Part VIII: The House Down South
The final chapter: Ron introduces Daphne to his family, Mrs Weasley has an idea, Harry tries his best to hold it together, Daphne is in disbelief, and, finally, Ron considers his memories of Hermione.
Index || Part I || Part II || Part III || Part IV || Part V || Part VI || Part VII || Part VIII
Notes: Sorry this is so late: my beta is on the other side of the world and then I was sitting on it for a while because I didn’t want it to end. SORRY!!! I have enjoyed writing this A LOT. I must take a moment to praise my beta, excitedrainbow, for being wonderful and supportive. And everyone who has read and/or reviewed this – thank you so so much. And now, without further ado ...!
The House Down South
‘This is my daughter, Daphne.’ Ron reaches out a hand to her and she steps forward; he takes hold of her sleeve and pulls her into the middle of the kitchen. ‘She’s seventeen. She was born a little after the war ended. She – her birth is the reason Hermione had to leave.’
No one says anything for a moment. Then Charlie puts down the Prophet, stands up and extends a hand. ‘Hello, Daphne,’ he says. ‘I’m Charlie. We met yesterday, very briefly.’
‘Oh,’ says Daphne. She shakes his hand. ‘Pleased to meet you.’
‘This is George, and Angelina,’ adds Charlie, pointing. ‘And this is Ginny. And these are our parents, Arthur and Molly – your grandparents. There’s also Bill and Fleur, and their children, and Percy, and his wife Audrey and their children, and our brother Fred, who died in the war. Fred was George’s twin. And George and Angelina’s kids and Harry and Ginny’s are all upstairs.’
‘Right,’ she says.
‘There will be a test,’ adds George.
She looks shocked, but then she smiles.
Ron glances over at the door to the hall, but Hermione isn’t there – then he sees that she has moved into a corner of the room, where she is standing with her arms folded.
‘You all remember Hermione, don’t you,’ he hears himself say. His mouth is dry.
‘Of course,’ says Angelina.
‘Nice to see you, Granger,’ says George.
Ron glances at Harry and catches his eye. With an almost imperceptible movement of his shoulder, Harry indicates a shrug.
‘So –’ says Daphne abruptly. ‘Did you – you were all at Hogwarts together?’
‘Yes,’ says George.
‘Was it –’ Daphne turns to face Hermione. ‘Was it fun? Were you happy?’
There is a pause. Ron remembers what Daphne said about Hermione disliking Hogwarts. ‘It was wonderful,’ says Hermione quietly.
There is another silence. Then, Charlie claps his hands together. ‘Right,’ he says. ‘I think I might go to Bill’s and let them know what’s happened, otherwise I’m sure they’ll be round again in a minute. Should go to Percy’s as well, I suppose, before he starts informing official bodies –’
‘How about I make a pot of tea,’ says George. ‘Mum, Dad too, go on, you sit down and I’ll make some tea –’
‘Put some brandy in it –’
‘Mum!’ shouts a child from upstairs. Ron thinks it’s George’s son, Fred.
‘Yes?’ calls Angelina, moving towards the hall.
‘Can we come down now?’ calls Fred. ‘Roxanne’s crying because James keeps wiping his bogeys in her hair and Al shut his finger in a door!’
‘Oh, for God’s sake,’ says Ginny, jumping to her feet.
‘I’ll go,’ says Harry, touching her shoulder and following Angelina out of the room and up the stairs.
‘Shell Cottage!’ says Charlie, throwing Floo powder into the grate and jumping in after it.
Ron puts out a hand for Daphne and she moves slightly closer to him.
Then suddenly, Ron’s mum jumps out of the chair George has just pushed her into. ‘Oh, wait just a moment –’
‘Mum, what –’
‘Just a moment, I’ve just had a thought –!’ She hurries out of the room and up the stairs.
