inked carnations - Chapter 8 - callmeshakesqueer - Harry Potter (2024)

Chapter Text

“I am so happy for you, Hermione. I truly am.”

Ginny is sitting on the fluffy pink covers on her bed, her wild fiery hair pulled up in a high ponytail, strands escaping and framing her face as she leans down. She shoots one of those confident cheerful smiles of hers at Hermione before worrying her bottom lip as she tries to untangle the fairy lights they want to hang around the room.

The easiness of the morning creeps up on Hermione, and despite her late night coming home after the date yesterday and all the secrets, she focuses on the good. On being with Ginny and finally getting to sort out all of her romance and contemporary novels on the shelves above her desk, choosing a rainbow order of them. The bedroom is slowly becoming truly hers, with The Last Dinner Party, Hozier and Noah Kahan posters on the wall and faux leaves of ivy on the ceiling, falling down the corners of the room.

She smiles right back at her friend, “You’re too sweet.”

There is something so innocent and gentle about having people honestly feel happiness when a good thing happens to you. They are the real friends.

“God knows how long you’ve been dealing with all that crap at the dorm,” Ginny contemplates, then releases a victorious yelp when she manages to untangle the biggest tangle. “But I can’t believe you’re living with Draco Malfoy out of all people.”

“Shush, Ginny!” Hermione whispers. “He might be still home, just so you know.”

“So what?”

“He hasn’t been half as bad to me since I moved in,” She says, feeling like she owes him this little defence.

“Okay, fine,” Ginny decides to let it go and collapses onto the pillows, continuing to struggle with the lights. “What happens when you both go back to uni, though?”

Hermione smiles under her breath; what should trouble and haunt her, somehow feels so unimportant right now, with one more week of freedom from going back to the battlefield of rivalling who is the best. Maybe it’s going to bring truly ominous results to this house, but she prefers to quarrel with Malfoy any time, in comparison to being roommates with Lavender.

“A civil war probably.”

They laugh together and it feels like nothing has changed; like they’re back at the Burrow, in Ginny’s small bedroom on the second floor, squished on the bed with their feet on the wall and gossiping about boys and school. When Ginny finally sorts out the fairy lights, Hermione takes them and begins to decorate the room above her desk and the other two meters of them around the standing mirror; where there are already a couple of Polaroid pictures glued to it.

So caught up in her job, she doesn’t notice she’s pulled one layer of clothes off the chair by her desk, exposing a slip of the red velvet fabric of the dress she carelessly left before she collapsed on her bed after midnight. She also doesn’t see how Ginny’s eyes stop at that certain point and hang over the material for a second too long.

Finally, Ginny asks, still sounding indifferent and relaxed, “Did you go out last night?”

Hiding her face from being discovered, Hermione keeps hanging the lights and fixing them until they look perfect. She knows if she looked the youngest Weasley in the eye, she wouldn’t be able to lie; it’s different with her back towards her friend.

“No…” She says, rattled. “Why?”

Did she see her? Did Ginny notice the red dress in between all those people dressed in dark clothes, did she see her run and escape?

“No reason,” Ginny says and Hermione lets out a quiet breath she didn’t know she was holding, her lungs burning. “I was just thinking about you and Ron. Did you have the next date planned yet?”

But just hearing about dates, all Hermione can see with the eyes of her imagination is the rooftop view, a foot creeping up her thigh and the moonlight that has been the only witness of the kiss. She barely can recall the boring meetings with Ron, where no feelings burned bright, and all she could do was pretend that she could ever love a man the way she loves women.

It’s so unclear in her head. She doesn’t know what to think.

“Life has been crazy, with the moving and the work so…” For the first time in a while, Hermione finally looks at Ginny once the lights are in the right place. “I haven’t talked to Ron recently.”

“You seem distracted lately,” Ginny points out, still lying on the mattress and taking a cow squishmallow to hug it to her chest. “Anything on your mind? Or anyone?”

Maybe this is the moment. Maybe this is her chance to fix things and become as truthful as she was her entire school history. Always the one to speak up, always the one hating to be fibbing or even covering up the truth with silence; where has that girl gone? Who is the person Hermione sees now in the mirror?

She sits on the edge of the mattress, with a heavy heart and even a heavier tongue. Placing her hands on Ginny’s ankles, she absentmindedly runs her fingers over the exposed skin between low socks and cuffed-up mom jeans. All she can think about now is maybe if she confesses right now, nothing is lost yet; they can work through it. Two dates can be taken back, they don’t have to mean as much as Ginny wants them to. People go out and eventually, after a couple of meetings find out if it’s meant to be or not; and yes, maybe this situation is different given how long she has known Ron, but it’s still… She still has the right to change her mind.

