More shouting, now with alcohol.
Index || Part I || Part II || Part III || Part IV || Part V || Part VI || Part VII || Part VIII
How like a mirror, too, her face. Impossible; for how many people did you know that refracted your own light to you? People were more often – he searched for a simile, found one in his work – torches, blazing away until they whiffed out. How rarely did other people’s faces take of you and throw back to you your own expression, your own innermost trembling thought?
– Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Daphne hovers on the upstairs landing until she hears the lock of the living room door click. Swinging her bag higher up onto her shoulder, she creeps down the stairs.
At the bottom, she turns towards the kitchen and stares at the door, weighing up the necessity of bringing a jacket.
‘I ran away, once.’
With something close to a scream, she spins around to see Harry Potter leaning against the open front door.
Leaning against the front door rather more heavily than he should need to, with a bottle of Firewhiskey clinging to his fingertips.
‘Of course,’ Harry Potter says slowly, narrowing his eyes at her – his glasses slip to the end of his nose but he does not seem to notice – ‘I took much more stuff with me.’
Well, she thinks. She shoots him a haughty stare and readjusts her bag. ‘I’m not running away,’ she says condescendingly. ‘I’m going to stay at my boyfriend’s.’
‘Ah,’ he says. He pushes his glasses up and takes another sip of his Firewhiskey.
She wonders if Ron failed to tell her that Harry Potter is an alcoholic. ‘How did you get in here?’ she asks.
‘Front door was open.’
‘And how did you find our house?’
‘George told me. He had the address.’
George. One of Ron’s brothers. ‘Right. Well –’
‘Is Ron here?’
‘Yes,’ she says.
‘They’re in there.’ She nods her head towards the locked living room door. He moves towards it; she shakes her head. ‘It’s locked.’
He stares sightlessly at the door. ‘I need a drink.’
‘You have a drink.’
He looks at the bottle in his hand. ‘Yeah.’
‘You know what?’ she says on an impulse, because the thing is, she thinks, life is ridiculous at the moment, and drunk celebrities who you are sort-of related to don’t wander into your house every day. Dropping her bag on the floor, she runs into the kitchen, opens the cupboard, pulls out another bottle of Firewhiskey, and runs back out to the hall. ‘I’ll join you.’ She shows him the bottle.
He looks at her quizzically. ‘How old are you, again?’
‘Seventeen. Eighteen in March.’ She sits down on the floorboards, her back to the living room door, and waves her free hand grandly across the space next to her. ‘Have a seat.’
Slowly, he slides to the floor. ‘March,’ he says. ‘So Hermione got pregnant in –’
‘The end of June.’
‘She vanished on the thirteenth of July,’ he says.
There is a pause. Then, Daphne unscrews her bottle and clinks it against his. ‘To us,’ she says. ‘And to the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism.’
‘How did you find me?’ asks Hermione.
‘A little bird gave me a hint,’ snaps Ron.
She folds her arms again. ‘I answered your questions.’
Barely. ‘Someone I know mentioned English people working at – or having dealings with – the French Ministry. I asked him to look into it.’
‘Because ...’ He rubs the back of his neck. He shrugs. ‘Because I never gave up.’
‘Oh, don’t be ridiculous,’ she snaps. ‘You put on the whole sentimental thing now that you’ve found out about Daphne but I find it very difficult to believe that you have spent the last two decades pining away, that you really still thought about me at all, until recent events –’
‘You find it hard to believe?’ he asks, incredulous. ‘What, because I was so cold with you before you left? Didn’t really care about you? I mean, yeah, you’re right – we barely fucking knew each other, did we –’
‘That’s not what I meant! I mean that time has passed and things have changed and –’
‘Hermione.’ He takes a deep breath. ‘Let’s keep this civilised, yeah?’
She looks at him piercingly. ‘So what happened to you? What have you – been up to?’
‘I ...’ He doesn’t want to see her expression at what he’s about to say, but he’s going to have to tell her at some point. ‘I teach. At Hogwarts. I’m a professor.’
