Part VII: Rain
It’s time for Ron and Hermione to face the world, but before the world, there’s Harry and Daphne.
Index || Part I || Part II || Part III || Part IV || Part V || Part VI || Part VII || Part VIII
Ron wakes in the early hours: he surmises that it is the early hours because there is a pale light coming from behind the thin blue curtains.
He twists around on the sofa. Hermione is sitting on the wooden table, wrapped haphazardly in an old grey dressing gown, legs swinging over the side and eyes focused on the closed curtains. Her slept-on hair looks like a fluffy halo of brown: it reminds him of the long-ago canaries.
‘Hi,’ he rasps.
She doesn’t look at him. ‘Good morning.’
He shifts himself up into a semi-sitting position. He notices that she’s covered him with a tartan blanket, which is a good thing, because otherwise his state of undress might be a bit embarrassing. ‘What time is it?’
‘Four-thirty in the morning.’
‘Ah.’ He winces and stretches out his left arm.
‘Go back to sleep, Ron.’
He stops stretching and looks at her, but her gaze remains on the window.
He lies back on the sofa and stares up at the ceiling.
He can hear the rain falling. It doesn’t sound like drumbeats, as people sometimes describe the sound of rain; it is more the approach of a violent and badly organised army.
He doesn’t speak, but he doesn’t sleep.
‘We need to talk about Daphne,’ she says.
Her gaze is still on the window. The rain is still falling.
‘What do you want to do?’ Her voice is dead.
He lets the words rise between them like smoke.
‘I mean,’ she continues, looking down abruptly, and then, continuing in the brisk manner he remembers well, ‘how do you want to see her? She has her own life; she’s not going to leave Beauxbatons for Hogwarts, if that’s what you’re thinking – and she’s too old for custody battles, now, but you have to – have to get to know her …’
Ron gets to his feet and slings the blanket around his hips like a towel. ‘I got to know her a bit yesterday.’ He makes his way over to the table, stepping over their discarded clothes, and sits down on the table next to Hermione; she twitches slightly, but doesn’t move away. ‘We chatted, a bit.’
‘You. Me. Hogwarts. You know, all that stuff you left out.’
The silence stretches out for a very long time.
As the dawn breaks and filters into the little living room, her face looks soft and pensive; she looks younger.
‘Have you been in love, since?’ she asks.
He thinks back; dredging up the old memories feels very odd. ‘I thought I was, once,’ he says after a while. He tries to get as close to the truth as he can. ‘About seven years ago. When I started at Hogwarts. In retrospect, I’m not sure.’
‘Who was she?’
‘Another professor. She taught Arithmancy. We were only together a year. She took a job at a school in America and we broke up. I thought about trying to make it work, you know, long-distance, but ... I didn’t miss her much after she’d gone, so I just let it go.’
She nods solemnly.
‘You?’ he asks.
‘I married one of them,’ she says, apparently as an afterthought. Ron thinks it probably is an afterthought. ‘Neither of them ... worked.’
‘How long were you married?’
‘Two years,’ she says distantly. ‘It ended about seven years ago.’
‘What about the one you didn’t marry?’
‘That was ... three years ago. 2013.’
‘What happened? With – your husband?’
‘My ex-husband. Henry,’ she says, pronouncing it the English way, and shooting him a disparaging look more reminiscent of the usual Hermione. ‘He was French.’
He shrugs. ‘Fair enough; I’d divorce him.’
She shoots him another look before turning her attention back to the curtains. ‘Henri had an affair.’
‘And I couldn’t forgive him,’ she says quietly. ‘I wonder how he is … I haven’t seen him since the divorce.’
‘What about the other one?’ asks Ron. ‘When was that?’
‘Three years ago, so about four years after the divorce.’
‘Was he French too?’
‘German,’ says Hermione. ‘I met them both at work.’
‘Why did you break up?’
‘Neither of us would compromise.’ She pauses. ‘I thought he would give things up for me that he … wasn’t prepared to sacrifice.’ Her lips twist themselves into a bitter smile. ‘He had a wife.’
‘He wouldn’t leave her?’
‘Not a chance.’ After a second, she adds, ‘You don’t need to point out the irony.’