“Frankly, Ginny, I’ve been thinking about lots of things… Not just Ron, I mean, not just boys in general…”

“Oh?” Ginny sits up all at once, her eyes showing pure focus. “What do you mean?”

“There have been some feelings involved,” Hermione’s mouth turns all dry and she discreetly wipes her hands off on her sleeping shorts. “You see, I’ve never felt this way. I thought it was just a crush but- last night, I realised, I was falling, and it scared me to the bone, and I am so scared to tell you that-”

“Wait,” Ginny jumps up in her seat, the bed creaking underneath the two of them and she almost bounces off it with excitement. “Are you saying you’re in love? With Ron?”

“N-no, Ginny, just listen, please.”

But Hermione can tell this is a lost cause, the entire conversation, as it descends in the wrong direction. Is she supposed to scream out that she met someone else? She wanted to be as gentle and soft as possible, trying to show the empathy for Ron she’s always aware of as the guilt eats her alive.

“You don’t have to be afraid, there’s nothing to fear,” Ginny says, finally sitting her bum down again and Hermione truly appreciates it, but that’s not what she was heading for. “I’m not going to tell him if that’s what you’re worried about.

That’s the last thing Hermione has been worried about.

She rather has been thinking about Ron finding out there are no feelings involved.

The brunette shuts her eyes for a moment, so close to tears and to lose her mind, that it’s a miracle she doesn’t start pulling hair from her head. Everything’s going wrong.

“Ginny, can we just drop this topic?” Hermione asks, knowing if they keep going, the tears will flow and the secrets won’t be exposed in such a nice manner.



“Okay,” Ginny raises her arms in a resignation gesture. “Okay. No more talking about my brother.”

Hermione exhales, “Thanks.”

Despite how hellishly smart she is, sometimes she just wishes she could play dumb and pretend it’s the sign from the universe itself that today’s morning is not the date to open up and share her black, tattooed from neck to shin secret.

Still, the weight on her shoulders is ten times heavier than it was last night when they kissed and Bellatrix had taken her home. Both were freezing from the downpour, but the bonfire brought so brightly inside Hermione’s ribcage that she couldn’t care less about her soaked dress and hair becoming a frizzy mess. It’s the entire world’s weight on her shoulders now. Like Atlas, she is condemned to carry the heavens. But it’s her own doing.

After they finish placing all the books, with Ginny’s creative vision for the giant bookcase in the foot of the bed, they sort out all the fantasy books and series, sci-fi and crime fiction. Despite the worries hanging over Hermione’s head like dark clouds, seeing her room completely ready and feeling safe, she can’t help but smile.

It’s still early once they’re finished, but both have missed breakfast so decide to make it an early lunch. Together, they head downstairs and make a beeline straight to the kitchen, where the first thing they notice is the garden door left open, letting the fresh air, ground smelling like rain into the house.

One of the most beautiful scents in the world, but her thoughts are far from that when she sees Draco and Pansy talking and smoking in the middle of the empty yet, garden.

Ginny leans into Hermione and whispers, “Is it him?”

“Yeah,” Hermione laughs as she opens the fridge to check what they can eat and closes it, seeing Ginny doesn’t give a damn about food and observes her roommate like he’s a very fascinating insect in a science museum. “Do you want to say hi to him?


Just like that, Ginny marches outside with a mischievous grin; Hermione follows right behind her, feeling the smallest pang of anxiety to see Weasley head straight at Malfoy like she’s about to attack him.

“Well, well, well,” Ginny crosses her arms and her eyes are shining with friskiness. “If it isn’t Draco Malfoy?”

“And who might you be?” Malfoy raises his perfectly arched eyebrow and releases a puff of smoke, eyeing Ginny up and down.

Hermione’s eyes meet Pansy’s and they smile at each other, amused, but both stay silent, watching patiently how the scene unfolds.

“Ginny Weasley. Best mate of Hermione,” Ginny introduces herself, voice as bold as ever. “I’ve heard quite a bit about you, Malfoy. Quite the character.”

Not a single shade of emotion appears on Draco’s face. He keeps on smoking, unfazed with every inch of himself and says, “I feel highly privileged to meet you, Weasley.”

