"Percy was right.”
The two women turned to the tall figure standing in the doorway. Hermione grabbed her towel and pulled it up slightly, suddenly aware that she was naked. Ron stepped slowly into the room, his hateful eyes never leaving Hermione’s scared ones. Hermione shivered slightly under his stare.
“You dated me, slept with one of my brothers, and married another one?” Ron gasped. “Excuse me Hermione, but I never took you for a harlot.”
Hermione dropped her gaze, ashamed.
“My nephew will never know his father. My brother will never know his son. Does Charlie know Titus is not his son?”
“I am not sure.” Hermione continued to stare at Ginny’s amber rug. “He might assume.”
“You have not told him?” this question came from a slightly calmer Ginny.
Hermione shook her head, “We don’t speak often.”
“When was the last time you spoke to him?” asked Ginny.
“I received a letter a month ago.” Hermione responded.
“Face to face.” Ginny corrected.
“That’s a week after Titus’s birth.” Ron stared at Hermione, still enraged. Hermione small a slight flicker of pity within the flames in his eyes.
“Is Charlie that horrible of a father?” Ginny asked.
“He isn’t a horrible father. He is busy with his dragons.”
“You have a fireplace. Charlie Floos Bill and Fleur every other sunday.”
Hermione’s eyes shot up at the sound of Ginny’s words. Fleur had never spoken to Hermione of Charlie. Hermione’s theory had been confirmed.
“Charlie and I are getting a divorce.”
Ginny crawled out of bed and pulled Hermione into a tight hug. “Oh, Hermione! I had know idea. Who asked?”
“No one yet. But when I received the letter, Charlie said he would like to discuss something when he comes home for the wedding.”
“You think he’s going to ask for a divorce? That’s not like Charlie.”
“Yes it is.” Ron finally spoke up, sitting on the edge of Ginny’s bed. “Gin, you’re the baby of the family. None of us are ourselves around you except for me. We’ve all tried to set a good example for you.”
“What do you mean, Ron?” Ginny looked at her older brother, confused.
“Bill, Charlie, Percy, and even Fred and George have all had this kind of mission to be perfect for you. You only see their good sides.”
“That’s– that’s so not true! I watched Fred and George screw up all kinds of things. And! And! I witness Percy’s entire family abandonment!” Ginny argued.
“But Ginny, were you ever there when George and Fred would fight? And who did Percy write to the entire time he refused to talk to all of us?” Ron rebutled.
“Me... WAIT!! Fred and George fought?”
“All the time!” Ron and Hermione exclaimed in unison.
Ginny sat back down on the bed looking puzzled. A sudden look of realization crossed Ginny’s face. “Wait! Why haven’t you tried to be a good example for me?”
Ron looked at Ginny appalled. “Come on Ginny! I thought you were smarter than this? It’s the multiple sibling rule.”
“Ron. Now I’m just getting frustrated.”
“Ginny you are a year younger than me and you aggravate the hell outta me.” Ginny opened her mouth to protest but Ron continued before she could speak, “I am– was– the twins’ favorite test subject. Percy finds the twins to be exceptionally annoying, while Charlie finds Percy to be a pretentious git. See the flow.”
“What about Bill and Charlie?” Hermione asked, clearly intrigued.
“For a while it was just the two of them. They have always been as close, if not closer, than Fred and George were.” Ron had calmed down tremendously. It was not a common event that he was the one explaining how things worked.
“So what is Charlie really like?” Ginny asked after a long pause.
“He is just as charming as you’ve always thought. But he walks away from his problems. When he isn’t happy with something, he sets it down and walks away.” Hermione explained.
“Like he did with you.” Ginny whispered, finally understanding.
“Where’s Titus, Hermione?” Ginny and Hermione stared at Ron, mouths gaping wide. It was the first time Ron had even spoken of the child, let alone say his name.
Hermione reached out and grasped Ginny and Ron’s hands firmly. With a loud pop they were standing in Germione's kitchen. "You two have a seat. I'll go put some clothes on."
Hermione soon returned wearing a pair if old jeans and a t shirt. “Titus won’t be up for about another half hour. Would either of you like some tea?”
Ginny and Ron nodded as Hermione walked over to the stove. Ginny and Ron watched Hermione in the kitchen, pity in their eyes. The siblings that had so recently been enraged at the brunette, now understood how difficult her life had grown to be. They had not yet forgiven her for what she had done, but they had looked passed it and focused on what had been done to her.
Ron looked at Hermione and saw the woman he loved, the woman who had been stolen from him. He saw the woman who had been from stolen from him and ripped into a broken, miserable, mother Hermione. He began to regret leaving that night on the hunt. All of Hermione’s trouble might not have happened. If he had just listened to Hermione and stayed, he might not have have broken her heart. They might have still been together during the battle. She might not have been intimate with Fred. Fred might not have been distracted. He might have been able to see the curse coming and dodge it. Fred might still be alive. Titus might not have ever been born. Hermione might have never married Charlie. Hermione might still be his.