‘Wasn’t going to.’
‘Well, not irony, really, more unpleasant coincidence, which is what people usually mean when they say irony –’
‘What about Daphne?’ he interrupts. He doesn’t know what to do with his hands, so he rubs the back of his neck.
‘The only person we’ve ever lived with was Henri,’ says Hermione. ‘They got on well. But when it was ending she asked what had happened, and I told her the truth … I don’t think she’s ever forgiven him. She never wanted to see him again, which I think he took quite hard. He was very fond of her. I’ve always …’ She looks at her hands. ‘I’ve always tried to tell her the truth, as much as possible, but I’m not sure if I did the right thing there. She was only ten.’
What would he have done? wonders Ron. He doesn’t know. He’s never raised a child.
‘Why did you keep her?’ he asks.
‘I felt that I had to.’
‘I don’t mean that I had to had to, I mean …’ She gnaws her lower lip. ‘I always thought if it happened to me, I’d have an abortion, no question. I was very principled about these things,’ she adds with a rueful half-smile. ‘I still am, of course. But I decided that I wanted to keep the baby ...
‘I decided not to tell my parents because Mum would have started dropping “subtle” hints about abortion clinics. I suppose that’s when I realised what it was that I wanted to do – maybe,’ she falters, ‘maybe the attitude that I thought my mum would take was the thing that made me want to do what I did.’
‘Rebellion against your mother.’ He considers the proposal. ‘Decisions have been made on worse things.’
She laughs bitterly. ‘You know, if Daphne came to me and told me she was pregnant now, I’d probably book her straight into Mungo’s for a termination. Does that make me a bad person?’
He considers this proposal, as well. No you wouldn’t, he wants to say. But maybe she would. Instead, he says, ‘I don’t know.’
‘Do you like her?’ Hermione asks in a small voice.
He smiles. ‘Yes, actually. She reminds me of –’
‘Yes, I know,’ she interrupts, with an exasperated shake of her head like a donkey with flies in its fringe, ‘she’s so like me, mannerisms and looks and everythi—’
‘Actually, I was going to say me.’
She twists around to meet his gaze; her eyes are shining. ‘Really?’
‘Yeah. She doesn’t know when to shut up.’
Hermione shifts around to face the window again, and for a second, Ron is sure that he must have imagined the glowing expression. ‘That’s true,’ she says.
‘Do you think she’s like me?’
‘Yes. Sometimes, alarmingly so. You’ve never seen her play chess.’
‘She plays chess?’
‘Very well. I taught her, but she got better than me very quickly.’ Hermione looks at her hands, smiling a bit. ‘She laughs like you, as well.’
Ron considers this. ‘She doesn’t seem to laugh that much.’
‘No. No, she doesn’t. Not enough.’ She takes a tremulous breath. ‘She’s quite serious.’
‘Her boyfriend makes her laugh,’ says Hermione.
‘Well,’ says Ron. ‘Well, I suppose that’s all right.’
‘I’m glad he does. It means that it’s not my job.’
‘I still don’t like the idea of her having boyfriends,’ says Ron. He’s trying to make her smile, but it’s not working.
‘Sometimes, I don’t like hearing her laugh,’ Hermione says quietly.
Her hand edges its way along the table to nudge at his fingertips. He clasps it tightly, and together they sit on the table and listen to the rain in silence.
A while later, Hermione says, ‘Cup of tea?’
They stand, and, politely turning their backs on each other, dress. Hermione unlocks the door. They walk through the hall and into the kitchen, and stop: sitting at the table are Harry and Daphne. They are wearing the same clothes that they were yesterday. Daphne’s face is slightly red and puffy; Ron wonders if she’s been crying and feels a stab of guilt. Harry is sitting next to her, his body turned slightly towards hers, but he’s staring at Ron and Hermione. He looks like shit.
The four of them look at each other.
‘Hello,’ says Hermione.
‘Hermione?’ says Harry.
Hermione just stares at him. She looks exhausted.
Ron rubs the back of his neck. ‘Shall I make some tea?’ Daphne looks up at him with a small smile that looks slightly amused; for a second she looks like Ginny.
