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Afterwards by unknownhorcrux
Chapter 10 : Chapter 10
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2

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Hermione’s parents held her tight, waiting until her sobs had diminished and she was calm. Mrs. Granger went to find whether there was any tea in this strange kitchen, while Hermione chatted with her father about what he had missed in the past year. When Hermione’s mother finally came back into the room, laden with a teapot and four mugs she set herself to pouring tea for everyone, which everyone but Ron took eagerly. He had always found muggle drinks rather dull, but he decided to drink some anyway; he didn’t want to offend anyone. Mrs. Granger turned to him. “So you’re Ron, aren’t you? Hermione always wrote about you in her letters, but I think we’ve only met once a few years ago… It was awfully kind of you to come with her down here.”

At this, Ron paled. He shot a nervous glance at Hermione who, sensing his fear, said, turning red herself, “Ron’s sort of my… boyfriend.” Ron nodded earnestly, suddenly struck dumb by the pressure of the situation. But Hermione’s parents smiled at each other knowingly.

“So it finally happened, eh?” Asked Mr. Granger. Hermione looked shocked, and her father explained himself. “The way you wrote about him… all of those squabbles you had… we know our daughter better than anyone, and you’ve been crazy about each other for years.” Ron’s ears turned magenta. He started to open and close his mouth rapidly as if he were a fish who had been plucked out of the water. Hermione also seemed to be speechless. Mrs. Granger laughed at their discomfort.

“There’s no need to look so shocked! And don’t worry, Ron, if you’ve managed to keep my baby safe through all that, I can trust you with anything.” Ron forced a weak grin and reached out to Hermione’s hand which was lying on the sofa next to him. She looked at him at his touch and smiled. It was the first smile he had seen in weeks.

Ron and Hermione stayed in Australia for one more week, packing up the house and getting ready to move back to England. On the day of Hermione’s eighteenth birthday, she woke up to a room filled with yellow light. The walls were painted white and she could feel the breeze from the open window dissipating the heat. She heard a knock on the door. She sat up straight in bed, and when she saw Ron come in with a tray of food, she smiled, trying desperately to untangle her flyaway hair and not breathe in his face before she had brushed her teeth. Ron came and sat next to her on the bed, putting the tray down in front of her.

“Happy birthday, beautiful!” She saw a pile of browned eggs with tiny fragments of shell stuck in it. She couldn’t decide whether it was meant to be scrambled eggs or an omelette, but she smiled at him anyway and took a sip from the tea that he had brought her, which was so over brewed that it was a dark black colour. She hugged him tight, saying, “this is so sweet of you! You are absolutely perfect, Ron Weasley, you know that?”

He grinned back at her, proud of himself. He had never cooked before, but he had made the entire breakfast himself, and he was quite pleased with it. He thought to himself that Hermione seemed to like it as she choked down the food, and that was all that mattered. And Hermione did like it. It may not have been gourmet, but the fact that he had made it for her made it taste like the best meal in the world.

When she had finished as much of the meal as she could, Ron picked up a scruffily wrapped rectangular package that was hidden under her bed and placed it on her lap. She picked it up eagerly, pulling off the wrapping paper, which was blue, but kept changing to purples and golds. Inside, she found a large, flat, rectangular silk box. She glanced at Ron, who was beaming down at her, and prised it open.

Inside was a fine silver chain, which glittered in the morning light. At the end of the chain was a heart-shaped locket, covered in thin etchings which swirled and tapered into the intricate shape of an H. On the other side, the same lettering had been applied to the letter R. She fumbled at the clasp, and opened it up. On the left side of the locket was a picture of her and Ron in first year. She was giving him an exasperated expression, elbowing him in the ribs while he rolled his eyes at the ceiling. She smiled at the tiny photograph, and looked to the one nestled in the other side of the locket. The picture had been taken only a month or so ago. It showed the pair of them outside the Burrow. Ron was sitting on a low brick wall, giving his most massive grin, and Hermione was standing behind him, arms draped over his shoulders, wrapped around his chest. She was kissing him on the cheek, most of her face obscured by his mop of flaming orange hair.

