Chapter 1 : Real
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Ella Krum shifted nervously from foot to foot. Family reunions are always pretty boring; but ones where almost no one speaks your language are difficult to navigate. Ella sipped her pumpkin juice punch nervously, eyes flitting from person to person. Although the reunion was being held in her own home, she had never felt more out of place. This was her father’s side of the family. Ella had never met any of them before, with the exception of her grandparents. Granted, her mother’s side wasn’t much to speak of: Hermione had been a lonely child with no cousins or sibling to speak of.
Ella snorted. She wished that she were an only child. Speaking of which, where was Ariel? The girls’ parents, Viktor and Hermione, had forced her to come down and “mingle” with the family, which proved difficult for both of the sisters.
A group of teens nearby laughed heartily together. Ella wished she could join in. Why couldn’t have Mum and Papa taught me to speak Bulgarian? She though angrily. I look ridiculous standing here by myself.
Tossing her punch in the trash, Ella meandered through the many rooms of the Krum family’s large home. She smiled politely at those who approached her, but made it clear that she could not communicate. Sure enough, the door to Ariel’s room was shut. Ella knocked and received only a grunt in reply.
“Yeah?” Ariel sounded bored, as usual.
Ella pressed her lips right up to the crack in the door so that she wouldn’t have to shout, “Please come down with me—I’m lonely.”
“Ella,” Ariel heaved a sight, “I’m kind of busy.”
Frustrated, Ella lashed out at her sister. “Busy writing another one of your angst-y stories?”
The door swung open, and Ella took a step back. “My stories,” Ariel snarled, “Are not angsty!”
“Ha!” Ella laughed mirthlessly. “Are you kidding? All your characters do is whine.”
“You little…you’re not even supposed to be reading them!”
The girls glared at each other, Ella looking much like a smaller version of Ariel. Granted, Ella’s hair and eyes were darker. Ariel’s golden-brown hair had an auburn sheen that Ella could never seem to trace back to any of their family members. She also had ice-blue eyes that Ella envied, although now you could hardly see them underneath the layers of eyeliner and mascara that Ariel coated on.
The hurt that had flickered across Ariel’s face died away, to be replaced with a look of scorn. She shrugged, and rolled her eyes. “Whatever. I can’t wait until we go back to Hogwarts and I can ignore you again, like everyone else does.” Ariel regretted the words the moment she said them, but Ella had already turned on her heel and was gone. She raced down the stairs, passed her perplexed relatives, and out the door. Once in the garden, Ella crawled into a nearby lilac bush, her and Ariel’s favorite hiding place when they were little.
Shh, Ella, Ariel would whisper, If we’re very quiet, we might see the faeries. Then Ariel would shake one of the branches, and sure enough, the girls’ arms and legs would soon be covered in dancing specks of light and color. When she was nine, Ella discovered Ariel’s secret; she had hung a crystal in the upper-most branches of the bush where it would catch and reflect the sun. By that time, the rift was already forming between the sisters.
Ella shivered as a breeze rattled the leaves of the lilac bush. Her yellow sundress provided little warmth from the cool evening air. She felt something hard underneath her rear end and pulled it out from underneath her. It looked like a rock, but when Ella brush off the dirt, she realized that it was in fact Ariel’s crystal. Ella started to cry; she missed the sister who had read her bedtime stories and gone swimming with her in the creek behind their home. At Hogwarts, Ariel was distant at best. She was considered quite the glamour queen at school, the centerpiece of an elite, rather artsy group of young witches and wizards. Ariel certainly didn’t have time for her quiet, cheerful little sister. Ella buried her face in her hands and sobbed.
“Excuse me? Are you alright?”
Startled, Ella stopped crying. It was a man speaking, the first words of English she had heard in hours, besides Ariel’s nasty jabs. Embarrassed, she muttered back “I’m fine, thanks.”
The man crouched down to her level. He was tall, and probably about the same age as Ella’s mother. His eyes looked familiar, though Ella couldn’t place them. He chuckled, “Doesn’t sound like it.” The man grasped Ella hands and helped her up and out of the bush.
