Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 44 of 45

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Untitled Document

He woke up after his first night alone in weeks and discovered that he wasn't alone after all. The remnants of last night's libations rested on the small table beside him and Hugo was sprawled across the sofa on the other side of the room. They'd continued drinking up here after the hotel bar closed down, he remembered now. They'd opened up the tiny refrigerator and continued sharing stories of loss and laughter and guilt. His head pounded as he staggered to the bathroom, feeling much like he had the morning of his brother's funeral. He splashed water onto his face and thought about having a wash, but didn't think he could even hold his head up that long. Fuck, and he had to see Hermione's parents today. She would kill him. Hermione would murder him for getting pissed again.

The sound of the running water must have woken Hugo because Ron heard several loud swears and then a thump that sounded as if he'd fallen off the sofa.

"Get up!" Ron grumbled to Hugo while holding his face in his hands. "Get up!"

"Oh, fucking hell." Hugo rubbed his temples with his hands. "Oi, I don't think I'll be moving much today."

"I have to move. I told Hermione's mum I'd be there at eleven!"

"That's shit luck, mate," Hugo muttered and collapsed back on the sofa.

"Either fucking help me or get the fuck back to your fucking room." Ron managed to hurl a pillow across the room at Hugo, who seemed to lack the strength to put his hands up to stop it.

"Oh, relax," he groaned.

"Help me, you wanker."

"What do you want me to do?"

"How do I...stop feeling like shit?" He pointed to his head urgently.

"Eat bread and bananas," Hugo muttered from beneath the pillow. "And go get some coffee."

"Bread, bananas, and coffee?"

"And sex. Sex helps a hangover."

"Sex does?" Ron filed the information away.

"Well, to be honest, it don't really help get rid of it," Hugo cackled. "Just sort of passes the time."

Rolling his eyes, Ron ignored Hugo and rummaged through his bag and attempted to find the least dirty pair of clothes in there. There was a pair of trousers he could certainly take the wrinkles out of and an Oxford shirt with a stain he could easily clean up with his wand if Hugo would leave the room. He looked to the clock on the table beside the bed and swore when he saw it was already almost ten.

"You're really panicking about this, eh?" Hugo muttered in amusement.

"I've just never really...met her parents before, y'know?" Ron informed. "I mean, not like this. Not as her boyfriend."

"What are you talking about? You met 'em yesterday," Hugo dismissed with a laugh. "We had dinner."

"Yeah, but yesterday there was so much else to...process," Ron admitted. "And you were there and I don't think I came off looking too good."

"Well, that's 'cause you were fingering her under the table."

"I told you I wasn't!" This time it was his trainer he hurled at Hugo's head.

"All right, all right…" Though he moved slowly, Ron saw Hugo attempt to climb off the sofa. He was still dressed in his clothes from last night and searched through bleary eyes for his wallet as he staggered to the door. "I'll meet you in the lobby in ten," he informed. "Start drinking water now."

The directions sounded so serious, Ron began drinking water as soon as Hugo departed. He even brought the glass into the shower with him as he fought against the memory of what he and Hermione had done in there and attempted to wash away the smell of alcohol that seemed to be oozing out of his pores.

He couldn't tell if Hugo had made an attempt to shower or not. When he met him in the lobby, he was wearing different clothes, but he looked just as scraggly and bleary-eyed as ever.

"You're pretty high-strung, you know that?" Hugo chided when Ron joined him.

"I am not."

"When it comes to her, you are." The comment reminded Ron of the one he'd made yesterday on the beach about how serious he could be. He wondered if he was turning into two different people, one person with Hermione and one person without, or if both were merely merging into the same person. Maybe this person, who panicked about meeting her parents a second time, was the same one who got nervous about Quidditch matches and exams. Maybe he'd been this person all along.

"Will you fucking help me?"

"It's like you've never been hungover before," Hugo snorted derisively as they left the hotel and turned left.

"I've been hungover!" Ron growled. "It's just I wish I had brought - my brother has this thing. This antidote. Hair of the - "

"-dog?" Hugo finished the Muggle phrase before Ron could say 'dragon'. "Yeah, that's not gonna work this morning. Come on, we'll get you some coffee."

They found a cafe on the main street in Cottesloe that sold everything Hugo told him he would need to feel better by noon. Ron choked down the horribly bitter coffee and ate the brown bread and bananas like Hugo instructed. There was more to Ron's nerves than just showing up hungover though and Hugo knew it.

"Now, she'll make eggy bread probably. It's not that sweet, but if you put anything on it, she'll think she's done a poor job." Ron grinned at the description that sounded so much like Hermione. "She also makes this weird spicy-tomato-baked-egg-thing." Hugo frowned while describing. "It's not very good, but just humour her if she does make it."

"Doesn't sound like she's much of a cook," Ron frowned.

"Well, she's good at the basic stuff. Boiled eggs and soldiers, they'll be fine. She just fancies herself a better cook than she is an' her husband don't have the heart to tell her."

