III: Flying Over Mountains
Lunch with Ron’s family is interrupted by a knock on the door.
Index || Part I || Part II || Part III || Part IV || Part V || Part VI || Part VII || Part VIII
Notes: I like this chapter :)
Flying Over Mountains
Sunday lunch at The Burrow: all are present except for the eldest Mr and Mrs Weasley, who have gone to visit Aunt Muriel at St Mungo’s with promises to be back for the evening. Lunch for Bill, Fleur, Charlie, Percy, his wife Audrey, George, his wife Angelina (née Johnson), Ron, Ginny and Harry Potter, not to mention the small army of children, plus Teddy Lupin (whose eyes are liable to darken – literally – whenever he is referred to as one of the ‘children’), is rarely an easy task, and this Sunday lunch is no exception. The meal is not served until four, and it is only at six in the evening, when the children have been away to play and come back to plead for their pudding, that any attempt to clear away the plates is undertaken.
Victoire is the only one of the Weasley offspring absent, which, when dirty plates are finally being magicked off the kitchen table, prompts Bill and Fleur to resume their argument of earlier on: family responsibilities versus the social needs of a young lady.
‘Bill, you are being ridiculous – isn’t ‘e, Ginny?’
‘Absolutely,’ says Ginny, snatching a fork out of James’s hand. ‘Do not poke that thing in Albus’s eye, for goodness’ sake, James –’
‘I just think that sometimes, family has to come first, and if we don’t teach her some kind of responsibility –’
‘She is only sixteen, Bill! ‘Onestly –’
‘I’m going to have both Ron and Neville watching you, James – if you eat like that at Hogwarts, I will know.’
‘Yeah, but what are you going to do about it?’
‘Have you brought straight back home, that’s what I’m going to do –’
‘Oh, Mum –’
‘James, stop it,’ says Harry. ‘Now.’
‘Stop what? All I was doing was holding a fork –’
‘Yeah, why would Victoire want to escape this lot?’ asks George with a grin.
‘The doorbell just went,’ says Percy’s eldest, Molly, without looking up from her book.
‘I’ll get it,’ says Charlie, standing up.
‘Harry, he wasn’t trying to poke Al in the eye,’ entreats Bill’s youngest, Louis, leaning over the table and sticking his elbow into the remains of his sister’s lunch in his earnest defence of his cousin.
‘I’m so glad I’ve missed all this,’ laughs Teddy with a shake of his head.
‘All of what?’ asks James, snapping his head away from his parents and folding his arms.
‘The onslaught of you babies on Hogwarts,’ says Teddy, ruffling James’s hair; Lily laughs delightedly as James scowls. ‘Mol’s the one who’s going to have everyone saying “Are they your cousins?” all the time.’
‘Eurgh,’ says Molly, looking up from her book with a wrinkled nose. ‘I may have to change my na—’
‘Well, well, well,’ says Charlie, strolling back into the kitchen from the front hall with a grin. ‘It seems that we have a lovely, young, Hogwarts-age lady outside asking for her boyfriend! Oi, Ron – know anyone called Daphne?’
‘Ron – you can’t be –’ Percy blusters as Harry and Bill laugh.
Ginny’s face, opposite Ron, is frozen.
Slowly, Ron lowers his fork to his plate. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Ginny shoot a look at George, who, as Ron can tell from the stiff elbow rammed next to his in the cramped kitchen, is in a similar state of panic.
‘I’ll go and see what she wants,’ says Ron, getting to his feet.
‘I’m sure it’s just about some holiday homework, or something,’ says Ginny. ‘Oh for goodness’ sake, Harry – stop laughing, it’s not that funny –’
Ron leaves them behind in the kitchen, walks down the hall, and opens the front door.
Standing on the cracked mud, which has been baked dry by the summer heat, is Daphne. She’s wearing a baggy blue T-shirt and denim shorts and her brown curls are loose around her face.
‘Hello,’ he says.
‘Oh, er, hi,’ she says. ‘Look, I’m sorry about – are you – was that your … brother?’
‘Er – yeah, that was my brother Charlie …’
There is a silence in which she appears to examine his elbow.
‘How did you get here?’ he asks.
‘Oh, we drove.’ Without meeting his eyes, she jerks her thumb over her shoulder and gestures back up the path, to where a lanky boy is waiting, leaning against a beaten-up old car that’s been parked next to Ron’s dad’s old garage. ‘That’s Craig. My boyfriend. I mean, it took us a while, and we had to go to London first, to see where you live, and I didn’t have a surname or anything …’
‘How did you find me?’
She shrugs. ‘Asked at the Ministry of Magic. Annoyed people in corridors. Pretended I was doing a school project. It didn’t take long, pretty quickly somebody said that they didn’t know where you lived, but that you’re one of Arthur Weasley’s sons, and sent me here.’
