Chapter 13 : Confessions Of A Middle-aged Hero
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Chapter 13. Confessions Of A Middle-aged Hero
Wet, heavy snowflakes fell down, gluing themselves onto the window before turning into drops of water.
I traced the drops with my fingers as they trickled down, joining with other droplets and trailing down the glass even faster.
I was waiting, bored out of my mind, and sighing impatiently. I hated waiting.
It was December 27th, Christmas was over - or at least it felt like it - and I was feeling a bit melancholy. Despite this starting out with the promise of a horrible Christmas, it later turned out to be quite the opposite. Mum was in such a great mood that it was scary, especially after and she and Dad disappeared now and again.
It was better for my sanity if I didn't connect those particular dots.
My whole family knew now. My uncles and aunts, cousins and grandparents - everyone. And Mum made them sign a contract where they promised to keep their mouthes shut about my 'little condition' as she called it. When Dom asked - in her snooty sort of way - what would happen if they 'accidentally' blurted it out, Mum smirked as she told her that they'd get a face full of large pimples in the shape of a word. This shut Dom up pretty quickly. And it's good that it did, cause my fist was dangerously close to giving her perfect nose some serious alterations.
Al was relieved to not keep it a secret anymore, and told stories about pregnant, little me to whoever would give him the time of day. James had, contrary to the rest of the clan, only needed about five seconds of wrapping his mind around this new information before pouncing on me and giving me the best hug I'd ever received.
Grandpa Art had - along with Uncle Harry, Uncle Ron and Uncle George - †offered to hunt Bray down and cut his reproductive organs off and hand them to me on a silver plate. Something that was actually tempting after I opened his Christmas present for me and found a pair of tweezers.
It was like, 'Thanks, mate, for giving me a hint, while I gave you a beaters bat that I'd saved up to for months. Cheers.'
I suddenly jerked upright as I noticed some faint, blurry figures walking up to the house.
"Mum!" I yelled down the wide and elegant staircase, hauling myself off the wide windowpane I'd been perched on. "They're here, I saw them through the window!"
"Calm down, Del," Mum sighed as I ran(the best I could with the extra baggage) down to rip open the door.†
I had been too long alone with my family, and I was dying to have someone my own age to talk to. And someone who wasn't a Potter, Weasley or Malfoy. Safe to say, that made the choices around here very limited indeed.
"Kat!" I exclaimed and threw my arms around the slightly surprised girl on the other side of the massive door. "Mum," I relinquished my tight hold on Kat and pulled her into the white-painted, tasteful foyer so Mum would see her(I'd forced Dad to take down the Santa Claus barf before she arrived). "This is Kat."
"Hello, Mrs Malfoy-Grang-"
"Please," Mum waved her hand and gave Kat a friendly smile, "it's Hermione."
Dad walked into the foyer at the same time as Kat's mother and stepdad -Mr and Mrs Anderson - entered, and for some reason he stopped in his tracks. Almost simultaneously I distinctly heard my mother gasp in utter shock, and I turned to see that her face was showing clear disbelief.
"Martin?" Mum whispered and took a step toward Mr Anderson, her hand almost reaching out, as if she wanted to assure herself that he was in fact there.†
I watched the scene with furrowed brows.
"Mum?" My voice made my mother's head snap in my direction, her eyes blinking rapidly to rid themselves of any tears.
"Oh, sorry, I just..." She cast Mr Anderson another look, which he returned with an uncomfortable smile. He didn't seem to know what was going on either. "You just reminded me of someone I used to know."†
She took a deep breath, composing herself, and then reached out her hand to greet the Andersons into her home. Dad quickly followed Mum's example and proceeded to show them into the living room.
"What was that about?" Kat muttered under her breath as we sat down on one of the soft, cream-coloured loveseats.†I shrugged, but made a mental note to ask my weird-acting parents about it later on.
"So," Dad began and clapped his hands together, "who wants what? We've got tea, but I just got my hands on some fine African Firewhiskey, if anyone's interes-"
"I'll take some of that, dear," Mum answered in a hurried matter, trying(and failing) to not stare at Mr Anderson.
