Hermione took her time up the stairs, trying to think of something she could say to Miranda that would make the situation better. Hermione never failed to find the answer to a problem. Even in her first year at Hogwarts when she couldn't find who Nicholas Flamal was, she spent most of her Christmas break thinking it over, only to realise the answer was right in front of her.
But there were no books on new girlfriends, and if there were, she doubted they would have a chapter to deal with this. No, she would have to sort this out on her own - talk to Miranda and try to make her understand why her boyfriend suddenly had a daughter.
If she didn't and Miranda broke up with Ron, he wouldn't forgive her. Hermione was surprised he forgave her for keeping Hannah a secret, and she made a mental note not to get on Ron's wrong side for a while.
She didn't know why she felt so apprehensive; though knew she shouldn't be feeling this way. She had dealt with far worse. In her seventh year she had faced Lord Voldemort himself during the great battle, standing alongside Harry and Ron, the renowned founding members of Dumbledore's Army, as they defeated him together.
Back then, Hermione had found the answer to the problem - combining a large amount of her and Ron's magic into Harry, who shot the Killing Curse at the Dark Lord. It had taken a lot of power, an amount that would never return to Harry if Hermione and Ron hadn't provided him with it.
Talking to Miranda now should be a piece of cake.
Ginny's room, where Miranda was staying, was near the top of the landing marked by a brass plaque, nailed into the oak door that read Ginevra's Room. Hermione was about to knock when she heard two voices talking inside. Not wanting to interrupt, she moved closer to the door and listened instead.
"… So you had no idea Harmony was pregnant?"
"Her name is Hermione, and no, I've already told you I didn't know."
Hermione bit down on her lip and hesitated, knowing that eavesdropping was not only rude, but wrong. Nonetheless, she kept listening, waiting for a better moment to make her presence known.
There was a low sigh, and she heard Miranda say, "From what you've told me, Ronald, Hermione is a 'good girl'. Why would she lie?"
Ron paused and then replied, "To help me. If she told me she was - that she was pregnant, I would have come home straight away - and she knew that. She wanted me to finish my training first."
There was another pause and then Miranda asked, "If we were already dating, and she sent an owl telling you, would you have gone home?"
"That isn't fair …"
No one spoke for a while, and Hermione guessed that Ron was trying to find an answer that would satisfy Miranda. Not wanting to know how he would reply, as either answer wouldn't make her feel any better, Hermione knocked on the door.
"Come in," Ron called.
Hermione pushed open the door and timidly entered. Miranda was sitting on Ginny's bed with her arms crossed against her chest and Ron was standing in front of her, his freckled face flushed pink.
"I, uh - came to see how Miranda was settling in," Hermione lied. She wanted to know how Miranda had taken the news and from what she heard, she was taking it calmly, though asking a lot of questions. "I know that staying in a strange house for the first time is a bit daunting. I know that when I stayed here for the first time, I felt a bit nervous; but that was, uh - for other reasons …" Hermione trailed off, holding her hands in front of her.
"Thanks, but I'm fine," Miranda said, her smile fake. "It's more the fact that I'm staying under the same roof as my boyfriend's family, ex-girlfriend and daughter that's 'daunting'."
"Miranda," Ron warned. "Be nice."
"I'm sorry, Ronald," Miranda said, batting her long eyelashes. "Could you get me a drink please? I didn't trust the ones we were offered on the plane," she added, smiling in a way that Hermione didn't trust.
Ron nodded and once he had Disapparated, Miranda stood up and walked towards Hermione.
"Now Ronald's gone, this will give us a chance to talk," she said, a sly grin forming on her lips.
Hermione swallowed nervously, she didn't like the way Miranda was looking at her. "Sure … what about?"
Chuckling slightly, Miranda replied, "Now, we both know you didn't come up here to see how I was settling in." She crossed her arms against her chest again and arched a brow.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Hermione lied again, trying to keep her features neutral. Like staring down a Hippogriff, she tried not to blink or look away.
"Sure you don't. I heard you and Ronald arguing downstairs, and he's explained everything to me," Miranda said, placing her hands on her hips. Her lips curled into a smug smile and she looked Hermione up and down.
Hermione's cheeks tinged pink; what a way to find out. Her gaze fell and she concentrated on a stain she noticed on the carpet instead.
"I just wanted to tell you, and not to sound rude or anything," Miranda continued, "but what you did doesn't change anything. Ronald is still my boyfriend, and not even a child will change that."
Hermione screwed her face up for a moment before taking a deep breath and looking up at Miranda. "Is that all? Because I have to attend to Ron and my daughter, if you don't mind."
"No, not quite," Miranda said, her voice suddenly turning quite bitter. She walked up close to Hermione so that they were only a foot apart and whispered, "I want you to know that I don't like you. I think you're a horrible person for what you did to poor Ronald, lying and keeping something so important from him."
Hermione bit down on her lip and kept her head high, determined not to let Miranda get to her.
"Oh, and I thought you should know: Ronald was over you long before you two broke up. I helped him, you see. That's what makes us different; I'm a kind, helpful person."
Hermione gritted her teeth and said, "I'm ever so glad Ron found someone who could make him happy. Now if you'll excuse me …"
She had to get out of there, or violence would result. Just looking at the smirk on the other woman's face filled Hermione with barely checked rage. She moved towards the door, but Miranda blocked her path. She wasn't done talking.
She leaned even closer to Hermione and hissed, "You don't deserve to be the mother of Ronald's child."
The words struck Hermione like a fist to the chest. She let out a sharp breath through her nostrils and bit down viciously on the inside of her cheeks in an effect to push down the angry tears threatening to escape; she tasted blood on her tongue as she lifted her chin even higher and gave Miranda the coldest, most contemptuous look she could muster.
