Ron was so angry that he postponed his evening with Hermione, which
only served to worsen his mood still further – or at least deepen his
anger with the world in general. Harry suspected that as far as he was
concerned, Ron couldn't have been any angrier. The crack that
he'd made when he Disapparated hadn't felt much quieter than a sonic
boom. The entire flat had rattled, and the neighbours had banged on the
"Well, that could have gone better," Hermione said at last. Harry nodded silently.
"Were you and Ginny going to..."
"You don't know?"
Harry gave his friend a look.
"I suppose that it is you."
"Thanks. What about you and Ron."
have given up trying to work him out. Every time I think things are
going somewhere, one of us says something and the other one loses their
"Yeah, that does sound like you two."
"But he's not off with Padma tonight."
"And Ginny broke up with Olivier as well."
"So Ron and I walked in on you... Oh, I'm sorry."
"You weren't to know," Harry shrugged. "Of course, now they think that I'm with Tatiana and that I'm some cheating, sleazebag Roger-Davies-alike. It's not looking good, is it?"
at least Ginny is available again. You can show her that you're
interested. But I think that you have to tell her about Tatiana."
"I can't think of a single way that I can tell Ginny the truth about Tatiana and make it look good."
"Harry, it'll seem a lot worse if you don't tell her the truth now. It's bound to come out later."
Harry nodded. "I didn't say that you weren't right – it's just not going to be good, is it?"
Hermione opened her mouth as though to protest, but closed it again and shook her head.
stretched and yawned, revelling in the softness and warmth of her bed.
The curtains, she noted with a sleepy satisfaction, were drawn and
securely mounted on the wall.
She lay in her room for a long
moment, relishing the security and comfort of her old home. She knew
that, eventually, she would have to get up again.
Eventually, she would have to look for her own place.
Eventually, she would have to face Harry again.
She frowned. Her sleep-addled brain was ignoring her orders to not think about the great prat.
a sigh, she swung her legs out of the bed and slipped her feet into the
fluffy slippers positioned just so on the floor. Padding softly out
into the hallway, she headed into the bathroom and spent several long
minutes luxuriating in a hot shower.
Downstairs, she could
hear her mother clattering about in the kitchen. The smell of bacon
wafted through the house, and her stomach rumbled at the same time as
her mouth watered.
Ginny wondered idly how many of her family
were in the house that morning – she rather fancied gorging herself on
bacon sandwiches before resuming her hunt for a job that seemed even
She was answered with a sharp blast of
cold water, making her shriek and hop around futilely in the confines
of the cubicle before tearing back the curtain and darting out into the
bathroom, where she stood shivering until she managed to wrap a thick
towel around herself.
"Sorry, Ginny dear. I didn't realise you were out of bed."
shivered indignantly back into her room, and quickly dried and dressed
herself. She headed downstairs and found, to her mild displeasure, that
Ron had decided to stay the night as well. Judging by the number of
crusts on his plate, he had already consumed a heroic number of
"'Morning," she said, sitting opposite him and grabbing a sandwich from his plate.
"'Morning," he replied, snatching it back.
"You didn't go home last night, then?" she asked, seizing the sandwich again by a corner.
"No. It was a bit late," he replied, taking hold of the other corner.
"So you haven't seen Padma?" she said, tugging on her half.
"No," he replied, pulling.
"So she doesn't know that you're going to break up with her?" Tug, tug.
"Are you sure you want to do this? Padma's really nice." Tug.
"Hermione's nicer." Yank. "Even if she doesn't want to go out with me, at least I'll know." Scowl.
"So, how are you going to tell Padma?" Grimace, tug.
"I'll meet her at work – she's on duty today, and I'm not in training again until tomorrow." Bare teeth, pull.
"And Hermione?" Seize with both hands, yank.
"No idea. What about you and Harry?" Seize with both hands, yank, pull sandwich and sister halfway across the table.
watch brother topple backwards on his chair and crash to the floor,
seize brother's plateful of sandwiches and leave him with one very
"There's nothing going on between Harry and me," Ginny said coolly as Mrs. Weasley bustled in from the kitchen.