‘Right,’ says Ron. ‘Hermione, come and sit down –’
‘No, thank you,’ she says quickly. ‘I was actually just wondering if – could I go and get some fresh air?’ Quickly, she crosses the kitchen, fumbles with the back door, and steps out into the garden.
‘OK,’ says Ron, trying to restore order again. He’s not sure whether he should go after Hermione or stay with Daphne. ‘What I think would be best is –’
‘You should probably go after Mum,’ says Daphne. ‘I think this is all a bit much.’
‘Are you sure?’ asks Ron. It’s what he wants to do, but he feels that really he should stay with Daphne.
‘Yeah.’ Daphne grins at him. ‘I’m fine.’
Ron needs no more encouragement. He crosses the kitchen and follows Hermione into the garden.
Once Harry has calmed Albus down and told James off and shot Angelina an apologetic look, and Angelina has shrugged back at him while stroking Roxanne’s hair and flicking out the bogeys, and the children have been forced to make up and shoved up into Ron’s old room, and Teddy has been summoned for some urgent babysitting with the promise of twenty galleons if he shows up right this very second – once all this has taken place, Harry finds himself staggering down the The Burrow’s rickety staircases, helping Mrs Weasley carry four huge unlabelled leather-bound books.
‘Here,’ says Mrs Weasley breathlessly, placing them all down onto the kitchen table rather heavily.
‘Mum, what is –’ starts George.
‘Oh, Molly, that’s not a bad idea,’ says Mr Weasley.
‘Yes,’ says Mrs Weasley. Her eyes are bright and her face is flushed but she does seem slightly calmer than Harry was expecting. ‘I thought the girl – Daphne – might – it might be helpful?’
‘Yes, yes, of course,’ says Mr Weasley, magicking the breakfast plates from the table and polishing his glasses.
‘Mum, what –’ starts Ginny. Then she turns to Harry. ‘Are the kids OK? I saw Teddy saunter in and go upstairs – are we really paying him twenty galleons?’
‘Er, he’s demanding thirty now,’ says Harry.
‘Good lad,’ says George. ‘Harry, obviously we’ll split it with you –’
‘No, no, don’t worry about it,’ says Harry. He thinks he might pass out: nothing he’s done as an Auror has ever been as draining as the last twenty-four hours. ‘To be quite honest I’d give him fifty if he asked. As long as they stay quiet for an hour.’
‘To be honest, we should send them into the garden,’ says Angelina, ‘but I think it’s taken.’ She nods towards the back window, and looking up, Harry sees Ron and Hermione standing next to each other, backs to the house. They aren’t really moving; they don’t even appear to be speaking to each other.
‘Oh my God,’ says Daphne.
As one, Harry, Ginny, George and Angelina look over: she has opened up one of the books and is staring. The books are full of photos.
‘That’s my mum, isn’t it,’ says Daphne, pointing, as they all crowd around her. ‘And that’s – that’s Ron.’
Harry looks at the photo Daphne is pointing at. She’s right: it is Ron and Hermione. They look incredibly young – perhaps thirteen or fourteen, he thinks. Hermione, hair everywhere, is beaming, her arms wrapped around Crookshanks. Ron has a protective hand over Scabbers, sitting on his shoulder. As Harry watches, Ron shoots Crookshanks a deeply mistrustful look.
A scrap of parchment has been stuck underneath the photo: in Mrs Weasley’s handwriting, it says Summer 1993.
‘I think that’s the Leaky Cauldron,’ says Ginny.
‘I know when that was,’ says Harry abruptly. ‘That was the summer I blew up my aunt, and I ended up staying at the Leaky Cauldron, and you all came to stay with me for the last night of the summer – that was the day Hermione bought that cat.’
He considers telling Daphne that the rat in the picture is in fact the man who helped to murder his parents, but decides that that’s probably a story for another time.