“As you should.”

Pansy chuckles darkly, speaking more to Granger than to the duet appraising each other, “Looks like Draco’s met his match.”

“We shall see about that,” Draco sums up.

Hermione, as much as she tries, can’t take those two seriously. They look like they’re about to jump each other and start a row just then and there. She wonders how that will work out since Ginny should be around often, as they live much closer to each other than before.

“I should’ve expected a dramatic scene like this. Are you satisfied, Ginny?” She catches her friend’s wrist and pulls her towards the house. “Can we go enjoy our lunch?”

“Sure thing,” Ginny winks at Pansy, having the girl snort at her, a bit scornfully for Granger’s tastes but before she can comment on that to demand some respect, Ginny moves her eyes back onto Draco and points her fingers first to her eyes and then at him. “But just so you know, Malfoy, I’ve got my eyes on you.”

“Wouldn’t expect anything else, Weasley,” Draco tells her and turns back to Pansy, picking up on the previous topic of their conservation.

Hermione will be lucky if, within the next hour, the two of them won’t burn the house down.

She has noticed that zero tattoos are covering Draco’s skin. For a tattoo artist, this is unusual, but since he’s studying law, perhaps that’s why. Maybe Mommy dearest didn’t allow him to get all inked up, but she should be the last to judge, always shunning any idea of getting tattoos, ever since she came of age. Meanwhile, Parkinson girl has one of her arms entirely covered, along with an enormous moth on her collarbone and flames on her neck.

She thinks about it as she makes eggs on toast and two cups of steaming green tea, the fancy package Draco has the entire cupboard filled up with.

Trying her best to focus on the present and all the gossip Ginny is spilling about her brother, Bill, having conflicts with their mom time after time; all because of the French model he met, Fleur and their sudden engagement. So nodding and asking the right questions and gasping at the perfect moments, Hermione thinks she’s doing a fine job. She ignores the conversation they had in the bedroom and feels her mood rising. It all goes down the drain when her phone buzzes in her lap and she knows who it is, even without glancing at the screen.

When Ginny offers to do the dishes, Hermione objects, but if the redhead decides something, there’s no way to talk her out of it.

She pulls out her phone and holding back a smile is mission impossible.

>>> 11:47 AM
morning, pet. still replaying last night in my mind. care for an encore performance?

If Hermione wasn’t blinded by the warm feeling in her chest and not only butterflies, but the whole damn zoo, kicking in her stomach as she stares at the message, she would notice Ginny. But the tenderness for the woman on the other side of the phone causes her to become a total scatterbrain, oblivious to her surroundings.

Her friend is gazing at her sceptically, while she lingers in typing out the answer. She gives it up, eventually, feeling so bad for even trying to as she is in Ginny’s presence. But by then, Weasley is back to doing the dishes and Hermione leans back into the chair and sighs, feeling full and content.

On the next day, Hermione has to face a gruelling shift in the flower shop, from the early morning straight until the sun comes down, alongside Luna. An endless stream of orders to fulfil falls on their heads; two enormous bouquets for the marriage anniversary of dark red roses, so enormous they’re almost unbearable to carry around, special corporate arrangements for an office event happening in one of the biggest media conglomerates in London - to which, surprisingly, Andromeda assists them with with a grim face as they tie carnations of various shades into bouquets. But it’s the wedding they’re tasked with is most time-consuming and exhausting.

In between coming in clients, Hermione and Luna spend nearly six hours preparing every single decoration and putting them in the back room. The bridal bouquet, table centrepieces, runners, a boutonnier for the groom, and even car decorations. Granger is left to fend for herself with shaping the arch decoration, while Lovegood focuses on the flower crowns for the bridesmaids, her fingers nimble as she weaves perfect wreaths.

At the end of the shift, Hermione gives it up and sits on the floor in front of the display in tall vases where they show all of the flowers available as she fixes the last of them and checks if they’re still fresh and not wilting. Her back aches, her eyes sting and her hands are calloused from all the thorns and cutting the stems off, but it feels good to be tired like that. To feel pain in every centimetre of her body, to know she has done a hell of a good job.

“Neville was supposed to be here ten minutes ago,” Andy says, looking out of the window, then checks the watch on her hand. She taps her foot, the way she always does when she’s impatient or worried.

Luna is busy counting up the money in the cash register, in her world, half listening, half somewhere far away.

Too tired to even speak up, Hermione just glances at her boss.

