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Beautiful when she smiles. by Janner
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
They arrived back at ten-thirty. They had laughed and giggled through a four course Indian meal. Harry had to take Ginny’s wand off her. One of the waiters was wearing a bow tie which was crooked. It niggled Ginny and she was determined to straighten it. Another bottle of wine was emptied and Hermione had to dissuade Harry from refilling it. So Hermione had gone home with three wands in her extension charmed handbag. They settled into her sitting room with coffee and more wine. Their mood settled a bit before Harry asked Hermione why she still carried her wand after fifteen years. “I still use it. I haven’t done any serious magic, but it’s for little things if I’m busy. For instance, I can do the ironing myself and run the vacuum cleaner at the same time. That sort of thing.”
“So Hermione, we told you our stories this afternoon. It’s your turn. If you want to, of course. Don’t feel you have to.”
“I do want to Harry. It will be good to talk about it with someone who hasn’t lived through it with me. It might give me a different perspective as it were. I need some more wine.” Harry topped up the glasses. Finished his coffee and sat back in his armchair.
“OK where to start…”
“I know where you can start, if you don’t mind, that is.” Ginny was suddenly quiet.
“Start with your row with me.” Hermione was astounded when Ginny began to cry.
“What on earth is the matter Ginny?” She asked the question before Harry did.
“Hermione, for all these years I have blamed myself for everything that happened to you. If I hadn’t upset you, you wouldn’t have left the Burrow and none of it would have happened.”
“Oh Ginny, you idiot.” Hermione and Ginny stood and embraced, “You darling idiot, you thick, stupid, darling idiot. Sit down and listen. I’ll start where you want.” They returned to their seats. “A question for you first. When you went for that walk after the battle Harry, you said you had been a long time because you ‘took a break’ and Ginny said ‘twice’. I remember it like it was yesterday. I suspected, I’m not sure why, that ‘taking a break’ was a sort of euphemism for sex. Was I right?” Ginny looked at Harry, he nodded to her.
“Yes, you were. We did it twice.” Hermione triumphantly punched the air,
“Yes! I knew it, I knew it. Oh, this weekend is worth it just for that alone. Marvellous. Was it good? No, no don’t answer that. Sorry, that was rude. Okay, so those remarks I made eventually got up your nose and you blew up. I was upset, so not wanting to ‘outstay my welcome’ I left and went to my parent’s house. I thought I would stay away for a week at the most, to let things settle down as it were. Ginny, this is where your responsibility ends. So stop blaming yourself. Everything from now on is down to me, not you.”
“My plans exploded because I met Robbie. We met in a coffee shop. Incredibly he recognised me from junior school. We had coffee together and he asked for a date. Why did I say yes? To this day, I don’t know. I was supposed to be in love with Ron wasn’t I? The date was good and I got a taxi home. Alone, I have to add, but as we said goodnight, he kissed me. Twice. Nothing dramatic, two soft, gentle kisses. I think now it was the second kiss when I fell in love, although I didn’t know it at the time, but boy did I fall. I fell asleep thinking of Robbie and woke up the same way. Two nights later we had another date, he came home with me and after some half-hearted resistance on my part we ended up in bed. That night is engraved on my memory; I can recall it as though it were last night. Two days later he asked me to marry him. Our wedding night was wonderful but of course it was our last, even so it was enough for him to leave me with his baby. He left the next day and I never saw him again.
So Ginny let me tell you this, the row I had with you led to the two best things that have ever happened, or could happen to me. My two Robbie’s. I had the first for just a few wonderful, sublime days. I went through hell before the second arrived to save me.”
She leaned over and took Ginny’s hand and looked from her own moist eyes into Ginny’s moist eyes. “So thank you Ginny. Thank you for leading me to my husband, the love of my life, and my daughter. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.” The two women stood and embraced, weeping softly. A deeply moved Harry stood and embraced them both. The group broke up. Eyes were dried. Hermione said “Bugger this, I need a serious drink, excuse me for a moment.” she disappeared toward the kitchen. Harry hugged Ginny,
“How do you feel?”
“Confused. Can you believe it, she actually said thank you. I’m not sure I understand.”
“Well, I don’t know why you’ve never told me any of this but; do you know what I think? I think that all these years you have blamed yourself for the pain she has endured. You never thought about the happiness she’s had. Her time with Robbie, short as it was. Then her daughter. She seems to accept that the pain was something she had to go through to get from one to the other. I really believe she is happy.”
“Oh I hope so Harry, I really hope so.” Hermione came back to them carrying a bottle of whisky and one of water.
“Dad thinks his hiding place is a secret. Small one Harry?” With a deadpan face Ginny said,
“Yes he has, but how did you know?” More laughter, but only from the girls. Harry forced a smile.
“I’ll have a drink Hermione, thank you.” Ginny stuck with the wine, and they settled back once more.