"Right." Ron smiled, thinking of Hermione again.

"They like bein' outside so you might brunch in the garden. I didn't see any yesterday, but she likes to tend to the flowers. Least she did in Brisbane."

"What about her dad?"

"Well, don't get him talkin' about politics," Hugo warned. "Not about John Major or whatever his effing name is. Apparently, he ran a shit campaign last year and - yea, whoever the new prime minister is, don't mention him either."

"Not a problem." Ron knew nary a thing about Muggle politics. "What else?"

"He's a rugby union fan, I think."

"Okay." Ron knew nothing about the Muggle sport. Now he was beginning to fear he'd have nothing to talk about.

"His team never wins though and they've apparently got ugly kits to boot."

"Oh!" Ron brightened considerably at the news that Mr. Granger cheered for a miserable team that dressed in ugly kits.

"What're you so worried about?" Hugo snorted at Ron's obvious nerves. "They're good people. They'll like you just fine."

"We just...I know we don't have a lot in common," Ron mumbled, knowing he couldn't reveal much more to Hugo.

"You've got Hermione." Hugo shrugged, once again demonstrating his ability to make everything seem so simple.

"Yeah, and as you were so kind to point out, they know I'm putting the wood to her."

"I was just takin' the piss - "

"You were right."

"You'll be fine," Hugo assured. "Look, they were searchin' all over the country tryin' to find her and YOU brought her back to them."

"You did it."

"You brought her here," Hugo repeated firmly. "An' if they act a little funny it's probably because...they know it was you." He shrugged. "An' that means they owe you."

"I think you're giving me too much credit," Ron dismissed.

"They know it's you that brought her back to them. They know it's you that makes her happy." He shrugged simply. "Just don't finger her under the table again and you'll be fine."

"Oh, sod off." Ron shook his head from across the table and threw what was left of his bagel at Hugo.

The teasing laughter helped ease his nerves though and the food Hugo made him order helped his hangover immensely. By the time he made his way over to 29 Somerset Way, he felt slightly more confident. They all loved Hermione. That was the one thing they all shared.

He wondered how she had done last night, sleeping all alone. He'd drunk himself into a stupor so he'd passed out without thinking too much about how lonely the bed seemed. Ron wondered how she'd slept in the strange bed in the strange house with these people that used to be her parents. He wondered how the morning was going.

His answer came when she greeted him at the door and with eyes that indicated how grateful she was to see him even if all she did was smile politely. Ron remembered Hugo's words of warning about public displays, but he couldn't help his arm from snaking around her waist as soon as he saw her.

"Is Hugo with you?" The inquiry sounded from her parents even before a greeting to him.

"Oh - er - no." He tried not to sound too guilty as he spoke, knowing full well he was the reason Hugo wasn't there. "He went to find his mates."

"Yes, of course, of course. Well, I'm glad you could make it," her mum smiled warmly at him and then motioned to the back of the house. "We thought we'd brunch out in the garden."

"Great," Ron replied stiffly and followed Hermione out. Her mum had made up a spread with just about everything Hugo had told him, including the spicy tomato egg dish that Ron hoped had improved since the last time Hugo sampled it. He made polite conversation about how good it looked and sampled a bit of everything, chewing slower than he normally would to try and stretch out the time he didn't have to speak. Nobody seemed to want to speak aside from overly polite requests to pass the salt or the jam. Ron shuddered thinking about what the quiet morning must have been like before he arrived.

"So David and I are going to go into work this afternoon to give our notice," her mum spoke after a particularly long silence.

"Your notice?" Ron frowned.

"Yes, your two weeks notice when you leave a job."

"Oh." Ron felt foolish. You had to do much the same thing in the Wizarding World.

"We can use those two weeks to...tie everything up here and then…"

"Go home," Hermione finished.

"We'll stay here for two more weeks?" Ron tried not to sound so troubled by the thought. He liked this country. He wouldn't mind a few more nights drinking with Hugo, but the thought of two weeks apart from Hermione in this odd arrangement with her parents was hardly appealing.

"Well, we probably won't need to stay the full two weeks. Explaining the situation will be...tricky, at best, especially since we only just started but - "

"We can help with that," Ron blurted out then. "We can help you explain it."

"You mean use magic?" her father looked none too happy at the suggestion. "Like what Hermione did to us?"

Ron winced at the scathing way her father said it and he looked to Hermione across the table and hated to imagine how she felt.

"Not...exactly. It just - I just…" Ron stammered.

"You'd mess with their memories."

"No, we'd - it wouldn't be - we'd just make it so - "

"We'll think about it," her mum butted in then. "Thank you for the offer to help."

"You can go back home to your family, if you want, Ron." Her father's words, though a kind overture, were cloaked in that latent hostility Ron had detected yesterday; the hostility that had made him so nervous about seeing them again today. "Two weeks is a long time and there's really no reason for you to stay."

"I want him to stay," Hermione finally spoke quietly.

