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Pretend by cuteybearkel
Chapter 3 : Owl Post? - Part 2
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 4

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A/N - Really sorry for the wait, didn't mean for that to happen, but I completely lost interest and inspiration in this story for a little while, and then found out that I couldn't submit this until after the holidays.  I hope that this chapter didn't suffer too much from my initial lack of interest in writing it.

Her mother sighed and looked at her knees.  Hermione wondered what was wrong, and meant to ask, but was cut off by a sharp tap on her window.  Getting up to see what it was, her eyes widened in surprise and she quickly pulled the window open, letting in a blast of cold air and surprising her mother.


"What on Earth are you doing, Hermione?" her mother asked.  "It's freezing!"


"I know," said Hermione, closing the window again with one hand as she held something in the other.  "That's why I had to let this little one in," she explained, returning to the bed and showing her mother the tiny, shivering ball of feathers that stood in her cupped hands, huddling against her curled fingers as it tried to warm up.


Her mother blinked, seeming stunned.


"It's a post owl, Mum," said Hermione.




"I wonder who it's from, though; Harry hasn't got one anymore…" she said, more to herself than to her mother, as she gently pulled a small envelope from the tiny owl's beak.  Setting the little bird down, she cast a mild Heating Charm on it to keep it warm, then opened the envelope and pulled out a small piece of paper.  Studying the handwriting, she was surprised to see that the note was written in Harry's familiar, slightly slanted script.


"Who's it from?" her mother enquired, looking curiously at the cute little owl that was happily snuggling against her leg.  It was really a tiny thing, barely bigger than Pigwidgeon, with cream-coloured feathers that sported speckles of brown, a completely brown head, and two white patches on its little body – one around its eyes and another on its chest.


"Harry," Hermione answered vaguely, her attention focused on the note in her hands.  Emma watched as she read through it a few times, her brow slightly furrowed as though she was confused by something.


"What does it say?" she asked.  "Or is it personal?" she added quickly.  Hermione shook her head and read the note aloud:


"Dear Hermione,


Merry Christmas!  I hope this gets to you before Christmas is over – I don't know how well this owl can fly while it's snowing.  He's for you, by the way.  I thought that he'd make it easier for us to write to each other.  You're right, Muggle post is just a hassle.  Anyway, he crashed into the kitchen window here at The Burrow a few weeks ago, and we've been taking care of him since then, because he doesn't seem to belong to anybody.  We haven't named him, though; we wanted to leave that for you to decide.  Hope you like him!


Oh, good news!  I made up my mind about the team, and I've decided that I'm going to do what you said and tell the press where to shove their quills,-"


Emma laughed.


"-because you're right, playing Quidditch for a living would make me happy, even if I'll have to deal with tons of media attention.  I'd rather have to hide from the cameras while doing what I love than get away from them by being miserable.  Thank Heaven he finally realized that," Hermione added, rolling her eyes.  Emma nodded and Hermione continued.


"Practice starts in early January.  It’s a good thing I’ve got my Apparation license now; the Magpies’ practice pitch is a good distance from The Burrow.  It seems the captain of the Magpies is like Wood all over again; the team will practice unless somebody gets hit by lightning.


Anyway, Arthur has been collecting Muggle movies lately – they're his new fixation, since he's had a fair few nasty accidents when it comes to cars and motorcycles – and there was a certain line in one of them that I thought might interest you:


'Soon it won't be just pretend,

Soon a happy ending.'


I hope that gives you something to think about for a little while.  Don't give up hope, sweetheart.  We'll get our happy ending soon, I promise.  Just hold on a little longer, OK?


Have a merry Christmas!


Love, Harry"


"That's a nice letter," said Emma.


"Yes," Hermione agreed, "but I don't understand what he's trying to say with that quote and all this 'happy ending' business.  He knows we can't be together anymore; I don't understand what he's trying to make me think about with that line from that movie…"


Her mother looked a little confused as well, but she looked much calmer than her daughter did.  "Who knows?" she asked, in an optimistic sort of tone.  "Maybe he's planning something."