“So where was I? Oh yes I remember. You two were at my wedding so you know all about that. The next day Robbie left. I spoke to him once a week and was adjusting to my situation. Newly married, but with a husband five thousand miles away. I lived for the phone calls. The last time I spoke to him he said that he would be unavailable for ten days but couldn’t tell me why. A couple of days later I found out I was pregnant. I was so, so happy, but I would have to wait six days to tell him. I know I put most of this in the letter I sent you. Then two days later I was sitting in front of a man in uniform and he was telling me that my husband, my Robbie… was dead.” she bit her bottom lip to stop the tremble. Harry said,
“Hermione don’t do this, you don’t have go on, it’s okay.”
“No Harry I want to. These are thoughts I have every day without giving them voice. I need to speak them, as I said, to someone who hasn’t lived through it with me. I’ll be alright. When I heard those words it was as if someone had switched all the lights off, and then turned off the sun. Mum took me upstairs; all I could think of was telling Robbie about the baby. I was going on and on about it. I had to tell Robbie he was going to be a father. In my room Mum was holding me and she said ‘You can’t tell him. He’s dead Hermione, he is dead.’ That was the moment, my Dad says, that he heard the most horrible sound he will ever hear. It was me. I screamed. From that moment and for the next four days, I could not tell you who I was, where I was or what I did. I remember only one thing from that time. I tried to imagine the coming Christmas, but I couldn’t. It was a blank, black nothingness. I had no future, no reason to go on living.” Ginny interrupted,
“Not even your baby?”
“No. I’m ashamed to say it, but as far as I can remember my baby never crossed my mind. After four days of this Mum gave me a right telling off, I mean she really let me have it. I remember when she had finished it was as though I had woken up from a weird dream. I looked around my room. Clothes strewn everywhere, dirty knickers on the floor, that sort of thing. I hadn’t had a shower for four days. I was a mess, a totally disgusting mess. I’m glad to say that was a turning point.”
“From then on everything I did was for my baby. I still grieved of course, I cried rivers each day, the misery was always there, but I knew I had to turn it around. I wrote to you after about six months, I was feeling better. Nowhere near normal, but better. I went to the Palace to get Robbie’s medal. The Queen was lovely. She asked when the baby was due and would I please let her know if it was a boy or girl. I did and I got a personal letter from her. Things like that the public never hears about… more drinks for you two?”
Harry and Ginny declined. “I’ve had enough too. So, then Bump decided it was time to put in an appearance. What a day that was. I woke about five with a backache, by eight o’clock I was in full labour. Just after eight that evening the midwife gave me Roberta. I had decided on the name a long time before. Had it been a boy I would have called him Robert. No prizes for guessing that. But what a moment that was. You know how quickly I fell in love with her father, this was faster, it was instant. Ginny you’ll know what I mean; you’ve done it three times.”
“It’s just as wonderful each time Hermione. One of the best feelings in the world.”
“I couldn’t take my eyes off her, this little helpless bundle. This little piece of Robbie. Mum came in and the first thing she said was ‘Hello Roberta, my, my aren’t you messy.’ Roberta was taken away and it was fifteen minutes before she came back, clean, pink and screaming like the Bandon Banshee. I fed her and she quietened down, and for the longest time I lay beside her in tears. Not tears of anguish, you understand, but joy. I whispered to Robbie that he had a daughter. I took her home three days later, and began my second new life inside a year.
Something of the old Hermione must have survived because shortly afterwards I sat down and made a plan. With the help of Mum and Dad I got a job in the local…” she glanced at Harry, waiting for him to speak the next word. He said nothing, “…library, enrolled in night classes and got some Muggle qualifications. I did well enough to get into university and took a history degree. By this time Robbie was five, she was gorgeous, even though I say so myself. Then I saw there was a vacancy at the British Library, I applied and got the job. It was perfect; I was doing post-graduate work for my Ph.D. What better place to do my research. I got my qualification and now I have a senior research post.”
She stood and went to the small bookcase, took out a book, “Forgive me if I show off a bit, but I’m proud of this. It was published last year. A TV company is considering it for a programme, if it goes ahead, they want me to present it. ” She gave the book to Harry. He looked in amazement at the cover. The title read, ‘Witchcraft. Medieval England Onwards.’ it was by Dr. Hermione MacDonald MA. PhD. He turned the book over in his hands. On the back were short comments from academics and newspapers. One read, ‘MacDonald writes so convincingly one could think that she’s been there, done that.’ He gave the book to Ginny. She opened it and turned the first page.
“Listen to this Harry.” She read ‘To Harry, Ron, Ginevra et. al. you know who you are. Thanks for the inspiration.” Thank you Hermione, that was a nice thing to do. A TV star as well, is there anything you can’t do?” Harry agreed,
“Doctor MacDonald. You are bloody amazing. To go through all that and come out the other side like this, it’s staggering. How did you do it?”
“It started with some good advice from someone who was a lot wiser than I gave him credit for at the time. Alfie is the local vicar; he and his wife are good friends now. When I was hurting the most, he said that I was looking for someone to blame, and if I could find someone, the hurt would go away. He said it wouldn’t and that I should stop looking. He talked about good and evil. He said ‘you lost your husband, but you have his child. Evil and good in a nutshell.’ I’ve never forgotten that and it’s true. Once I found the balance between work and caring for Roberta, well, it was hard but not difficult if you see what I mean. I had a lot of help from Mum and Dad.” Harry looked around and thought there was something missing.