"Of course you do." Her father rolled his eyes.


"Well, of course she wants him to stay!"

"Well, I want him to stay, too!" Ron felt a surge of affection for Emily Granger then, but he was afraid to even smile.

"He wants us to use magic again to leave our jobs. Magic this, magic that. It's always magic."

"I'd just like to help." Ron tried to maintain his composure and not be rattled by the attack.

"Thank you, Ron. That's very nice of you," her mum spoke to him like he was a child.

They finished the meal in silence. Ron wondered how much longer it could last.

He kept himself busy helping to clear the plates from the table in the garden, but once they were all in and Hermione and her mum began busying themselves around the kitchen, he found himself feeling as useless as he had yesterday. Her father had retreated to the sitting room and turned on the telly. He was watching a news program and, though Ron knew he should leave him alone, he couldn't help but approach him.

"I'll go home if you want," he offered quietly then. "I get that this is...that I ought to be with my own family." Mr. Granger eyed Ron, but didn't turn his face from the television screen. "The thing is...she's my family, too."

It was a bold admission, Ron knew, and probably not what Hugo would tell him to say, but he wanted to be honest. "Her, Harry and me - we were all we had this year. And if you want to be angry at me, fine, I get that. I'll go home." Ron spoke calmly. "But don't be angry with her." He took in a deep breath before continuing, seeing he'd captivated the imposing man's attention. "I'd be dead if it weren't for Hermione. And you'll hear a lot about Harry when you get back home and what he did, if you want to hear it, but know he'd be dead too if it weren't for her. And I mean no disrespect, but so would you." He wasn't yelling and he wasn't trying to argue. He was just stating facts, facts that Hermione obviously hadn't revealed yet. "My family went into hiding and my brother still died." He tried to disguise the tremble in his voice and he could tell the admission, possibly more than anything else, seemed to penetrate David Granger's steely gaze then.

"Your brother died?" The revelation that a member of a completely magical family had perished seemed too impossible a notion to grasp so he repeated it.

"A lot of people died," Ron responded simply.

"And you're telling me more would have if it wasn't for Hermione?"


"Including us?"


He continued to stare at the television screen, saying nothing. Ron pretended to watch the images on the screen too, not knowing what else to do.

"Is your world always this dangerous?" her father inquired softly then.

"Not anymore."

Half his mouth twisted upward then. Ron couldn't tell what the expression meant, whether it was a half smile or a grimace. He turned his eyes back to the television screen where images of a riot flashed across the screen. Shifting his weight from foot to foot, he listened to the broadcast about race riots in Indonesia where shops were looted and women raped. Ron wasn't sure whether it was the uncomfortable images of violence and destruction, of burning buildings and maimed bodies, or something else that finally made her father speak.

"Thank you," Mr. Granger finally spoke. "For looking out for her."

There it was. The one thing they had in common, just like Hugo had said.

"Honestly, she - she probably saved me more than - " he stammered nervously.

"Thank you for looking out for her," he repeated and his eyes locked firmly on Ron's then. "I'd like it if you stayed."

There was little he and Hermione could do. Her parents spent most of the afternoon on the phone, attempting to cancel leases and take care of all kinds of paperwork that gave Ron a headache just hearing about secondhand. They sat on the sofa, unable to do much more than hold hands and try not to eavesdrop on the phone conversations that seemed to go in circles. Ron was able to pick up that everything down to the sofa they were sitting on was rented and there were legally binding contracts in place that they could not break. Frustration mounted as the day wore on. Her mum came in and joined them with a tea tray and a brave smile at one point. She kept up a much more calm facade than her husband, but inside he knew her wheels were likely spinning. There was so much he knew she probably wanted to ask. He could see it in Hermione too, especially when she eyed the book on the table.

"Are you reading a Winter's Tale?" she inquired as they sipped their tea in uncomfortable silence.

"Oh, yes. I couldn't sleep the other night and came down here to read."

Ron could see Hermione smile then. Not a nervous smile or an uncomfortable one to hide her discomfort. This was genuine. He could see it in her eyes and feel it in the way her hand moved on top of his. Ron understood only when he spotted the author of the book.

"You were reading Shakespeare!" he spoke with an enthusiasm that he could see surprised Mrs. Granger.

"I was," she remarked and her eyes fixed on their joined hands, shared smiles and the comfortable way they leaned into each other. "So, how long have you two been...searching for us?" she tried to ask casually.

"Um, about two weeks."

"Two weeks! Goodness." The nature of the query suddenly seemed to dawn on Hermione.

"Well, two weeks since we left Ron's house! We - we spent four days getting to Australia and - and what was it - six days in Brisbane, and then four more days driving with Hugo, so only ten days actually searching," Hermione clarified, seemingly eager for her mum to understand the details.

"But it's just been you two then?"

"And Hugo, this week," Hermione reminded and Ron was quite sure he knew now where the conversation was headed. He wondered if it would be too obvious if he dismissed himself to go to the loo.