‘McGonagall sacked Binns, and because of everything I’d done by that point, I was sort of ... qualified. So she hired me. History of Magic professor.’
‘What had you ... done? I mean, why were you – qualified?’ She looks astonished, but she hasn’t said anything cruel yet.
He puts his hands in his pockets and shrugs. He looks at the floor. ‘When you left, I spent a long time looking for you. Full-time, I mean. I didn’t do anything else, I didn’t get a job. It was probably about ... a year, before I had to give up. I moved back to England, started working with George. I was in charge of his money, so he could pay more attention to the creative side of the business. But ...’ He scuffs the toe of his shoe against the bare floorboards. ‘I kept looking. I was always looking, at the beginning. Whenever I got a vague hint, I’d be off in pursuit, George be damned.
‘I’ve been in a lot of the world’s Ministries. I’ve spent a lot of time in dusty archives, looking at the records of magical people that different magical governments use ... It was all clutching at straws, really. I started to realise that eventually. Anyway, I ended up gathering a load of random, basically useless information, and some of that information was about people that go missing. Witches and wizards, mainly. I knew a lot about them ... It was a bit of an obsession ... A bit like my old Chocolate Frog cards ...’ He scratches his head. ‘Anyway, yeah, what happened, was that I read an interview with this bloke, a historian – Aelianus Higgins?’
She nods, slowly. ‘Yes, I think I’ve heard of him. Does he write – is his interest magical Britain in the eighteenth century? Links with the Muggle Enlightenment?’
‘Yeah. Him. He was publicising a new book, in an interview in the Prophet, and in it he started talking a little bit about the new book he’d just started writing, and what he was quoted as saying wasn’t right. His facts were all muddled. So I, er, wrote to the Prophet – not the sort of thing I’d do really, but as I said it’d become a bit of an obsession – and they passed my arsey letter on to Higgins, and he asked me for a drink, and he turned out to be a decent chap, and he asked for my help. This was about – what, nine years ago? And what happened was I ended up writing a few chapters for him. So I ended up as co-author. It was published about seven years ago. Missing Witches. And that’s when McGonagall offered me the job.’
‘Right,’ she says.
‘Yeah, so –’ Ron scratches the back of his head again. He keeps his eyes on the floor. ‘I know it’s not what you’d have expected, is it, writing books, but it was only the one time, and like you said, things have changed.’
‘But you – teaching? Teaching history?’
‘Is it so odd?’ he asks her, finally looking up. ‘All it is is telling stories, and trying to explain why things happened the way they did. I – I never used to think about things like that, analytically, but now I do. And ... You know. I’ve always liked telling stories. And the kids – I like them. It’s nice.’
There is silence. She worries her lips: she seems lost for words.
He decides to change the topic. ‘Hermione – your parents.’
‘What about them?’
‘How exactly do they fit into all this?’
She pauses. ‘I know you’ve seen them, Ron.’
‘You moved them out of England,’ he says. It is not a question. ‘That was how I knew you were alive.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘When you vanished, obviously I asked them if they knew where you were, but they didn’t have a clue, they seemed genuinely very baffled. Frightened. But then, I went back a few weeks later, to see if they’d heard anything, and they’d gone. Sold their house.’ She does not say anything. ‘We tracked them down to where they were living in the south of France. And they told me you’d been in contact, you were safe and well, but you didn’t want to see me or anyone for a while and that you were probably going to give up magic. So that’s when I knew.’
‘That you were alive. And well. And that you’d left of your own free will.’ He sticks his hands in his pockets again. ‘You got them out there fast, didn’t you?’
‘It was quite easy,’ she says quietly. ‘They were still a bit disorientated from the charm I’d hidden them with in the war, England was a mess, they wanted to be away from anything magical themselves, they had the money to take early retirement, they’d always wanted to live in France …’ She shrugs. ‘It didn’t take much persuading on my part.’
‘They’ve got no pictures of you in their house. None.’