‘How long have you been dri—’
‘You’re my dad, aren’t you,’ she says, still staring at his elbow.
He doesn’t answer.
She looks up and meets him with a very fixed, fierce gaze, and he knows immediately that this gaze belongs to her, is a gaze that has been noted as belonging to her by her friends – ‘That expression is so Daphne’, they probably say; but of course, the gaze isn’t Daphne’s, it isn’t Daphne’s at all – or, well, it belonged to another woman first.
‘Aren’t you?’ she asks again.
‘Daphne …’ he tries, in the way that Harry sometimes says ‘Now, James …’
He doesn’t know what to say.
Yes, he does.
She lets out a calm, controlled breath. ‘I thought so.’
He doesn’t say anything.
‘I mean, it took me a while,’ she says. ‘Until about ten minutes after you left. And then I spent most of yesterday trying to convince Craig to drive me. Because I can’t Apparate yet, and I mean, I could have Floo’d the Ministry, and then you, I suppose, but I didn’t think you would have liked me turning up in your fireplace much, and anyway, I wanted Craig to come, so we could talk … yeah.’ Abruptly, she stops.
He tries again. ‘Daphne –’
‘How long have you known?’ He thinks he recognises her obstinate look, as well – but this time not from Hermione.
‘Since Thursday,’ he says.
Her mouth opens, and then shuts. ‘So you didn’t know … about me?’
He shakes his head. ‘Not in the slightest.’
There is a slightly awkward pause.
‘Here,’ says Ron. ‘Shall we go and – do you want to go for a walk? Go to a café or something?’
‘OK.’ Her face brightens, possibly with relief. ‘Let me just go and speak to –’
‘He can come too, if you like,’ Ron says awkwardly.
‘Oh, no, it’s all right, he’ll just wander round the village or something, he doesn’t mind –’ She turns and half runs back down the beaten path to the car.
Ron goes back inside and down the hall. At the kitchen door, he steels himself, and pushing it open, he pops his head inside and says, ‘Just going for a walk, see you all later –’
‘Wait just one second!’ cries Charlie.
‘Would it be inappropriate to wolf-whistle?’ grins Bill.
‘School-age, Ron?’ asks Harry with a raised eyebrow – half-joking, half-not.
‘She’s just someone I know – we’re just going to … see you in a bit,’ says Ron in the vaguest way possible, waving his hand, and then he disappears out of the kitchen.
As he shuts the door, he hears Ginny say, ‘Percy, don’t be so sensationalist, it’ll be something to do with the school …’
‘You sure, Ginny?’ he hears Charlie ask. ‘She’s definitely his type. Long brown hair ...’
‘Maybe she’s blackmailing him,’ says Bill’s voice.
Ron smiles to himself, and heads for the front door.
‘So,’ says Daphne, twenty minutes later, sitting in a café at a table with a plastic red-and-white checked tablecloth. ‘You met my mum when you were eleven.’
‘On the train to Hogwarts.’
‘But you didn’t like her.’
Ron toys with a spoon. ‘A bit of an understatement.’
‘But then you knocked out a troll together, and you became best friends.’
‘But you didn’t kiss her until you were eighteen.’
‘So … did you start going out before that?’ She starts shredding one of the paper sachets of sugar.
‘But unofficially –?’
He grins. ‘You’d have to ask Harry about that.’
Her head snaps up. ‘What?’
‘Harry Potter – he’s back at the house, if you want to talk to him,’ says Ron, enjoying her shock. ‘He is married to my sister.’
‘Your sister? Wait – Harry Potter’s wife? Wasn’t she a Quidditch player? Doesn’t she commentate or something, now?’ Her eyes narrow. ‘That’s your sister?’
‘She writes for the Prophet. And, yes.’ He nods. ‘My sister … your aunt.’
‘Wow.’ She cocks her head slightly to the side. ‘And so my famous uncle was … around, for all this?’
Ron laughs. ‘Far more than he wanted to be. We were … We were friends, all three of us. Very close friends.’
She shakes her head. ‘I’m sure she would have mentioned it.’
‘But she did, didn’t she?’
‘She said she knew him briefly – and that’s only …’ Daphne’s eyes widen. ‘That was only when I worked out the ages, and asked her if she was at school with him. She probably … She probably wouldn’t ever have brought it up, otherwise.’
‘Maybe not. It sounds like …’ Ron is hesitant. ‘Sounds like she tried to cut all of us out of her past. Didn’t want her two lives connected.’
‘Yeah.’ Daphne’s face darkens. ‘She cut a lot out, all right.’
