Chapter 6 : Swing Low
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Author's Note: I apologise for the huge delay in updating. While writing this chapter, I was completing my last month of college (and last month of education all together). I had a large workload to finish by the beginning of June (plus an exam), so I put all my energy into that.
However, now I am free to write as much as I like (while finding a full-time job), which is good news to all of you. I have no other commitments to do, so my free time will be spend doing this story (especially if the weather is too hot to go outside in), which I hope to finish in the near future (there are about six or seven more chapters to go).
My goal is to have chapter seven up and ready by the time HBP comes out next month.
The day before had been a long and tiring one for Harry, who not only suffered jet-lag, but was forced to be in the middle of the Hermione-Ron-Miranda triangle which turned into a square when Hannah was discovered.
When he returned home to Grimmauld Place, he spent a few hours discussing with Remus life here and his life in America, who looked better than he did when Harry left. After a good night's sleep, Harry hoped that everything would return to normal, and that, in a new day, the day before wouldn't appear as bad as he thought.
But as soon as Ginny answered the door at the Burrow and explained to him what she and Hermione were planning, Harry knew that things wouldn't be normal for a long while.
"I'm not sure about this," Harry admitted, looking between Hermione and Ginny as they watched his reaction with anticipation.
"What's there not to be sure about?" Ginny asked, looking between her two friends. "It's simple, Hermione spends time with Ron and Hannah together, and he realises what a selfish git he is and they become a family." She nodded firmly.
Harry was still hesitant; sure, Ron was a bit dim when it came to women, but he was pretty sure Miranda would put a stop to any 'family nonsense' before it went too far.
Harry turned to Hermione and scrutinized her with a serious expression. He was surprised she was going along with this; she'd always been more sensible about these things than Ginny.
"How do you feel about this?"
Hermione paused timidly before answering. "All I want is Hannah to have a proper family." Her gaze fell to her hands, which were cupped and resting on the kitchen table, where the trio were sitting.
Harry had known Hermione for nine years now and could tell when she wasn't being completely honest. Wanting a dad for her daughter was only the tip of the iceberg in his opinion. He looked at her contemplatively, wondering if she would open up.
"And?" he pushed, when she did not speak.
"And nothing," Hermione confirmed, resting both palms on the table in emphasis. Did Harry know? How could he know? She had decided long ago that crying over Ron would not help and that she should move on. That's what she had been doing until he returned home, of course. There was just something about seeing him that stopped her feelings for him from disappearing.
I wonder if Ron has the same dilemma?
"He's with Miranda now, and I'm I'm just the mother of his child," Hermione explained dejectedly, heaving a sigh. Suddenly, Ginny's plan seemed futile, and as silly as it had first sounded.
"How can you say that like it's a bad thing?" Ginny asked, surprised at her friends' statement. It didn't sound like her, but then again, since Ron had brought home Miranda, Hermione's confidence had taken a dive.
"Because in a young man's eyes, it is," Hermione said. "Miranda is young, and pretty slim and can give Ron a good time, and me? Each day I look older, I have stretch marks across my stomach and big hips and the only fun I have these days is bottling milk and snacks for Hannah when the twins take her out every Tuesday while I'm in the office at work." She looked down once more at her hands, feeling even more miserable than she did before.
Ginny paused, and then slowly pulled Hermione into a sisterly hug. "Don't put yourself down, you're worth a hundred of her," she said vehemently. "She's just some tart who can bat her eyelashes and expects guys to fall at her feet. You're real and don't give yourself enough credit. Ron's an idiot if he can't see that," she added, stroking Hermione's back in smooth circles.
"And put it this way," Ginny added, pulling back to look at Hermione, who wiped her eyes on her sleeve. "Mum has that rule about boys and girls not allowed to share a room, so they can't have sex."
Hermione laughed despite herself, brushing her hair back with her hand at Ginny's bluntness. "Thanks, Gin. But you don't know that."
"Oh, I do though. Harry told me. They haven't done anything yet. Apparently, Miranda's holding out. Probably knows guys will do anything to get some," Ginny said, pulling a face at the talk of her brother's sex life. It was worth it though, as a small smile appeared on Hermione's lips.
"Oy!" Harry said, stunned at Ginny's betrayal. "I told you that in confidence!"