Hermione sighs. ‘Yes they have. They’re charmed. Only relatives can see them.’
‘Oh.’ It seems ridiculous that this has never occurred to him.
‘My parents are protected by a fair few charms, actually.’
‘In what way?’
‘Have you ever tried to use magic or force against them?’
He doesn’t say anything. He can remember instances of thinking, while standing in their house, pleading with them to just tell him where she was that he should just Imperius them and get the charade over with, but he’d never actually done it. He’d once brought a vial of Veritaserum – Harry had got hold of it for him – with the full intention of using it, but when he’d reached into his pocket for it, it had vanished. He’d assumed he’d lost it.
She smiles. ‘So my charms held up, then.’
It doesn’t take long for Daphne to tire of the drunken Harry Potter’s attempts to make polite chit-chat. ‘So,’ she says, interrupting his question about her career prospects, ‘apparently you grew up with my mum and dad.’
‘Well, er,’ says Harry Potter. Daphne can’t be sure that it isn’t just the booze, but he doesn’t seem to be very eloquent. ‘Not exactly.’
‘Ron said his parents practically adopted both you and my mum.’
‘Oh, yeah, well yeah, they basically did. But that was once we became friends, at Hogwarts. When we were eleven. Before that I lived with my Muggle relatives. The Weasleys are a good ... people. Good people. A good family.’ He takes another swig of his Firewhiskey.
Daphne does the same. She can feel it, a little bit; she can feel a slight slur in her movements. ‘I wish I’d grown up knowing them.’
‘I grew up not knowing my parents, you know,’ says Harry abruptly, as if he’s just realised.
‘Yeah, I know, it’s not that abnormal, I’m not complaining about not knowing my dad, I know loads of people grow up like that, and I’ve had it quite easy compared to some –’
‘No,’ says Harry, cutting her off. ‘It’s shit.’ He leans his head back on the locked living-room door and closes his eyes. ‘It’s shit. Really shit.’
‘I never really wanted to know him,’ says Daphne, staring at her bottle. ‘Mum gave me the impression he knew about me but had never been interested, so I thought, why bother? If he doesn’t give a shit then why should I? I didn’t realise how much actually seeing him, the actual man, standing in front of me, would change that. And, realising that he never even knew I existed, and sort of thinking about how it’s not just a man but a whole family I’ve missed out on – I don’t know.’ She takes another swig.
Harry opens his eyes and looks at her. ‘Hermione told you Ron abandoned her?’
‘Yeah,’ says Daphne. ‘She said he didn’t want to know.’
He lets his head fall forwards; his messy fringe flops over his face. ‘Fucking hell.’
‘You realise he’s been looking for her since she left?’
Daphne doesn’t say anything.
‘Did she ever mention him?’ asks Harry.
‘She answered any questions I had, but she didn’t go into details. I knew she never wanted to talk about him, so I never asked much.’
‘What did she tell you?’
‘That they were at Hogwarts together. That he was Muggle-born – I suppose that’s not true?’ Harry shakes his head. ‘That he was tall and thin. Funny. Clever but an idiot at the same time.’
‘Why Muggle-born?’ asks Harry.
‘I suppose so I wouldn’t ask which family he was from ...’
‘Did you realise it was him? When he showed up here on Thursday? Or did he tell you?’
‘Neither. I didn’t figure it out till he’d gone,’ she says. ‘He wasn’t what I would have expected.’
‘What were you expecting?’
‘I don’t know, but not that weird sad ginger man.’
Harry snorts with laughter. ‘He would be horrified if he could hear that.’
‘I don’t mean sad in, like, a saddo way!’ laughs Daphne. ‘I just mean ... sad. Like what it actually means. Melancholy.’
The laughter fades from Harry’s shoulders and his head falls forwards again. ‘He wasn’t like that before Hermione left.’
‘Oh,’ says Daphne.
Harry looks up at her through his fringe. ‘Did she ever mention me?’