"Anyone else? Martin?"†
How the hell did my father know Mr Anderson's first name? I mean, I didn't even know.
"I-I'm sorry," Mr Anderson said squirming a bit in his seat on another of Mum's carefully chosen off-white couches. His wife seemed very confused and squirmed along with him. "But have we met before, Mr Malf-"
"Oh, no," Dad's eyes widened a bit, and he quickly got up from the soft armchair, fiddling with his fingers, "I-I just, well, you know, Del here has told us so much about you, so I-I sort of feel like I already know you."
Weak explanation, Dad. You bloody suck at lying.
I couldn't stop my eyes from rolling as he excused himself and was on the verge of running to get that Firewhiskey.
This was so awkward that I considered jabbing my finger in my eye just to defuse the tension in the room. I never thought of my Mum as an awkward person, but here she was proving me wrong. She sat with her hands in her lap, turning her wedding ring nervously, sneaking glances at Mr Anderson every chance she got. Out of nowhere she sprang to her feet.
"I-I'm gonna go see what's the hold-up, excuse me," she stuttered and fled the room as if it were on fire.
"I'll help," I shot in and walked briskly after her.
When I entered the kitchen I found my parents in a heated whispered conversation, Mum gripping onto the counter with her head bowed and Dad grasping her hand tightly.
"What the bloody hell?!" I hissed as I strut over to them. "Why can't you just be normal this one time? They're just here to drop Kat off, and they'll be gone in a half hour, so pull yourselves togeth-" I stopped talking when I noticed Mum was sobbing. Her shoulders shook.
I'd seen my mother cry exactly three times during my seventeen years on this earth. When Grandma Marie died(her mother), when Heathcliffe was born(although those may have been happy-tears) and that time I'd hid from her for hours when she forced me to go with her to the Ministry - she was crying hysterically when I decided she'd been punished enough and crept out of my hiding place.
I never hid from her again.
That's why I completely froze. Mum's tears were saved up for special occations. Was this one of them? Whatever happened between her and the clearly oblivious Mr Anderson had to be serious.
"Adella," Dad began, turning to look solemly at me. Oh, no. When Dad actually called me 'Adella', not the usual 'Del', there was cause to worry. "Would you tell Mart- Mr and Mrs Anderson that your mother isn't feeling well, and that she's sorry but she won't be able to entertain any guests today?"
Why did he talk like that? Those words were too formal, too heavy to be coming out of my lighthearted father's mouth.
I nodded jerkily and took uneasy steps out of the kitchen and into the living room, where Kat was the only one sitting on the couch.
"They sensed that your mum wasn't feeling too well and didn't want to impose," Kat explained, looking at me with curious eyes. I knew she'd pry information out of me if I kept looking into into them, so I quickly directed my gaze down.
"So what was that all about?"
"You're not gonna tell me?"
Wow, my shoes are fascinating.
I forced myself to look up. Well, I might as well tell her the truth.
"I really don't know," I told her. But Mum was crying in the kitchen, and she never cries, I added to myself. Kat narrowed her eyes at me, but seemed to understand that I was telling the truth, if not the whole truth.
We didn't speak of it again.
During her stay we sat in my bedroom; magazines, empty candy wrappers and nail-varnish spread all over the floor, and spent our time chatting and watching muggle DVDs. Kat was used to the contraption that often scared wizards, and easily changed discs when needed. I appreciated having her there to do things like that, this way I didn't have to haul myself off the bed as often - which was heavanly.
Mr and Mrs Anderson didn't come to pick up Kat the next day, and called her mobile to tell her that they were indisposed, and couldn't leave home. They asked her to apparate by her own, and that they'd be waiting for her. Kat frowned after hanging up with her mother, clearly confused by this whole thing. And even though we both knew what kept them from coming, we didn't comment on it.
That's what I liked about Katja; she always understood when to force information out of me, and when to leave it.
