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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 68: Year 7: Mother's Day
The street Hermione had grown up on was bathing in sunlight and full of memories. How many times had she scraped her knees on the edge of that curb whilst learning to ride her bike? How many times had she stood outside the Ahktars’ house, when she was still in Muggle school, waiting for the school bus alongside little Farzin and his sister Roshni? Hermione could almost see them as she passed their little white house, waving goodbye to their tall father with the thick, black moustache as Hermione crossed Mrs Chapman’s lawn on her way towards them; she remembered how she had envied Roshni’s purple backpack, and how Farzin always seemed to forget something in the house that their mother had to rush out to him just as the bus rounded the corner at the end of the street, whether it was a book, his lunchbox or a note for his teacher.
Hermione remembered her mother taking her to have tea with the old lady at the end of the street, whose house had smelled a little funny but who was very lonely and seemed to long for anyone at all to talk to. She remembered trying to run away from home once, when she had broken her father’s reading glasses and hurriedly packed her bag to take off before he would notice. She had not even made it past Mrs Chapman’s house before her parents had caught up with her, and she had confessed instantly. Her father had laughed it off, kissed her cheek and said that no matter what she broke, he would never want her to leave.
And on the day she had left, shortly before her twelfth birthday, she remembered her father driving slowly down the street, as if he knew she wanted to memorise every little bit, from Mrs Chapman’s apple tree to the Ahktar children waving from their kitchen window, before they set off towards Kings Cross Station.
Now, over ten years later, Hermione was walking slowly, taking in the new sights. Mrs Chapman had moved out; a man she didn’t know was mowing her old lawn, wearing large earmuffs and not even noticing her as she walked by. Hermione had not talked to Farzin or Roshni since they were children, and she wondered what they were doing now, if they were still in London. She remembered Roshni wanting to be a vet, and wondered if she had ever made it.
And then Hermione was in front of her parents’ house, and her childhood friends were gone from her mind, because there were the flowers she had planted with her mother, the porch they had used to sit together on and read on summer mornings, the same porch that Hermione had fallen to her knees on that day they had lost her, when she and her father had come home from the hospital. Her dad had had to practically carry her inside, both of them shaking from crying, and the house had never felt so empty in their lives, and never so cold, not even in their worst winters.
Michael Granger was sitting on that porch now; he lit up at the sight of his daughter and stood up, leaving the wind to flip the pages of the book he was reading and making him lose track of where he was up to. Hermione hurried to him and hugged him tightly. She wondered if she would ever be old enough to stop feeling like her father’s embrace was all she needed to feel like the rest of the world could not harm her anymore. She hoped not.
“How are you feeling?” asked her father concernedly. She smiled, and they sat down at the wooden table overlooking the garden.
“I’m okay,” she said. “How are you?”
“Okay,” he replied. “As okay as expected.”
Hermione had decided that morning to tell him; she still hadn’t talked to anyone but Ron about the baby they had lost. She had not wanted to, but it was Mother’s Day, and she should have been just a few months away from being a mother. She longed for her father to hold her while she told him everything she had been through over the past five months.
But just then, as she watched her dad’s face, she knew that he was thinking of another mother, of her mother, and there was something so sad about his brown eyes coated with tears as he claimed to be okay, and Hermione knew that he had lost enough. She didn’t need to add a grandchild to that list.
So instead she said, “I really miss her too, Dad.”
Mr Granger smiled. “I know you do, darling. I suppose that won’t ever change for us, will it?”
Hermione shook her head and placed her hand over his on the wooden table. “Do you think she’s still watching over us?”
“I know that if there is a way for her to be here, then she will be,” said Mr Granger. “She wouldn’t want to miss a thing. And she would be so proud of you. The way you stood up for that boy you told me about – Creevey, was it? That took some courage. I think you get it from her.”
They sat on the porch for a while, even though it was just a little too cold, talking about Dennis Creevey’s life sentence in Azkaban, and Mr Granger’s work, and Hermione’s cousin who had just got engaged. By the time they were both cold enough to be shaking a little, they stood up, got in the car and drove up to the cemetery. Mrs Granger’s grave was completely covered in richly green grass now – after all, it had been almost exactly two years since Hermione and her father had stood there for the first time, hand in hand, watching as they lowered her casket deep into the ground.