"And yet, I am the mother of Ron's child," she said, clenching her fists still harder to control the shaking of her voice, "and Ron wants to be a part of her life. If that's uncomfortable for you, that's your problem, and you'll forgive me, furthermore, if I don't set the slightest store by any comments about me made by a person like you."
Miranda's eyes flashed dangerously. "You think you're such a great -"
"I have more important things to do than argue with you," Hermione said, feeling her composure begin to crack. "Get out of my way."
She shoved past Miranda, determined to get out of there before the other girl could witness her break down. The last thing she needed was to show weakness. On her way out the door, she heard Miranda make a derisive snort before slamming the door behind her.
Hermione rested against the door, breathing deeply for a moment, her eyes closed, her heart pounding. The tears she'd been fighting bubbled up and over; her only consolation throughout that miserable scene was that she hadn't started sobbing in front of that tart.
She could hear that Ron had now returned and was enquiring about she had gone.
"To check on the baby," was Miranda's simple reply.
When she opened her eyes, they were met with the concerned face of Ginny.
"How long have you been standing there?" Hermione asked, not recalling seeing her when she left the room.
Ginny looked uncomfortable. "The whole time; I used the Extendable Ears. Fred and George said to only use them if it was important … and if Mum wasn't around." She held her hands behind her back, blushing slightly. "Sorry, I shouldn't have …"
"No, no, it's fine," Hermione said, wiping her eyes, glad Ginny was here to give her a hug if needed. "This way I don't have to explain everything that happened and was said; I can just forget about it."
Hermione made her way to her room, Ginny following, feeling quite stunned at her friend.
"But we have to tell Mum! She'll believe you, she has no reason to doubt you and then we can get rid of little Miss Lucky Charms," Ginny reasoned, closing Hermione's bedroom door behind them when they reached the room.
"Yeah, and Ron will really be happy then, won't he?" Hermione said sarcastically, collapsing onto her bed with a sigh. "After lying to him for over a year, keeping his daughter from him and then having his girlfriend kicked out of his home, I think we can really catch up where we left off."
Ginny was silent, she knew her friend was right, and there wasn't much they could do without upsetting Ron. She knew her brother's temper and if they got him mad enough he might just leave their lives forever - or worse, leave with Miranda.
"It's hopeless, either way Hannah is losing a dad." Hermione began to cry again, feeling sorry for herself and her daughter. This was not supposed to happen; if things had gone by her plan, Ron would be helping her give Hannah a feed right now instead of discussing her with his girlfriend.
"It's not completely hopeless …" Ginny said suddenly. Hermione looked up at her friend as Ginny passed her the box of tissues from the bedside table and joined her on the bed, a sly grin on the other girl's freckled face.
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked, unable to find any solution to her problem.
"We can't have Miranda kicked out, but … what if she left on her own?" Ginny asked, staring at Hermione as though this sentence explained everything.
"And why would she do that? You heard her; she's going to love it here. She has Ron to rub in my face and he's none the wiser," Hermione explained. She pulled back her hair, which was starting to become unmanageable.
"We could set her up a few times, casually say or do things that will make her look bad in front of Ron," Ginny explained, sounding quite excited with the plan. "And if we make her look really bad, then she might have a go at you, and that will definitely work. Ron has always had a soft spot for you and I don't know if you've noticed, but if someone attacks you - verbally or physically - he will come to your rescue."
Ginny's plan caused Hermione to feel immediately uncomfortable. She wasn't happy with the idea of purposely sabotaging Ron relationship with the other girl, no matter how much she despised Miranda. It seemed so catty and underhanded.
"I don't know … I want Ron to be happy," Hermione reasoned, taking one of the tissues to wipe her eyes.
"He was happy with you!" Ginny reminded her friend. There was desperation in the younger witch's eyes, and Hermione could tell that Ginny's feelings on Miranda matched her own.
Hermione sighed and looked dejectedly at her friend. "'Was' being the key word, Ginny. He's moved on." She paused and then added quietly, "We both have." Hermione could tell from Ginny's expression that she didn't believe her, and if she was honest with herself, she didn't either.
"He only moved on because she probably made him," Ginny retorted. "Everyone knows that Ron was happiest when with you." She sighed forlornly, looking down at her hands, which were pulling at a loose thread on the blanket that covered Hermione's bed.
Hermione let out another sigh.
"Sounds good in theory, but what are we going to do to make her look bad?" Hermione asked. She couldn't believe she was going along with this.
"Simple. You and Ron need to get close," Ginny explained, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world. A smile threatened to escape her lips at Hermione's change of heart.
Hermione blinked, taken aback. "I think you better stop there. Ron and I getting close is how this all started in the first place," she reminded her friend, cocking her head to the side.
Ginny giggled. "I don't mean like that! Merlin, Hermione!" She pulled a face and continued, "What if you and Ron were close, like a family, with Hannah? I know my brother and he wouldn't choose some girl over his family, especially a bitch like her." Ginny nodded firmly to emphasize her point.
"How can you be so sure?" Hermione asked doubtfully. "I know him, too. He can be sucker for a pretty face."
"Ron is part of one of the oldest, closest and biggest family around - he has six siblings! Family means everything to him!" Ginny insisted. "A lot more than a shag with some tart."
Hermione screwed up her face in distaste at Ginny's comment, but then thought about it. On the one hand, Hermione didn't delude herself that the average bloke wasn't easily led around by his … libido. On the other hand … this was Ron. Ron was loyal. He'd risked his very life for his friends and family in a war. He was prepared to do the right thing for Hannah and be a part of her life, to be a father to her.
And you're still in love with him …
Hermione pushed down that needling, guilty voice in her head and quirked a smile at Ginny.
The idea of getting back at Miranda through Ron's love for his family was so crazy, it just might work.
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