"That's a lot of time together." The statement was so loaded Ron couldn't even look her in the eye. He probably couldn't look any guiltier if he wore an 'I fucked your daughter' t-shirt.

"Ron didn't want me to have to travel alone."

"Thank you for that, Ron." He couldn't tell if it was a pointed comment, but his ears burned nonetheless.

"Are you and dad making flight arrangements today?" Hermione deftly changed the subject.

"Dear, we're still trying to figure out how to get out of all these contracts."

"Because I can take care of our trip back."

"I don't think your father wants to use magic to travel - "

"No, it's - it's not magic!" Hermione looked so excited to be able to say that. "It''s a credit card. A Ministry credit card. We can charge our return on it," she explained.

"Plane tickets with this short notice will be awfully expensive, Hermione." Her mum frowned.

"Plane tickets? Are we flying back on an aeroplane?" Ron's eyes lit up excitedly.

"We still have a tremendous amount to do before we think about returning home."

"I want to help," Hermione remarked. "Please."

Helping meant journeying up the stairs to help her mum begin packing clothing. Ron took it as a positive sign, even though it meant he was left alone on the sofa watching a Muggle news show because he was too afraid to change the channel. Mr. Granger would wander in from time while apparently put on hold on the telephone. He would listen to the news, occasionally make a comment about something going on in the world that Ron didn't understand, then return to his phone call. He used an imposing voice on the telephone and Ron found himself grateful they seemed to have made a sort of peace.

Three loud raps on the door sent him running to answer it, relieved for Hugo's company yet again. He wondered sadly how many days they had left with the young man. Despite the tone of Mr. Granger's voice, things seemed to be moving quickly. Hermione was helping her mum pack and they were at least talking about plane tickets.

He thought about the Burrow and the family he'd left behind. He thought about Harry and how much he missed him. And then he thought about Hugo and how much the young man had in common with his best friend. They were both orphans. They had both never really had homes to call their own. They'd both had people constantly appear and then disappear from their lives. Ron tried to fight against the sick feeling he got at the thought of them all leaving Hugo now.

"Did you find your mates?" he dared to ask.



"Yeah," Hugo laughed at Ron's skepticism. "They're up north along the coast. One works at a drycleaner. Says he thinks he could get me a job."

"So you've already got a job lined up then?" Ron wasn't even sure what drycleaning was, but Hugo certainly seemed happy about it.

"Yeah, maybe." Hugo flipped through the channels lackadaisically. "What about you? You make it through the day?"

"I think so." Ron glanced toward the kitchen where Mr. Granger was still barking into the phone.

"You manage to keep your hands off each other for five minutes then?"

"Piss off." Ron scowled and shook his head. Part of Hugo reminded him of Harry, but there was so much that reminded him of his brothers, too. His merciless teasing, his playful carefree demeanor. George would like him. Fred would have liked him, too.

"When are you lot leaving for the motherland?" Ron could detect a bit of sadness in the way Hugo asked the question as he picked at some dirt beneath his fingernail.

"Not sure."

He'd miss the scrappy young man, there was no doubt. He'd miss his blunt honesty, his teasing manner, his ability to read both him and Hermione so easily despite being oblivious to such a large part of their lives. He'd miss the random conversation and unfailing optimism. So he blurted it out without even thinking.

"Do you want to come with us?"

"Come with you, what? Back to England?" Hugo laughed absurdly and didn't even dignify the invitation with a response.

"You'd like it," Ron insisted, without even thinking about how ridiculous an invitation it was. When he got back to England, he'd be immersed back in the magical world. There would be no time to go drinking with Hugo or drive through the countryside for days.

"I'll never leave Australia." Hugo shook his head and a knowing grin spread across his face. "This is my home."


There was that word he didn't quite understand anymore.

He thought about the Burrow in the summer months. It was nearly June. He wondered if his mum had planted anything in the flowerbed and if any more of her fat brown chickens had come back. He thought about the big green pond full of frogs and the bright pink peony bushes and the smell of grass and honeysuckle.

"You excited to go home?" Hugo returned to the topic of last night's conversation, seeming to sense Ron going someplace else.

Ron realised at the words that the place he couldn't wait to leave two weeks ago he was now excited to return to. He could sit in his dad's garage and tell him about the television he'd learned to work and the bus lines he'd figured out how to navigate. He could show his mum how he'd taken care of Hermione like he'd promised her he would and make his brothers jealous when he told them everywhere he'd traveled and all he'd done. Being here, seeing Hermione with her mum and dad, no matter how strained, made him long for his own family. He missed hearing The Witching Hour while his mum busied about the kitchen and fussed at him to help her. He missed dinner at the scrubbed wooden table and rhubarb crumble and custard. He loved the Burrow and he loved his family and he missed them. But even then he still wasn't sure it was home.

"I guess."

"You don't sound too excited."

