Chapter 2 : The Roses of a stranger
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Widow. Widow. Widowed. The word was running through Hermione’s head as if she were a young child who had just learned a new and complicated word. She had to repeat it just to get used to it. And the more she said it, the more confused she became. Her husband, Ronald Billius Weasley, was young. He was strong. Voldemort had been defeated for good 15 years before. Hadn’t they, the golden trio, destroyed all the Horcruxes, just as Dumbledore had said? Hadn’t they fought in the Battle of Hogwarts until the point of exhaustion? Hadn’t they seen all those people die so that they could finish what Dumbledore told them to do? After all these years, Ron and Harry could not die at the hands of Death Eaters, for they should have been...extinct.
She was curled up in bed in an overgrown shirt, holding Ron’s pillow tightly. She knew she ought to stand up and take care of the children, but whenever she tried, the external force of reality would push on her, until she started sobbing again. Her bed seemed like a time capsule. A sanctuary where she could still wait for her husband to come home early in the morning and kiss her forehead, just like he usually did, before lying down next to her. And when she would open her eyes a few hours later, she would smile at him and hug him. And they would stay like that, embraced and lost in each other’s arms until Hugo and Rose came and climbed in, complaining that they were hungry. Now there was only his pillow to hug. And it still smelled like him.
The door to her matrimonial bedroom opened slightly as the figure of a middle aged woman hesitantly came in holding a tray. She walked to the bed where Hermione seemed asleep and placed the tray with breakfast on the side table, hoping that the prominent smell of strong coffee would make Hermione open her eyes. But when the young witch seemed asleep, the older woman sat down on the bed next to her. She softly caressed her cheek and wiped away the new tears, removing the hair out of her face.
“He’s dead mom.” Whispered Hermione opening her eyes as a new set of tears fell down elegantly on her already wet cheeks. “He’s gone.”
“I know honey.” Said Mrs Granger helping her daughter sit up in bed. “I know.”
“Why?” whispered Hermione in a barely audible voice as she fought against the desire to break into tiny little pieces which could no longer be stuck together. The glue was gone out of her life. Everything that held her together was itself broken.
“I wish I could give you a real answer. It’s horrible what happened to him and to Harry. It’s unfair. But when was life ever fair?” She said in a calm and warm voice as pulled her daughter into a tight hug when the latter started sobbing again. “Cry it out Hermione. Cry as much as you need to, because you will see that one day the tears will dry. Ron would want you to move on.”
It was several minutes before Hermione managed to pull herself together. She broke from her mother’s hug and whipped away the tears with the sleeves of Ron’s shirt, which she had been wearing sine the previous morning. “How did you manage when dad died?”
“Just like you, honey. I cried it out for a few days and then I told myself that he wouldn’t want to see me like this. That’s when I got out of bed and started moving on with him in my heart rather than my mind.” Said Mrs Granger while holding her daughter’s hands. “There isn’t a day I don’t miss him Hermione. There isn’t a day I don’t regret not telling him to take the bus instead of that blasted car. But I know he’s watching over me...and over you. And when the time comes for me to join him, I know he’s up there waiting for me at the gates of Heaven because he’s too terrified to go in by himself.”
Hermione managed to smile at her mother. It was true; her dad never went anywhere new (whether it was a new town or a new store) without her mom. And it wasn’t because he was scared; rather, it was because he knew that he wanted to share every new experience with the woman he loved.
“Have some breakfast.” Mrs Granger took the omelette plate and held it out to Hermione but her daughter shock her head. “I’m not really hungry.”
“Honey, you haven’t eaten in nearly two days.” Complained her mother. “You look awful.”
“I’ll eat a bit later. I don’t mind if it’s cold.” She added upon seeing her mother’s facial expression. “How are the kids?”
“They’re strong. Hugo’s managing. He still gets teary when something reminds him of his dad, but Rose’s doing a great job in distracting him.” Mrs Granger smiled a little and then faced Hermione again. “But she cries more than Hugo when she thinks no one’s there to see her. Every night she goes in that dark, little bathroom of hers and she weeps for half an hour. Then she goes to bed and tries to be in good spirits around Hugo until the next evening comes when she allows herself to cry. She’s so much like you. Strong and smart....”
“I hope she’ll be a better mother than I.” Said Hermione placing her hands on her head. “I ought to be with them right now.”
“So you can cry in front of them? Really? No Hermione. It wouldn’t be good for them to see you like this. Besides...that’s what I’m here for. Take your time and pull yourself together. In the meantime I’ll look after them.”
