After Hermione had brought back hot chocolate, Ron was unable to fall back to sleep. His mind was full of new feelings and thoughts about what Hermione had said and how she had acted towards him, that it was causing a numbing pain at the front of his head.
'You were always there for me, that's why.'
Of course I was always there for her! Even before we started going out I was there - in our first year with the troll, our second year when she was petrified and our sixth at the funeral …
It just goes to show that even a very independent woman like Hermione wants to be looked after sometimes.
Ron had almost forgotten what they were fighting over the previous day - almost. He didn't like to dwell on it too much. After having a talk with his dad and being awake for over fifteen hours, Ron decided that it was Hermione and Miranda's problem, not his. Granted, it was because of him, but it was still between them, and if he wanted a quiet life, he would let it go, this time.
The following morning, Ron decided that he needed a clean shirt, a shower and proper food, so said his goodbyes to Hermione and Hannah and Apparated into the Burrow's kitchen. Hannah was due to come home that lunch time after a check up, for which Hermione insisted only one of them was needed to be there.
After Apparating back to the Burrow Ron found himself shivering in the autumn air, and realised he'd left his cloak behind. He muttered a few words and watched as the fireplace filled with flames.
Sighing with exhaustion, he took a seat at the kitchen table and conjured a mug of black coffee. He was about to Accio a few marshmallows when he felt a pair of eyes staring at the back of his head.
"You've been out all night," said Miranda. She took a seat next to Ron, pulling her dressing gown closer to her body. Her brow was furrowed and she looked angry, yet concerned.
"I told Ginny to let you know where I was," Ron said, drinking deeply from his mug. "Did she explain what happened?"
Miranda nodded, waving her wand in the direction of the cupboards. A packet of marshmallows flew into her hand and she handed a few to Ron. "She did. Is Hannah alright?" she asked.
There's actual concern in her voice. How can Hermione not like her?
"She'll be fine, she's coming home at lunch time," Ron explained, smiling warmly as he accepted the marshmallows, dropping three in his mug. "I think Hermione was more scared than Hannah was last night," he added, chuckling. It was easy to laugh now that he knew his daughter was going to be fine.
"Bless," Miranda said.
Noticing her scathing tone, Ron grinned and grabbed her hand. "I'm sure you'll be the same when you have kids."
Miranda pulled her hand away, her expression uncomfortable.
Oh shit … does she think I meant with me? I wasn't being serious … she probably thinks I'm moving too fast.
"What's wrong?" Ron asked, not wanting to voice his thoughts until he knew he was right.
Miranda averted her gaze, making a slight 'mhm' noise. "It's nothing," she replied. Ron could tell something was bothering her and that she was lying, but why? What was so bad about discussing children? Ron had talked about Hannah many times without this reaction.
"No, go on," Ron pressed. His face hardened as he watched her features carefully.
"It's just--" she waved her hand offhandedly as she spoke--"I don't plan to ever have children."
Ron's insides, which a mere minute ago were squirming uncomfortably, now seemed to disappear completely. Of all the things she could have said, this was not what he had been expecting.
"W-what?" Ron asked, feeling rather warm all of a sudden. "You - you don't want children … ever? When were you planning on telling me this?"
He couldn't believe she had lied to him, especially about something as big as this. Ron had made it no secret that having a family was very important to him.
"I don't know," she confessed. "I didn't think it was an issue."
Ron couldn't believe what he was hearing. Not an issue? They were in a long-term relationship that Ron assumed would probably lead to marriage in a few years. "I've told you I wanted a big family of my own, why didn't you say anything then?" he asked.
"It wasn't an issue," Miranda repeated, shrugging the situation off. "We were only together a few weeks; I didn't know we would last longer than a fling."
Ron mouthed wordlessly at her confession and said, "And now? We've been going out for months - I introduced you to my parents!" In Ron's mind, that equalled a serious relationship. Perhaps things were different in Ireland? Or maybe Miranda wanted to take things even slower?
"I was going to tell you," she replied, reaching forwards to take his hand. "But when I found out about Hannah … I just figured I was, so to speak, 'off the hook'." She shrugged like this wasn't a big deal.