Nobody says anything, but Ron is confident that tea is a good idea, so he crosses over to the kettle he can see sitting on the kitchen counter and fills it with water from the sink. As it fills up he looks back over his shoulder and sees Hermione sitting down slowly on to the chair opposite Harry. Neither she nor Daphne looks at each other.
Ron also takes in two near-empty Firewhiskey bottles on the kitchen table. Yes, he thinks. Tea was definitely an excellent idea.
He places the kettle on a hob, puts its lid on and taps it with his wand. It starts to hiss. He turns around and looks at the odd group at the table. He folds his arms.
He wonders if both the bottles of Firewhiskey were Harry’s, or whether Daphne was involved. One is empty and one is half-full. Maybe it was half and half? So three quarters of a bottle each? That’s a lot of Firewhiskey, especially for a seventeen-year-old. Ron feels a glow that he sometimes feels in lessons, or when the OWL and NEWT results come out, and realises that it is pride.
‘Where’ve you been, Hermione?’ asks Harry.
Hermione rubs her face. ‘France, mostly.’
‘Your daughter,’ says Harry, nodding towards Daphne, ‘tells me you work at the International Confederation.’
‘No. Just blending into the background. I am Policy and Legislative Officer for the Research Division of the Department for Europe-wide Magical Creatures. I don’t represent a Ministry, I work for the Confederation only.’
‘So you’re politically neutral.’
‘How long have you been there?’
‘And you’re only a policy officer? Oh, of course,’ says Harry. ‘Promotion would have brought too much exposure.’
‘Yes,’ says Hermione.
‘I thought you gave up magic.’
‘I did for a bit. I barely used it for years. Six years. Then I met a wizard who offered me a job.’
Ron is starving. He wonders if it would be weird if he started cooking everyone a full English.
‘When you started working at the Confederation, did you think about coming back?’ asks Harry.
Ron turns around and starts opening cupboards. The first one is full of crockery.
‘Yes, a little,’ answers Hermione. ‘But ... I thought I’d burnt my bridges.’
Ron tries the next one. It contains three packets of lentils, a bag of slightly mouldy-looking potatoes, and a box of teabags. He decides that breakfast appears to be off but at least tea is on. He goes back to the crockery cupboard and pulls out a teapot and four mugs.
‘How long have you lived in England?’ asks Harry.
The kettle has finished boiling. Ron starts making the tea.
‘Seven years,’ Ron hears Hermione say.
‘In this house?’ Harry asks.
‘Yes. We moved here when my marriage broke up.’
Leaving the tea to brew, Ron turns around and catches Harry’s expression of surprise.
‘Who was your husband?’ Harry asks.
‘A French wizard.’
‘Does he work at the Confederation?’
‘He did. He doesn’t anymore. I believe he now works at the Swiss Ministry.’
‘Why the Lake District?’ asks Harry after a moment.
‘I missed England,’ says Hermione. ‘And it’s remote.’
Ron can’t be bothered to wait for the tea to brew anymore; he’s getting desperate. He pours it, finds milk in the fridge that smells all right, adds a splash to each mug, and levitates all four mugs and the teapot over to the table. He sits down in the chair next to Hermione and opposite Daphne.
‘Mum,’ says Daphne. Hermione looks at her. It is the first time that she has spoken since Ron and Hermione entered the room. ‘Ron said yesterday that you – that you were mixed up in the last war. Were you? How – how much? Was it because of ... Harry being your friend?’
Hermione nods. ‘Yes.’
Harry is looking at Hermione. ‘She doesn’t know about the war?’
Hermione looks back at Harry. ‘I wasn’t exactly sure what I was supposed to tell her. What could I tell her about the war without mentioning ... you two?’
‘But why didn’t you want to talk about us?’ asks Harry.
‘Because ...’ Hermione looks frustrated. ‘Because I had left you behind – I had decided to leave you behind, because I had decided to have my baby and I didn’t think anyone would understand or support me or even be happy for me, and once I had left you behind, I couldn’t talk about you. It hurt too much.’