Mum, Hermione thought, because she did not want to say it aloud and add to the grief that was weighing on her father, if you’ve really seen everything, then you know what happened to my baby. And you know that you are the one person I would like to talk to about him. She took a deep breath, noticing that the tombstone and the yellow flowers that her dad had leaned against it were getting a little blurry as tears began to well up in her eyes. I wish you could hold me and stroke my hair and tell me it’s going to be okay, and that we are going to have a healthy child one day and it won’t hurt like this forever.
She looked over at her father, whose eyes were closed, and whose tears were dropping off his chin and onto his navy sweater. He opened his eyes just then and met hers, and they reached for each other’s hands simultaneously, and just then, there was a strong breeze that ruffled Hermione’s hair and felt cold in their throats as they breathed it in. Perhaps it was just a wind, Hermione thought, or perhaps it was the best her mother could do, because she couldn’t actually stroke her hair like she had wanted. It was a poor substitute, of course, and it did not make Hermione miss her any less, but it was better than nothing at all.
While Hermione and her father drove back to the Grangers’ house in the suburbs, Ginny was at the Ministry of Magic in London, seated at a table in the Department of Magical Sports and Games. She had her eyes closed and was trying to focus on her breathing – in and out. In and out. Even through her eyelids, she could see the flashes of light from the cameras capturing the look on her face forever – her lower lip, which was trembling just a little bit, her eyes squeezed shut, and her nostrils, which fluttered as she exhaled and opened first her right eye, then her left.
There had been so many people to tell, and she knew all the words well by now. Her tongue formed them effortlessly. She had told Harry first, and her voice had been shaking a little then. She had cried a little when she had told the rest of her family, and more that night after training when she had broken the news to her teammates. Gwenog Jones had stormed out angrily, but Heather Perrington had hugged Ginny tightly, as if she understood. Ginny had been terrified to tell Oliver, and his response had been short, but he had not looked half as disappointed as she had feared.
And now she was telling it again, to all the rest of the world, to the little children who used to wait for her outside the Holyhead arena on game days to get a picture or an autograph or just a hug, and the students at Hogwarts, whom Neville claimed were more impressed that he knew her than either Harry, Ron, or Hermione.
“My brothers taught me to fly when I was little,” she said now, her heart beating hard in her chest. “Too little to be anywhere near a broomstick, if you had asked my mum, but they weren’t much for following rules. They snuck me out and showed me how to do it, and they made me swear not to go higher than they could reach, but I wasn’t much for following rules either. That night I dreamed of being a Quidditch player for the first time. And that dream stayed with me as I grew up, and I have been blessed enough to have that dream come true. I was lucky enough that the head of my house at Hogwarts, Professor McGonagall, believed in me and made me Quidditch captain for my last year in school. I played with some of my best friends that year, and some… some others, and if that had been the end of my career, I think I would have been able to live with that. But then I got the chance I had only dreamed of before, when a woman I had admired since I wasn’t much older than that first time I flew saw something in me. Gwenog Jones loves Quidditch more than anyone I’ve met, even more than my brother Charlie. She refused to talk to me for days after I shared my news with her – and I would have been offended otherwise.
I have played with some of the best women I’ve met in my life in the Holyhead Harpies. As an all-female team, we are faced with discrediting articles written about us, and with people, mainly men, calling us weaker than the other teams. But I know my teammates, and they are certainly not weaker. We won the league two years ago. We got third the year after. I have had some amazing years in Holyhead and I owe it all to my teammates.
Just one month ago, another of my dreams came true when I got to play for England. I had doubts whether I was good enough, and our captain made them all go away. I think it was the Daily Prophet that gave the victory to me in an article the next day, but I know it belongs to Avery Hawksworth, because I don’t think I could have made that last shot if I wasn’t so sure that he knew I could.
This has been all that I could have ever dreamed of, and that’s why I think this is just the right time for me to resign. I had some big dreams, and they came true. I am not so sure what I will do next, but for now I am looking forward to spending some quiet time with my family while I figure it out. Thank you for everything. Thank you for letting me live out my dream. It has meant the world to me.”
The speakers crackled as Ginny reached up a shaky hand to turn her microphone off, and then she stood up, smiling as the reporters scribbling frenetically on their parchments down below her began shouting out questions. Ginny was grateful when Darren Weinhold grabbed her arm lightly and led her to the end of the stage.