Ron looked back at Hermione and a new light found him. If he had stayed and Fred had lived, his relationship with Hermione would’ve fallen apart in a different way. They would have fallen apart no matter what. Maybe it would have been painless. But the reality is, it was going to happen no matter what. They would have fallen apart and Fred and Hermione would have fallen together. They would have had a child that wasn’t Titus. They would have had a child the right way. They would have gotten married, much to everyone’s surprise. They would’ve gotten married and had children. Maybe they would’ve had a baby girl. Maybe they would’ve named her something like Rose.
Ron looked at Hermione again and saw the woman he had once hoped to marry. He saw the woman he constantly dreamt of. He saw under the misery and the fear and he once again envisioned the sparkle in her eyes. He saw the excitement a book could bring her. He saw the flushed cheeks and embarrassed smile she would get every time he called her beautiful. He saw Hermione Granger, as she had been before the war.
He had thought that his dream of his ring on Hermione’s finger was gone, but as he watched her busy hands, the ring on her finger transformed into one he knew she’d love. It was simple. Much unlike Charlie’s ring, it was humble. A silver vine that wrapped around her finger and looped at the top, holding a simple diamond. Simple. Just the way Hermione liked things.
Ron looked around Hermione’s humble flat and knew exactly what was Hermione’s doing and what was Charlie’s. It was obvious that Hermione and Charlie had decorated the flat together. The caramel walls with neat, cocoa trim screamed Hermione, while the intricately carved tables had Charlie written all over them. The maroon Persian rug in the center of the sitting room was very Charlie, while the deep brown armchairs and couch were chosen by the taste of Hermione Granger.
Ron heard a light tapping down the hall and got up without a word and followed it. He walked down the short hallway, passing perfectly placed photos of the bushy haired girl, the red headed dragon Keeper and the smiling baby boy. A wedding photo. A photo of Charlie and Hermione sporting a quaffle sized belly. A picture of Hermione smiling down at her newborn son with Charlie standing behind them, his scarred hand on Hermione’s shoulder, a pleasant grin on his face.
Ron stopped when he reached the source of the tapping noise. He stood in front of a maroon door that hung on a cocoa frame that matched Hermione’s trim. He quietly turned the brass knob, slowly opening the door. Ron stepped into the room, placing his foot carefully on the swaying grass. He looked up from his woolly sock and lost his breath. All around him, clouds were moving in a deep blue sky. Ron felt as if he were back at Hogwarts, looking at the enchanted ceiling of the Great Hall. Ron was tempted to reach out and touch the clouds, but he knew the illusion would be destroyed as he would only find a wall where he hoped to find the mist of the wispy cloud before him.
With difficulty, he pulled his eyes away from Hermione’s enchanted walls. His eyes now found focus on an object on the center of the room. growing out of the ground was a crib. Its four legs were rooted into the grass like four small trees. Ron’s gaze traveled from the roots up on of the knotted legs to the raw wooden frame. It was as if four trees grew together to form a crib. The right side of the crib seemed to have grown taller than the left. It’s brilliantly vibrant leaves probably grazed the ceiling, but it was difficult to find a ceiling amongst the breathtaking sky. Hanging from the tree were two ropes attached to the arms and posts of a legless rocking chair, forming a sort of swing. The two ropes made two triangular shapes over each side of the swing, through which sparkling golden words flitted about. Entranced by their beauty, Ron found himself reading the words aloud, “In dreams, we enter a world that's entirely our own.”
Ron was once again pulled out of his trance by the tapping noise. He looked at the crib. Staring at his uncle, was Hermione’s son. Fred’s son. Ron’s breath caught in his throat once again. They stared at each other for a short moment before Titus dropped the toy he had been tapping the bars of the crib with and reached up towards Ron. Ron reached inside the sanctuary of the crib and pulled the boy into his arms, holding his nephew for the first time. A tear fell onto the small boy’s head and trickled down his signature Weasley Red hair.
Ron was so distracted by the beauty of the room and the bond he finally felt with his nephew that he failed to hear the door open and the two women walk in. He did not turn when he felt a small hand on his shoulder.
“Would you like to feed him Ronald?” Hermione’s soft voice danced through his mind like the golden words danced through the tree.
Ron nodded, taking the bottle of warm milk from Hermione’s extended hand. She motioned for him to sit on the rocking swing and he did so. He had never held a baby before. He was much too young when Ginny was born, and Harry never let him anywhere near Teddy for fear he’d drop him. Hermione helped Ron position Titus, cradling the boy’s tiny head in the crook of Ron’s elbow. Ron smiled at Hermione briefly and then looked up at the glittering words swirling above him. “Clever.” he chuckled.
“Dumbledore.” She smiled back.
Ron looked back down at the smiling baby, placing the bottle in his open mouth. Hermione’s hand remained on Ron’s arm as she smiled down at the boy she once loved and the child she’d always love.
Ginny watched from where she stood, a melancholy smile resting on her lips. Ginny was one of the many who always saw the odd pair growing old together. With everything the war had changed, her view on Ron and Hermione remained constant. It is impossible to run from what is meant to be. Ginny thought to herself.