"I am. I want to see my family. I just don't know if it's really...home anymore," Ron admitted what he hadn't even voiced to Hermione.

"Home is where you make it," Hugo shrugged simply and when Ron looked to him he felt like an arse. Hugo had called more cities home than most people had journeyed to in a lifetime. Yet he wasn't bitter or jaded or angry about any of it. He wasn't confused about the place he called home. It wasn't a place where he put down roots or where his family lived. It was a place he felt in his heart.

Yet that was the problem.

"But it doesn't feel like home without him."

"Your brother?"


"So make him be there," Hugo suggested like it was obvious. For a moment Ron recalled his foolish desire to find the Resurrection Stone before he realised Hugo was clearly talking about something simpler.

"I don't like thinking about him."

"Pfft, you've talked about him plenty," Hugo remarked dismissively.

"Yeah, but…" Ron's protest died in his throat. Talking to Hugo had been the only thing to pass those long hours in his Holden Calibra when Hermione was asleep in the backseat. Fred's name hadn't come up in conversation more than anyone else's, but he knew Hugo was probably referring to the sheer fact that he had talked about him. He'd thought about him. He'd made him be there.

"Just keep him with you. It'll be home again," he sounded confidently. Ron wondered if Hugo would change his tune if Ron told him the circumstances of his death, how he'd been there and how he'd found him. How he could have done something.

"And if it doesn't?"

"If it doesn't then I reckon you make your home with your queen there." He looked toward the kitchen where Hermione and her mum had just appeared. "Though I reckon, you'll probably do that anyway." Hugo grinned. Tempted to punch him in the shoulder, Ron just shook his head and thought about life without Hugo.

"I'm gonna miss you, you know that," he blurted out then. Hugo just laughed.

"Nah, you won't. A week of shaggin' her round the clock back home an' you'll forget all about me."

"She'll be with her mum and dad. So that's definitely not happening," Ron snorted.

"You're a right sneaky bastard though. You'll find a way to get your leg over." Hugo winked.

"I won't forget about you," Ron maintained, looking to Hugo so earnestly the young man had no reply. He was grateful they hadn't told him more, grateful they could keep this friendship and leave it here in Australia. A part of him still desperately wanted him to know the truth though.

"Yeah," Hugo replied softly. "I won't forget about the two of you, either."

From the sound of things, the Grangers seemed to have accomplished a fair amount in twenty-four hours time. While Hugo and Ron had sat on the sofa watching Australian rules football and Mr. Granger had spent the afternoon on the telephone, Hermione and her mum had apparently packed up nearly their entire closet. The positive way they talked indicated they were that much closer to returning to England.

The family dinner was decidedly less awkward than the previous one. Everything was still excessively polite and things seemed forced at times, but it was an improvement. Hermione and her mum could share a laugh when they recounted stories about trying to cram all the jumpers her mum had packed and never worn into the suitcases, and the frostiness between Ron and Mr. Granger fortunately seemed to have thawed.

"I've asked Ron to stay," he stated after a particularly long silence midway through dinner. "You know, for however long this all takes."

"Good. I told you I wanted him to stay." Hugo gave Ron a wink from across the table at Mrs. Granger's encouraging words.

"And I thanked him. Told him how much I appreciate him...looking after you this year."

Ron looked down to the greens on his plate, disliking that he was suddenly the topic of conversation and unsure why her father was informing the table of their private conversation that afternoon. It seemed a bit like a strained attempt at an apology for losing his cool yesterday and an effort at helping smooth things over with his daughter.

Nobody at the table appeared quite sure how to respond, least of all Hugo, whose understanding of the last year had come only in bits and pieces of angry conversation or unintended slips during the last week. True to his word, he'd asked no questions and didn't seem eager to know how he and Hermione had somehow saved the world.

"We took care of each other," Hermione mumbled.

"Yes, well. I appreciate it. It's...very obvious he cares a great deal about you," Mr. Granger spoke carefully. The sound of cutlery on plates was the only thing that filled the silence for several minutes until Hugo fortunately announced his good luck in locating both his friend and a possible job.

"So I'd drive the clean clothes around and pick up the dirty ones. Sort of like delivering pizza only without all the drunk people!" he replied brightly.

"A job's a job!" Hermione's mum sounded triumphantly. "That's wonderful."

"Only thing is I have to use my own car and I don't know if all the clothes will fit in mine. Hermione can tell you after ridin' in it all week, the backseat ain't much."

"About that," Mr. Granger cleared his throat. The entire table turned to peer at Mr. Granger, wondering what he could possibly have to say about Hugo's Calibra. "I have been on the phone with...more people than I can even begin to tell you and it looks like there' way out of any of the leases," he informed. "So I want to offer it to you, Hugo."

"To me?" Hugo gaped.

"They're six month leases so there's five more months on all of them. We'll add you to the policy for the car and the house."

"I - I can't pay for all this drivin' around dry cleanin," Hugo admitted sheepishly.