Hermione traced her thumb over the photo, smiling to herself. She felt her eyes starting to mist up with moisture, and she pressed her face into Ron’s chest, wrapping her arms around him and squeezing for all she was worth. “Thank you so much. I love you.” The sound was muffled, but when he heard her words, he kissed the top of her head, smiling. “Put it on for me, will you?” He fumbled with the clasp a little, but managed to undo it, and brought it around her neck, fastening it at the back, bringing her hair back over the chain. “This is so wonderful... But how could you afford it?” She asked, so amazed at its beauty and intricacy.

He smiled and said, “I have all the money in the world to spend on you.”

When Ron and Hermione finally came downstairs, Hermione’s parents were waiting in the kitchen. Mr. Granger was washing up some dishes at the sink, while his wife was finishing off some final packing. “Can I help at all, Mrs. Granger?” Ron asked, still eager to make a good impression.

“If you could just take some of those boxes and take them out to the back garden, it’s be great. And will you stop calling me ‘Mrs. Granger?’ I sound like an old lady. Call me Jean, and ‘Richard’, not ‘Mr. Granger’” Ron thanked her, his ears turning slightly pink. Jean chuckled.

They were moving all of their boxes and bags into the back garden so that the Apparition Courier Service could take them to the Granger’s house in Stratford upon Avon. When they had finished, a rather scrawny wizard arrived to finish the luggage’s apparition plans. He was casting spells around the massive pile of boxes and bags when they were ready to go, just before lunch. They stood in the hallway, wrapped up a little too warmly to be comfortable, ready for the cold of England in September. Jean looked around her, saying to herself, “It’s so strange. This house was a year of my life, and I don’t remember any of it. It feels empty - like all the memories we made here are lost.”

Her husband wrapped an arm around her, saying, “But we got all our other memories back. We got our daughter, we got our lives. Don’t think about what we’ve lost. Think about what we’ve got back.”

A sad smile passed over his wife’s lips, but she spoke no more, and with a final look around at the room, she grabbed hold of Hermione. Richard took Ron’s arm, and the two muggles experienced something that they never thought they would ever feel, and hoped they never would again. It felt like their bodies were being twisted, distorted. They felt like their chests were both imploding and exploding at the same time. When they finally hit ground, both of them were dizzy and breathless, but they caught their breaths immediately when they saw where they were. They were standing in front of the same house that they had left a year ago; the same house where Hermione had grown up; the same house where they had forgotten.

Next to them there stood the heap of things that they had brought home with them, and Ron and Hermione helped to take everything inside, out of the rapidly encroaching cold. They stayed for one last cup of muggle tea, which Ron had actually grown to like, and left. Hermione promised to come by and help unpack, and to keep up the letters that she had written to them every week at Hogwarts. With many last hugs and farewells, the couple disapparated, landing on the front stoop of number 12, Grimmauld Place. Before they opened the door, Hermione turned to Ron, saying, “They love you, you know.”

“Really now?” Ron grinned. “I wonder why that would be…” He smiled down at her, touching the locket that rested at her chest gently with his thumb. She grinned and smacked his arm lightly.

“Because I love you.” He bent down to kiss her, creeping his arms gently around her back and squeezing tightly. At this, the door opened. They saw Ginny standing there, wearing Harry’s oldest Gryffindor jumper, and a large grin on her face.

“I thought I heard the sickly sounds of love! Welcome back! Happy birthday, Hermione! How was your trip? Were your parents alright?” She carried on like this for about a minute, talking constantly through all the time it took them to come in and take their coats off and bring in their bags. There was something incredibly Molly-ish about the way she was whittering, but Ron and Hermione had missed her so much that they relished it. They heard heavy, running footsteps coming down the stairs, and a second later, Harry arrived, trying to flatten his hair. When all the greetings and catchings-up were over, they went into the kitchen. Ron and Hermione tucked in to some left over steak and mushroom pie, while listening to Harry and Ginny’s stories about the past few weeks, and recounting their stories between mouthfuls. When they were finished, Harry brought out a large, brightly wrapped gift from under the table. He placed in Hermione’s lap and waited for her to open it.

Inside was a large photo album, with an engraved wooden cover, and pictures of all four of them from the last seven years. Under each was a hand-written note, either in Harry’s messy scrawl or Ginny’s elegant hand. Hermione slowly went through every photo, hugging Harry and Ginny every few pages. She went to bed so overwhelmed by the love that she had in her life from her friends, and now at last, her parents again, that she could barely sleep.

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