Daphne flips back a few pages, and there is a photo of the entire Weasley family standing outside a pyramid in Egypt. Then she flips back and back and suddenly they are in August 1992 and there is a picture of Harry himself and Ron in The Burrow’s back garden: Ron is sitting on Harry’s shoulders, holding one upside-down gnome in each hand and raising them up towards the sky in triumph. Harry is holding on to Ron’s legs. They are both grinning madly. They must be twelve years old. As Harry watches, his younger self laughs gleefully.
‘Why do you never get these out, Mum?’ asks Ginny quietly.
‘Oh, you know,’ says Mrs Weasley, who has sat down at the table. ‘They can make people quite ... emotional.’
Something in the background of the photo catches Harry’s eye and he realises that there is someone hiding behind the tree in the background. As he watches, she appears again: a young girl with long red hair peeps around, and then vanishes.
He looks at the real Ginny and she catches his eye. She smiles at him, and amazingly, she looks a bit embarrassed. He grins back at her.
Daphne shuts the book and slides a different one out of the pile. She opens it up on to a picture of the whole Weasley family sitting at a long table, again in the back garden, and midway through a meal. Everyone is older here, and with a lurch, Harry sees Lupin and Tonks – he hasn’t seen photos of them in years. He realises that this must have been taken in the middle of the war.
‘When was this?’ he asks. Lupin smiles at him and Tonks winks.
‘Your seventeenth birthday,’ says Ginny. ‘Remember the cake?’ As she says it, Harry sees himself, and the birthday cake sitting in front of him: shaped like a Snitch.
‘Do you remember that man showing up?’ asks Mr Weasley. ‘What was his name? Scrimgeour?’
‘He was such a chump,’ says George.
Harry remembers Scrimgeour bringing him the Resurrection Stone in its guise of a Snitch. ‘Well,’ he says tiredly, ‘he died defending us.’
Mrs Weasley gets up and starts to tidy the kitchen, and Mr Weasley walks over to the window. Harry glances at Ginny again: she, like her father, is watching Ron and Hermione. Harry copies them and sees that the pair have started to walk down towards the end of the garden.
Ginny looks at Harry again, and with a furtive glance around the room, and at Daphne – who is still engrossed in the photos – she looks at him again, this time with more intent. Her eyes flick to the window and back and she raises her eyebrows slightly.
Harry knows exactly what she means. He nods slightly.
Ginny’s eyes widen.
‘You what?’ asks George, eyes flicking between Harry and Ginny. ‘What are you two – ow!’
Angelina smiles serenely and removes her elbow from George’s stomach.
‘Is this them?’ asks Daphne suddenly.
Once more, Harry, Ginny, George and Angelina crowd around the table.
It is a photo of people dancing on a golden dancefloor in The Burrow’s back garden: there is a white canopy above them, supported by golden poles. They are dressed up and twirling each other around, while others sit at tables at the side of the photo, eating and drinking. Bottles of champagne float about, topping up people’s glasses. Harry realises what it is: Bill and Fleur’s wedding reception. Ron and Hermione are in the foreground, dancing together, Ron in dress robes and Hermione in a lilac dress and matching high heels, beaded handbag swinging off her arm. Hermione is smiling up at Ron. Hermione’s hair is straighter than usual, but as Harry watches, Ron finds a stray curl and tucks it behind her ear.
‘Oh, I remember that dress,’ says Ginny.
‘I remember that handbag,’ says Harry.
Daphne shoots him a questioning look.
‘That handbag kept me alive for a year,’ says Harry. ‘Right now it’s got a tent, my underpants and a whole cauldronful of Polyjuice Potion in there.’
‘You Polyjuiced into people?’ Daphne asks. ‘Who?’
‘Have you ever heard of Bellatrix Lestrange?’ he asks.
‘Yes, of course – wait – you Polyjuiced into her?’
Harry grins. ‘No. Your mum did.’
‘I forgot about that!’ laughs George.
‘And Ron’s mum killed her.’ Harry glances at Mrs Weasley, but her head is bent over the washing up, which she is poking with her wand. He is not fooled, though; he knows that she’s listening to every word.