“Thanks mom...I don’t know what I’d do without you here.”
“Don’t even mention it, honey.”
Rose Weasley was looking into the mirror at the little girl with big hazel eyes and dark auburn hair. People could never decide what to call her hair colour, because it was mostly brown, even in the sunlight. It was only during the summer months, when the sun was warmer and brighter that it was a little red. Calling her hair auburn, she thought, was not appropriate. As for the hazel eyes coated by overgrown eyelashes...she had stolen them from her uncle Charley, the only Weasley family member with that particular shade of green and brown combination.
She didn’t like wearing black. The dress her grandmother bought for her was rather uncomfortable with a Peter Pan neckline that strangled her every time she bent down. It was Alice style and up to her knees with a matching black hair ribbon. As if she was going to a birthday party. Not a funeral. Her father and uncle’s funeral. It was Hermione who was doing her hair for her. Three days after the awful news, Hermione’s eyes were no longer blotchy and she didn’t spend all of her time in the bedroom any more. The little girl’s eyes ran from her small hands to her mother’s face, then back down. Her mouth slightly opened as if she were to say something but then it closed, as if unable to let out words. A few more minutes passed in her feeble attempt at talking, but then she closed her eyes and said it. After all, it was better to say it without seeing her mother’s expression changing.
“Do I have to come?”asked Rose in a small voice. She had planned to ask that question since the news her dad had died, yet she didn’t know how. Hermione’s hands stopped in her hair and she looked at her daughter in the mirror.
“What kind of a question is this? Open your eyes, Rose.” She placed her arms on her daughter’s small shoulders and made her face her.
“I know. It’s just that...I don’t want to see him like this.”She looked down and decided she was not going to cry in front of her mother. “I don’t think I can. I don’t want to-to remember him like this.”
“Honey, look at me.” Sad Hermione putting a finger under Rose’s chin and lifting her face up. Those big, bright eyes were deprived of the child light they once beheld. “I promise you, you will not see daddy today.” She had to close her eyes for a moment as she tried to keep her voice even. She had spoken to Mrs Weasley the previous morning...and after numerous hugs and tears the whole family decided to keep Ron and Harry’s coffins closed for the sake of the children. The sight of a man who had died at the hands of an unforgivable curse was unforgettable and the children were too young to remember their fathers like that. “I promise you...” She repeated “you will remember him as he was before.”
Hermione set the brush down and helped Rose off the chair. “It’s time to go.” Rose just nodded and looked up at her mother’s pale face, wondering if she could be brave and not cry at her father’s funeral. For Hugo’s sake.
“There was not a year at Hogwarts that was spared from Mr Weasley’s and Mr Potter’s mischief in the 6 years that they have been students. Whether it was an angry Basilisk or their numerous picnics in the Forbidden Forest (at this everyone laughed slightly), they surely always seemed to not abide by the set school rules like everyone else did.” In 15 years, Professor McGonagall had aged a little, but she was still the same upright woman with a straight posture and an authoritative look. But as she stood on a little podium prepared for speeches in the middle of the cemetery, between two black coffins and a sea of white lilies, she looked more overwhelmed than her old students had ever seen her. Her hands were shaking slightly and it was clear to everyone who spoke to her at least once, that she was trying not to cry. “But there was always a difference between them and just rebellious students. A very big difference.” She added in a more serious tone. “Because most of the rules they disregarded were not broken for the sake of being broken. In their second year at Hogwarts they found the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets and nearly got themselves killed in order to save Ginny Weasley.” Everyone looked towards the little red haired witch holding the hand of Lily who did not take her eyes of her daddy’s coffin. Ginny’s eyes were wet with tears, her skin was paler than usual and her cheeks were shallow as if she had not slept in a long time. Albus Severus was looking down at the ground ever since the funeral service had started and James was holding Lily’s other hand and looking at Professor McGonagall with pride in his eyes that his dad died like a hero; trying to keep strong for the sake of his mom and younger siblings. “They were true Gryffindors who knew what sacrifices meant and who knew that even in war those who kept justice in their hearts were the ones who will achieve justice in war.” Another pause followed in which McGonagall looked at the floor for a while. When she tilted her head up again, her eyes were wet and her voice was a little shaky. “It was unfair for them to be taken away, so abruptly, from the people who need them the most. Their families didn’t just loose husbands, brothers...sons, friends and uncles. They lost two of the greatest Aurors of our time. And they weren’t killed in battle: they were killed by cowards who found it easier to break their wands rather than challenge them to a fair duel.” McGonagall took another small pause in which her sadness metamorphosed into anger. “Because they would have won that duel. But when were Death Eaters ever fair?”
