Bathwater

Being Miserable at Best

Squinting at her reflection in the full-length mirror floating in the air, the recently-turned Weasley to Potter huffed in annoyance. "Please tell me my dress selection was not as terrible as this." Ginny glared roughly, her eyes flickering away from the dress on her body to the brunette in the background. "Because if it was, you tell me right now. If I made you look like a bloody fool, tell me!"

Sitting on a nearby stool, trying to fix her flattened curls that Ginny had taken the liberty to magically-straighten into a half-do, Hermione tried not to make eye-contact with the redhead as she concentrated on her work. (Nothing but mere perfection was expected from today, or someone would have her head. Literally.)

"The dresses are fine, Gin," Hermione said to her friend.

Ginny opened her mouth, her fingers now tangled into her silky waves—magically bouncy, of course—and stared at the brunette with a look of hysteria on her face as she pulled on her hair.

"And for the thirtieth time, no. You should not temporarily dye your hair black. Leave it as it is or I'll be forced to confiscate your wand."

Ginny frowned. "It's red, Hermione, red! How do you expect it to coordinate with this?" She pulled down the v-neck of her deep-pink bridesmaid dress, glaring at her friend as she stomped her same-colored heels on the carpeted floor.

"—Will you shut up?" The door to the room burst open, startling the two girls at once. "I can hear you complaining from the bathroom, and it's three levels away!" An angry-faced Pansy Parkinson stood by the entrance, wrapped in a bathrobe with her usually neck-long hair curled into perfect ringlets flowing around her shoulders. (Was there anything they didn't keep natural today?) "The color of the dresses will stay the same, you will not alter your features, and you will stop shouting or get out!"

Hermione hung her head down, suddenly finding the carpet of the room to be far more interesting than the two witches in front of her.

"I'm...sorry, Pansy," Ginny murmured, her teeth clenching visibly as she smoothed the fabric of her dress down. "This really is a lovely dress and I promise I'll stop complaining."

"Good," Pansy exhaled and the anger quickly wiped itself from her perfectly, painted face. "I didn't want to have to dismiss you, Ginny. You know I need you there."

Ginny gave a soft smile. "Yeah, I didn't want to have to leave either," she said in a light sarcastic tone. Because, come on, it was her room, her house, her garden, and her brother, so technically she was the one who would have to leave. But seeing as Ginny has always been a kind girl, she would allow the Slytherin witch to marry her brother as long as she got him out the Burrow quickly.

"Of course not," Pansy smirked, closing the door behind her and pulling on the knot that held her bathrobe together. "It's the wedding of the decade after all. And, not to forget that I wouldn't survive if you left, I suppose."

The redhead rolled her eyes. (Oh yes, like they'd be talking about Pansy Parkinson and Ron Weasley's wedding instead of Harry Potter's. Ha. Half of the reporters that will somehow end up hiding behind the bushes of the Burrow will end up focusing on the Boy-Who-Lived and every step he gave with the Girl-Who-Tied-Him-Down. Talk about Pansy's future tantrum.) "Mum's still crying, is she?"

"Like Moaning Myrtle!" The dark-haired witch grunted, flinging her pink bathrobe—as odd and unnatural as it seemed—towards Ginny's bed. "When I apparated here I found her crying in Ron's old room with a box of tissues and his toddler album. She looked like she'd been up since before dawn. It scared me greatly, I almost ran for it."

Finding it safe again, Hermione said, "she couldn't have been that bad," she blinked at them from her corner stool, "she only cried three times at Ginny's wedding. And that was when she saw Harry, during the ceremony, and when they apparated away."

Pansy raised her eyebrow. "Clearly, Hermione, you left earlier than Ron and I did. She almost had Charlie and Bill go after Potter and nick Ginny back. She started crying hysterically that even Mister Weasley made a go after the first hour. It was getting embarrassing."

"She's just a bit sensitive," Ginny sighed, thinking to how her mother practically looked like she wanted to tug her back from the aisle on her wedding day by the veil of her dress. "She's gotten so used to us all these years, all of us so packed up in here, taking up every bit of space, and then suddenly we're all leaving one by one.

"Bill was the first, of course. Then Charlie, Percy, Fred..." She swallowed a lump, and directed a smile at her soon-to-be sister-in-law like those painful emotions didn't crawl down to her throat. Choosing to forget the subject before it got depressing. "The point is, she expected that after our final years at Hogwarts that Ron, Harry, Hermione and I would still be here. I expect that it's hard for her to imagine the Burrow to suddenly so silent."