Harry opens his mouth, to ask more questions undoubtedly, but then he looks at them both and shuts it. Ron is glad he does. He knows that Harry doesn’t understand, but there will be time for him to talk about everything with Hermione later; Ron is pretty certain that if Hermione has to explain herself again tonight she will shatter. And it is funny, because explain herself is what she did: Ron thinks he understands, now. Maybe.
Daphne turns to Ron. ‘Ron, on Thursday when you showed up here. You weren’t looking for me, were you? You were looking for Mum.’
Ron thinks. Thursday feels like a very long time ago. ‘Yes.’
‘But you realised, didn’t you. You realised while you were talking to me. That’s why you asked me when my birthday is.’
‘When you left – did you intend to come back?’
‘I ...’ Ron swallows. All three of them are staring at him.
‘You didn’t, did you,’ states Daphne.
His daughter would make a good lawyer in the Wizengamot, thinks Ron. ‘No,’ he admits.
‘Why?’ asks Harry. His expression shows complete befuddlement.
Ron tries to explain. ‘Because I finally understood why Hermione left – well, sort of. I could see what had prompted it. And because I didn’t really see ... I mean, where did I fit in to that? What was done was done. I think I just thought the best thing to do was to leave them to it. It seemed too late for anything else. Way too late for anything. I mean, Daphne seemed ...’ He shrugs. ‘Happy.’
‘You’re nuts,’ says Harry flatly. ‘The pair of you are stark raving bonkers.’
Everyone stares at each other. Ron finally picks up his mug of tea and has a sip. It is bliss.
‘Do you want to talk, Daphne?’ asks Hermione quietly.
‘No,’ says Daphne. Then her expression softens. ‘Well, yeah, maybe. Maybe later.’
‘I need to speak to Craig,’ says Daphne. She whips a Muggle mobile phone out of her pocket and starts tapping the screen with her thumbs. Suddenly, it seems to go slightly berserk: vibrating violently, it lets off a series of shrill bleeps and a few ominous-sounding clanks. She huffs. ‘There are way too many magical people in this room,’ she says, and getting up, she walks into the front hall and shuts the door behind her.
Harry is staring at the door she just went through. ‘She texts him? Is that what they do now? What’s wrong with an owl?’
‘He’s a Muggle,’ says Hermione.
‘Really?’ asks Harry. ‘I didn’t realise ...’
‘It does happen, you know,’ she says.
‘Does he know about us?’ asks Harry.
‘Sort of ...’ says Hermione. Then she slides her head into her hands. ‘I really should not have Shrunk his car.’
Ron hears himself laughing before he can catch himself. ‘It was funny, though.’
‘No, it was not,’ Hermione says to the table, but Ron doesn’t quite believe her. He catches Harry’s eye and Harry grins at him and suddenly they could be thirteen again and at breakfast in the Great Hall. Ron can tell that Harry has had the same thought. Hermione looks up at them and they look back at her and Ron has a feeling that everyone is going to stop asking difficult questions now and just accept this situation for what it is: really fucking bizarre.
‘I need a shower,’ says Ron.
‘So do I,’ says Hermione.
Accidentally, Ron catches Harry’s eye again. Harry’s face is entirely impassive, but he is a lot less dense about this sort of stuff than he was the last time they were all in the same room.
‘Do you want to use ours?’ Hermione asks Ron. ‘And you, Harry?’
‘I’m all right,’ says Harry.
‘Ladies first,’ says Ron.
Hermione doesn’t protest. She stands up.
‘Hermione –’ says Harry.
She stops. ‘Yes?’
‘Did you really – when you left – what you told your parents –’ He stops. She waits. ‘When you left, your parents told us that you didn’t want to see us again, and that you had quit magic. Was that true?’
‘Yes,’ she says.
‘That’s when I stopped looking for you,’ says Harry. ‘I was searching for you before that. Constantly.’
‘Harry, it wasn’t a test. I – I didn’t mean to ...’
‘Harry,’ interrupts Ron. ‘I’m sure Hermione won’t disagree with me here when I say that you don’t owe anyone an apology.’
‘I do, though,’ says Hermione quietly. ‘Owe an apology.’
Ron looks at her. Maybe he is owed one, but he doesn’t want to hear it. Hasn’t he already heard it? He’s not sure. ‘Go and have a shower,’ he says.
