Hermione stared at the entrance to the Hogshead, awestruck. Ginny had been right when she said Aberforth had really fixed the place up. The sign had a fresh coat of paint, the windows glinted without their usual layer of dirt and grime, under the windows and on the ground on each side side of the door sat curious little plants. None of the plants were familiar to Hermione, which she thought was rather odd considering she had received top marks in Herbology (she was top of the class, well, besides Neville).
Hermione heard herself gasp.
Ginny smiled at her, "I know! It's great, isn't it? Wait 'til you see inside!" she pulled Hermione in by the sleeve of her jacket.
Once inside, Hermione was greeted by the sound of laughter and the smell of hot food. The improvement on the inside was much more dramatic than it had been on the outside. The floors and countertops shone and wine glasses glittered. Sky blue tablecloths covered every table set with gleaming silverware and lit candles. The place was busy, which had never been a color the Hogshead had worn easily. Witches and wizards of all ages where gathered for dinner.
"Must be a Hogwarts weekend," Harry had spoken for the first time since greeting Hermione back at her flat.
At that moment Hermione realised this had been the closest she had ever been to Hogwarts since the Great Battle that ended the Second War. Her heart sank in her stomach and her joy was shattered. Glimpses of red hair and green sparks flashed through her minds eye.
"Hermione! Ginny! Harry!" chimed a familiar voice from behind them, "What a pleasant surprise!"
Hermione had turned around to see the face of her fellow veteran and classmate, Neville Longbottom. Her jaw dropped. He had grown much taller since she last saw him, and the horrible gashes he had on his face during the war had healed and formed scars. Despite his worn appearance he seemed comfortable and happy, much unlike his boyhood awkwardness.
"Neville!" screeched Hermione, embracing him with a warmth that had been unfamiliar to her recently, "I thought you were in Tibet studying uncharted herbs? It is excellent to see you!"
Neville chuckled, "Tibet was great, but ever since the War, I have had a hard time staying away from Hogwarts. I came home a few months ago to visit Professer Sprout and dropped by to see old Aberforth on the way out. Age has been getting to him so I offered to help out a bit with this place," he gestured around the cozy little restaurant.
"Wait! You mean to say you did this?" Hermione looked impressed.
"Yea. With the help of Lavender of course,"
"Lavender? Lavender Brown? I haven't seen her in centuries it seems. You still talk to her?"
At that moment, Hermione heard that giggle that had irritated her so much in school as Lavender "I'm so freaking adorable" Brown walked up and placed her left hand on Neville's shoulder. I large diamond sparkled in the candlelight.
"Actually we are engaged!" she squealed.
Hermione was speechless. She couldn't help but stare at the large scar that started through Lavender's left eyebrow and ended at the corner of her mouth, sealing her left eye shut. Lavender noticed Hermione's wandering eyes. "You know, I'm quite proud of my scar," she said in a much less nauseating tone. "It shows that I survived. That wouldn't have been possible without you. Thank you."
Hermione remembered the sight of Fenrir Greyback digging into an unconscious Lavender. She had stunned him, diverting his attention. Hermione touched her right rib, feeling the soft spot that would never heal. Scars caused by dark magic were the only ones that would never heal.
Thankfully Neville took the moment to speak up, "Shall I show you to your seats?" he said ushering the trio to a table by a window overlooking a beautiful garden.
He magicked a vase of flowers onto the table and took their drink orders.
Once Neville had left Ginny turned to Hermione excitedly, "Told you you'd never believe it! That last part was a bit of a shock to me as well though. For some reason I always thought he'd end up with Luna. Neville Longbottom and Lavender Brown just does not seem like a likely fit," she shrugged.
Hermione was quite impressed with the quality of the meal. The mood seemed to become more and more relaxed as the night progressed and the wine flowed. The friends where joking and laughing as their plates disappeared. Over cheesecake and more wine the conversation grew serious, yet happy.
"Harry and I have set a date for the wedding," Ginny announced, holding her fiancé's hand, "August the sixteenth,"
Hermione couldn't help but smile at the happy couple. She was glad love had worked out for them, even if it hadn't worked out for her. "That's fantastic! Congratulations guys!"
"Hermione," started Ginny, staring her straight in the eyes, "I would like you to be my maid of honour!" she smiled ear to ear, waiting for Hermione's response.
The bushy haired girl half choked on her wine. She muttered between coughs, "G-Gin.. I-I-I would.. B-b-be delighted!" she just barely accomplished a smile through her coughing.