"Yeah, well, we'll always come and visit," Pansy replied casually, shoving the redhead away from the full-length mirror, and proceeded to direct her light-pink painted eyes towards her naked figure.

Alright, maybe she wasn't naked naked exactly; that would obviously mean that she'd fully accepted some kind of comfortableness with the two bridesmaids, and she just wasn't at that level yet. So instead she stood in her undergarments just to make herself feel like the old Pansy, cold and bitchy.

Ah, those were the days, she thought to herself with a withered smug, glancing at her reflection.

Ginny snorted. "Sure you will, Parkinson." The sarcasm was hard to miss.

Pansy narrowed her eyes. "We will, alright. Once we're out of school, which won't be that long from now, I'll make sure Ron and I stop by every Sunday." She ignored the redhead and then began glaring at the small roll that formed on her side of her stomach. "I'll be damned if I let the traditions of my family get to him," she tried to repress a sentimental sigh, but failed. "…Merlin knows I won't be seeing my parents after this."

Turning to each other, Ginny and Hermione exchanged a knowing stare. (Mister Parkinson was sure to disinherit his little Pureblooded Princess when she bestowed the surname of the greatest Blood Traitors known to all Wizard-kind.)

"Don't feel so terrible, Pans. There are plenty of Weasleys to go around for centuries to come. And mind you, you're about to become one. In our clan, there's nothing we wouldn't do for each other." Smiling for the first time since she slipped into the tragic deep-pink dress, Ginny placed a comforting hand on the bride's bare shoulder. "We're family."

And in the crystal-glass ahead of her, Pansy directed a quick view at the hand upon her shoulder; a knot of emotions formed themselves at the pit of her throat.

Family.

Growing up in the dark times meant being spoiled for the Parkinsons only daughter. Always getting what she wanted, always superior above the rest of the filth that collected themselves at Hogwarts. Always the coldhearted one, taught never to trust and befriend the enemy or to get too near to others. Always secluded from other girls, never having a true friend. Always left alone when her parents were to busy 'changing' the world, never knowing what being held by a sibling, caressed by a parent, loved by others actually meant or felt like.

Until now; all until now of course. It was like a new world had painted itself and opened its doors for her, inviting her in without any struggle, without any effort, without any pretenses.

"….Quit getting sentimental, Ginny," Pansy smirked into the mirror, her dark eyes watering and blurring her view of the redhead's face. "This is my wedding, and I expect to be the center of attention."

Going along with the show, Ginny frowned at the Slytherin girl and made sure her words came out extra sarcastic. (She hoped Pansy considered it an additional wedding gift.) "Oh yes, Parkinson, because this really is all about you. I keep forgetting that you're walking down the aisle by yourself and marrying your gigantic ego. I'll make sure to tip-off Ron before he ends up as snake food."

Pansy laughed mockingly and then walked over to the small closet in Ginny's room. "You'll be lucky that you'll get me as a sister-in-law. I've seen the others, nothing so interesting there if you ask me."

"If I asked you, you wouldn't take notice of anyone else." Ginny tried not to laugh.

Leering halfheartedly, not really paying any more attention to the sentiments in the air, Pansy stared lovingly at the white dress hanging inside the old closet.

Bang.

"—Am I late?"

"Oi! Get out of here!" Ginny whipped out her wand and directed it to the entrance of her door. "What's wrong with you?"

"Ronald," Hermione sighed, making herself noticed once more after the bizarre interaction between Pansy and Ginny ended. "Don't you know it's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding?" She scowled at the tall, redheaded wizard dressed in velvety robes.

"I was just making sure," Ron snapped in his defense, glaring at his sister and at his best friend. "I woke up late, Harry took forever in the shower, Mum wouldn't feed me, George magicked my robes maroon, and Dean told me Pansy made a run for it."

The redheaded bridesmaid lowered her wand as the image of her ex-boyfriend invaded her thoughts. "Dean's here?" And then her eccentric blonde friend entered her thoughts as well. "Luna's here too?"

Ron snorted. "Obviously. She gave Mum an excuse that she was going to go talk to the gnomes, then Dean told Harry that he needed a bit of fresh air a minute after. The two haven't been seen since then. Although, Harry claims he heard the gnomes giggling about something by the shed."

Gagging internally, Hermione stood from the stool. (She was never going to get used to the idea of Luna Lovegood maturing in such ways. It seemed so unnatural and sadistic that she had to resist the urge of dipping her into a tub full of muggle Holy-water.) "Ron, just go before Ginny curses you. Pansy will be ready in a bit."