“Mrs Potter will not be taking questions today,” he said, “but I am happy to answer any that you may have about the Harpies and the following season. If you will just wait for a moment we will bring Giovanna Birsetti up on stage…”
Ginny knew some of them wouldn’t understand. Charlie hadn’t quite understood, nor had Ron. She wasn’t sure how long it would take for Oliver Wood and Gwenog Jones to forgive her for throwing everything away, as they thought that she was. But what mattered most to Ginny was that Harry understood, he understood as she walked out the back door to where he was waiting for her, as he wrapped his arms around her and wiped the couple of tears she had not managed to suppress from her cheeks. She might have been able to play another ten years, if she had been lucky, and she would have loved it too, but she was ready to let it go. She did not feel like she was missing anything, because she had done everything she had ever dreamed. And now, all she wanted to do was hold onto Harry’s arm as he Apparated them to the Burrow to pick up James.
James was thrilled to see his parents, as always. Ginny knew there would come a day when he would be moody and find them both embarrassing, when he would long to go somewhere far away and make it on his own, but that was far off in the future still. On the second Mother’s Day that she was actually a mother, he clung onto her when she picked him up, and he kissed her mouth and snuggled into her neck, and that was all the assurance she needed that she had made the right decision. Quidditch was amazing, but she had known since the day her son had been born that it would never be as important to her again as it had been once.
They left the Burrow unaware of a boy who lived not far from there, and who believed that he, just like James Sirius Potter (though he had no clue who James Potter was, of course) was the most important thing in the world to his mother. This was the reason he had set his alarm early on Mother’s Day, even though it was Sunday and even though he was a thirteen-year-old boy who had just begun to treasure sleeping-in more than most other things in his life. He had dragged himself out of bed to make his mother breakfast – as in, he had poured her cereal for her, boiled some water and placed a teabag in a mug before setting it all up on a tray to bring into her bedroom. It was when he pushed the door open with his elbow that he first started questioning how important he could really be to his mother, because when he lifted his eyes to smile and say one of his rare “I love yous,” he was finding himself in an empty room. The sheets were untouched and the curtains open, letting the sunlight flood in through the windows and making the boy squint. The woman who usually slept in there often worked late, and not seeing her every evening was not unusual to her son. But she was always there in the mornings.
And so that afternoon, while James Potter’s mother brought him home and played with him and worried about nothing else but him, the boy whose mother was gone called the police and begged them to help him find her. They sent someone over, a tall someone with unkind eyes and a way of tapping both her fingers and feet constantly, as though she could not wait to get out of the dirty little house and away from the scrawny, mouse-like boy who lived there to go do something interesting, something a little more thrilling. She asked only a few short questions before standing up and excusing herself.
“People usually show up before we can as much as start an investigation,” she said before she left. “Do you have a relative who could come stay with you while you wait?”
The boy nodded, even though his only family was on his mother’s side, and she hadn’t talked to them since she had left home at eighteen. He had had to deal with child services before, and did not intend to do it again unless someone forced him. All he had to do was find his mum, and everything would be all right.
But he would not find her that day, not after catching the bus to her work to look for her, not after calling both of her last two boyfriends and not down by the river where she liked to sit and think. He was angry with her, disappointed that she would neglect him on Mother’s Day of all days, and decided not to speak to her when she did come back, as punishment.
In that same moment, Mother’s Day was the last thing on the missing woman’s mind, because she had just woken up from what felt like a very heavy sleep, in a dark room, strapped onto a hard bench and unable to move either arms or legs. There was a single torch hanging on one wall, only lighting up her surroundings enough for her to see that there were no other furniture, no windows, and no paintings on the walls. More than anything, it looked like an ancient prison cell, the kind that they threw murderers and thieves into before hanging them or cutting their hands off.
It was not until he spoke that she saw the man in the corner of the room, who was dressed completely in black, wearing some sort of dress or robe that slid soundlessly over the stone floor as he moved towards her.
“Don’t be scared, sister,” he said. “I’ve only brought you here because I finally know a way to make you better. There was never a cure until now, you see. And you are going to be the first to test it out.”
A/N: Thank you to Maya, who has generously volunteered to proof-read for me and who helped me out with this chapter. You are so kind!
And thank you to all of you, because you make me love writing this story even more than I did before I decided to share it with anyone. Here we are, a few years later, and I can't believe people are still reading this. I hope you know how happy that makes me! As always, I would be thrilled to hear your thoughts on the chapter. What do you think about Ginny's decision? The boy whose mother has gone missing? If you've got time, please let me know! Xx