Daphne is staring at him. ‘But – but why did Mum – why?’
‘To rob Gringotts.’
Daphne stares at him, then stares back at the photo. ‘No.’ She shakes her head. ‘No. That did not happen.’
‘Well, in all fairness, your mum was a bit rubbish at it. She kept saying please and thank you.’ He shrugs. ‘Still, it’s one of only two successful robberies that Gringotts has ever had.’
‘Gosh. No wonder we never go to Diagon Alley.’ Daphne rubs her thumb over the picture, jostling the dancing figures – they swerve and twirl out of the way to avoid her. ‘How does Gringotts feel about that, nowadays?’
‘I’ve tried to keep it quiet. And Ron and Hermione did most of it, anyway. I was invisible.’
Daphne looks out of the window at the distant figures of Hermione and Ron. ‘They used to rob banks together?’
‘It was hardly a regular occurrence,’ says George. ‘And, sadly, it was probably the coolest thing Ron’s ever done in his life.’
‘I think I need to check on Teddy and the kids –’ says Ginny, moving towards the hall.
‘I’ll go, Ginny –’ Harry says quickly.
‘No, it’s all right.’ Ginny vanishes into the hall and shuts the door behind her.
‘And you know what,’ says Daphne, ‘Mum never helps me straighten my hair, she’s always telling me to “love my natural beauty”...’
‘I would assume that one of the reasons you don’t go to Diagon Alley is my fabulously successful franchise,’ says George. ‘Have you ever been in the Paris branch of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes?’
‘Of course – oh!’ Daphne’s eyes widen. ‘You’re the Weasleys? The Weasleys Weasleys?’
‘Yes, we’re the Weasleys,’ says George. ‘You’re the Weasleys. I started the company with Fred, my twin. Ron was my bookkeeper, in the early days. He helped me expand into Europe. He still owns a twenty percent stake.’
‘So Ron’s rich?’ asks Daphne.
‘Yeah, he does all right,’ laughs George. ‘Though you wouldn’t know it from his whole “shabby heartbroken professor” vibe.’
‘George,’ says Angelina, rolling her eyes. ‘He can hardly dress the way you do at Hogwarts.’
‘There’s absolutely no need for those corduroy trousers and elbow patches, though.’
‘I seriously can’t believe this,’ says Daphne, staring at the wedding reception photo again. ‘No one at school is going to believe this. Mum’s always banned Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes stuff from the house, I just thought that she was being a killjoy –’
‘I’m going to help Ginny with the kids,’ says Harry. ‘I’ll be right back.’ Like Ginny, he slips into the hall and shuts the door behind him.
It doesn’t take him long to find her. She is sitting on the bottom step of the stairs leading up to the third floor, elbows on her knees.
‘Hi,’ she says. ‘I got up to Ron’s room, but I could hear they were all fine, so I didn’t interrupt. Came back down here.’
She offers him a small smile. She looks as exhausted as Harry feels.
The whole weight of everything is full and heavy in Harry’s body. It is especially heavy in the backs of his knees and finally he can feel himself crumpling and, in fact, he seems to be crumpling physically: his back hits the wall and his knees give and he slides, slowly, to the floor.
They look at each other. ‘Ginny,’ he says. ‘I am so sorry.’
She puts her head in one of her hands, elbow still rested on her knee. ‘What happened?’
He knows that she doesn’t know. She means, what happened last night. What happened after you stormed off. Not, did you snog a seventeen-year-old.
‘I went home,’ he says. She nods. ‘I just wanted a drink, but I thought you’d follow me, so I left. I took the Firewhiskey –’
‘But I went to a pub in Diagon Alley instead. The Mermaid and Manticore. I had a few drinks. Then I left. I drank some of the Firewhiskey. And then I decided to go to her house. I wanted to look at it. George had seen the address – he gave it to me before I left this house. So I went there, and the front door was open. I walked in. Daphne was there, in the front hall, on her own. She had a big bag with her, and I think I thought she was running away. Ron had already turned up, and he and Hermione were locked in the living room.