“But… the decorations are needed for tomorrow,” Luna says, humming to herself. “Even if he’s late, we’ll be fine.”

“I know, dear,” Andromeda sighs, never stopping gazing out in hopes of the familiar van to drive up and park around the corner. “But I was counting on catching all three of you together today.”

“Did something happen?” Hermione asks.

Truth be told, there are rarely days when Hermione, Luna and Neville are at the shop at the same time; perhaps once a couple of weeks, except for when they switch shifts and pass each other by. Andy never has asked before for them to be all present together and it does send a shiver of anxiety down Hermione’s back. What if she’s cutting down the crew? What if she’s cutting down the paycheque? The brunette doesn’t want to be this person, but she needs this money to stay afloat.

“No, no,” Finally Andy tears her eyes away and looks at Hermione, raising her hand in a gentle calming manner and smiling. “Do not worry.”

Granger chuckles to herself at that. All she ever does is worry.

Andromeda doesn’t elaborate further, waiting for Neville before they begin talking about whatever she wants to talk to them about.

It takes another ten minutes for the green company van to drive past the door and park at its usual spot, always booked only for Asphodel Meadows. A short moment later, the boy jumps out of the passenger seat and rushes to the entrance, stumbling over his legs and accidentally kicking one of the big flowerpots, which is placed next to the door for decor and scenery. Andromeda facepalms at that, which sends Hermione and Luna into a fit of laughter so hard it hurts their bellies.

“Andy, I am so sorry,” Neville is panting when he storms, miraculously not collapsing onto the floor. “But my grandma got angry with me, I sorta lost her turtle and, I mean, it was on a walk with me but then disappeared and I’ve been looking for it the entire afternoon-”

“Boy, it’s okay,” Tonks is barely holding from bursting into laughter and pats his shoulder comfortingly, which does appear amusingly with her barely reaching his chin with the top of her head. “I’m glad you’re all okay. I was worried something happened. I mean, something happened to you, not any turtle situation.”

“I’m good, all good,” Longbottom nods with enthusiasm. “We can start transporting all the compositions.”

“Well, before that, I wanted to talk to the three of you.”

Three pairs of eyes land on her. Lena leans onto the counter, carefully listening and Hermione gets up from the floor, standing across the counter and drums a nervous rhythm with her fingers on the smooth surface. Neville joins them and they all stare at their boss, awaiting.

“You all mean so much to me, I hope you know it. Perhaps I’m asking you too late,” Andromeda’s beginning of the speech almost makes Hermione fall over the line and imagine getting fired because Andy found out about the secret affairs between her older sister and employee. “But I would love to invite you for my birthday dinner, rather calling it that than a party. It’s a small intimate meeting, just my close family. But I spend so much time with you all that I cannot imagine not having you there with me. I’m aware it might be a bit too late, but it’s happening this Sunday. I thought we could not open the shop that day and celebrate. What do you say?”

For the first time in the time Hermione Granger has worked in the flower shop, she sees her boss fidgeting. The woman, always so sure of herself and secure in that chill loose manner, smoking her lungs out and able to curse like a sailor, now is playing with her fingers and her chestnut kind eyes glimmer with apprehension.

The feeling of warmth and of being honoured floods Hermione. She smiles wildly at the vision of having a fair shot to get closer to Andromeda who always felt so close and homely to her.
“How delightful!” Luna’s senses seem to awake, all the daydreaming disappearing. “Is there a memo?”

The tension disappears from Andromeda’s frame and she laughs earnestly at the question, “No, there is not. Feel free to come as you wish.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Hermione exclaims, straightening her back and shooting a beaming smile at Tonks. “Thank you so much for the invitation.”

“Sounds lovely,” Neville adds, grinning down at Andy. “I’ll bring some of my homemade herb-infused oil.”

“No gifts!” Andy raises her hands to stop them. “I’m too old for that.”

“No!” The three of them raise their voices like a choir in the same second. Hermione is the one to say what all of them are thinking. “Not a chance. You’re never too old for gifts.”

The thought of coming to Andromeda’s house and celebrating her day without a present to show how much she is cherished, from the depth of the heart is downright ridiculous. Hermione’s heart flutters with gratefulness to have been included in such a day and knows it will be the only thing she’s going to have in her head for the rest of the week.

“Guys, I’m serious,” Andy says, solidly.

“So are we,” Neville says. He doesn’t step down, which happens rarely to be so serious fighting back.
Hermione clasps her hands together, “Expect gifts!”