Despite the fact that he is the famous Harry Potter and a man of thirty-six, Daphne finds something about his expression painfully pitiful. ‘Not ... voluntarily.’ She swallows. ‘When I realised that she would have been at Hogwarts with you, I asked her if she knew you. She said she knew you, but not well. I asked her what you were like ...’
‘What did she say?’
‘She sort of went quiet, and then she said, “He’s a very, very brave man”.’ She grins.
Harry leans back against the door again. ‘Brave,’ he repeats. Then he shakes his head; the movement is reminiscent of a dog. ‘This is miserable. Let’s talk about something fun. What – what’s Beauxbatons really like?’
‘How did you find out?’ asks Hermione.
‘I told you, someone mentioned English people working at the French Ministry –’
‘No, I mean – about Daphne.’
‘Well when I got to your cottage, she was outside, and –’
‘No, I know all this, I managed to gather what happened from her – how did you find out about her existence? That she was yours?’
‘Well, it was pretty obvious, once she’d told me when her eighteenth birthday was.’
‘So you came to see if she was yours?’
‘No!’ Ron is losing his patience. ‘I didn’t know she existed till I got here! I wasn’t originally looking for her.’
‘Oh,’ she scoffs, ‘as if you came looking just for me –’
‘Do you find that so hard to believe? That I would hear that Hermione Granger, the same girl who disappeared without a word twenty years ago, might be living in Ambleside, so I go and have a look, thinking maybe, just maybe, this time it’s really her … And instead I find … this … girl … And all I needed to do was ask when she was born. And I find out I’m a father.’
‘You’re not her father,’ she says with a shaking voice.
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean,’ she bites out, ‘you’re not her parent. You haven’t raised her.’
‘But biologically,’ he barks. ‘Am I her father?’
‘Yes,’ she says quietly and unsteadily, her mouth twisted bitterly. ‘What are you accusing me of? You think I was cheating on you? Five seconds after the war was over?’
‘Oh, God, sorry,’ he says throwing his hands up in the air, ‘it’s nothing to run off with someone’s child, but sleeping around – God, no! Sin of all sins!’
‘I didn’t – I didn’t –’
‘You still don’t bloody get it, do you?’ Ron thunders. ‘I looked everywhere for you! I have spent years of my life looking in every bloody nook and cranny, under every fucking rock on this fucking planet in an effort to find you. How don’t you understand this? You vanished less than a month after the war! We assumed the worst! I thought you were dead! Raped, tortured and murdered, or driven insane like Neville’s parents – that happened to them in the aftermath of the first war! Or that what they’d done to you was so terrible that it’d destroyed your memory, like Bertha Jorkins, remember her? And you’d been abandoned somewhere without a clue who you were or how to get back to the people who loved you ...’
He takes a deep breath, trying to calm himself, but the blood’s pounding loud in his ears. ‘Every day was some kind of new hell. I lived in constant hope and fear of hearing something. There was a nationwide search – I really cannot fucking believe that the International Confederation has sheltered someone the British Ministry’s had on a missing persons list for years, but I suppose it’s a law unto itself.’
‘I’m a missing person, not a wanted person, so the Confederation has jurisdiction over national –’
‘Then your parents vanished. By this point no one knew what to fucking think, but we found them quick – Bill and Fleur found them. And then Harry and I are in their living room in France, and they’re standing in front of us, surrounded by boxes, still half-unpacked, telling us that you’re fine, you’re safe and well, you just don’t want to see us for a bit. Oh, and that you’re probably going to give up magic.
‘Harry gave up then, but I didn’t. I searched France, then Australia. Any place you had a connection to. It was all I did for a year. And after that, I had a job but I was still looking – if I had an idea, or got a vague hint, I couldn’t rest till I’d followed it through.
‘I’ve been everywhere. I’ve spent so much time in Australia, I was so convinced for ages that that’s where you would have gone ... About three years ago I ended up in Bucharest, and when I gave up that time, I swore it was over and I’d never go looking for you again – not unless I had very good reason to, anyway. I’d made that promise to myself before, a hundred times, but that time I meant it. But when I heard your surname mentioned in connection to the French Ministry, I had to look – I hadn’t even searched for it, it had basically been handed to me. And here we are.’