‘Daphne and I sat down in the hall and ... drank a bit. We talked about a lot of stuff ... nonsense, really. She was very upset. Then at about five-thirty in the morning, Ron and Hermione emerged. They’d obviously been asleep. They looked very ... dishevelled. Ron was wearing the same clothes as yesterday. Then we all sat in the kitchen, Daphne vanished off somewhere, and the three of us talked. Ron sent his Patronus so we knew where everyone was – I wanted to go wherever you and the kids were – and then we came here.’
Slowly, Ginny gets up and comes and sits down on the floor next to Harry. ‘And you really think something happened between them?’
‘I know it did. Ron basically admitted it. They had sex.’
‘God,’ says Ginny.
‘So – but –’ She stops, seemingly at a loss. ‘What on earth were they thinking?’
After a second, she says, ‘It’s sort of comforting that they’re both still completely insane.’
She smiles at him again.
He wants to vomit.
‘I have a confession to make,’ he says.
‘You drank the last of our Ogden’s?’
‘I kissed Daphne.’
There is a pause in time where everything hangs, temporarily suspended, and then Ginny lets out her breath in a sigh. Slowly, her head falls back to rest against the wall. ‘You are a twat, Harry Potter.’
‘I know.’ His head falls forward and his hair cascades down to hide his eyes. ‘I know.’
Seconds tick by. Harry listens to the sound of her steady breathing.
‘What happened?’ Ginny asks with a dull voice.
‘We were drunk,’ he starts.
He flinches at the look she shoots him.
‘And – and we were sitting in the hall in Hermione’s house, and Ron and Hermione were locked in the living room doing God-knows-what – and – and she kissed me! She kissed me … I …’
‘I mean – I mean, I stopped her immediately –’
‘After a good ten-minute snog with the seventeen-year-old, of course.’
‘Gin! It … it was five seconds, at the most,’ he says in a small voice.
‘Then why exactly are you confessing to it in such guilt-ridden tones?’
‘I – I’m not – I’m not guilty! Although, of course, I feel guilty –’
‘Interesting that it was a snog with a seventeen-year-old that looks exactly like Hermione. I wonder what this says about –’
‘Ginny!’ he gasps, moving around on his knees to face her. ‘Gin – that was nothing to do with anything – don’t think that –’
‘Believe me when I tell you, Harry, that I don’t know what to think.’
‘It was a mistake,’ he insists, dimly aware that he is stretching the string hanging between them to breaking point. ‘Gin, I didn’t know what I was doing –’
‘That is not an excuse.’
‘Fine, she kissed you –’ she spits, twisting around with bright eyes – ‘but don’t you dare try to say it’s all right because you were drunk – you were drinking with someone else’s daughter! Imagine if that was – was one of Lily’s friends – when her friends all traipse round to our house to ogle the Boy Who Lived when she’s fourteen, what are you going to do? Buy them all some Ogden’s and get off with one of them? For fuck’s sake, Harry!’
‘Oh for God’s – that’s completely different –’
‘In what way?’
‘Because – because Daphne’s –’
‘Hermione’s daughter – Ron’s daughter! She is my niece, Harry! How the hell is Ron going to feel about this?’
Harry winces. ‘I didn’t think of that.’
‘No! Because you haven’t thought about anything but yourself!’
‘That’s – that’s not true –’
‘I needed you to be here yesterday, but instead, you leave me to deal with our children and with Mum – I know she seems fine now but can you even imagine the hysterics we endured last night? – and you go off in a huff because Ron wanted to keep the fact that he had a daughter he’d never known about to himself for a couple of days – leave me to go on as if everything’s normal, everything’s fine, darling, Mummy and Daddy have just had a little fight, when I’m hurting too, I feel – betrayed and … and confused, too – she was my friend as well, Harry!’