Ella brushed the dirt off her yellow dress, peering at him suspiciously through her still-wet eyelashes. “Pardon me, but what are you doing in our garden?”
“I’m looking for a Ms. Ariel Krum,” He ran a hand through his red hair, “And a Mrs. Hermione Krum, as well, I suppose.” A shadow crossed his pleasant, good-natured face. He gestured to the stack of brooms on the mansion’s large front porch, “I see you have company; I’ll call later.”
“Oh, yes,” said Ella, who was warming up to the man already. “But Ariel’s not busy…I could go get her, if you like.”
The man sat down on the front step, chewing on his lower lip. “I need a moment, if you don’t mind.” Ella shook her head and sat down next to him. “Ron Weasley, by the way,” he said, extending a hand for her to shake.
He looked at her with great interest now. “Hermione and Viktor’s daughter?” She nodded. “Ah, yes…you look like your mother.” Ron winked at her. “That’s a good thing.”
Ella giggled. “How do you know my mother and sister?”
“We were friends during school, fought in the War together with Harry Potter.” Ron ruffled his hair again, as if there were more to the story that he didn’t feel like divulging.
A light bulb went off in Ella’s head. “You’re Auntie Ginny’s brother?”
“I am indeed.”
“How do you know my sister, Ariel?”
“Oh.” Ron sighed again in that melancholy way; it didn’t suit him. “It’s a long story.”
It was pleasant for Ella to have someone kind to speak to, in English, no less. At first he broke in often, telling funny stores about his and Hermione’s adventures at Hogwarts-- Ella wondered why her mother had never told them before. But once Ella began talking about Ariel, Ron fell quiet and listened intently. All the laughter died from his blue eyes—Where have I seen those eyes before? Ella wondered—and he grew increasingly agitated, especially when Ella described the shifty boys Ariel spent time with.
Suddenly, the front screen door burst open. Ella and Ron jumped in unison. “Ella? Ella!” Ariel looked wildly about for her sister. Neither Ella nor Ron said a word: Ella because she was still angry with her sister; Ron, because he found that he could not speak. “I’m sorry, Ella! I didn’t mean it!” Ariel shouted, running down the steps and around the corner, where she stumbled, literally, upon her little sister. “There you are.” Ariel glanced at Ron, and did a double take.
Ron stood up. Ariel stared at him as if he were a ghost. “Ariel?” Ron whispered hoarsely.
The mention of her name seemed to jolt Ariel out of her trance. She snatched Ella’s wrists and hauled her to a standing position. “C’mon, Ella.” Ariel started to drag Ella away, but the girl dug her heels into the dirt.
“Ariel?” Ella was frightened, “What’s the matter? What’s going on?”
Ariel scowled, still tugging at Ella. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to talk to strangers?” Ella followed her sister at a trot, still glancing over her shoulder at Ron. “Don’t look at him, Ella!”
Ron looked frustrated now, though he tried to talk in a cool and collected voice. “Ariel, all I want to do it talk.”
Ariel snorted, before rushing back inside the house, a now-curious and terrified Ella at her heels. “Ariel!”
Ariel was in her room, when Ella dashed in, Ariel quietly and calmly closed the door, leaning up against it and slumping into a sitting position. Ella was now sure that her big sister had gone insane, and was contemplating calling her mother. But when Ariel spoke, her voice was as relaxed as her demeanor. “I’m sorry about what I said; I didn’t mean it.” Ella shrugged in reply. “I love you very much, Ellie.” Ella sniffled a little, surprised that Ariel had called her by her childhood nickname; just a few months ago she had deemed it “juvenile and utterly ridiculous”; “Why can’t we call her by her real name? She too old to be the baby anymore,” Ariel had told their parents.
Ariel began to sob. Ella stood like a statue for just a moment, before wrapping her arms around her sister. “Everything’s going to be okay, Ariel...Everything’s going to be okay.”