"Well, we're not transferring the policy to you, we're just going to add you to it. We'd still have to pay for it, but we want you to stay here."

"I could never pay you back for it," he muttered in embarrassment, looking as uncomfortable as Ron had ever seen him.

"You already have," her mum spoke softly, glancing at Hugo and taking her daughter's hand. There was a grateful look in her eye that Ron could see was echoed in her husband's. It was the first obvious indication since their initial reunion yesterday that her parents were happy to have her back in their lives. The action said everything Hermione needed to know. Yet Ron could see she still looked slightly uncomfortable.

He spoke her name softly, knowing what was eating away at her, knowing perfectly well she had to let it go if they could ever be a family again. They locked eyes for a moment. He didn't say anything further, but he was begging her to let it go. They had enough trauma to last them five lifetimes after this year, but second-guessing decisions they'd made and things they'd done would get them nowhere. Australia had been about moving forward, confronting their fears and forging a new life one step at a time. If they could get through it all, she could take her mum's hand and do what he knew she needed to do.

"I'm so sorry," she finally uttered the words she'd held onto for what he now knew was years. "I'm sorry I kept things from you for so long. I'm so sorry I had this." Hugo's presence at the table kept her words vague and unspecific, but Ron figured that was probably best. He watched as a single tear dripped out the corner of her eye and worried for a moment the cathartic release might turn into the episode on the steps of their old house back in Brisbane. He immediately moved to wrap her in a comforting hug like he'd done countless times before, but it was her mum's arms that enveloped her first. And Ron knew then despite her father's words of invitation, he didn't belong here anymore. He'd done what he set out to do; he'd brought Hermione to her parents. But he couldn't help with the rest. They had to heal together as a family.

It was why her dad had been so frosty to him, he saw it now. It was the same reason Charlie gave for his mum's frostiness toward Hermione had explained his mum having at first been so cold to Hermione back at the Burrow. It was why he was so confused about where home was. They were each other's home now, Hermione and him. And that meant each pulled the other away from the parents who had loved and raised them for eighteen years.

It's why he and Hugo excused themselves from the table and allowed her the time alone with her family. They helped clear the table and quickly disappeared outside to walk along the banks of the Swan River. He didn't feel any guilt walking away from 29 Somerset Way. Reconnecting with her family would be difficult, but it was why they'd come to Australia.

He felt like a different person from the one who had left the Burrow. The war might have forced him to grow up quickly, but he hadn't felt like an actual grown up until this trip. And it wasn't just because they'd shagged or said 'I love you' or lived together in a hotel room for a week. It was because he understood now. He didn't have to storm away from the table or snog her to dull the ache deep inside. He could confront things. Not just because he was the young man who had helped Harry Potter vanquish Voldemort. Because he knew now what he wished he'd known when he was eleven: keeping things to himself never helped anything.

"Sounds like you'll be out of here in a week's time, if that," Hugo commented casually as he stretched out and looked out at the sailboats on the river.

"Yeah, it sure does," Ron looked out at the boats as well. "You're not going to say anything to your mates, right Hugo? About any of this?"

"They'd all think I was a nutter if I did."

"Like they don't already!" Ron teased.

"Right you are," Hugo agreed with a grin.

"Do you want to know?"

"If you can't tell me, then don't tell me. There's shit in life you can't explain and I reckon that's just what this is."

"What if I told you I was a wizard?" Ron wasn't sure why the words had tumbled forth. He and Hermione had agreed not to tell him, but Ron hated the notion of leaving him in the dark, no matter how okay he seemed to be with it. He wanted Hugo to know. He deserved to know after all he'd done for them. Surely, this was a breach the Ministry could understand.

"What, like Gandalf?" Hugo laughed loudly. Ron didn't understand the reference and just frowned, wondering for a brief moment if Hugo knew another wizard. "Castin' spells and doin' magic and shit?"


"Wicked." He kept laughing. Ron couldn't tell if he'd broken the Statute of Secrecy or not. "We should go into business, you and me. I'll read the Tarot cards and tell the fortunes. You do the magic."

Ron laughed with Hugo because he didn't know what else to do.

"Like I said, there's shit you can't explain." Hugo gave a carefree sigh and chuckled to himself. Ron didn't know whether the comment referred to the last five days or the confession he still wasn't quite sure Hugo had taken seriously. Either way, Hugo didn't seem to care too much.

"Right." A peaceful silence filled the space between the two young men. Ron mused over the words and again reflected admiringly on the manner with which Hugo lived his life. He thought about Luna Lovegood and how oblivious she always seemed to the unkind words and cruelties thrown her way. He thought about Harry who had seemed to take all the madness of the year in stride, content that it was over and able to go on living his life without berating himself over everything else that had happened. Then he thought again about Hugo, who was still sitting beside him with a smile on his face.

Hermione's voice suddenly shattered the silence. She looked out of breath and clutched a piece of paper in her hand as she sprinted toward them.

"What are you doing?" Ron frowned. "We left so you could be with your parents."