Ron blinked and pulled his hand out of reach. He screwed his face up in indignation and retorted, "That's bullshit and you know it." Before Miranda could answer him, he added, "Just because I already have a child, doesn't mean I want to stop there. I seem to recall mentioning 'four or five would be great' to you."
Miranda bit down on her tongue. "Ronald, my dream has always been to become an Auror; to help people and fight Dark Wizards. In this dream, I don't take a few years off to have children. I need to keep in shape to be on top of my game and having babies will ruin that." She paused before continuing. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier, I really am, but I'm not going to change my mind."
Ron inhaled deeply; he couldn't believe he was hearing this. Did she honestly think that he wouldn't want a family? Back when one of his friends from Auror training had received a visit from his young son and the whole subject began, could Miranda not see the hope and anticipation in Ron's eyes as he had held the baby?
But thinking back on that afternoon, Ron remembered that Miranda hadn’t held or even looked at the child once. That should have been the first sign.
Too tired to argue, Ron made his excuses and Apparated upstairs to bed, wondering whether this relationship was really worth all the hassle.
Happy that her daughter was home, Hermione allowed Hannah to sleep in her bed with her when she asked. Usually Hermione was woken up by eight each morning, but was pleasantly surprised when rolled over the following morning to find her clock flashing 'nine-twenty-six'.
After washing, dressing and getting Hannah up, Hermione made her way downstairs for breakfast. When she entered the kitchen, she was surprised to find it quite full. Ron was sitting next to his father, who was reading a piece of parchment intently, while Miranda was talking to Molly, a piece of parchment in her own hand.
Putting Hannah in her high chair, Hermione asked, "What's going on?"
Ron looked up and smiled warmly at her, and Arthur handed her the parchment he was reading. Hermione glanced around the room; no one was looking unhappy, so the twinge in her stomach was probably unnecessary. Looking down, Hermione read:
Dear Mr R B Weasley,
Thank you for your interest in joining the British Auror Team at the Ministry of Magic. A panel of wizards in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement has reviewed your grades and training modules and has found a placement for you. This placement is negotiable and there is room for progression further in your career.
Your placement is in Raids Squad B and your squad leader is Mr Mars. You will report to Mr Mars at the start of each shift unless told otherwise.
Please report to Auror Station R, level 2 in the Ministry, on the 1st of October to meet your other team members and your leader.
Head of the B.A.T.
Hermione looked up at Ron, who was watching her in anticipation. Filled with pride, she smiled broadly and said, "Congratulations! I knew you could do it!"
"We all did," confirmed Arthur, who read through the letter again when Hermione passed it back to him.
"Thanks," Ron said shyly, flushing at the attention. While Ron's older brothers had respectable jobs, Hermione knew that Ron had always admired Aurors and had dreamed of becoming such an imperative member of the Wizarding World when he was older. And now he had done it.
"No really," Hermione continued. "When you were gone I read about each squad section – wondering where I would place you, and Squad B is the best! A very good place to start." Hermione wasn't sure, but Ron looked a bit embarrassed over her praise – or was that her confession?
He deserves it! His accomplishment makes the last two years almost worth it.
Still … I did miss him … and need him.
No. When Ron begins work in October, he will understand fully why I kept Hannah a secret for so long.
Hermione only remembered Miranda was in the room when the other woman suddenly said, "Well, I was accepted into the Hit Wizard Squad." Her voice was smug and it was obvious she wanted the conversation to turn to her now. She smiled broadly at Ron, who returned a smaller smile.
"Oh?" Hermione asked, faking a smile.
"I received the letter this morning, saying that my grades and modules were so good that they want me to take the Hit Wizard course," Miranda said proudly. "And I start next week!"
"So you'll be leaving?" Hermione asked, trying to hide the hopeful tone in her voice.
Please let her go!
But would Ron go too? He wouldn't leave Hannah … not after all that's happened!
Miranda shook her head. "No, the course is in England. I can Apparate or Floo there."
Disappointed, Hermione turned to Ron and asked, "So, Ron, raids! Are you excited?" She could feel Miranda's gaze on her, but she didn't care.