“Absolutely,” Luna nods vigorously. “Not such a thing as a birthday without presents."

A sincere emotion flashes through Andromeda’s face as she falls silent for a moment, her eyes jumping from person to person. The muscles around her smile quiver like she’s fighting tears and she pulls them all into hugs, calling Luna around the counter to crush her in a teddy bear kind of embrace, kissing all of them on the foreheads; some women are matriarchs in nature and Andromeda Tonks is undoubtedly one of them. Always mothering, always worrying, always caring. Her heart is so big that Hermione wishes she could model herself after a person like that.

“What have I done to deserve such a crew?” She exhales deeply, handling the feelings bubbling up in her mouth. She clears her throat and looks back at the prepared bouquets, discreetly wiping away a treacherous tear.

Chatting and laughing for one moment, they soon move to pack everything into the big trunk of the van, making sure nothing can get destroyed during the long journey for tomorrow’s wedding. It’s a long trip to Cardiff, and all four of them are supposed to meet at half past five, to have some time in spare, in case they get late. By nine, they should be starting to prepare the venue.

Not a single minute of the work is passed without gossiping and fooling around. Even after an active day like this, Hermione enjoys the feeling of belonging and camaraderie, the easiness of forgetting about her secret side of life and problems.

Sun is far gone and the streetlamps along with the moonlight fall onto the abandoned street. She steals one look towards Sectumsempra, yet it looks closed, the lights off and the roller blinds pulled down over the windows. Some part of her hoped to see it still open…

Then, she turns back to the car just when Neville closes the trunk loudly. Her eyes meet Andy’s, who as it turns out, has been watching her from several meters away, eyes showing curiosity and interest. Feeling caught like an actual criminal, Hermione dodges the questioning look and heads inside the Meadows.

Soon, Luna and Neville leave together, with the girl babbling about her two guinea pigs and Neville looking at her like it’s the most interesting thing, like she hung the moon in the sky herself. Hermione lingers in the shop under the excuse of cleaning up.

She peeks into Andromeda’s office, as the door is left wide open.


“Yes, Hermione?” Andromeda takes off the thin glasses and closes her laptop.

Some part of Granger hoped she would stay focused at work and have her answer distractedly, “I… How many people will be there? At your birthday?”

“Not much,” Andy says, then realises Hermione is still waiting for a profound answer. “Ted, Nymphadora and Remus with Teddy. My sisters, Draco. And you three. I guess that’s all. Why?”

There is a knowing smile on her full lips, shaped like a twin to the oldest of Black sisters. Except they are pale pink, while Bellatrix’s mouth is always painted in that bloody shape of lips, sometimes even falling into a scarlet colour.

“Just curious.”

“Are you sure?”

Hermione nods unconvincingly, “Yes. Yes. I better get going, I need to catch the last bus.”

“Get home safely,” Andy tells her and opens the laptop right back.

“I will, thank you,” She waves, smiling and stepping towards the back room to get her things and get going.

When she throws her denim jacket over her hoodie and takes the purple bag on her shoulder, closing the door and turning the lights off, she hears her name being called again from the office.


Entering the office again, she finds Andromeda leaning into her leather swivel chair, looking like she’s in a deep thought. Her fingers are interlaced and resting upon her abdomen, glasses pulled at the top of her head and she is half-sitting, half-laying.

This look she sends at Hermione is almost… sorry.

“Just be careful,” She says simply.

It makes Hermione’s feet glued to the ground as she looks at her boss and hears her heart race, echoing loudly in her ears. It’s clear as the day, that she is far from speaking about Hermione going back home, to her nephew. Hermione knows Andy knows. She knows.

Too shocked and frozen, she doesn’t even repeat her goodbyes. She simply turns around and leaves the shop, not daring to glance back at the dimmed lights and the carnations almost laughing at her cruelly.

On the bus, she manages to finally come down to the ground and calm herself down. That didn’t have to mean anything.

She pulls out her phone, working against all the alarms ringing in her head and red flags rising in the blue skies. Almost like it’s stronger than her, to open the chat and type out a quick message.

09:57 PM <<<
we might have that encore sooner than you think

>>> 10:02 PM
how so?

10:04 PM <<<
you said yourself you like mysteries, then sit with this one for a while

The response never comes, but Hermione is far from waiting for it as she falls asleep with her cheek pressed up against the cold window.

inked carnations - Chapter 8 - callmeshakesqueer - Harry Potter (2024)


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