She turns the teaspoon that’s lying on the table between their cups of coffee over in her fingers. A stray curl falls into her face, and she looks almost like an adult as she brushes it back behind her ear. ‘So, your family – she knew them, as well?’
‘Yeah, pretty well. Actually, really well – she stayed with us every … Well, because, with Harry …’ Ron takes a deep breath. Daphne looks up; her expression is slightly concerned. ‘I don’t think I’ve – I haven’t explained this very well,’ says Ron. ‘Harry was practically adopted by my family. He stayed with us every summer, my parents acted as his parents – sent him Christmas presents, washed his socks, you know – he didn’t get on very well with his Muggle relatives, you see … And me and Hermione, we were everything he had. And so, yeah,’ he finishes lamely. ‘She was at my house a lot – all the time, basically – and she knew my family very well. If Harry was almost adopted by us, then … so was she.’
‘And he ended up married to your sister?’
‘So … was my mum friends with your sister? Is her – is it – Jenny Potter?’
‘Ginny. Short for Ginevra.’ Ron raises and lowers a shoulder. ‘Yeah. Yeah, they were. I think – I mean, it could just have been the circumstances – but I always thought they were good friends. I always got the idea that Ginny was Hermione’s best friend outside of me and Harry.’
‘She’s never mentioned any of these people,’ says Daphne bitterly. ‘Just Harry, the one time, and you.’
‘Well, as in, “your father” – only when I asked her questions about you. What you were like. I knew you were an old Hogwarts boyfriend, you see – that’s how I worked out that it was you.’
He smiles. ‘I’m surprised you didn’t guess straight away.’
She shrugs. ‘I don’t know … I suppose I just wasn’t looking for you – for “my father” – you know? You sort of … You didn’t fit the image I’d always pictured, so I suppose it just didn’t register …’
He considers asking her what the father she’s always pictured looks like, but decides that he would really rather not know. ‘So when you asked her about me – what did she say?’
‘She said you were funny.’
‘Funny,’ Ron echoes.
There is another silence, but Ron thinks it might be less awkward this time.
‘Do you want to go back to the house?’ he asks.
‘Oh – I should be …’
‘You could meet everyone. I mean, I’d have to do some explaining first, but I think they’d all like to meet you.’
‘Even Harry Potter?’
‘Especially the famous Harry Potter.’ Even as Ron says it, he winces at the reminder of Harry’s ignorance.
She smiles. ‘All right, then.’
They get up, leave the café, and walk down Ottery St Catchpole’s high street. The day has darkened: purplish clouds have spread across what was previously a blue sky and cloaked the sun.
‘It’s going to rain,’ he says.
‘Good,’ she says, sticking her hands in her pockets. ‘I’m sick of all of this sun. It’s too hot.’
‘It looks kind of ominous,’ he says at the darkening skyline.
‘Very apocalyptic,’ she agrees, shooting him a sly look.
He catches it. ‘There is not going to be an apocalypse.’
She raises her eyebrows. ‘Really?’
‘Really. Some of them know already, anyway. Sort of. It’ll be all right.’
Neither of them speaks again until the pavement turns into a country lane and starts to wind upwards. ‘So, you didn’t tell me –’ she starts. ‘What happened next? You didn’t kiss till – the final battle of the last war, did you say?’
‘Oh, yeah – yeah, the last night of the war. In the middle of the battle.’ He smiles. ‘And then from the next day on we were “going out”.’
‘And then …?’
‘Er, well … Er, then …’
‘You did the deed, yeah, yeah, I get it,’ she says, waving a hand. ‘You can just skip those bits. I mean – when did she leave?’
‘The thirteenth of July,’ he says. ‘Six weeks after the end of the war.’
‘Without a word.’
‘And you never saw her again.’
‘What …’ Her voice is quiet. ‘What did you do? When you realised she was gone?’
‘We …’ This isn’t going to be easy; Ron doesn’t think about those days. ‘We assumed, at first, that she’d been taken. Kidnapped, or worse, by un-captured Death Eaters, or Voldemort sympathisers. Maybe to demand a ransom from Harry – he’d inherited a lot of money. Or just as revenge. So we searched.’
He tries to think of something else to say, but he can’t. He’ll … He’ll tell her the rest of it some other time. ‘What about – Craig? Do you want to go and find him?’
‘No, he’ll be all right for a bit,’ she says unworriedly, before hastily adding, ‘I’m not usually this uncaring, I swear, it’s just that he understands what I’m doing down here, he doesn’t mind being neglected for a couple of hours …’
‘Does he go to Beauxbatons?’
‘He’s a Muggle.’
‘Oh – yeah?’ Ron hopes his surprise isn’t evident on his face. ‘Does he know about … us?’