She smiles slightly and slips out of the kitchen and into the front hall. Ron listens to her going up the stairs. Distantly, he can hear Daphne on the phone.
‘Ron,’ says Harry.
Ron looks at him.
‘Did you shag her?’
Ron doesn’t know what to say.
Harry’s eyes narrow behind his glasses. ‘Ron, did you two shag?’
‘Um,’ says Ron.
‘Oh my God,’ says Harry. He sounds like one of Ron’s second-years. ‘Oh my God, you did. While I was consoling your crying child you were actually having sex –’
‘Shh!’ whispers Ron.
‘Just you wait till I tell Ginny –’
‘You know what, mate, you haven’t exactly been behaving perfectly,’ says Ron. Harry shuts his mouth abruptly. ‘Who drank all this Firewhiskey?’
‘About a bottle and half between us,’ says Harry coolly.
Ron stares at the bottles. That is a lot of booze. ‘How is she?’
After a pause, Harry says, ‘Daphne thinks you two are making it all about yourselves when really it’s about her.’
Ron rubs the back of his head. ‘She’s right.’ He drinks some of his tea. It’s going cold. ‘What the hell am I going to do, Harry?’
Harry’s head slides into his hands and his elbows rest themselves on the table. ‘I don’t have a clue,’ he says.
When Hermione comes back in, dressed in clean Muggle clothes, they have barely moved: Harry’s head is still in his hands. Ron is looking out the back window. Hermione sits back down and starts running one of her fingers around the rim of her mug.
‘Well, then,’ she says. ‘Ron, do you want to shower?’
Harry looks up. He looks slightly green. That must be one hell of a hangover, Ron thinks. ‘I need to go home,’ Harry says. ‘I need to see Ginny.’
‘She’s not happy with you,’ says Ron. ‘She was pretty bloody livid when you left yesterday.’ Yesterday, he thinks. Sunday lunch at the Burrow was only yesterday.
‘I should go,’ says Harry.
‘They might still be at The Burrow,’ says Ron.
‘Yeah, maybe,’ says Harry. He looks like he’s at a loss.
Ron looks at his watch. It’s half past six. ‘I reckon someone’ll be up by now, after everything yesterday. I’ll ask.’ He draws his wand and quickly sends his Patronus off to The Burrow with the message. The little Jack Russell terrier takes a leap and flies through Hermione’s kitchen wall and out into the early morning.
Hermione is staring at the table, tracing the whorls in the wood with her index finger. ‘Ginny,’ she says quietly. ‘I need to see Ginny.’
Ron is taken aback. ‘You want to see – the others? You want to see everyone?’
‘I ...’ Hermione’s finger stops tracing patterns. ‘I don’t know.’ She looks up at him. ‘Why would anyone want to talk to me?’
‘Are you serious?’ Ron splutters. ‘Of course they’ll –’
‘Yes they wi—’
‘Ron,’ she interrupts. ‘They probably hate me, a bit, on behalf of – on behalf of you. But mainly, they probably just don’t care that much. It was a long time ago. I was a long time ago.’
‘You seriously believe that Ginny doesn’t care –’
‘No, not Ginny. The others. It was – you know – eighteen years, Ron.’
This is such a fucking mess, thinks Ron. Because what exactly happens now? Big tearful reunions? His mother hugging Hermione and weeping all over her, delighted over the fact that not only did she vanish two decades ago and break everyone’s hearts but that she also deprived Ron of knowing his daughter? From where Ron’s sitting, it seems highly unlikely. He also has to concede that Hermione has a point: the last time anyone saw her was almost twenty years ago.
But on the other hand, then what? Hermione and Daphne just slink off back into hiding? That can’t happen, either.
Hermione is wrong when she says that no one will want to see her, Ron decides. What may be a problem is that no one will know what to say to her.
Something silver and ghost-like shoots into the room; Hermione jumps. The Swedish Short-Snout (much smaller than life-size) stands on the table and speaks with Charlie’s voice: ‘We’re all still here, most of us. Mum and Dad, George and Angelina, Ginny, me, the kids. Mum, Dad, me and Ginny are up. Trying to keep the kids in bed for a bit. Come round whenever. Don’t think anyone’s going to work today.’ The dragon dissolves into nothing.