“What are Death Eaters?” whispered Hugo, looking up at his mother. Hermione was paler than usual and Hugo tightened his grip around her hand, getting closer to her. When she looked down at him, her eyes were wet with tears, which were falling down on her cheeks. “Murderers.” She whispered. Rose looked up from the floor to the coffin where her dad would sleep forever. It was made of mahogany and decorated with the signs of the Deathly Hallows...or as Rose did not know what they were, golden circles, triangles and lines. There was a knot in her stomach whenever she looked towards them, making the hairs on her arms stand up. She could feel death beneath those two coffins. She could feel its cold hands grabbing each person at the funeral, reminding them that even those who were supposed to live for a long time have easily fallen in its glorious, cold hands. Whenever Rose would look away, she felt the eyes of death, with their intensity and greatness penetrate through her, playing with her soul until she could hold the tears in no longer. The visions that engulfed her were s powerful that she felt detached from the funeral service and back into her father’s arms.
“You’ll be okay Rosie.” He held one arm on the small of her back as his other hand was kidnapped by her own. She laid her head on his chest and closed her eyes for a moment, trying to preserve the moment that was sure to pass. And she knew that once it would pass, there would not be another one. “How do you know?” she asked.
“I know because you’re strong. And stubborn...you won’t let the world act against you.” He said making her face him. “And you’re a Weasley.”
Rose smiled at him. “You’re a Weasley too and look what happened to you.” She felt the tears build up somewhere inside her heart but she refused to let them out.
“That’s because I never had your mom’s brains.” He smiled a little, trying to make a little joke that would make her feel better. But it didn’t work, for Rose bowed her head down. He placed two fingers under her chin and lifted her head up. “Rosie look at me.” But she refused as the tears started conquering her cheeks. “You’ll be okay. You are the smartest person I have ever met and the most courageous...and I know this is hard for you and Hugo...but sometimes you have to go on no matter what happens.”
She placed her head back on his chest and they stayed like that for a moment, without saying a word. She knew that too soon her dad would go, for good and she will never place her head on his chest...never sit on his lap again. “But you’re not going to be here anymore.” She whispered.
“Of course I will. I’ll always be here when you need me. Look at me.” She lifted her head from his chest and looked into his chocolate brown eyes surrounded by freckles and long eyelashes which she loved so much. “Whenever you have something to say, I will always hear you even when I don’t reply. I’ll always be in here.” He placed his hand on her heart. They stayed like that for a while...looking at each other. She tried to memorise the face she already knew so well. She tried to take a mental picture of him so that she will never forget him.
“Is this a dream?” she asked looking all the way into the depths of his brown eyes, wherever it was that he hid away the sadness that he too, felt.
“If you want it to be a dream, it can be a dream.” He said after a moment of weighting his words.
“But if it’s a dream it means it’s not true.”
“It is true, Rosie.” His voice was quieter...more tired than at the beginning. And when she looked up at him, his features were lost in a fog. She was no longer sitting on his lap and he was walking away from her, embracing the fog that made her feel disoriented and lost.“Daddy, don’t go. I need you!” she cried and the tears became too many for her eyelashes to block out. “I need you...” she whispered but he showed no sign on hearing her as he became blurrier ad blurrier until she was back on the green August grass in the cemetery. “I love you...” she whispered and wiped her eyes away before Hugo and Hermione could see her. McGonagall’s loud and clear voice had replaced the dreamy state of the vision she just had. The last vision of her dad. How was a mere daydream going to replace a lifetime of his absence?
“Albus Dumbledore once said: “to the well-organised mind, death is but the next great adventure” a pause followed. “ I am sure that both Mr Potter and Mr Weasley will enjoy driving the angels of Heaven crazy with their pranks (everyone laughed once more and then someone Rose couldn’t recognise started crying. It was a woman in her early thirties with long blonde hair and a strange looking jacket with radishes attached at the sleeves. It was the only piece of colour among the gloomy, dark crowd. She was holding the hand of a little girl with the same long blonde hair, only it was curly, and a man of about 40 held a hand on the crying woman’s shoulder. He was very tall and very thin, and was wearing a navy blue suit, also with radishes attached to the sleeves. Rose wondered whether it was some kind of tradition to wear radishes at a funeral, but since none of the other guests seemed to be following the tradition, she dismissed the thought.)