‘Yeah. Well, we’ve been going out for two years, we couldn’t have, if I hadn’t told him …’ She looks off into the distance at the gathering storm clouds. ‘I don’t think he really gets it … I think he thinks it’s sort of like Wicca, or something – I’ve never really done magic in front of him. I think it would freak him out.’
‘So he lives near you?’
‘Yeah. He lives in Ambleside – we went to Muggle primary school together. His parents run a B and B.’
‘Are you seriously trying to tell me that you drove from the Lake District to London to Devon in a Muggle car in one day?’
She grins. ‘Well, I might have helped the car along a bit. A discreet charm. And I think Craig knew, because he gave me a sort of funny look, but he didn’t say anything.’
The Burrow has come into sight. Ron spies Craig’s car, parked on the dirt track that winds past the house, and with a funny feeling in his stomach, he registers that it is turquoise.
‘So … you said your family already knows about me?’ she asks.
‘What? Oh, er, not really – George and Ginny do, but they don’t know that you’re … that you’re my daughter …’
‘One of my brothers.’
‘How many siblings have you got?
‘Five.’ The slightly guilty feeling he gets whenever he answers that question vanishes when she stops walking, apparently in shock, and he grins. ‘Four brothers, one sister. I had another brother, but he was killed in the war.’
‘Are they all there?’
‘Yes. My parents might be back, as well.’
‘Oh. Right. Um, OK then,’ she says, starting to walk again.
‘They won’t – I mean, they can be a bit overwhelming, but they’re all right – they won’t bite.’
‘I’m not scared,’ she says, striding past the car and starting up towards the house. ‘I’m just counting the Christmas presents I’ve been cheated out of.’
Ron laughs, but as they climb the three stone steps up to the front door, he touches her shoulder to stop her. ‘All right, listen: right now, they have no idea what’s going on, so I need to go in and explain a few things.’ He glances up at the sky. ‘Because it looks like it’s about to rain, why don’t you come in and wait in the living room – and I’ll go into the kitchen and talk to them, yeah?’
‘OK, then,’ she says slowly. ‘Is this – you’re sure this is going to go all right?’
Without waiting for an answer, he taps the front door with this wand, enters the hall, opens the door into the living room and unceremoniously pushes her inside.
He turns around to see Ginny quietly slipping out of the kitchen and quickly shuts the door to the living room behind him.
‘Was it her?’ she asks.
‘I … yeah.’
‘Was she with …?’
‘No, she was alone,’ he says. ‘Well, she was with her boyfriend, but … Listen, I need to speak to everyone – have you told Harry?’
‘No, I meant to tonight, or tomorrow morning – I need to explain it to him properly, so he understands why I didn’t tell him on –’
The kitchen door opens again and Harry appears.
‘Ron, please, just a pint of milk – Mum asked me to get it earlier, I’m sorry I forgot to ask you before you left –’ Ginny says, flapping her hands in an exasperated and slightly manic manner. ‘I’d go, but James and Al are really acting up –’
She raises her eyebrows.
‘Fine, fine, I’ll get some milk,’ he says, annoyed that Ginny’s idea of a cunning subterfuge also manages to entail his doing all of her odd jobs.
‘You’re going to the shops?’ asks Harry. ‘Excellent, get us some cream. Apple pie’s almost done.’ He grins at Ron’s expression. ‘Good man. Knew I could rely on you.’
Sighing resignedly, Ron reaches into his pockets. ‘I don’t think I’ve got any Muggle money – oh, wait, what’s this –’ Even after all these years, Ron still has trouble with the paper money. He squints at the note, trying to find the number.
‘It’s a note, Ron, it’ll do for a pint of milk and a pot of cream,’ says Harry. ‘And when you get back, you can tell us all about your date.’ Now Harry’s the one raising his eyebrows.
‘Yeah, will do,’ says Ron.
He pockets the note again and as he turns to leave the house hears Ginny say, ‘Harry, there’s something I need to tell you –’
He shuts the front door behind him, goes down the stone steps and stops. Seeing that Harry really should be told what’s going on separately to everyone else, he realises that he has no option but to go shopping for the Potters. He hopes to God that Ginny noticed him shutting the living room door, realised what was going on, and manages to keep everyone away; or that James and Albus are acting up so much that everyone is sufficiently distracted. He hopes she gets on it with it and tells Harry what’s going on quickly.
Then abruptly, he changes his mind: he can’t leave his daughter hiding in the living room. Harry will just have to deal with it. He needs to talk to everyone right now, dairy products or no dairy products.
Just then, there is a pop, and a person appears about ten feet away from him. Her hair is short and she’s wearing navy blue business robes. Her wand is clenched in her fist.
‘Give me back my daughter,’ says Hermione.
Index || Part I || Part II || Part III || Part IV || Part V || Part VI || Part VII || Part VIII