Nodding in agreement, Ginny shoved her older brother back from her room. "Don't you know that you can't see the bride in her unmentionables until after the wedding either?" She raised her wand again and smirked at Ron. "Don't make me tell Mum you're disrespecting her house."

"Funny, Gin," he rolled his eyes as his soon-to-be bride laughed lightly from behind the current scene, "but who do you think chose those lacy things for her today?"

Gasping and hissing, Hermione and Ginny shouted, "get out!"

(Oh, the mental images—how sickening.)

"You two shouldn't even be allowed to get married!" The redhead girl glared at Pansy as she slammed the door in her brother's face with a swift back-kick.

Hermione scoffed. "What are you talking about, Gin? She shouldn't even be allowed to walk down the aisle in a white dress."

Smirking at them, Pansy stuck her middle finger out at both witches. "Please," she snorted, "whatever happened in our chamber is between us and the Ministry. We were just being good students and doing our homework."

Hermione and Ginny scowled at her disapprovingly.

"Did they, or did they not say to speed up the fornication process and pop out those kids to save our world?" Pansy asked them, scowling back but more humorously. "We were just being good citizens."

Hermione still looked disgusted, rolling her eyes. They were so going to be responsible for the entire next generation of the Weasley children to sprout, she knew it.

X

"Ronald Billius Weasley—" From where the guests sat in various directions that the chairs were aligned on the Burrow's garden, one was able to see the wrinkled nose of the Groom as the Ministry Official used his middle name. (Oh, the embarrassment.)

"…I thought they were supposed to leave that out?" Angelina Johnson murmured to the grinning George Weasley sitting on her right.

Whispering back, George said, "well, apparently they didn't, Angie." His freckly cheeks turned a scarlet color as he turned his neck in a small angle and caught a glimpse of Harry, Ginny and Hermione; all three grinning mockingly too. "…Poor Ronnikens, he must feel immensely embarrassed."

Wham.

"Shut it, George," Bill hissed dangerously low, removing the back of his left palm from the side of brother's head; all the while his free hand rubbed soothing circles on his pregnant wife's leg as she cried into a handkerchief.

"...Oh, 'ee grew up so fast," Fleur Weasley was heard from the background as George sent his older brother a deep glare.

"—Do you, Pansy Parkinson," the voice of the Ministry Official echoed from person to person, silence reigning again as he looked at the bride, "take this wizard to be eternally yours, to accept his soul, to magically bind you two through his accomplishments, his failures, his health, his sickness, his joy, his anger, his everything for the rest of your days?"

Swallowing the blissful knot in her throat, Pansy nodded delicately. "I do."

The old Ministry Official smiled at the Bride and Groom. "I declare you two bonded for life, blessed in this sacred union, man and wife." He raised his hands to the newlywed couple in front of him but looked at the guests. "I give you, Ron and Pansy Weasley!"

All at once—in what looked like a massive wave of red hair—the original Weasleys stood first, almost automatically. And the soon-to-be and those adopted into their fast-growing clan rose together and clapped thunderously at the sight of Pansy and Ron leaning towards each other.

"Get it, Ron!" Seamus Finnegan was heard from all the clapping and cheering as he stood on his chair and jeered at the couple.

"Make him yours, Pans! Snog him right!" Joining Finnegan by crawling on top of a chair next to his, Blaise Zabini raised his arm and started punching the air with pride. "Slytherin! Slytherin!"

Standing beside the two howling boys, Cho took a cautious backwards step from them.

"Just walk away, Cho," Lavender Brown told her as she also stared at her fiancée with great embarrassment. "Just walk away." And she pulled the Ravenclaw girl by her arm and away from the two thickheads on top of the chairs and headed to find the drinks.

Laughing loudly, eyes flickered for a second to the massive sprout of Slytherins and Gryffindors shouting obscenities at the new Weasley couple in unison, Harry placed a warm hand on his best friend's waist as she scowled at the crudeness of it all. "Who would've ever imagined that the house-unity Dumbledore always encouraged would actually pay off one day, eh, 'Mione?"

The brunette huffed and crossed her arms.

Harry grinned at her. "Made a break for it, did you?" He nodded over to the redheaded group.

The brunette nodded, pushing Harry's hand away from her bridesmaid's dress. "I was going to go congratulate Ron, but Mrs. Weasley threw me out of the way before I even took the first step," she explained to him. "And once I tried to get to Pansy, Ginny beat me to it. I just assumed it was safer until all the Weasleys got their blessings out of the way before I attempted it again."