Hermione is staring. Ron wonders if she recognised Charlie’s voice.
‘Did you tell them I was with you?’ asks Harry hoarsely.
Ron nods. Harry looks overwhelmingly relieved. His head sinks back into his hands.
And then Ron knows what the answer is: the bandage must be ripped off. The dragon must be faced. If no one knows what to say, well – he’ll smooth it over. He is an adult. Hermione is the mother of his child and smoothing over awkward situations with his family is his responsibility. And if nothing else, it has to be done for Daphne.
He’s faced worse, for fuck’s sake.
‘You should see everyone,’ he says directly to Hermione. ‘You should come to The Burrow. This morning.’ Before she can object, he says it again, firmly. ‘You’re coming to the Burrow.’
But then she looks up and meets his eyes and the defiance Ron expected to see isn’t there. Gently, she rests her head on one of her hands, her elbow on the table. There is a small, odd, almost bemused smile playing on her lips. Her eyes are soft. ‘All right,’ she says.
‘All right?’ He’s taken aback again. ‘Really?’
The smile turns into a grin. She looks deranged, but in a good way. ‘Fuck it,’ she says.
Harry bursts out laughing and Hermione starts to giggle. Ron just shakes his head, but he can feel himself grinning as well. He feels light-headed. ‘Now?’
‘No,’ says Harry. ‘I need to eat first.’
‘There might be some cereal,’ says Hermione weakly, ‘and there’s definitely some bread and butter somewhere –’
‘Toast’, says Ron, jumping up. ‘I’ll make toast.’
Ron unlocks the front door of The Burrow with a tap of his wand and walks into the front hall. Harry, Hermione and Daphne follow him in and quietly, Daphne shuts the front door behind her.
‘Is that you, Ron?’ calls Charlie from the kitchen.
‘Yeah,’ says Ron loudly. He looks back at Hermione and Daphne: they look terrified. He walks over to the door to the kitchen and pushes it open. The kitchen is empty apart from Charlie and Ginny, who are sitting at the table, dressed but looking a bit dishevelled. They appear to have just eaten breakfast – they, Ron notes with envy, appear to have had eggs – and they have been reading. Charlie is holding the Daily Prophet, Ginny a magazine.
Harry pushes past Ron and walks up to them. Ginny glances at him and looks back down at her magazine.
‘I’m here,’ says Harry.
Ron looks behind him: Hermione and Daphne are still standing in the hall, by the front door. Unsure of what to do, he walks into the middle of the kitchen. He wonders where everyone else is, and whether he should gather them and make some kind of announcement.
‘You look like death warmed up,’ Charlie says to Harry.
‘I haven’t slept yet,’ Harry mumbles. He looks down at Ginny.
She makes a show of turning a page of her magazine without looking up. ‘Your children are upstairs; you might want to go and tell them you’re not dead.’
‘Ginny – they’re not –?’
‘Worried? Actually, no, not particularly. They’re used to you being away for work, or, you know, going off in a strop because things aren’t going your way.’
‘Ginny – I’m sorry. Really.’
‘How are you?’ she asks, still not looking up from her magazine.
‘Tired,’ he says, yawning. ‘I can’t wait to get to bed.’
‘That’s a shame, because you’re sleeping on the sofa for the next week.’
‘Oh, Gin –’
‘Don’t even think about –’ She stops, eyes on the doorway.
Ron turns around: Hermione and Daphne have edged their way in.
‘Oh – oh I didn’t realise ...’ starts Ginny.
‘This is,’ says Ron. He swallows. He can hear people coming down the stairs. ‘This is our daughter. Daphne.’
The kitchen door opens again and in clatter George, Angelina and Ron’s mum and dad.
‘Ron, what on earth has been –’
‘Everyone,’ says Ron. Alarmingly, he find that he is using his professor voice, which is something that he never does with his family, and even more alarmingly, it works: they fall silent. ‘This is my daughter, Daphne.’
Index || Part I || Part II || Part III || Part IV || Part V || Part VI || Part VII || Part VIII
Notes: The next chapter will be the last.