Ginny rolled her eyes, "No you didn't, you knew I wouldn't keep it secret and tell Hermione. You just didn't want to discuss sex with her because you can't." Ginny stuck her tongue out. It was true, Harry could barely even say the word, let alone have a discussion about it. The Dursleys didn't teach him and he had no friends at his primary school to talk to, so he was forced to learn the basics in year 6 and the more graphic details later in life.
Harry flushed red. "I can talk about you know," he said quietly, his gaze fell upon a hook on the wall, where there was an interesting looking stain on Molly Weasley's apron. He prayed that Ginny would stop looking at him in such an amused and endearing way.
"Mhm, I believe you, Harry," Ginny said, folding her arms across her chest. "Now, back to the plan "
"You know I'm not really comfortable with this, after all," Hermione cut in, feeling awkward. "I don't want to put on an act. I'm no good at it, anyway, not when it comes to to him." She stood up, holding her arms protectively as she backed up towards the stairs. "Hannah will be waking up from her nap in a minute; I think I'll take her outside for a while."
As Hermione left the quarrelling pair, she thought about the past hour or so. When Ginny was explaining the plan to Harry, she could see that he looked unconvinced, and if she was honest with herself, so did she. Did she really want Ron back this way? Using her own daughter as a pawn to help ruin Ron's relationship with Miranda? It seemed appalling, when considered in that light.
Am I really that desperate?
Those words were burnt in her brain and whatever she did, she couldn't rid herself of the feeling. Sure, she had been desperate before. Desperate to earn good grades, desperate not to let being a young mother slow her career down, but this
Hannah was already awake in her crib when Hermione walked over to her. The toddler was playing with her toes to pass the time as her bear had fallen through the bars sometime when she was sleeping.
"Marmee!" Hannah greeted, reaching her arms up as her mother lifted her up.
"Come on, let's go outside for a while. I think we can both do with some fresh air."
The September air was warm, with a slight breeze that ran through the few fallen leaves on the ground. Those leaves were the only reminder that the weather would soon change, that September would arrive and bring with it cooler temperatures and shorter days.
Hermione carried Hannah outside and watched as her daughter's face lit up in the direction of their destination: the swing.
It had been Fred and George's present to Hannah on her first birthday, which they, along with Arthur, put together that day. Ginny supervised, rather annoyingly in the twin's opinion, while Hermione and Molly played with Hannah as she explored her new toys.
That day was very hard for Hermione; she felt exceptionally guilty for keeping this milestone from Ron, who was oblivious to the day's events. To keep herself from breaking down, Hermione wrote a letter addressed to him, detailing the small party, with everything from what colour socks Hannah was wearing down to each present she received.
The day was enjoyable, though quite often there were awkward silences as Ron's absence was noticeable. This led to Hermione's eyes continually looking red and on the brink of tears. She couldn't have got through the day without the Weasleys and her parents; they were what kept her strong and believing that once Ron returned, Hannah's family would be complete.
During the end of that evening, Hermione had a heart-a-heart with Molly, who revealed that she knew how Hermione was feeling. Molly explained that when Bill was born, Arthur was away a lot on training courses for his job, and wasn't able to be home on Bill's first birthday.
It was from Molly that Hermione got the idea to write Ron a letter, as the elder witch had done the same thing for Arthur. Molly had given Arthur a letter, as well as many photographs, which he still had to this day.
Hermione smiled as she looked at the swing and carried Hannah over to it. The young child always loved her swing, and would protest if someone took her back inside when she wasn't done playing yet.
Placing Hannah carefully on the seat, Hermione began to push gently. Hannah's little hands were firmly holding on the safety bar in front of her and she giggled each time her mother pushed.
"Higher!" Hannah said, kicking her legs back and forth in an effort to move herself.
"You want to go higher, eh?" Hermione asked, giving Hannah a firm push, causing the toddler to shriek with glee. "Merlin, when you learn to ride a Broomstick, I won't be able to get you down."
Just like Ron.
"Wheeee!" Hannah called, waving her arms in the air, as though she was on a roller-coaster going down.
"Hannah, what have I told you? Keep hold of the bar, I don't want you to get hurt," Hermione said, frowning.
"Sossy," the young witch said, taking hold of the bar again.
Hermione smiled at her daughter; at least she hadn't seemed to have inherited Ron's disregard for the rules.
What the pair didn't realise was that they were being watched. Ron was in his room, looking out of the window as he towel-dried his hair from his shower. He had been watching them for several minutes, not picking up the nerve to actually go outside to say hello. Finding out that he was a father had knocked Ron for six. He hadn't slept well that night; he just kept going over the same questions in his mind.