Ron shrugged. "I'm really not too sure what to expect, to be honest. Maybe you could show me the Auror information you were looking at?"
Hermione grinned, nodding.
"I'll probably start in Diagon Alley,” Ron continued, “going through some of the shops in the beginning, to understand what I need to do."
"Just as long as you stay out of our shop, little bro."
At the kitchen door stood Fred and George, who came in and stood on either side of Ron. The twins could usually be seen in stunning green blazer jackets, their opted uniform for Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, but today were in causal Muggle shirts and jeans.
"Ah! But George, this could be just what we need - an insider!" said Fred, who Hermione couldn't decide was being serious or joking around.
"Someone to tell us about the competition!" continued George. "Of course! Why didn't I think of that?"
"Because he's using the brain today?" Ginny, who had just walked in, asked, pointing at Fred. She looked as though someone had just woken her up, or maybe that was because she was in her pyjamas.
"Ha, ha," the twins said in union.
"What are you doing here so early anyway? You don't usually get here until eleven," Ginny asked, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes and earning a disgusted look from Miranda, which Ginny reciprocated.
"Our presence was requested earlier," George said.
"Yes, do pray-tell what miss needs an extra hour for?" Fred asked Hermione, in the same airy voice as his brother.
"Viktor is Flooing me to Dublin so we need more travel time," Hermione replied nonchalantly, craving for a sausage and potato hotpot.
Hermione turned to Ron, whose previous happy expression had turned foul. "Yes. Viktor," she confirmed. "He's taking me out today as he'll be in Prague on my birthday, is that a problem?"
Ron crossed his arms over his chest. "It's just that … I …" He struggled to find words to explain the problem. "It isn't fair to just dump Hannah here, now is it?"
Hermione gaped wordlessly at him for a moment before speaking. "Fred and George take Hannah out every Tuesday, whether I'm busy or not. She spends time with her uncles while I have a much needed rest! I usually just stay here and relax but on occasion I watch a film with Ginny."
Ron flushed. "How was I supposed to know that?" he asked angrily. "And anyway, since when did you and Viktor become more then Pen Pals?" He sat up straight, watching Hermione carefully for her answer.
He's jealous … right? He used to always do this at school and he was jealous then.
"Viktor's been my friend for years," Hermione explained. "He moved to England a few years ago to work for our Ministry. And as he lives closer now, I see him once a month for lunch and a chat," she added hotly, wondering why she had to explain herself to him.
Because he won't shut up about it if you didn't! Don't you remember when he wouldn't stop pestering you about who was taking you to the Yule Ball?
"So you're just friends?" Ron asked, a note of eager in his voice.
"It's only taken you five years to realise that, Ronald?" Hermione asked testily. She wouldn't usually act so hotly to a simple question, but when it came to Viktor, Ron was … well, slow. Hermione watched Ron's face heat up as she kissed Hannah's cheek and said, "Mummy has to get ready to go out. Be good for Uncle Fred and Uncle George." She then added to the twins, "Be good. Her bag is in the living room, ready for you."
As Hermione left the room, she could feel Ron's eyes burning into the back of her head.
"Ron doesn't seem to understand that a single working mum might have a hard time making friends," Hermione was explaining to Ginny half an hour later in her room. "I can count the number of true friends on one hand these days." Viktor was coming round soon, something Hermione accidentally forgot to tell Ron.
"I'd rather have a few good friends than a lot that don't know me," Ginny said, trying her best to help. She was searching through Hermione's wardrobe for a top to match the flowing skirt Hermione was already wearing.
"True …" Hermione mused, more to herself than Ginny. "Viktor knows me well, we have been writing to each other since I was in school. He's always been an excellent listener."
"Harry's a good listener, too," Ginny said offhandedly, investigating a purple jumper she had just found at the bottom of the wardrobe. "Though sometimes I think he's just staring at my boobs rather than actually listening." She grinned and turned to Hermione. "The other day, I didn't put a bra on and went on about absolute rubbish to see what he would do. He just nodded and 'agreed with me'," she mused, discarding the jumper, which had baby spit-up on it.