The doorbell rang. “Come in,” Hermione shouted over her shoulder from she stood in the foyer, folding coats. She had needed a moment to herself, away from the hustle and bustle. Ron stepped across the threshold. Hermione looked up and down, as tall and redheaded as ever. As if to make sure that he was real, she walked towards him slowly and ran a delicate hand over his freckled cheek; he smiled slightly-- he could not quite believe his luck. Then Hermione raised her other hand and slapped him as hard as she could across the face. “You!”
“Don’t you, ‘’Mione’ me, Ronald Weasley!” She made to strike him again, but Ron grabbed her wrist.
“What was that for?”
Hermione’s carefully-made up face was bright red, and her hair was popping out of its elegant bun. “She cried every night for weeks after you left! She had nightmares—terrible nightmares—where Viktor and I disappeared and she was left to fend for herself.”
Horrified, Ron released her. Hermione continued, her voice trembling. “Your leaving changed her. We needed you.”
“You didn’t need me,” Ron said faintly, “You made that quite clear.”
Someone sneezed. Hermione and Ron looked around—Ariel and Ella were crouching on the top step, and Viktor’s family had also gathered in the foyer, Viktor in front of the crowd. Slowly, Viktor turned to his family. He said something to them in Bulgarian along the lines of “Clear off!”, and they did just that, shooting curious glances over their shoulders at this crazy British man. Then Viktor faced Ron. “Get out of here,” he said, his tone harsh and angry. “Go away and never come back!”
Ron stiffened and his face contorted with rage. “I will not go away!”
“Why? You have no reason to stay!” Viktor sneered.
“Yes, I do!”
“And what would that be?”
“I’m Ariel’s real father!” Ron roared. There was a moment of ringing silence, and then Ariel came storming down the stairs.
“Real? Real!?” Ariel flew at Ron, hitting every inch of him she could reach. “Real fathers aren’t supposed to leave their daughters behind! You wouldn’t know real if it bit you on the arse.” She began to sob so hard, she could barely speak. “You were my best friend! And I was so lonely after you left—I needed you.” Ariel broke down completely, unable to choke out another word. She stopped hitting Ron.
Viktor, who had remained silent, started forward. The blood had drained from his face. “What does he mean?” He turned to Hermione, a question in his eyes. “Mia...you didn’t, you couldn’t have...”
Hermione couldn’t look at Viktor. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry, Viktor. It was one night...you were away for a match.” Hermione squeezed her eyes shut, remembering that fateful night. “And nine months later I was...well, I hope that I was wrong. But when Ariel was born, and I saw her eyes, I just knew. So when you went to check on my parents I made sure the healer put the correct name on her birth certificate.” She looked up at her husband, tears sparkling in her eyes. “I’m sorry.” Another terrible silence fell as Viktor strode across the foyer, punctuated by Ariel’s sobs and the slam of a door as Viktor exited the house.
Everyone had forgotten about little Ella, perched on the top stair until she spoke. “Does this mean that we’re not sisters?” There was a quiver in her voice and Ariel knew that Ella was heart-broken. Ariel wiped her eyes and reached out to the younger girl.
“You will always be my sister, Ellie.” Ella raced down the steps at flew into Ariel’s arms.
When she pulled away from Ariel, Ella noticed that her sister’s long-overdue tears had washed the mascara and eyeliner disguising her brilliant blue eyes. Ron’s eyes. “You’re back!”
Ariel smiled, confused, through her tears. “What?”
“The real Ariel’s back!”
Ron grinned nervously. “Ariel—would you mind taking a walk around the garden with me? So that we could, finally, talk?” Ariel nodded, her arms still wrapped around Ella. “Hermione, Ella, you could come too.” Hermione also nodded, but Ella shook her head.
“You guys go. I have guests to attend to,” she said, jerking her head in the direction of the living room. Before Ariel detached herself to take Ron’s hand, Ella whispered in her ear. “Everything’s going to be okay, you’ll see.”
“How do you know?”
Ella shrugged. “I don’t. Just trust me.”
Ariel grinned, at for the first time in a long while the smile extended all the way to her beautiful eyes.
A/N: I may write another sequel. Thoughts? Please review.