How could my family lie to me for so long?
Was the birth okay? Were their any complications?
Did Hermione cope looking after a newborn without me?
If I was there, would I have been any use, any help at all?
She has Hermione's eyes, but she laughs like me. How else is she like Hermione? Like me?
When she grows up, will she be as beautiful as Hermione? As kind and smart?
Most of the questions Ron thought about were unanswerable, and others he didn't want to know the answer to. All he knew was that now he was here, he wanted to be a part of his daughter's life.
Throwing the towel on his bed, Ron made his way downstairs to the garden. He peered through the back door, took a deep breath and approached them.
"Hello, how are my girls doing?" he asked, smiling slightly and feeling very nervous.
Hermione looked back at him and blushed fiercely. "I'm not your girl, Ron," she said, with an edge to her voice.
Nice going, he thought to himself. "I was just saying "
"I know what you were 'just saying'," Hermione replied quickly, taking her eyes away from Ron so she could focus on keeping Hannah's swing at a safe height.
Ron opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it. Instead he bent down in front of Hannah, though not so close as to be hit with the swing.
Looking up at Hermione, he said, "I'm sorry." The tone of his voice suggested he wasn't apologising just for the past few minutes, and this lightened Hermione's heart slightly.
The next few moments were silent, apart from the sound of the swing moving. Hermione was the one who broke the silence by asking, "Do you want to push her for a while?"
Looking up at her sincere face, Ron grinned and pulled himself to his feet. "Yeah, yeah okay," he said as he walked behind the swing.
Hermione stood to one side, watching Ron push their daughter. She had had dreams like this; of her, Ron and Hannah acting like a proper family. He may only be pushing Hannah on a swing, but the image was perfect in Hermione's eyes.
"She's only trying to be your friend, you know," Ron said casually after a minute or two.
Hermione's dreamy gaze was broken, and she looked at Ron with an irritated expression. "Excuse me?" she snapped, placing her hands on her hips.
Not sensing the warning signals, he continued. "Miranda. She told me that all she wants is for you two to be friends."
Hermione doubted this very much and wondered how many stupid pills Ron had taken this morning. "Really," she replied, rolling her eyes.
"She thinks you don't like her," Ron said quietly, feeling uneasy at the way Hermione was glaring at him.
"What gave her that idea?" she asked sarcastically, pushing Ron to the side so she could push Hannah now.
Taken aback by this, Ron let out an indignant noise. "Oh, come off it, Hermione!" he said exasperatedly. "I've been your friend for nine years and I can tell when you dislike someone."
Hermione stopped pushing the swing and picked Hannah up. With her free hand, she removed her wand from her belt and whispered Accio Cow. Hannah's toy cow came flying out from the open kitchen window and into her hand. Hermione walked over to the large tree and put her daughter down, handing her the cow and murmuring softly that she should play here for a while as she needed a word with the red-haired man.
Planting a kiss on top of the little girl's red curls, Hermione walked back over to Ron. Once she reached him, her hands found their way back to her hips. "You think I'm so obvious as to who gets the Hermione stamp of approval are you?" she asked, her eyes narrowing.
Ron looked over at Hannah, who was happily playing with her toy; he then turned back to Hermione. "Yeah I do," he said, his face flushed red. "Does Lockhart ring any bells?"
At this comment, Hermione's cheeks tinged pink. "I was twelve, what do you expect?" she asked, her gaze falling.
Ron raised his eyebrows, his expression smug.
Not wanting to give in, she added, "Real feelings, strong feelings are not obvious. You of all people should know that." She cocked her head, her brown eyes piercing into his own blue ones. Ron looked clueless, which she noted was nothing new in his case. Not wanting to wait for him to figure out what she was talking about, she said, "I liked you for almost four years before you clued in. You were such such a boy."
"Really? Because I was under the impression that I was a girl!" Ron retorted, mockingly, the red flush turning slightly pink with embarrassment.
"Oh, shut up, Ron," Hermione snapped.
"Fine, I won't say another word," Ron said, making a motion of zipping his mouth up, locking it and then throwing away an invisible key.
The silence grated on, each of them staring each other down, daring one another to speak first. It was Ron who cracked when he burst out, "You always have to be right, don't you?"
Hermione heaved a sigh.