"Planning something?" Hermione repeated.


"Maybe," said her mother.  "All this 'happy ending' business makes me wonder if he's coming up with some way to get the two of you together again."


"But that's not possible," Hermione reminded her.  "I mean, there's no way to convince Dad that the magical world is safe for me, Voldemort or no Voldemort, and I don't think that Harry's going to have any more luck than you and I have had."


Her mother shrugged.  "Who knows?" she repeated.  "Maybe he'll find some way to sway your father into letting you go.  He knows a lot more about the magical world than I do, after all.  Maybe he'll find some way to convince your dad that it's perfectly safe for you to stay in… well, in your world, I suppose," she finished, looking slightly down again and staring at her knees.


"Mum?" Hermione asked gently.  "Is something wrong?"


Emma's gaze snapped up as quickly as it had fallen.  "Oh, no, dear, everything's fine, it's just…  Well, sometimes I wonder if I'm being a bad mother, keeping you away from that world…"


"Mum, you're not a bad mother, I'll be fine here…" Hermione tried to reassure her mother, but trailed off as she saw that nothing she said was going to ease the older woman's conscience much.


"I know you'll be fine, dear, you'd be fine just about anywhere, but you won't be happy," her mother explained.  "I know you won't be happy unless you're able to be with… well, I don't want to say 'your kind', but…"


Hermione smiled understandingly.  "They are 'my kind', Mum.  Just like the people of this world are your kind."


"Exactly," her mother replied.  "The magical world is your world and this one is mine, and your father's as well," she added.  "And I think I know what I'm talking about when I say that neither of us would be all that happy if you suddenly dragged us off into the magical world and forced us to leave our lives behind."


"Probably not," Hermione agreed.


Her mother nodded.  "And now it's just gotten about a million times harder to live with myself, knowing that I'm taking you away from a very handsome young man, who I know you're completely infatuated with and who I believe feels the same way about you," she continued, sounding rather dejected for Christmas Eve.


Hermione was at a loss for words as she put a hand on her mother's shoulder and said, "Mum, I…"


Emma sighed and lightly patted her daughter's hand.  "It's all right, dear, you don't have to say anything," she assured Hermione.


"I know, Mum, but I'm not just going to sit here and let you be miserable," Hermione pointed out.  "It's Christmas," she added, using her mother's words against her.


Emma chuckled softly.  "Oh, Hermione, you're getting good at your mother's game."


"I'll take that as a compliment."


Emma chuckled again but didn't reply, her gaze drifting back down to her knees and the little ball of feathers next to them, who looked up at her with big, curious eyes and let out a soft, contented hoot, obviously glad to be back inside and around people again.


Hermione cast around for something, anything, to ease her mother's conscience.  "Mum, listen to me," she started.  "I'm not going to say that I've appreciated being away from my world, because I haven't," she said truthfully.


"I know," said Emma.


"And I'm not going to tell you that a day has gone by in which I haven't wished to be back there, because it hasn't," Hermione continued.  There was no point in sugar-coating things, she figured.


"I'm not surprised," said Emma.


"And I'm most definitely not going to say that it hasn't hurt me inside, being away from the man I love, because it has," said Hermione.


"I'd feel the same way, dear, I'm sure of it," Emma replied.


"But I am going to say that I know that you were just trying to do the right thing, taking me away from a world that you thought was unsafe," Hermione told her mother.  "Maybe it wasn't the best idea, and maybe a few people have gotten hurt because of it, but I know that you didn't do it to cause anyone any harm.  You and Dad have always been protective of me, and even if I can't completely understand why, I can at least gather that despite that protectiveness, you never kept me away from anything unless you felt that I would be in danger if you didn't."


Her mother nodded.


"I know it can be hard for you to understand my life away from this world," Hermione continued sympathetically.  "You and Dad never believed in witches and wizards and things that go bump in the night, after all.  And I know that it's hard for you to believe me, after you found out that I've… well, conveniently neglected to tell you a lot about my life in the magical world before now," she admitted, a little sheepishly.  "So I can understand why you would be reluctant to just let me keep living my life in a world that, at least from your perspective, is out to get your daughter."