"Yay! I knew you'd accept! Ron is of course the best man and Luna and Fleur will be bridesmaids. George and Neville will be groomsmen..." Ginny trailed off in a fit of wedding arrangements.
The rest of the night consisted of arrangments and plans and appointments to be made. Hermione was a bit overwhelmed but put on the false smile she had learned so well. All she could think about was her son back at home and his father who would never come home.
She kicked her heals off the moment she stepped foot in the door. Fleur was laying on the sofa reading one of Hermione's books. She peeked up over the back of the couch and smiled at Hermione, "How vas dinner?"
Hermione looked tired and windswept. Some of her curls were falling in her face and her lipstick faded away. She gave a soft chuckle, "It was definitely a lot for my first night out," she looked towards the playpen then towards the hall, "Titus asleep?"
Fleur nodded, "Sweet and sound," Fleur looked a bit overly excited.
Hermione slouched into the sitting room and plopped down into her favourite rocking chair. Seeing the book on Fleur's belly she asked, "Which book caught your interest?"
Fleur lifted it up in order for Hermione to read the cover. "What to Expect When You're Expecting". Hermione nodded, "That's right. You're pregnant," she glanced back at the book, almost disgusted, "You can keep the book. I don't plan on having any more kids- ever."
"Why? eez Tituz too much?" Fleur looked confused.
"No. He's a perfect little angel," Hermione looked at the wedding picture sitting beside her on a table, "It's just not a good idea when your husband lives in another country."
Fleur showed a little too much understanding. It was impossible that she could understand. She not only saw her husband everyday but she worked with him as well. She could have no possible idea what it was like to not hear from your spouse for months at a time.
Hermione found herself once again drowned in her thoughts. Fleur was jabbering away about her and Bill's plans for the nursery. Hermione just nodded and added a "how wonderful" and a "that's quite sweet" here and there. The bushy haired girl was brought to when she heard a tapping on her window for the second time that day. Fleur stopped mid-sentence as Hermione got up and let in an unfamiliar owl.
She unrolled the parchment it had delivered and read the all too familiar handwriting.
I have something very important to discuss with you. It is not something I wish to propose through writing. We will talk upon my arrival home. Sorry to be short but I really have been busy. I am lucky to be able to come back for the wedding. Although, Mum would surely hack my head off if I missed my baby sis's wedding.</i>
Hermione could not bring herself to read the signature as fat tears welled up in her eyes and threatened to spill. Fleur sat in a position of elevating climax on the edge of the sofa. Her soft voice sang it's beautiful, melodic tone as Hermione appeared about to collapse in a fit of sobs by the window.
"Was that him?" her voice rang with concern and curiosity.
All Hermione could do was nod.
Fleur was up and by her side in no time. She put her delicate yet strong arm around Hermione's shoulders and settled her down into an arm chair by the window. The letter fell from her hand and lay abandoned on the rug beside the chair. Hermione absentmindedly fiddled with the seem of the chair as she attempted to speak through sobs of warm salty tears.
"T-t-this i-is hi-his chair. Was. This wa-was his ch-chair b-before he left us!" she cried into her hands for several moments before she began to calm down and wipe mascara tears away from her rosy cheeks. She turned to Fleur, looking like a confused child, "I never wanted to be a single mother. I never wanted to become a mother at nineteen. Period. Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this?" she was screaming at that point.
Fleur was rubbing circles on Hermione's back. She spoke in a calm, comforting voice, "'ermione dear, vou aren't a zingle mozer. Vou are ztill married,"
Hermione scoffed, "Yea. I'm still married. Read the letter. He wrote it as if he were writing a business partner. Not a single 'I love you' or 'I miss you' or anything to indicate that he actually gives a damn about his wife and child! He is supposed to help me with my baby. He is not a father or a husband!"
A tear fell from Fleur's eye and hit the ornate rug as she reached for the letter. She scanned the letter intensely. She looked up and pulled Hermione into a tight hug. "I know he is going to ask for a divorce. And I am going to accept gladly!"
"'Ermione," Fleur whispered in her ear, "vou are not a zingle mozer, vou have me, and ze rest of ze Veasleys, and 'Arry. Ve all love vou and Titus. Vou know ve're 'ere vhenever vou need uz,"
The two women sat holding each other desperately on the floor.
<i>AN: Thanks for taking your time to read. Please spare a bit more time and write me a review. I realise that some favourite stories so they can track them but please review if you feel the need to keep reading. Even review if you hated it!
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