"Ron," she said, setting down a large stack of toast. "Stop messing about. What was that about Harry, dear?"
"Nothing, Mum," Ginny said quickly. "I just bumped into him last night."
done a lot more if I hadn't shown up," Ron muttered, fortunately too
quietly for Mrs. Weasley to hear as she hurried back out into the
kitchen to take the kettle off the boil.
"Shut up, Ron." Ginny paused. "Are you sure he has a girlfriend?"
Ron shot up from the floor with a triumphant grin.
"I knew it! I knew you fancied Harry all of this time."
"Yeah, shut up," Ginny grumbled. "I reckon Mum knows, too. It seems like the only person who didn't know was Harry."
"I reckon you solved that problem last night."
"But he has a girlfriend."
"Yeah, well, I reckon you can get him to dump her."
Ginny hesitated, then shook her head.
"No, if he's happy with her than he should be with her. It's not fair for me to get involved."
"I don't think he's happy with her," Ron said.
know," Ginny replied. She managed a smile, which grew as she
contemplated the vision of Tatiana that Ron's description had conjured.
"All the more reason for me to let him spend his time with her."
"Fred and George would be so proud," Ron muttered, stealing the plate of sandwiches back as Ginny stared off into space.
Harry started as Hermione drew back the living room curtains with a flick of her wand.
"Have you been sitting here all night?" she asked.
"Here, that armchair, at one point lying on the floor with my legs up the wall," he croaked, with a shrug.
"Did you sleep at all?" Hermione asked, with an exasperated note to her voice only partly tempered by sympathy for her friend.
"At some point, maybe. Or maybe my brain's broken," he said, rasping a hand across his stubbled chin.
"And have you thought of a way of explaining things to Ginny?"
that will actually work - although I did consider tricking Tonks into
changing back into Tatiana and then killing her so I can present Ginny
with her corpse as proof of some sort of Death Eater trick."
"The body of a metamorphmagus reverts to its natural state after death, I'm afraid," Hermione said.
"Well, in that case, I have no idea how to explain things to Ginny. I may be wrong, but I think, I think, we may have forgotten to think things through before starting things off yesterday."
"I think that you may be right. You're in trouble."
"I'm in trouble? What about you."
smiled. "I'm having dinner with Ron tonight. He wants to make up for
not taking me out last night, but after all he was in such a terrible
mood after walking in on you taking advantage of his sister..."
narrowed his crusted eyes at his friend. "Fine. But when you get
married, make sure you have a spare room that I can move into."
"Don't worry, Harry, I'm sure Tatiana will find room for you."
stood outside Club Two, wondering if arranging to meet Padma here had
been his brightest plan - but then, he thought, at least he knew where
it was now. Padma had never wanted to come here, for all the times he'd
He wondered why, as the rain drizzled around him. Perhaps
I never made it sound like something she'd enjoy? But I thought she
liked dressing up and showing off. She's good looking enough - and I
know she likes getting pretty robes and stuff. But she always just
wanted to stay at home and stuff. I don't mind that - but that's what
my parents had! I want to live a bit before I settle down.
Not that I want to settle down anytime soon.
He shook his head, dislodging a drip from the end of his nose.
"What're you saying no to?"
Ron turned and smiled reflexively at Padma.
"Hi," he said.
"Hi yourself. Something the matter?"
"If there is, then at least you've picked the right day for it," she went on. "And it was such a nice day yesterday, too."
"Yeah, I guess. So, where do you want to go for lunch?"
"Oh, I don't mind. The Leaky Cauldron, if you like. I know you like the food there."
shrugged. He didn't think it was anything special. "Okay," he said, as
they walked off. "So, what did you get up to last night?"
"Oh, Parvati and I were doing things for next week."
Ron waited for additional clues as to what exactly next week was.
"You will be there, won't you?" Padma went on.
"Er, well, I'll have to check my schedule - see if I have a match."