He stops, breathing heavily.
Hermione looks stricken. ‘But –’ she stammers. Then a muscle in her cheek moves and she seems to regain some of her composure. She jerks her head slightly, flicking her hair out of her eyes, and it’s an old gesture that all of a sudden he remembers well: it slices through him. ‘You make a good speech, Ron,’ she says, slightly coldly, ‘but there was no need to assume all that. There was no need to assume Death Eater involvement. It’s not even very – logical.’
‘Oh no, of course not!’ he cries. ‘Sorry, it makes so much more sense your way – much more logical! Rather than when my best friend, my girlfriend, vanishes, assume immediately that she’s been kidnapped by Death Eaters, I should know that she’s got pregnant and fucked off to Romania!’
‘Oh for God’s sake, Ron,’ she snaps, ‘don’t try and – try and guilt me over something that happened twenty years ago –’
‘YOU ARE GUILTY!’ he roars. ‘I’m NOT trying to ‘guilt’ you, I don’t need to, you RAN OFF WITH MY CHILD!’
‘STOP shouting at me!’ she cries. ‘You have no idea, not a clue, what I was going through –’
‘What you were “going through”? Doesn’t really seem like this decision caused you more than about thirty seconds’ thought from the sounds of it –’
‘If you don’t think–!’ She stops. He notices that her fists are clenched at her sides. ‘If you don’t think – if you don’t think – giving you up was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but every time I thought of what your face would look like when I told you what had happened it made it easier. I had to get away and make the decision by myself, because I wasn’t sure – and also, I didn’t even know if it would stick, even if I wanted it to. I realised I was pregnant so quickly, I was only two weeks gone. So I waited to see if I would miscarry, and tried to figure out if I wanted a baby. And when I realised that I was going to keep her, that my body was going to keep her, and that I actually wanted to keep her, I couldn’t go back. I told my parents to tell you I was alive and well, but I couldn’t go back. Don’t you see how I couldn’t do it?’
‘No. No, I don’t.’
They are both breathing heavily.
‘I wanted to come back, you know,’ she says. ‘Of course I did. But I was so scared and so – pre-emptively angry about how you and everyone would react. The anger drove me away. And actually at first I was quite happy on my own. Later, I really wanted to come back – when I started doing magic again, and then when I moved back to England. But by then it had been so long, I had no idea what to do, and I had a whole new life by then. It seemed impossible.’
He searches wildly for the right thing to say, the right question to ask to bring this back to civility, to stop his heart and blood pounding, but only the one question, the same question, the only question that matters at all, presents itself: ‘But why? Why leave? We could’ve –’
‘Could have what?’
‘We –’ He stops. ‘You were right,’ he spits. ‘I’m not her father. A father by definition raises a child. Changes nappies and cleans up scraped knees – parents. If this ends amicably, and me and her develop some kind of relationship, then what? She’ll never see me as a dad. At most, I’ll be like an uncle she’s fond of. You’ve robbed me of parenthood. What had I done to deserve that? What –’ The question of years and years and years forces its way to the front and expels itself: ‘What did I do?’
‘Nothing. You did nothing wrong.’
‘Then why –’ he starts. ‘We could have sorted it, it would have been OK, surely.’
‘No, it wouldn’t have! It wouldn’t have been OK, not for you! Ron – you’d have been horrified.’
He thinks about his eighteen-year-old self. She is right. ‘All right, I probably would’ve been,’ he says. ‘But Hermione – I fucking well had a right to be horrified. I was allowed to react any way I fucking well pleased. You still should’ve told me.’
‘No!’ she shrieks. ‘You did not have a right to be horrified about the child that was growing in my body!’
He opens his mouth but he doesn’t know what to say.
Hermione’s chest heaves. Her eyes look wild. She looks mad. Maybe she is – maybe she always was.