She rolled her eyes again. "Ron," Hermione said. "Can you just drop it and leave me and my daughter alone?"
Ron let out a bark of laughter. "Excuse me? Your daughter? Don't you mean our daughter? I remember that I must have had some input in making her, and by input I mean--"
"--I know what you mean, and you're a pig, Ronald Weasley," Hermione hissed, struggling to keep her voice down in case Hannah could hear. Looking over at her, Hermione saw that the little girl was staring at her mother with interest. Hermione let out a small gasp, but with a quick wave of her wand, a silencing charm was placed over herself and Ron. She whirled on him.
"Everything has to do with sex with you, doesn't it?"
"You make me sound like some sex-crazed maniac!" Ron retorted, indignantly. "And anyway, it was you who brought up the subject in our seventh year, or have you forgotten?" His lips curled into a smug smile.
"I may have brought it up, but you had been a horny little git since our sixth year," Hermione replied coolly. "Or have you forgot that time I found my underwear in your dorm?"
Ron flushed, trying to think of a comeback. "You wouldn't have found those if you hadn't been so nosey," he replied, wrinkling his nose at the memory. Hermione had been helping him with his History of Magic homework when she made the mistake of trying to find an extra ink pot in one of Ron's drawers.
"I'm nosey?" she asked, as though this was ludicrous. "What about all those times you constantly asked me what Viktor and I were up to?" Her hair, which she had tied back in a neat ponytail that morning, had now fallen out, and wisps of curls fell into her red face as she glowered at the father of her child.
"I had to!" Ron insisted. "Vicky was eighteen and you were only fifteen when you met him! He was a dirty perv!" he yelled, his eyes flashing dangerously.
"He wasn't a perv and there was no need for you to follow us!" Hermione shouted, and upon seeing Ron's shocked expression, she added, "Yes, I knew you were following us. Here's a hint, when you borrow Harry's cloak MAKE SURE YOU CAN'T SEE YOUR FEET AT THE BOTTOM!"
"I only did that because I care - unlike some people!" Ron retorted, venting past feelings.
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Hermione asked, her voice calmer, yet full of confusion.
"If you really care about me, like I thought you did before I left, you wouldn't have lied to me!" Ron said, his voice feeling a bit hoarse from the argument.
"You lied about being pregnant - all those letters we sent, and nothing!" Ron cut in, wanting to rant his feelings before Hermione had a chance to reply. "I was kept in the dark while my whole family knew! Were you all laughing at me?"
"No, we -"
"Oh, let's not tell Ron! He'll probably drop the baby and be a terrible dad anyway!" Ron mimicked, his voice raising a higher octave, though braking slightly by the things his self-conscience was saying. "I could have been a good dad, if I was giving the chance!"
"I KNOW," Hermione yelled, not wanting to be interrupted again. "I know you could have, but I had to make a choice."
"Not that bloody choice again!" Ron said, exasperated.
"Yes that bloody choice again," Hermione said, feeling irritated at Ron's ignorance. "You would have hated leaving Auror training and ended up blaming me for not becoming something you've always dreamed of!"
"I could have transferred! There's an Auror School here too!" Ron retorted. "It might not be the best one, but I would have trained there if it meant I could be around - watching my daughter grow each day!"
"I I thought I was helping you," Hermione replied timidly.
Ron heaved a sigh and responded, "I don't care if you thought you were helping me. Didn't you think that maybe I would have come home, not because I felt I needed to, but because I wanted to?"
"I uh -"
"Exactly, you didn't think," Ron said, his lips pursed. He ran his fingers over his now dried hair and added in a quieter afterthought, "All I wanted to do is come here and try to be friends with you, and now I've seen her, be a part of my daughter's life."
Ron placed his hands in his pockets, lowering his gaze as the aftermath of the argument began to sink in. His breathing was returning to normal and when he thought about some of the things he had admitted, a wave of embarrassment flushed his face red.
Hermione was feeling emotionally drained. With each word Ron had spoken, her heart ached. Was all he said true? Would they be together right now if it was?
There was no time for what if and what could have been, as a small sniffle snapped her out of her trance.
Hannah had walked over to see what was going on. Because of the charm, she could only see her mum shouting and looking upset, but not hear what about. Nevertheless, this upset the child.