“Hermione, I can see all these pictures of Robbie and Roberta, but if you have all these qualifications shouldn’t there be diplomas and things as well.”
“They’re in my bedroom.”
“Can I see them, I’d like to.” She led them to her room. On the wall was the wedding picture of her and Robbie and two large, ornate scrolls.
“Very impressive Hermione, they really are, and as your brother, I’m very, very proud of you.” She kissed him on the cheek.
“Thank you Harry, that really means a lot.” She saw Harry looking at the double bed.
“Purely for my comfort Harry, nothing else. Robbie once asked me if I had a big bed for when Daddy comes home. I cried that night.” She smiled, “Do you know you are the first man I’ve kissed in this room, you’re going to be the first man to sleep in this room, in fact you are the only man who has ever been in this room.” At this point Ginny intervened,
“In that case, I think I should get you two out of here, before you try to celebrate another first.” smiling they went back to the sitting room. Hermione continued her tale,
“My next problem was Robbie and her education. She was thrilled when I told her she could do magic. I’d seen little things happen around her. I knew what it was of course. I’ve taught her to control it, she was a willing pupil. So I had to decide, Hogwarts or not. She wanted to go, but at the same time she would have to give up a lot.” She pointed around the room at a computer, mobile phone, music players. “That lot for instance. I gave her two days to think about it. She wanted to go, so she went. She’s fifteen now, we talked about it in the summer and she’s thinking of doing what I did. Complete Hogwarts and return to the Muggle world. She has a couple of years before she needs to decide finally. I’ll back her whatever she decides. She won’t be short of money because about five years ago Robbie’s parents both died within a year. Carol died of cancer and Brian went downhill very fast after that and had a heart attack. He left their house to me. I thought of moving there but in the end we sold the house. I bought a car for myself, a few things for Mum and Dad. They had a genuine holiday in Australia, because I couldn’t have done any of this without them, and I put the rest into trust. So that’s me. That’s all there is.”
“You never found another relationship anywhere?” he asked gently.
“Where would she have found the time, Harry? Unless she’d nicked a time turner of course.”
“No, I went on a few dates, even kissed a couple of guys, but there was never any kind of spark. Nothing to build on. Did I compare them to Robbie? I tried not to, but… I suppose there is still an outside chance, but I’m not looking and I’m not holding my breath. If it happens, it happens. If not, well it’s not a problem for me. But there was one that you might find interesting. There have been two occasions in my life when I have been asked for a date and, by any logical process, I should have said ‘No’ but said ‘Yes’. The first time was when Robbie asked me out. I still don’t know why I said yes. The second time was last year when my publishers, Birtwistles Publishing, threw a launch party for my book. I was doing the rounds, shaking the hands, smiling, accepting the compliments, you know the sort of thing. Suddenly there was a voice in my ear. ‘I enjoyed your book very much, Miss Granger.’
I found myself looking at a tall, charming, devastatingly handsome man. He was, I found out later, the owner of the publishers. After a few minutes he produced a mobile phone and said, “If I can get a table, would you have dinner with me. It’s a nice restaurant; I think you’ll like it.” Again I don’t know why I said yes, but I was intrigued. So I agreed. He dialled a number and said, in perfect French, “Andre, a table for two in half an hour please.” Just like that, he didn’t even identify himself; he had a reservation, just like that. I asked him the name of the restaurant all he said was “The Savoy.” He was able to ring up the Savoy and get a reservation at thirty minutes notice. That’s how I found myself at one of the top restaurants in the world having dinner with… fasten your seatbelts… Draco Malfoy.”
Harry choked on his coffee, Ginny managed to put her cup down before she dropped it. “Malfoy… Draco Malfoy? Ferret boy? That Draco Malfoy?” She stuttered.
“Unless you know of another one, yes, that Draco Malfoy. I knew it was him the moment he said Granger”
“Did you enjoy the dinner?” An astonished Harry asked.
“Actually, yes I did. This was not the Draco Malfoy that you and I knew. He spent the car journey to the Savoy apologising profusely for everything that he did at Hogwarts. I was sceptical at first but I think now that he was sincere. He is now a millionaire businessman. Completely legitimate. He was polite, interested and before I realised it I was telling him of my life after school. He seemed genuinely sorry when I told him about Robbie. Towards the end of the meal he mentioned that he was staying at the Savoy and I thought ‘here it comes, it’s proposition time’. He said he had to be up early so he would get his driver to take me home, he escorted me to his car, kissed me on the cheek and said goodnight. I don’t know why but I felt vaguely disappointed. It wouldn’t have hurt him to at least try his luck, would it?”
“No it wouldn’t would it.” said Ginny sympathetically picking up Hermione’s book, "Got any spare ones?"”
“Well I’d like to read it, I’m sure Harry would, and I think it’s worthy of a place in the library at Hogwarts, don’t you Harry?”
“Absolutely, it’s a cracking idea. Restricted section of course. You were always heading to the library, now you’ll be there permanently.” Hermione was moved,
“Thank you. Now I don’t know about you but it’s almost three o’clock and I’m ready to turn in.” They cleared up the glasses and bottles and went to bed.