Emma nodded again.


"I guess what I'm trying to say, Mum, is that I can understand why you and Dad decided to take me away from the magical world," said Hermione.  "Or I think I can understand, anyway.  And like I said, I'm not going to say that I'm not upset or hurt, and I'm not going to say that I haven't resented you at times over these past few months, but I want you to know that I think I'll do all right here, even if I don't quite feel like I belong some of the time," she said, trying to sound as positive as she could.


Her mother looked slightly less miserable.  "Thank you, dear," she said softly, smiling a little wanly.  "That means a lot to me."  She took a breath, gently pushed the tiny owl away from her legs and stood up, smoothing out her jeans as she did so.  "It's good to know that you're willing to make an effort to adapt here, even if you'd really rather be somewhere else."  She paused before adding, "I'll try to talk to your father, though."


Hermione could have sworn that she heard her mother add "Again" under her breath.  "Thanks, Mum," she said, although she had a feeling that both of them knew that no amount of talking was going to change Rick Granger's mind.  Getting up, she gave her mother a spur-of-the-moment hug.  Emma smiled a genuine smile this time, and hugged her back.


"Merry Christmas, Hermione," she said when she let her daughter go again.


"Merry Christmas, Mum," Hermione replied.  "It's been nice talking to you again," she added truthfully.


"The feeling's mutual, dear," her mother said with a small smile as she walked the few steps to the door and pulled it open.  "Believe me, it's mutual.  Sleep well," she added as she stepped into the hallway and shut the door quietly, leaving her daughter standing in the middle of her bedroom.


"Well, that was strange," Hermione said to no one in particular, picking up her wand and putting the locking charms back on her door.  "I've never seen Mum like that before."


Crookshanks purred in response and twined around her legs, while the tiny owl on her bed let out another soft, happy hoot, reminding Hermione of his presence.  Smiling slightly, she sat back down on her bed and picked the little ball of feathers up again.  He sat calmly in her cupped hands, his big, curious eyes looking up at her.


"Oh, you are cute," said Hermione, patting his soft, downy head.  "Thank you, Harry," she added in a murmur, knowing full well that he couldn't hear her.  She leaned back against her pillows once more and let the little owl wander around on her abdomen.  "Hm," she thought aloud, watching the tiny bird look around the room as he stood on her belly, "what am I going to call you?"


The owl didn't answer, of course, choosing to perch on one of his new owner's bent knees instead.  A loud, rumbling purr from the floor alerted Hermione to the fact that Crookshanks was quite interested in this new arrival.  Glancing at the floor, she saw Crookshanks crouching at her bedside, his tail twitching as he prepared to pounce on the miniature owl.


"Crookshanks, don't you dare-" Hermione started warningly, but it was too late.  Crookshanks leaped at the little ball of feathers, who immediately let out a frightened hoot and flapped up to the ceiling, where he hovered out of the cat's reach.  Crookshanks hissed and leaped again, but couldn’t quite reach his target and failed to sink his claws into the owl before landing with a thump on the bedspread, where he was immediately seized by his owner.


"Bad Crookshanks," she scolded the cat, who continued to eye the little owl hungrily.  The owl, for his part, seemed to get over the shock of having a cat pounce at him, and amused himself by diving at Crookshanks from the ceiling, hooting happily.  Crookshanks hissed and batted at him, but couldn't hit his mark.  Hermione observed this with mixed annoyance and amusement for a few moments, before finally carrying a very peeved and embarrassed Crookshanks back to his bed and catching the feathered dive-bomber in one hand.  The little owl hooted triumphantly, his head protruding over Hermione's fist, while Crookshanks looked grumpy.  Chuckling to herself, Hermione carried her owl back to her bed and set him down again.


"You've just given me an idea, you little daredevil," she said to the ball of feathers on her bedspread, smiling and patting the soft brown head.  "I'm going to call you Sirius."

As always, feedback is quite welcome.  Also, I did not, of course, make up that quote - it's from the movie Thumbelina.

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