She laughed, and for a moment Ron shivered.
have you still not done that?" she asked, incredulous. "Honestly - I'll
pick up a Prophet later and check for you. Anyone would think that you
didn't want to come to our birthday party."
er..." Ron said. Inwardly, he sighed. He wondered if any of his
brothers had ever had this sort of problem - certainly none of them
seemed to lack for something to say when called upon. He suspected that
it was a Gideon family trait - Ron certainly seemed to take after his
father in that certain situations left him speechless.
"Ron?" Padma asked, suddenly serious, her deep brown eyes looking quizzically at him.
"Let's eat, eh?" Ron said. "And you can tell me about what you and Parvati have sorted out for the party."
she said, not sounding entirely mollified. Ron was grateful at least
for a few minutes breathing space - but he had always known that the
afternoon wasn't going to be an entirely pleasant experience. As he
held the door to the pub open, he glanced back along Diagon Alley and,
as the wall closed up behind them, he caught a glimpse of Club Two.
Steeling himself, he followed Padma through the door and into the
welcome warmth of the pub beyond.
at the contents of her wardrobes critically. She had ordered her
clothes according to how colourful they were - but something told her
that her summer robes would not be fashionable enough for Club Two. Her
eyes slid along the rail to her plain, almost severe, work robes, but
again she felt that they were rather too practical for Club Two -
which, she thought she remembered, was currently showcasing fashions
that had a muted chic to them. Post-war feelings of relief had not yet
reached the point of extravagance, but a certain showiness could still
None of Hermione's robes matched that description.
With a flick of her wand, the wardrobe doors banged shut and she glared
at Harry, who had wandered into her room.
"I have nothing to
wear," she declared. "And before you make any smart remarks," she said,
rounding on him and pointing her wand at him, "I mean that I have
nothing suitable for wearing to Club Two."
Harry sipped at his
cup of tea. "I think that you've overestimated my capability for making
smart remarks right now," he said, rubbing one dark-ringed, bagged eye
with the heel of his hand. "Why can't you go and buy something?"
"Ron's there with Padma this afternoon."
"I thought that he broke up with her - why are you going out if he's still with her?"
"I don't know!" Hermione wailed. "It was just going to be an impromptu dinner last night - now it's like a proper date!"
"Does Ron know?"
don't know!" Hermione said again. "After everything that he said to you
and Ginny last night, he can't exactly take me on a date if he's still
with Padma, can he?"
Harry said nothing.
could, couldn't he?" Hermione breathed, raising one hand to her mouth
as she stared off into the distance. "It'd be such a Ron thing to do."
She turned back to face Harry, who was staring at her sceptically.
"Hermione, before you do something impulsive-"
"Harry, if I'd been impulsive last year then I wouldn't be in this mess," she said.
But with a faint pop, Hermione had Disapparated.
In the master bedroom of Dunshapeshiftin, Remus was just awakening from a full nine hours of sleep.
"Good morning," Tonks smiled at him, as she pulled a t-shirt over her head.
"I suppose I can't convince you to come back under the covers?"
"I have to work," she said, with a grin.
"But it's cold," he said, staring at her with puppy-dog eyes.
"You should get some meat on that frame of yours - I can't be around to warm you up all day long."
"I'm sure you wouldn't like me if I was overweight - besides, all the dancing we do keeps me trim."
"You could always get another blanket from the cupboard," Tonks said with a laugh.
"You must be mad," Remus objected. "It's even colder out there than in bed."
just have to suffer and take it like a man," she said, eyes sparkling
as she pulled on the heavy trenchcoat he'd bought her to keep her warm
on cold days.
"True. I can only hope that others don't suffer as much as I..."
give me that rubbish," Tonks said. "Honestly - all men are alike. A
little bit of cold and you come over all long-suffering. You're just a
drama queen, Moony."