I followed her out of the house wearing a coat zipped up all the way to my nose(Mum and Dad had in the last minute bought me one that actually fit), and gave her a hug before she disappeared on the spot.
When I got back inside I found Mum waiting for me by our large dining room table, her eyes red and without make-up.
Nothing was said as I sat down on the chair beside hers and turned it a bit so I could face her. Mum's hands were cradling a cup of tea, and she pushed a second cup closer to me. I took it, glad to give my hands something to do. I guess that's another thing we have in common.†
"Adella, honey," Mum started in a voice that sounded tired. And for the first time since I can remember, my mother looked old. The wrinkle on her forehead was so deep I was starting to worry that it'd never be smooth again.
She gave a long sigh before lifting her head and locking her mellow eyes with mine identical ones. It was actually very strange. When it came to our eyes, it was like looking into a mirror.
"Did I ever tell you about how your father and I met?"
The question caught me off guard.
"Ehm, yes." I furrowed my brows. "You told me that you two met at a local muggle pub after not speaking for years after the war, and then you fell in love."
"Well," Mum's worried wrinkle concerned me as it grew deeper, and I forced myself to listen intently, "it was a bit more complicated than that."
"What do you mean?"
Mum buried her face in her hands and breathed deeply.
"When I met your father I was..." her voice was muffled, and I had to lean forward to hear what she was saying.
"I didn't hear that last part."
"I was already engaged to someone else," she finished in a rushed breath.
My eyes popped open. I swear I feared they'd jump out of their sockets.
"Engaged?" I repeated, gobsmacked. "To whom?"
"That's the tricky part..." she mumbled to herself and entwined her fingers in her frizzy, brown hair. A sad smile appeared on her pale lips. "To Martin."
"Martin who?" With confused eyes I stared at my mother. "Martin Anderson?!" I was heaving for breath now, and Mum should seriously prepare for my kids to pop out any moment. "As in Kat's muggle stepfather?"
"As in Kat's muggle stepfather," she repeated in a solemn tone. "And that's not all."
My hands flew up to my mouth and I yelped a bit. "Hermione Jean Granger!" I shrieked and jumped to my feet. "Is he my father?!"
"What? No!" she spluttered and grabbed my arm before dragging me back onto my chair. "Of course not, it's nothing like that at all."
I made a 'phew' sound and put a tense hand on my growing belly.
"What I was about to say is that... Oh, this is harder than I thought. I mean, my darling Del, that I never thought I'd have the need to explain."
"Mum, you're scaring me," I whispered, and she took my hand as she noticed the slight tremble in my voice.
"Oh, baby girl, there's no need to be afraid. I-I'm just hesitant because I'm about to tell you about a time in my life that I'm not very proud of."
She took both my hands in hers now, and I marveled at the amazing shimmer in her blue diamond ring, Mum said it looked like Dad's eyes, and I had to concur.
"I was seeing your Dad behind Martin's back," she said calmly, waiting for my reaction. Heartbeats drummed in my ears, but I kept quite still, wanting to hear what my mother was about to say.
"I refused to admit that I loved Draco because of my previous commitment to Martin, whom I cared for dearly, and I still do. But then, after months and months of drama, and guilty meetings with your father, I learned I was pregnant with you..."
"But," I began, furrowing my eyebrows as I lifted my gaze to meet Mum's. "How did you know that-"
"That you weren't Martin's baby? Well, because..." Mum chuckled now at some distant memory, and I was surprised by this.
Maybe she was going mad?
I wouldn't blame her, with everything she's gone through in her young-ish life.
"Martin had this idea that we were going to stop having se-"
I put my hands over my ears.
"I don't want to hear my mother say that word!"
"Fine," she chuckled again. I was relieved to see that the wrinkle on her forehead was loosening up, softening my mother's expression and removing many years from her face. "As I said, he wanted to take a break from making love until we were married, that way our first night together as man and wife would be at least a little bit more exciting. And needless to say, that backfired."