He takes a shaking breath. ‘I know she was. I didn’t … I didn’t go off to have a little moment with Ron and Hermione, Ginny, I didn’t even know that Ron was there – I didn’t see either one of them till this morning. I didn’t even know where I was going, by that time I didn’t even know what direction I was walking in … I was all … fucked up, yesterday.’ He shakes his head. ‘Completely and utterly mentally and physically fucked up.’
‘God, Harry, I’m not pissed off because I’ve been left out of some touching Harry Ron and Hermione moment, I’m upset because you didn’t stay with me.’
She falls still; her fury seems to have ebbed away, leaving nothing but a pair of heartbreakingly empty eyes. ‘Not that any of that’s got anything to do with the fact that you kissed another woman last night.’
‘I … But it was she who kissed me. I’m being honest, Ginny. I wouldn’t do that.’
She leans back against the wall and stares up at the ceiling. ‘People don’t just leap out of dark corners and start kissing strange men,’ she says dully. ‘People don’t even do that to men they know. Don’t pretend you don’t know when a kiss is coming.’
There is too much truth in that to argue with, so Harry shoves his glasses up to his forehead and rubs at his brow. ‘I … I know I’m not the only one affected by this whole thing, Ginny. All right, maybe I didn’t know it yesterday, but I know it now. I know she was your friend, too.’
Ginny is quiet for a second. Then, she says, ‘Best friend.’
There is another pause. Harry looks down at his knees again.
‘You have to sleep on the sofa for the next two weeks.’
His head cocks up sideways. ‘You forgive me, then?’
‘It’s hardly the first time a teenager has attacked you,’ she says with a disappointed exhalation of breath that does not quite qualify as a sigh.
‘Ginny …’ he starts. ‘Ginny … I –’
‘Harry, Jesus. I don’t give a shit that a seventeen-year-old jumped on you. It’s what led to that even being a possibility that hurts. You storming off, you not wanting to confide in me, you forgetting about my feelings, you getting drunk and storming up to Hermione’s house, you not realising how deeply inappropriate it is for you to spend hours drunkenly bonding with a seventeen-year-old you don’t know ...’
‘Ginny, this isn’t an excuse, but you should know – I was really far gone by the time I got there,’ says Harry. ‘I wasn’t exactly making conscious decisions. I know it’s not an excuse!’ he adds at her glare. ‘An explanation,’ he offers.
She looks at the ceiling. ‘What happened afterwards?’
Harry winces. ‘She burst into tears and started telling me about her boyfriend.’
For the first time since the confession, Ginny smiles. ‘Serves you right.’
‘I took her into the kitchen and tried to make her drink water. Told her it would all be OK. Told her some stuff about Hogwarts, and what Ron and Hermione were like. I told her about Hermione getting upset when Ron didn’t invite her to the Yule Ball in fourth year. And the whole Lavender Brown disaster.’
After a second, he says, ‘I’m so sorry. I’ve been a twat.’
‘I know,’ says Ginny. ‘I told you.’
‘I know I ...’ he starts. He tries to find the words. ‘I was thinking this morning, I know I take advantage of you, sometimes. You’re stronger than me. I’m OK at some things but you can hold it together better than me, you always have done, and I take advantage of it. I take the piss. I don’t know what the fuck I thought I was doing. And I was angry that you’d known what was going on and hadn’t told me, but I was so incredibly selfish and –’
‘It’s all right, Harry,’ she interrupts, shaking her head and leaning towards him slightly. ‘It’s all right.’
‘I didn’t – I didn’t want …’ He tails off with a hopeless look.
She sighs again, but he takes a chance and reaches out. When he wraps an arm around her waist and shifts her body along the hall and up close to his, she doesn’t resist.
Her head drops onto his shoulder. ‘Harry, what am I going to do with you?’