"They said you - " Hermione looked to Hugo accusingly. " - were the kind of person who might leave and not say goodbye."

"Who? Me? Never!" Hugo feigned offense. "Okay, maybe sometimes I do," he admitted. "But I wasn't leaving yet. I promise."

"Well, They wanted me to give you this in case you were." She shoved the piece of paper in her hand to him. "It's our address back in England."


"I can't believe you'd leave without saying goodbye!" Ron looked to Hugo, eyes blazing in accusation.

"I just don't like goodbyes! Probably 'cause I've had to say so many, I dunno I just - " Hugo attempted to stammer out an explanation, but Hermione flung her arms around his neck before he could continue.

"I wasn't leavin' tonight. Promise," he laughed and patted her on the back. "My mates are just havin' a bonfire on the beach."

"Thank you." Hermione squeezed him tightly. "Thank you for everything."

"Come off it." Hugo looked embarrassed like he had when Hermione's parents had told him they wanted him to stay in the house, but she kept hugging him. Eventually, Ron saw Hugo's arms slowly wrap around her in return.

"I don't know what we'd have done without you," Hermione confessed breathlessly as she broke apart.

"Oh, I think I've got a hunch," Hugo teased with a waggle of his eyebrows.

"We're going to miss you," she articulated what Ron already had that afternoon.

"Oh, you lot are so dramatic." He attempted to dismiss her words with a roll of his eyes, but Ron saw him swallow a rather large lump in his throat. "You've got your brothers and - what's it - Harry, who's shaggin' your sister."

"Sod off." Ron made to shove Hugo in the arm, but somehow the shove turned into a handshake that then turned into a hug.

Ron hoped it wouldn't be the last time he saw Hugo, that he'd be at the Grangers tomorrow night for dinner and probably every night until they left. He knew this was the only chance to properly say goodbye though. He'd slip out one night and that would be it. He'd depart from their lives as quickly and surprisingly as he'd entered them.

"Thank you," he muttered, feeling an odd lump in his throat as they broke apart. He didn't know what else to say. He'd said everything he possibly could have to the young man. So he just waved and watched him disappear down the riverbank, knowing he'd likely see him tomorrow, but feeling a hollow ache nonetheless.

"Kind of reminds me of Brisbane," Ron remarked as Hugo faded from view and he plopped down onto the bench. He thought about the bench in Brisbane near the river, and her list, and all that had lain before them back then. Find a hotel. Locate the Grangers. He wondered if even Hermione could have imagined all that had happened in between.

"All the boats remind me of Henley." She smiled when she spoke about her hometown, which pleased Ron.

"You excited to go back?"

"I am." She exhaled loudly as she spoke. "I mean it's still...strange. I think I'll always feel a bit guilty - "

"You saved their - " Ron began to counter for the millionth time, but she cut him off.

"I don't just mean about this year," she explained and took in a deep breath. "There's just... so much I have to tell them." Her voice trembled slightly with emotion, but not in the fragile way that meant she was about to dissolve into tears. It was just part of confronting her past. "I've been keeping things from them for years and - and the things that happened this year - it'll be hard, but..." Her words trailed away, but he could hear it in her voice. It would be hard, but she would do it. She would come clean and admit to what she'd done and what had happened because she had to do it. She needed to if she ever wanted to feel better.

Ron mused over the events of the past year and wondered if he'd ever be able to come around to Hugo's way of letting things go. He reckoned life would be a whole lot simpler if he did. He clucked to himself and stared out at the river. Perhaps he ought to start now.

"I didn't look for him," he spoke suddenly. "After the explosion-" he stammered and he saw the recognition dawn on her face at that lone word. "I - I didn't even look for him."

It was the first time he'd ever talked about that night. He wasn't sure whether it was Hermione's ability to finally deal with her demons or the conversation with Hugo that made him do it. But he knew this was the piece he had to confront, the piece that he reckoned would finally help him start to move on.

When he returned to his family he'd have to deal with all the things he'd pushed aside at the Burrow in favour of snogging Hermione, all the things he'd delayed in favour of journeying to Australia and being with her. And he'd have to do it all now without her because she'd be busy putting her own family back together. This felt like the last moment he'd really have alone with her. He knew he probably should use the time to snog her senseless and relive their last night together - a night that now seemed like a distant memory - because who knew when their next time alone would be.

But instead he was talking about that other night, reliving the awful memory that still invaded his dreams. Their constant activity since stepping foot in Australia had kept his thoughts occupied with so many other things like bus routes and city maps and Hermione's breasts.

There was no more escaping though, or there would be no moving forward They'd promised each other they'd talk about it and Ron knew he had to start with the memories of that one horrific moment. His fingers began to busy themselves with the hem of his shirt.