Maybe, he thinks, they’ve said everything there is to say.
‘And now,’ says Daphne, ‘and now he’ll want to know in what ways I’m like him, and she’ll say it’s nothing, I’m not like him at all … And they’ll just … They think I’m just an amalgamation of them, y’know? But I’m –’ She pauses to burp. ‘’Scuse me – I am my own person, you know?’
‘Yeah – yeah, I get it. I mean, I had this professor – who hated me, all because I looked like my dad.’ Harry scowls at the bottle. ‘But all along, he was in love with my mum …’
Daphne raises an eyebrow. ‘I think you might be more fucked up than I am.’
‘Here’s to that,’ says Harry, swaying forwards to clink his bottle against hers.
When Ginny can’t take her family anymore, she excuses herself from the heated discussion at the kitchen table and slips away upstairs to check on the children.
This turns out to have been a good idea, for when she enters the twins’ old room she finds that James, Albus and George’s son Fred are all still awake and in the middle of a violent pillow fight. After shouting at them for a while and reminding them that bad behaviour is not tolerated during family crises, she gives them ten minutes to have clean teeth, pyjamas on and the lights out; then, she goes next door into Percy’s old room, opens the window and rests her elbows on the sill.
This is where she is sleeping tonight. George and Angelina are in Ron’s old room and Lily and George’s daughter Roxanne have been bedded down in hers. Why George is staying over, she is not sure, but when he heard her asking their Mum if she and the kids could stay the night, he said, ‘Oh, make beds up for us four as well, then. We wouldn’t want to miss all the fun,’ and Charlie agreed rapidly with the sentiment, and she hugged them both fiercely for being exactly the same as they always have been.
She contemplates asking Charlie if he wants to sleep in Percy’s old room with her, rather than in his old room, but she decides against it. She needs some space.
After fifteen minutes, she goes to check on the boys, and although she hears hushed giggling, the room is dark and the bathroom a mess, so with a ‘Shh’ and a ‘Night night’ to the door, she pads her way down the stairs to Lily and Roxanne.
Quietly pushing the door of her old bedroom open, she is relieved to find both the girls in bed. Roxanne is breathing deeply and easily, but on the other side of the dark room Lily’s eyes open blearily at the sudden invasion of light.
Shutting the door behind her and creeping across the creaky floorboards, Ginny goes and sits on the edge of her youngest’s bed. ‘Can’t you sleep?’ she whispers.
‘I’m not very tired.’
Ginny smoothes Lily’s hair.
‘It’s not fair. All the grown-ups are still downstairs. I want to stay up and talk.’
‘They’re talking about Hermione. It’s not very interesting.’
‘The lady who came and caused the big – the big –’ She breaks off to yawn. ‘The big thing?’
‘Yes,’ says Ginny with a smile. ‘That lady.’
‘I don’t get why it’s so exciting, and why we get to stay over with Fred ‘nd Roxanne,’ Lily mumbles.
‘Because we haven’t seen Hermione in a long time. And because Uncle Ron’s been looking for her for a very long time. Since before you were born.’
‘It feels exciting,’ Lily murmurs. ‘Where did Ron go?’
‘After Hermione, we think.’
‘What about Dad?’
Ginny swallows. ‘Daddy’s in a bit of a strop, pet. He’ll cheer up and come back.’
‘He’s missing all the fun,’ Lily says into her pillow.
‘It is a bit of an adventure, isn’t?’
‘Like the adventures you used to have with Daddy,’ Lily says, too close to sleep to notice the grave slip-up in her choice of title to bestow upon her father.
Yes,’ says Ginny far too cheerily, ‘just like the adventures I used to have with Daddy.’
‘Mummy,’ whispers Lily sleepily as she snuggles down into her pillow. ‘Mummy, why are we staying here?’
‘Because –’ says Ginny; her throat catches. She clears it. ‘Because Mummy needs to be with some other people, right now. It’s difficult to have adventures by yourself,’ she whispers, soothing her daughter’s brow.
‘When will Daddy come back?’