"—Get with the times, old man!" Blaise shouted, waving at Pansy's father as he gave him a deep frown from his 'Make him a man, Pansy!' comment. (Blaise was officially off the Parkinsons Christmas list.)

Harry nodded once, understanding perfectly; even ignoring the little fact that she pushed his hold away from her. "I prefer stepping out of the picture when they all gather like that," he then pressed his palm to the small of her back and pushed her away from the crowd. "It makes me feel a bit out of place."

Sighing in defeat, Hermione turned her raised eyebrow at her best friend. She knew that Harry always felt somewhat of an outcast when it came to being around the Weasleys, just like she did, but both of them had refrained from speaking the subject out loud; especially to each other because they were grateful for the entire Weasley clan.

"Well, you better get used to it, Harry," Hermione whispered to him as they walked softly. "You're bound to attend at least three other Weasley weddings, and not to mention the holidays that are going to emerge from them. You know that the Weasleys never do anything ordinary or simple. You will always be surrounded by people, whether you like it or not."

"Thank Merlin, then, that I don't have some twisted claustrophobic disorder," Harry laughed, grinning as the bright sun washed over their faces and the light wind blew all around them as they stepped into the furthest part of the garden. "If I did, I would've never survived with them for all these years."

Hermione looked over to the scenery for a few seconds, trying to bask in the sun for a few moments, trying to warm herself in that constant coldness she felt inside of her. "…And the more to come," she finally replied, whispering as she crossed her arms over her chest as she stepped away from Harry's hand more politely than she had the first time. "Remember, Harry, that you're their family now. You always have been, but at least you should be content and willing to be a part of the celebration now that the holiest of bonds joins you and Ginny together. You have nothing to walk away from."

Harry's smile was erased from his face and his bespectacled emerald eyes looked momentarily saddened. "…Mrs. Weasley is very hurt with you, you know?"

"Why's that?" The brunette asked, her eyes looking far into the sun and the fluffy white clouds in the skies above to bother to look at him. She'd barely managed to hear what her friend said, her mind was calculating that the hue of the clouds, when the sun was setting, looked alike a certain Slytherin's hair when the sunrays hit his silky blonde strands.

"Yesterday, when we arrived from Hogwarts early to set everything up before the wedding, she said you locked yourself in the restroom for hours. She mentioned that she heard you crying." He paused, waiting for Hermione to say something, anything. But when nothing came, he heaved a sigh and continued. "Mrs. Weasley is afraid that now that Pansy is legally joining the family you suddenly feel like you don't belong anymore. Said she imagined you felt.…after being sort of Ron's girlfriend for so long….that you'd think you weren't welcomed anymore."

Pansy. Slytherin. Pureblood. Bitch. Blaise. Friends. Wedding. Guests. People. Wedding. No appearance. Malfoy—Hermione's thoughts were going haywire.

"That's silly of her," Hermione responded, her attention now away from the sky but instead on the fact that one particular Slytherin did not attend his friend's wedding. That he was not there to sneer and make fun of the bride when she shed happy tears, nor had he been there to join his house-mates.

Malfoy had not come.

She cleared her throat, trying to focus once more. "Although we never fancied hearing it, I've always known Mrs. Weasley, alike every other member of her family, has seen us as more than Ron's friends, Harry."

Harry knitted his brows together. "And the crying?"

"You've got to be strong, Harry, you know that," she mumbled, feeling a slight chill run up her spine as the swift air smacked against her fuchsia dress. "You've got to let go of that insecurity, that humbleness that you so desperately cling onto. Feel a part of them, Harry, because you've always been one of them. There won't be another outcast to talk to from now on, so just go with it."

The Chosen One felt his heart sink to the pit of his chest as his best friend—his sister—turned a watery gaze at him. The bright colors of the sky illuminated her broken expression more than he ever was used to seeing upon her face. "What's that suppose to mean, 'Mione?"

Silence for a few seconds; the wind pushing past them to go join the celebration they left yards away.

"…Don't worry, Harry," a heavy pressure scraped all of Hermione's insides, jabbing at her organs, making its way painfully up her chest and throat, "you won't remember a thing...You'll never know that there used to…that there used to be a bossy little know-it-all holding on to your arm wherever you went...You'll n-never remember that I was there."

"Hermione—"

Hermione shook her head, "it's time, Harry." Tears pooled into her eyes, but she was so used to them now that she didn't feel them slowly trace down her cheeks. "I got the meeting at the Ministry three days ago. Kingsley scheduled it for today, just like I asked. I just…I wanted to be able to s-see both of my best friends get married...Although I'll never register it after this...I just wanted to see you two be happy."