"I looked for you," he admitted and the minute he spoke the words he felt his shoulders relax. "You were the first person I went to. I didn't - didn't think about anyone else." The sheer act of finally saying it out loud made him realise how silly it was to feel shame over how much he cared for Hermione. "I remember hitting the wall. I hit my head so hard and I couldn't see and - and the dust was so thick." His fingers now pulled at a loose thread as he recalled the way the dust stung his eyes and how muffled everything was in the wake of the explosion as he staggered desperately in search of Hermione. "I was looking for you when I found him." He swallowed again and took in another deep breath, unsure how he was supposed to get through the next part of his narrative.

"I tripped over him," he finally blurted out and he didn't mean for his voice to shake like it was. "I tripped over him trying to get to you." There were no great heaving sobs like when he'd broken down in her bedroom weeks ago. The tears fell silently, dripping down his face one at a time in tiny rivulets. "It was his arm," he informed her with a sniffle and a weird twisted smile. Her hands were still folded in her lap and she looked unsure about how to react. "He was still holding his wand."

Ron was glad she made no effort to wipe away any of his tears or take his hand. She just let him talk.

"I thought he was just stunned because he was still kind of smiling, y'know?" Ron's fingers returned to the hem of his shirt. "But then I realised he wasn't blinking and - and he wasn't...wasn't breathing," he admitted shakily. "One minute he was up joking with Perce and then…then he was just gone." Ron closed his eyes and recalled that awful moment as clearly as if it was yesterday. "He was dead." It wasn't the first time he'd spoken the words aloud, but it was the first time he had said them to her. "I didn't say anything when I realised it. I remember Percy just kept shouting and he was laying on him. He wouldn't move. He wouldn't leave him." Ron sucked in a deep breath. "I didn't want to leave him, either." His voice waivered now at the vivid recollection. "I wanted to stay, but those effing spiders showed up and then Harry pushed me forward."

"You had to keep moving forward. We all had to," Hermione reminded.

"I wanted to stay with him." He wiped away a hot tear as it dripped down his freckled cheek.

"We were the only ones who could stop it, Ron."

"I wanted to stay with him."

"I know." Her voice trembled slightly. "But you saved me, do you remember?" Hermione had to lower her head to catch his downcast eyes. "There was a Death Eater about to curse me and you pushed me behind the curtains."

"Did I?" All Ron could recall about the curtains was Hermione restraining him behind them.

"You saved me," she repeated. "The curse just missed me. It burned my jacket." Ron remembered seeing the singed mark on Hermione's jacket, but the story was news to him. He could remember nothing else specific in the immediate aftermath of discovering Fred, just a blind rage that had taken over him.

"I wanted to kill them all." Ron ground his teeth together. "I wanted to kill them all so badly."

"I know."

"It was you. I don't know what I would have done without you."

"You got yourself through it." She shook her head in disagreement and Ron realised she thought he was only talking about the battle.

"No, it was you." He reached down and squeezed her hand then. "It's always been you." She'd gotten him through everything. Not just the Battle and not just Fred's funeral, but the past year. She was what had drawn him back to Harry, what had saved him the days he wanted nothing more than to fall into despair at their hopeless mission, what he had fought for above anything else, and what got him through the days after when the looming thought of his brother's funeral had eaten away at him.

"You know, I don't remember the last thing I said to him," he admitted what he'd wanted to tell her since that night she'd come undone on the bathroom floor back in their Brisbane suite. "We left to go down to the Chamber and I didn't even say anything to him. Not goodbye, not good luck. Nothing."

"He knew you loved him," she murmured softly. He thought then about her tearful apology to her parents at the dinner table and all that she still had to confront.

"Just like your parents do." He managed to give her a smile. They were on their way. It wouldn't happen immediately. It would take much longer than the two weeks remaining in Australia, but they were on their way and they were doing it together.

"Do you know what I saw when I tried to destroy the Horcrux?" she inquired softly, seeming to be thinking the same thing. The random question caught Ron by surprise. He had indeed wondered what had caused the desperate fury in her eyes as the water swirled around them, but he'd never dared to ask her. "I failed," she admitted meekly. Ron was briefly tempted to take the mickey out of her for fearing something so silly, but recalling the terrified expression on her face when she'd stabbed the cup, he kept silent. "Everybody was dead. First I watched you drown. Then I saw Harry die." She paused a moment and licked her lips. "Then my parents."

Knowing how convincing the Horcrux could be, Ron shivered at the mere thought. He could hardly imagine seeing all that in the middle of the insanity of that night.

"You couldn't fail if you wanted to," he assured and moved his hand atop hers. After all they'd shared this trip, it was the most innocent way to touch her, but it reminded him of all those times this year he'd gripped her hand in fear. It reminded him how far away those memories now seemed and all the new ones they'd made together this month. "We did it, Hermione." Ron wasn't sure what he even meant when he said the words. Finding her parents, reversing the spell, or starting to put themselves back together. They'd done so much in Australia. She squeezed his hand back and smiled. They'd done it all, together.


A Harry Potter Story
by MsBinns

Part 44 of 45

<< Previous     Home     Next >>