"King, I'll have you know. I was Henry the Fifth in the school play - and a rather good one, if you don't mind me saying."
all about you, ain't it?" Tonk asked, slotting her wand into its
holster. She looked at him fondly. "I forgot to ask - how did it go
"Oh, Ginny should be in Harry's arms as we speak. At least he'll be nice and warm."
"Idiot," Tonks said, picking up a pillow and throwing it at him. "And why would Harry be with Ginny? She's with Olivier."
"Maybe not - not after yesterday. She seemed to be on the boiling point when we had lunch."
"Well, did you do anything to calm her down?"
no. After all," Remus said, smiling at her. "The whole point of the
situation was to leave her free to be with Harry, wasn't it?"
"But Harry has a girlfriend," Tonks said.
"No, he doesn't," Remus frowned. "He would have said someth-- Oh!"
"Yes. So, whatever happens between Harry and Ginny, it could all be ruined if she hears about Tatiana."
"But, but... Oh, Merlin," Remus groaned. "We're too good at our jobs, aren't we?"
"I was," Tonks said, with a raised eyebrow.
"What are we going to do?" Remus asked.
"Well, I have to go to work," Tonks said. "And you might not want to do anything - given what you've managed to achieve so far."
"I should speak to Ginny," Remus said, scrambling out of bed and hissing as his bare feet found the cold wooden floor.
"Or you could go and speak to Ginny," said Tonks, with a roll of her eyes.
"I can fix this, I know I can," he said, rummaging in his wardrobe.
"What if there's nothing to fix?"
Remus paused and looked over his shoulder at her. "It's Harry. There's always something to fix."
arrived right outside Quality Quidditch Supplies, and eyed the
full-length Cannons robes in the window with a rueful smile. Hurrying
through Diagon Alley, she narrowly avoided sending a full squadron of
elderly witches flying as they emerged, giggling and blushing, from
Madam Malkin's robe shop. Taking the bend on the inside, she ducked
under a floating stack of boxes for Flourish and Blott's, fighting the
compulsion to find out what the new delivery was. Finally, she arrived
at the Cauldron, feeling rather out of breath. She made a note to start
exercising, and promptly forgot it as she tapped out the correct
sequence to allow her to enter the pub. As the wall shifted out of her
way, she wondered exactly what it was she was going to say to Ron when
she saw him.
The door opened before her, spilling a couple of young drunks onto the ground at her feet.
stay out," Tom the barman growled. He looked up at Hermione and smiled.
"Oh Miss Granger. Come in. Don't mind them - they decided to go
straight from butterbeer to Firewhisky and my new trainee didn't know
any better. Mind you, they were fine until they started singing the
Hogwarts school song."
"Oh dear," Hermione looked down at them, and rather thought she recognised at least one of the boys. "Were they bad singers?"
so bad, actually," Tom said, waggling his hands in front of him. "But
the words they were using weren't the ones that I learned at Hogwarts."
"Young Mr. Weasley is in the front parlour, if that's who you're looking for."
"Oh, thank you. Is there anyone with him?"
"Well, 'appens as there was, but it seems like she may have gone off a few minutes ago."
Tom grinned at her, and Hermione wondered if it were perfectly obvious to everyone exactly why she was looking for Ron.
you," she said again, and made her way to the front parlour. Pushing
open the door, she found Ron picking idly at the remains of his lunch.
"Hermione," he said, looking up in surprise. But before he could say anything more, Hermione launched into speech.
I'm sorry, I know we said that we'd meet tonight but I had to see you
now. I needed to know where we stand. And where you stand with Padma. I
like you Ron, of course I do, but I don't just want to be someone you
go to when Padma's not available - or when you want to hide from her. I
need to know if you feel anything for me beyond friendship, and whether
you feel anything for Padma beyond what you've said in the past and
whether you and Padma have broken up, or whether you see a future with
her, because I've waited a long time for you, but I can't keep on
waiting and seeing you with someone else because it hurts, Ron, and I
shouldn't be telling you this but I have to because I can't go on
pretending that it's fine seeing you with another woman when it's not."
Ron was staring, not at her, but at a point just behind her and to her left.