clearly unable to put words to the pity she was trying to express. Hermione set her wand down next to her, as she seemed unable to move, and sat on the well worn sofa behind her.
"Your're my friend Fleur," she seemed to relax a little at Hermione's words, "I value that. Whatever you said in the past doesn't matter to me."
Fleur didn't look up from her shameful position on the rug. Her tears cascaded onto the tissue paper in front of her.
Hermione couldn't bring herself to eat at the Burrow that night, not after what happened with Ron and Fleur's lack of communication. George, being the kind sole he was, brought over a plate of leftovers. He sat across from Hermione at her small kitchen table, taking the place of her absent husband, feeding Titus while Hermione shovelled meat pie into her mouth as if she had never eaten before. They sat in silence while Hermione scarfed down her dinner. George watched her animatedly and Titus giggled at the sight of his mother eating like an animal.
Soon, Hermione put Titus to bed and her and George sat at the table with much needed glasses of wine. They discussed the dramatic events if Hermione's day. Rather, Hermione vented while George listened with keen ears. Since the war had ended, George had become a good friend and knew when Hermione needed a break from being an adult. They soon were chatting away about the eccentric life of being joke shop owner.
"So how is that whole expansion business coming along?" Hermione asked with misguided curiosity.
George smiled at the question, but Hermione could she that agony in his eyes, "Great actually! Our products are flying off the shelves at Zonkos, all those rowdy Hogwarts students," he chuckled, "The Ireland branch is buzzing with drunk old codgers, and Fred's shop in Italy is doing better than ever,"
Hermione flinched at the name. Her heart ached with nostalgic longing.
George saw her reaction but was kind enough to pretend not to notice, "Some of our new products will probably be sending a few people your way at St. Mongo's pretty soon. But don't tell Mum that! She'll hack off my head and mount it on the fireplace!"
Hermione laughed at the image of Mrs. Weasley sitting in her rocking chair, sipping her evening tea with George's head above the fireplace, a maniacal grin on her face.
George and Hermione sat and laughed and laughed for hours, she melted with joy. Laughter truly was the best medicine for a broken heart.