"So you got pregnant, and then told Dad, and you left Martin, and-"
"Ehm, not really," she admitted with an embarrassed grimace. "I began pushing away your father, he snapped, and I caught him snogging stupid Annie-The-Intern in-"
"Dad cheated on you?" I gasped.
"Considering that I was doing worse things by far to both sweet Martin and your Dad, I didn't really judge him too much, but it still got me thinking..." This must've been a particularly difficult memory, because she seemed to be in physical pain. "I thought, and very wrongly, that he wasn't ready to be a father. So I decided that I was going to raise you as Martin's child and still go through with the wedding, even though I didn't love him anywhere near as much as I loved Draco."
"You broke up with him?" I knew I didn't have to specify that I meant Dad, she knew it already. Her response was a single nod, her eyes welling with tears from another lifetime.
"It was the hardest thing I ever did." With a low sniffle, she stared up at the newly painted ceiling and blinked her tears away. "I went through the weeks before the wedding in a daze. I have no memory of that time."
"Dad interrupted your wedding, didn't he?" I guessed, and Mum responded by letting out a laugh.
"He certainly did."
She was chuckling at the memory, and I chimed in a bit. It felt good to laugh. I should laugh more often.
"Was it when the priest called 'please speak now or forever hold your peace'? Like that Taylor Swift song?"
Mum laughed again and her smile made her look ten years younger. I think Mum should laugh more often as well.
I just made a deal with myself to make Mum laugh more.
"Not really," her eyes were twinkling at this part. "Your Auntie Gin had told me off the night before for going through with the wedding, and she had apparently called your Dad and ordered him to come 'rescue' me."
"And he did," I voiced her thought, and this made her smile sweetly at me.
"I was standing outside the church, wedding dress and all, and feeling sick not only because of the little Del in my stomach, but because of everything that was going on."
"You were sick a lot too?" I asked, not really knowing when I'd started to actually want to hear about Mum's pregnancy stories.
"Oh, don't remind me," she grinned and rolled her eyes. They then fell to my belly and with a sad smile she put a gentle hand on top of it. As if they already knew her touch, they began to move softly against her palm.
"Ah, I loved you so much already..." she mumbled in a faraway voice. "I remembered it caught me so off guard that you were immediately the center of my world. It's strange, isn't it?"
My eyes were brimmed with tears, and I harshly rubbed them away while nodding.
"What did he say?"
"Dad," I sniffled, "when he crashed the wedding."
"Oh, yes." Her eyes snapped back to the present. "Well, I don't remember exactly what he said.. Wait, yes, I do remember this one thing. He said 'nobody can make me angrier than you can, but no one can make me happier either'. And I think that's really what sums love up quite nicely. That one just can't exist without the other person, even though they drive you mad at times."
"Was this after you told him you were pregnant?"
"No, it was before. But, oddly enough, he managed to guess it for himself. Your father has always surprised me like that."
"How did you tell Mr Anderson?"
"Ehm, we didn't exactly tell him anything, h-he sort of saw us in a very tight embrace in front of the entrance of the church."
"I know, I know!" she reprimanded herself. "And when he found out - and after he'd tried to beat your father to a pulp - I finally confessed the affair, along with me being a witch. I mean, not that I had any choice seeing as your hot headed father had immobilised him and later made him hover in the air upside-down." She rolled her eyes. "Men."
"What? Hold on... He didn't know you were a witch? How could he not know?"
"I just never told him."
"All right... Strange thing to keep from ones fiance, but whatever flies your broom."
"It wasn't so easy. I was scared he'd leave me," Mum said and leaned back on the chair. "But it turned out that Martin didn't care at all about my... Witchness."
I smiled at her choice of words. I guess I got my awesome sense of word-invention from Mum.
"But how come Mr Anderson didn't seem to remember you, then?" I whispered at her, voicing a question that'd been lurking at the back of my mind through Mum's tale.
"Because your Dad obliviated him."
"He did what?"