"You can't!" Harry hissed, looking very appalled at the girl in front of him. "Hermione, you can't go! You're mental! Mental! Do you even know what you're saying?"

"…I actually do."

Feeling a bolt of anger flash into his head, Harry frowned deeper than he'd ever had at Hermione. (He didn't remember ever having the strong and dire need to strike her. Not even when she practically handed his Firebolt to McGonagall his Third Year.) "Don't, alright," he snapped at her. "You're making a huge mistake, Hermione. Malfoy...Draco...he loves you! I know that he does. You've got to believe me! If you would just—"

"I appreciate the effort to keep me here, Harry," Hermione had to resist the sob that was threatening to seep out of her lips as her best friend mentioned the forbidden name, "but I'm going to ask you to stop using those means to make me stay. I want this. I need this. And once again, I find myself telling you first because you're far more level-headed than Ron."

Harry glared, not complimented.

Hermione sighed. "…And I need a favor."

"What?" He practically growled. (It's like she didn't even hear the certainty of his voice when he told her that the Bouncing Ferret did in fact love her! Wasn't she supposed to know him more than anyone else?)

"Come with me," her brown eyes stared directly into his green, "to the Ministry."

"What?" Harry repeated, his eyes wider behind his glasses and less angry.

Her eyes softened at his surprise, at his confusion. "Just...Just take me there, Harry. You don't have to stay... I just would like you there."

"You want me to watch you leave our lives," the Boy-Who-Lived hissed again, "or do you want me to be utterly confused of why I left my wife to accompany an unknown muggle to the Ministry when I should be celebrating my best friend's marriage?"

Hermione repressed a sigh, trying to control the emotions poking at her heart. "You're the closest thing I have to family here in the Wizarding World, Harry. And I want to be able to leave it with my brother by my side." More tears streamed out, her face even more brokenhearted. "Just…one more adventure, Harry. One more."

As he stared at her, as his own heart broke and he felt like he was going to break down his walls of confinement and cry with her, Harry Potter thought of one thing instantly to keep his composure. One thing, one person that could change this—Malfoy.

This was it. The moment they'd been looking for to make everything right.

"I'll never forgive you for this, Hermione Granger," Harry cleared his throat and speaking to the brunette gently. All while his head rushed with calculations at how fast his Patronous could reach the Malfoy Manor if he distracted Hermione for a few seconds.

The brunette gave him a shaky grin. "Is that a yes?"

"I'll go bring you a sweater," Harry commented, noticing her shiver as the wind blew again, giving him a perfect reason not to answer and leave her for a moment or two.

Hermione eyed him suspiciously.

"I'll be back, 'Mione, promise."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Come back, Harry—alone."

"I will." Harry nodded. "Although, I do see why there's no point of saying goodbye to them, anyway. You won't even remember it, and it's not worth the tears and protests."

Hermione's bad attempt of a smile withered completely, knowing perfectly that he was right and that there really wasn't a reason to say goodbye to all those people that she loved. She wouldn't remember them anyway, wouldn't know who they were if they passed her on the open street of muggle London after this.

So, with that already settled between them, she said,"….you've got a minute, Brother."

"A minute it is," Harry repeated, dashing towards the Burrow and whipping out his wand as secretively as possible so the brunette couldn't see it in mid-sprint.

"—To Ronald Billius!"

"George!" Slap.

Hermione gave a quivering chuckle as the voices of Molly Weasley and her son echoed from where she stood all alone and with a broken heart as the celebration for Ron and Pansy's wedding kicked into full-blast. Happiness and love, joy and unity, family and friendship taking over every person cheering, dancing, and laughing along with the new married couple to notice where she stood. No, they didn't need to even bother with one broken heart when the world was perfectly alright for everyone else.

And that's how she wanted it to be. That's how she wanted to go.

"...I doubt I'll forget you, Draco. Even if they wipe my memories clean," she whispered to the wind. But, oh, was she going to try.

She was leaving it all just to get rid of those haunting silver eyes in her dreams and in her head; just to forget that she ever dared to feel something for him. She just wanted to forget that she ever felt his soft touch, his smooth lips, his caressing words upon her skin that seeped in and ignited her soul. She was saying goodbye to it all, forever and ever.

Because from the moment she steps foot into Kingsley Shacklebolt's office, Hermione Granger—one-third of the Golden Trio, War Hero, Brightest Witch of the Age, Draco Malfoy's fiancée—would cease to exist.

She would no longer be a witch, and that's where the story will end.

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