Feeling worse than ever, Hermione quickly removed the silencing charm and bent down to pick Hannah up. The last thing she wanted was Hannah to witness something like this and though she couldn't hear what was going on, she was a smart girl and could work out that it wasn't anything good.
"It's okay, Bear," Hermione cooed, hugging her daughter tightly. "Everything's okay." Hannah stopped crying and started to rub her eyes with her little fists. She smiled at her mum with her toothy grin, which caused Hermione to chuckle slightly. Her teeth were starting to take some shape, but hadn't all grown in yet. However, they appeared to be growing in nicely, much to the delight of Nana and Granddad Granger.
Hannah turned her head to look at Ron, who looked startled at the sudden movement. Her face screwed up tightly, her little tongue poking out of her mouth. She looked like she was in deep concentration.
"Dad dee," Hannah said slowly.
Ron took a deep breath, hoping the oxygen reached his brain before he passed out.
"Daddy," Hannah repeated, firmly this time.
"She has a picture of you by her bed," Hermione admitted. "She looks at it everyday, and I tell her stories about you," she added shyly, watching Ron's features soften completely at his watched his daughter, who was now flexing her hands together towards him.
He felt quite overwhelmed at this information, and suddenly felt run over by the desire to hold this little person he and Hermione had created. "Can I?" he asked, nodding his head in Hannah's direction and unable to keep the longing from his voice.
"Of course," Hermione replied, handing Ron his daughter, while making sure he supported her weight completely. If her feelings weren't mixed up enough, this had to happen. She was glad it did, make no mistake. This was all Hermione had wanted since Ron Flooed into the Burrow kitchen the day before.
"Am I holding her right?" Ron asked. He thought back to when Ginny was born, and how he all his brothers wanted to hold her. Like a Quaffle, his father had said. Ron didn't get the opportunity to attempt to hold Ginny until she was older and much bigger than a Quaffle, at which point she struggled and kicked him and screamed to be let down. At least Hannah wasn't kicking him. He moved his arm lower to support her back, and suddenly she fit.
"You're doing fine," Hermione reassured him.
"What sort of stories do you tell her?" Ron asked, his gaze falling on his daughter as he took in her features more clearly than he had the night before. She has my smile, Ron thought as Hannah looked up at him, her lips forming a crooked grin.
And Hermione's eyes, curious and warm.
"Lots. Her favourite one is the story of McGonagall's Giant Chess set in our first year," Hermione was saying. "She thinks you're a real hero."
And so do I, even if you do drive me mad sometimes.
Ron smiled and looked up at Hermione. It seemed like hours as the pair of them stared in peaceful admiration at each other. They hadn't looked at the other like this for years; everything was quiet and calm around them. Ron eyes were exploring Hermione's features, which had a few noticeable changes since the last time he saw her.
She has worry line on her forehead; it crinkles like a cute smile. Her eyes hold more wisdom, which isn't surprising.
How can someone become more beautiful in such a short space of time?
Hermione didn't notice his quiet awe as her own eyes were glancing over him. His arms looked stronger; he had filled out very nicely with all the training. His skin had a healthy glow to it, making him look well and happy. Though, when she looked into his beautiful blue eyes she could still see the little boy on the train, who had dirt on his nose.
The shrill sound of Miranda trying to find her boyfriend broke the silence as she appeared in the doorway to the kitchen. "I've been looking for you. Come inside, sweetie."
Ron's eyes never left Hermione's as he shouted back, "Yeah sure, coming." He handed Hannah back to her mum, smiling bashfully. "I better go "
"Of course," Hermione said, feeling uneasy at what had just happened. "You don't want to keep her waiting."
"Yeah," Ron said, rubbing his neck gingerly. "See you at dinner."
"At dinner it is," Hermione whispered as Ron jogged back to the kitchen, leaving her feeling more confused than ever.
"Vicky was eighteen and you were only fifteen when you met him!"
Before I receive any Hermione was fourteen comments, please take note in this quote, taken from JKR's website FAQ.
"She was nearly twelve [when she started Hogwarts]; you must be at least eleven to attend Hogwarts"
So if you do your math, Hermione turned fifteen in book four (September 19th to be exact).
"I could have transferred! There's an Auror School here too!" Ron retorted. "It might not be the best one, but I would have trained there if it meant I could be around."
Ron decided to train at the American Auror School because it is the best. The school is bigger and has many more facilities and well-trained teachers than the English one. If you wanted to become an Auror, wouldn't you want to learn with the best?
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