"So things are good between you too?" Hermione asked, hoping that now Voldemort was gone, Harry wouldn't feel the need to distance himself from happiness again.
Ginny nodded cheerfully, and threw a long sleeved casual top at Hermione, which she slipped on. "He's taking me out tonight to celebrate becoming an Auror. He got in the same squad as Ron, so it really is the best … now," she said, smiling fondly to herself.
When the women returned to the kitchen, they found Viktor standing by the fireplace, chatting to Miranda, who flipped her hair and laughed at something. At the table sat Ron, scowling.
"Herm-own-ninny, you look loffly," Viktor said, walking towards Hermione and planting a kiss on either cheek. Hermione heard the sound of Ron's chair move and stride over to the pair.
"Will you be home before or after Fred and George bring Hannah back?" he asked, his back turned to Viktor, trying to ignore him completely.
"Before," Hermione said, pursing her lips. "If I go out, I always make sure I'm home first."
"Viktor, you're welcome to join Ronald and I for a drink this afternoon, if you're back early," Miranda piped up, a weird smile on her face.
"Thank you, but I haff a meeting at four that I cannot miss," Viktor said, eyeing Miranda cautiously. Hermione had written to him explaining Miranda in detail.
"Well, another time maybe," Miranda said, linking arms with Ron, who didn't seem to notice her. He was too busy glowering at Viktor, who was a few inches shorter than him.
"Maybe," Viktor repeated. "Herm-own-ninny, shall ve go?" He offered his arm, which Hermione took. "I'm sorry I could not see Hannah today, vill you kiss her for me?" he asked Hermione, who swore she heard Ron mutter 'slimy git' under his voice.
"Let's go," Hermione pushed, pulling Viktor towards the fire. A moment later, only Ron, Miranda and Ginny were left.
Ginny's eyes moved from the fireplace, where Viktor and Hermione had just stood, to her brother and Miranda.
"I cannot believe she knows Viktor Krum!" Miranda said, sounding impressed. Ginny noticed that Miranda was trying not to look that interested, but was failing. Ron didn't say a word; his face had fallen and he was staring at the ground.
"Are they - an item?" Miranda asked, an expression of yearning on her pale face as she stared pointedly at Ginny.
Ron's head snapped up, making Ginny feel on show.
"Urm … well, when you say an item …" she said slyly, watching an eager Miranda gasp.
"Are they?" Miranda pressed.
Ginny was about to say they were, just to even the playing field between Hermione and Ron, but then she noticed Ron's expression. He looked quite miserable and actually nervous about the answer. And that's when Ginny realised it.
He's still in love with Hermione … I can see it in his face.
Viktor’s a huge Quidditch star; he's handsome, rich, famous and an all-round great guy … Ron must feel like a Flobberworm compared to him. He shouldn't do. He's way better than Viktor, not that I'll ever tell him that. He deserves Hermione.
Ginny's devious smile turned into a smaller serious one. "No, they're not. Hermione sees him more like a brother," she said. While she would have loved to see Miranda's scandalised expression, watching her brother's gratified face relax was more than satisfying.
Author's Note: I wasn't sure how long this chapter was going to be to be honest. I didn't think I'd write this much on the small notes I made. I wanted to show Ron/Miranda's relationship away from Hermione, while have Ron see and learn things that will help him make the all important decision I know you'll all waiting for.
Hope the chapter wasn't too boring. I enjoy all these uplifting reviews I keep getting, but still fear 'this is boring crap'. Jk probably feels the same on certain chapters (and she has a lot of them!)
Another note ... unlike JK, I don't write professionally. I'm nineteen years old and work thirty-seven hours a week, so expect a delay. And if you must leave an "when are you going to update?!?!?!?", might I suggest adding something like "this chapter was good/bad because ... and you rock, Dawn"? Side Note: If you're on my update list and don't get any emails from me, it's because I keep getting "mail cannot be sent" notes so I just remove the address. And on an interesting note, I updated what, ten minutes ago? Almost 20 people have already began/finished reading. Go you.
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