‘Forgive me because you love me?’ he mumbles, burying his face into her hair.
She closes her eyes.
His hand drifts up from her waist to her hair. ‘I love you.’
‘I love you too, for some reason,’ she says tiredly.
He twists a piece of hair around his finger.
‘Hermione’s going to kill you, you know,’ she says.
He buries his face back into her neck. ‘How about we keep this our little secret?’
‘What, as payback for Hermione’s rather big secret?’
‘I was thinking more to stop a poor teenager from being awfully embarrassed, but fine, if that’s how you want it,’ he says.
‘Yes, because she’s the only one who’d be embarrassed.’
He laughs into her neck. ‘What am I going to have to do to make you keep this quiet?’
‘I could think of a few things …’ It sounds to Harry like she might be smiling.
‘After your two weeks on the sofa, of course.’
He sighs. ‘Bitch.’
‘We’ll be all right, won’t we?’ she asks abruptly.
‘Of course we will,’ he says, stroking her arm. ‘All four of us.’
‘Are you forgetting one of your children?’
‘I meant us and Ron and Hermione. But yes, James and Al and Lily as well.’
‘All seven of us.’
He rests his head on top of hers. ‘What about Daphne?’
‘Fine, all eight of us,’ she says.
‘What about everyone else?’
‘They don’t count,’ she says crossly as he laughs. ‘That lot don’t really care, anyway.’
‘They do, though.’
‘I know.’ She sighs. ‘I know.’
‘More than I thought they would,’ he says.
‘Well, if they don’t care that much about Hermione, then they care about Ron. Like Charlie, for instance. But George, and I think Percy, as well, a bit, care about Hermione herself.’
They are silent.
‘What’s she like?’ Ginny asks.
‘The same,’ says Harry. ‘And different.’
Ginny’s head shifts comfortably on his shoulder.
‘But there’s enough of the old Hermione,’ he continues. ‘She’s definitely recognisable.’
‘I’ve missed her so much.’
‘Do you think she’s going to stay?’ she asks.
After a second, he says, ‘I think they have some unfinished business.’
Ginny does not ask him who he is talking about.
Ron and Hermione are walking together, out into the countryside.
When Ron had joined her in the back garden, after she’d left the kitchen, he hadn’t known what to say. They had looked at each other for a moment, and then she’d said, ‘Shall we walk?’ And so they had started to walk down to the end of the garden.
Ron had said, ‘Shall we talk?’
Hermione had looked at him and said, ‘Is there anything else to say?’
And so here they are, walking side by side in silence. They have left the garden now, and the wards that protect the boundaries of the house. They are moving up a footpath that goes over a small hill and then roughly in the direction of Xenophilius Lovegood’s old house.
Suddenly, Hermione stops. Ron stops as well.
She is staring at him.
He looks at her.
One night when he was eighteen, when he, Harry and Hermione were living out of Mundungus Fletcher’s tent, Ron had looked at Hermione and thought that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. A few hours ago, when he had woken up on the sofa and seen her sitting on that table, staring at the curtains with her hair all fluffy, Ron had thought that he had been wrong when he was eighteen, and that the most beautiful woman in the world was sitting right in front of him. But now he realises that both those times he was wrong, as usual. Hermione, right now, is so beautiful that he can hardly breathe. The way she is looking at him has made his heart jump out of his chest and sink right down through his body. He can feel it squelching somewhere down by his feet.
‘Ron,’ says Hermione. ‘Would you like to go on a date with me?’
He laughs. ‘Yeah,’ he says. ‘All right, then.’
Ron has absolutely no idea what is going to happen next, or where this is going to go, and he doesn’t actually care in the slightest. All he knows is that Hermione Granger is standing right in front of him, and for the first time in eighteen years, he isn’t dreaming.
Index || Part I || Part II || Part III || Part IV || Part V || Part VI || Part VII || Part VIII
Notes: Please see here for some thoughts/endnotes. :)