‘Darling,’ Ginny whispers, ‘Mummy and Daddy fight sometimes; you know that. But we always make up. Don’t worry.’
‘M’not worried,’ Lily whispers unperturbedly as her eyes close. ‘Al’s the one that worries, not me.’
Ginny sits still with her hand on her daughter’s forehead. She doesn’t move for a very long time.
Ron searches for something to say. ‘You’ve cut your hair.’
‘Yes,’ says Hermione.
He shakes his head. ‘Never thought I’d see you with short hair.’
‘How many thirty-six-year-old women do you see with long hair?’
He thinks of Ginny’s shoulder-length cut. He remembers Harry’s face the day she cut it.
He walks over to the window.
‘Here –’ Harry pauses and turns bewildered eyes from the bottom of his bottle to Daphne. ‘I’ve run out.’
‘Have some of mine,’ she says, swinging her bottle with her wrist.
‘Brilliant.’ He leans forward, putting his weight on his other arm as he reaches for her hand to grab the bottle.
His hand closes over it and she turns towards him with a laugh half-formed on her lips, her curls bouncing. When she sees how close his face is, the laugh dies. Her frightened gaze darts from his lips to his eyes and back again.
Then, with a quick movement, she ducks her head forwards and her lips meet his. After a moment, Harry starts to kiss her back.
Finally, it is raining: grey sleet drives into the earth, falling from dark, oppressive clouds. The entire landscape is a soggy grey colour.
‘It’s raining,’ he says.
‘Yes,’ says Hermione from right behind him, making him jump.
He turns around quickly to see if she’s got a kitchen knife in her hand, but it’s only Hermione: Hermione with brown curls framing her face and empty hands and two small lines, one for each anguish-filled eye.
‘Ron …’ she starts. ‘I didn’t mean for this … I didn’t want …’
Her hands start to knot themselves together, and without thinking, he covers them with his.
Tears are sliding their way down her cheeks again. ‘I didn’t want this to happen …’ she whispers, squeezing her eyes shut.
‘Didn’t want what? Me to find out?’
‘Any of it. I didn’t want – oh, Ron …’
‘Why did you have to find out?’ she chokes out through miserable sobs that wrench at his heart sickeningly, her body shaking, her breathing coming in gasps. ‘Why –’
‘Hermione, don’t … Please …’ His hands move spasmodically to her shoulders, to her arms, to her neck, cheeks and jaw, but her crying continues; the sobs rack her body and the hot tears keep pushing their way out from her shut eyelids. He tries to wipe them off her face as they soak his fingers, but his efforts are of no use. ‘Hermione …’ he whispers, and then, shaking thumbs still on her jaw, he kisses her.
He kisses her once on her lips, softly and sweetly. Then, he kisses her again and her lips move to meet his; a salty mouth pushes against his own with questing, desperate need, and his body thrills with the recognition that in that moment, in that place, another body is feeling and wanting the exact same things –
His hands move down to her lower back and pull her towards him; her arms wrap around his neck tightly. They stagger sideways towards the wall.
‘No,’ she gasps, breaking away; before he can apologise – or stubbornly refuse to apologise, he hasn’t decided which, yet – she grabs his shirt, drags him over to the beaten-up sofa and sits down on it, commanding him to join her with an authoritative tug.
For a second, they look at each other, hovering with indecision – then she launches herself into his arms and onto his lap and twists her hands into his hair.
‘Ron,’ she breathes against his lips as the rain pounds against the window and onto the roof and the sofa sags underneath them and her tears glitter in the half-light. Then she is the one kissing him: her feverish lips meet his, her spine arches and her body presses up against his chest. His hands smooth over her back as he kisses and clings tightly to the warm, solid, breathing vision of his adolescence. ‘It’s just … until the storm’s over,’ she whispers.
‘Until the storm’s over,’ he murmurs, and together, they sink down onto the sofa.
Index || Part I || Part II || Part III || Part IV || Part V || Part VI || Part VII || Part VIII