After Professor McGonagall stepped down the small podium, she patted the two coffins as if she was telling them to be brave and to behave wherever the path of death should take them.
The real tears came only when the coffins started to be lowered. Lily Potter had to be held back by her mother who, upon seeing her daughter wailing and kicking for her daddy to come back, started crying even more as well. Hugo and Rose would have probably done the same thing if they wouldn’t have been distracted by Hermione collapsing on the ground, white as a ghost. Time seemed to have gone through a phase of slow motion as Rose looked up from her fingers to her mother, whose eyes closed, head tilted back and knees gave in to the weight. Her arms flew in front of her, as if she were a bird about to fly off...fly off and leave her children behind. The next thing Rose saw was Hugo letting go of Hermione’s hand as she collapsed in the cemetery grass.
“Mommy?” Hugo’s lip started trembling. “Mommy no, don’t die! Not you too! Mommy!” he started crying upon seeing his mother’s insentiene body, kneeled on the ground with his head bowed and the weight of an 80 year old man on his shoulders, pushing his mom’s face with his hands, hoping to wake her up. “She’ll be fine.” Whispered Rose wiping away her tears with one shaky arm. Her breathing started getting heavier when Hermione didn’t wake up, didn’t move and didn’t seem to be breathing, as she started disbelieving her own words. “Mom?” she asked before feeling somebody’s arms lifting her up from the scene. Mr Weasley seemed to have lifted little Hugo up, who upon seeing his grandfather started crying in his chest, holding on to Arthur for dear life. “It’s okay little H. It’s okay...shhh.” whispered Mr Weasley as he took Hugo far away from the scene.
“No, I have to be there...no...MOM!” screamed Rose while kicking and screaming.
“She’ll be okay Rosie. She’ll be fine. She just fainted.” She recognised the voice as belonging to Bill, one of her favourite uncles, who didn’t often speak, yet when he did everyone kept quiet. He held her firmly from the back, close to him, whispering things that Rose couldn’t hear. The only thing she could see was her mother dressed in black, sprawled on the green grass, her bushy hair around her head like some sort of halo. A dozen or so people were around her and Rose saw someone take her pulse before the vision became blurry with a new set of tears.
“I want to go back!” she cried, but Bill held her in place in a strong grip.
“Your mom needs some space. I promise she’ll be okay.”
“I don’t believe promises anymore!” cried Rose getting slightly hysterical. “Dad told me he’d be fine when he left that night...he told me he’d be fine...he promised me...he said...” The desperate look in Rose’s teary eyes reminded Bill of Ron when he was about two years old and he cried when Fred or George would play the underwear prank on him. It occurred every two weeks and when Ron sensed the moment approached, his eyes became watery and desperate for an escape. He remembered how, when he was a Hogwarts student he would jokingly threaten Fred and George to leave little Ron alone or he’ll take them to Snape (who he’d often descried to them as the Dungeon Greasy Bat), a habit which Ron had inherited in the years to follow (he threatened the twins with the Bill and Dungeon’s Bat curses until he reached the age of four when the twins stopped playing that particular prank on him). Looking at that desperate look in Rose’s eyes...Ron’s eyes...and reminiscing made his own eyes become slightly watery with the loss of yet another brother.
“Shhh....” Bill pulled her in a tight hug as Rose finally broke down in the tears she tried so hard not to shed. They fell and fell and she just didn’t care anymore that she was being weak. Her dad should have been there...she shouldn’t be crying in her uncle’s chest. Bill had his own kids who will always have a dad. Victorie, Dominique and Louis will always have a dad. She couldn’t help it but feel jealous since her was snapped away from her so abruptly. “He promised...” she whispered in a soft voice entangled in tears and emotions too abominably big for a seven-year old child. “Shhh.” Bill whispered back, rubbing her back, trying, in vain, to make her feel better.
When Hermione came back to consciousness a few minutes later, mostly everyone had left, except for her mom, Molly, Arthur, Bill, Fleur and the kids. They were all looking down at her in a concerned way, and for the strangest reason, Hermione felt as if she was missing something that they all knew yet were not inclined to share just yet. There was so much black around that for a moment she wondered why she woke up at all. The black of their clothes was a reminder of the dark shadows residing in her heart and blocking out the sunlight of anything and anyone she ever loved.
But then she felt selfish. She had two wonderful kids, staring down at her with sad big eyes. These two kids of hers could not lose their mother as well. They were too young to be left alone. Left alone in such a cruel world.