"Let me explain..." Her fingers formed a triangle as they met with her other hand. "Obviously, Martin saw that my love for Draco was stronger than my love for himself, and told me to choose Draco. He said, and I'll never forget this, 'if you ever really loved me, you wouldn't have fallen for him'." She took a deep breath before continuing, "So, since he now knew we were magical, he turned to your Dad and asked to forget."
"He asked for it himself?"
I suddenly felt so sorry for Kat's stepdad. He'd made the ultimate sacrifice. And he didn't even know it.
"Why did he do that?"
"He said getting over me, the love of his life, would be easier if we never met."
I sat pondering this for a while.
"It must've been painful to see him again..." I said in a low voice, and tried to imagine having your soulmate love another person, and instantly understood Mr Anderson's decision to forget.
"It was, yes," Mum sighed.
"Did you ever regret ending up with Dad?"
"Never," was her clear answer, and her eyes seemed to spring back to life at the mention of my father.
"How did you know..." I trailed off, and furrowed my brows as I thought of the best way to phrase my question. "What made you so sure that Dad was the one for you?"
Mum bit her lip, probably trying to come up with some way to explain the unexplainable.
"I just... I just didn't make any sense without him," she said, and I got the feeling that she, in this one sentence, summed up every experience she'd had, and transformed those memories into words.
I let out a long breath.
"I'll never have that..." I mumbled in a low and sad matter, leaning back against the chair and folding my hands over my round stomach.
"Oh, Del," Mum whispered and put her hand on top of mine, "of course you will! You just haven't found your prince Charming yet."
A tiny smile lurked in the corner of my mouth, but it quickly faded.
"All right, say that I do find him, my prince Charming, the one I don't make sense without, but I'm not his Cinderella?" I took a deep breath before lowering my voice even more. "Like what happened to Mr Anderson..."
This stunned Mum, and it seemed as though she couldn't come up with a response, her mouth just opened and closed like a goldfish several times.
"Well, he seems to have found a wondeful woman in Kat's mother," she said after some time thinking. "Maybe she is his true soulmate. Maybe it never was me at all."
I pondered that for a moment. I eventually had to agree with this, if only vaguely. I'd never been a huge fan of romance. The idea of true love was a thing one read in story books at the age of seven.
And the last shred of belief in 'love' had quickly evaporated the second I got together with Bray, who thought love to be only 'the self-delusion we manufacture to justify the trouble we take to have sex.'
Cynical. Distant. Two words to describe what I've become. I've lost my ability to feel the sort of love Mum was talking about - to be honest, I'm not even sure if I ever really had it.
"How are you, Del?" she asked me tenderly, and I knew we weren't talking about my reaction to this piece of new information. "How are you handling this?"
If I had a sickle for every time I shrugged I'd be one wealthy witch.†
"What about Bray?" she asked this in a way that suggested she already knew the answer.
Guess what my response was. Shrugging? Whoah, mate, are you a psychic, or what?
"You know you can talk to me about anything, right?" Her brown eyes looked at me kindly.
I nodded. My ability to answer verbally suddenly out the window. Mum sensed my need to be left alone and granted my wishes after planting a kiss on the top of my head and giving my belly a gentle pat.
My life seemed to get more complicated with each day that passed.
Oh, I'm pregnant? A bloke named Tristan has never heard of me or my family? Dragonbreath Kat aborted Deuce's baby, and turns out to be a nice person? Deuce has an affair with Victoria McBitch? Claire dates her sister's secret crush? Chase kisses me and I like it? Clover snogs Deuce but he forgets? Kat boinked Deuce? I'm not having one baby but two? Mum was engaged to Kat's stepfather, cheated on him with Dad, got pregnant, left the first lad at the altar and then deleted his memory?
Just another day in the life of Adella Malfoy-Granger.
I wonder what adventures I'll partake in tomorrow...
Sorry for the long wait, my beauties!!
But yeah, any thoughts on this chapter? A lot of new info about Hermione's background; what do you think of that?
It's all in my prequel Otherwise Engaged, if you were intrigued by her confession. :)
Thank you so much for reading, my lovelies!
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