“I’m okay.” She sat up abruptly but everyone around her looked at each other with concerned expressions. “Really. It must be the exhaustion.” their disbelieving faces annoyed her and she just wanted to go home and be left alone with her mom and her kids. She needed solitude to cry for the conqueror of her heart that had fallen in war.
“It’s not the exhaustion honey.” Said her mom placing a warm hand on her shoulder. She looked rather uncomfortably at Molly Weasley who gave her an encouraging look. “Molly casted a...umm...what did you call it?”
“Diagnosis charm.” Said the latter, placing her hand on Hermione’s forehead as if she were a sick child. “And I’m afraid I was right.” She withdrew her hand off her daughter in law’s forehead and grabbed Hermione’s hand encouragingly while giving Jean a sign to say it.
“Honey you’re pregnant.”
“What?” Hermione looked at her mother in disbelief. They were playing a sick joke on her. That was the only reasonable answer. Hermione looked at all of them as if they were mad. She couldn’t be pregnant. It was true that the night before Ron’s last mission the ticking sound of seconds had been filled with passion, but she took the contraceptive potion she had prepared a day or so before. Hadn’t she?
“Oh my God.” She whispered out as the realisation that she did not take the potion hit her. It hit her right in the chest as she visualised herself and Ron getting busy before she brought it from the kitchen. She was sure that if she were home, she would see it lying on the table, forgotten in a little dark corner. How could she have been so stupid? She was in no health state to have another child...she didn’t even know if she ever wanted another baby. A child who will never meet its father. A child in a time when Death Eaters were raising to power again. “Oh my God.” She repeated and placed her head in her hands. “I’m not ready for another baby.”
“No one is, dear.” Said Mrs Weasley giving her a tight hug. I certainly wasn’t ready to have seven children, but it will turn out to be okay. You’re a strong, independent woman.”
“What does pregnant mean?” whispered little Hugo in a confused voice, towards Fleur who smiled at him and said: “It meanzz zat you will have anotherr brotherr or sisteerr.”
“Oh.” Hugo looked at his mom and then his eyes went wide.
“Oh Fleur...” said Hermione giving her sister in law a warning look. “You shouldn’t have....”
“Ah...bien sur...but it iz great newzz.” Cried Fleur with delight.
The news of her mother’s pregnancy did not delight nor saddened Rose. She was in a trance like state where even the greatest of news did not make her react. While everyone else was around Hermione, she made her way to her dad’s burial place and sat down in front of it caressing the memorial stone and outlining with her fingers her father’s name. She could not believe that he was in a dark coffin, underneath her. She could not believe that he will never kiss her goodnight ever again...that he will not be there at her wedding and that he will not be there when her little brother or sister will be born. She couldn’t believe he was really gone. Gone from her when she least expected it. Snatched away as abruptly as summer, because the September winds had already come to greet them and in a few weeks time when the leaves were to start dying, Ron would not be there to greet autumn with them. She drew her knees to her chest as a light wind made the fallen lily petals fly around her and she placed her chin on her knees and wondered if this was the closest she will ever get to her dad from now on. Even if he was a few meters beneath her, she felt as if they were worlds apart and separated by an entire universe. No collision was ever possible...they would never reunite in her lifetime.
As she looked up through the masses of white lilies towards Harry’s grave, another lost dad, she saw the figure of a tall man dressed in black approaching it. He had blonde hair and a rather masculine jaw, and the coldest eyes Rose had ever seen. The icy way he looked, made her want to run away from him back to the Weasley’s, yet there was a strange air which drew her in. She didn’t move. When he reached Harry’s grave, he placed two red roses on the memorial stone and then looked at Rose. He had very few wrinkles on his forehead and around his eyes, and she realized that his hair was not short; rather it was placed in a neat pony tail at the back of his head. He reminded her of someone she had seen in an old copy of the Daily Prophet a few years ago, but much younger. The blonde man didn’t say or motion anything; he just stood there for a few seconds looking at the tear stained face of the little girl before disapparating as swiftly as the wind. She had no idea who he was or why he had not come earlier at the funeral, but her father’s curiosity which she had inherited, made her walk to Harry’s grave and inspect the two roses more carefully. There was only a small piece of parchment attached to one of them, with condolences from Malfoy Manor written in the finest writing Rose had ever seen.
A/N I really hope you liked this chapter. I understand that these two chapter may be a little informative at the moment, but the real action will start pretty soon when Hermione and the kids will end up at Malfoy Manor (probably chapter 3). I would really appreciate it if you could review as both negative and positive comments help me develop as a writer and it would be great to know what you think of the story so far.
Many thanks for your time,
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