Important A/N: I normally post on after this story is posted on Checkmated so I get the official betaed copy of the chapter. However, Checkmated has been down for several weeks, and it just so happened that this story was ready to be submitted to Checkmated in the first day or two that the site went down. You readers shouldn't really have to be punished because of bandwidth issues, so while Checkmated is working on getting all their problems sorted out, I've posted the last revision I sent to my beta. Once Checkmated is up and running, I will probably resubmit the chapter on just to make sure all grammatical errors or spelling mistakes that my beta may have caught are taken care of.
If you are looking to read some good HP fanfic while Checkmated is down, I encourage you to check out my LJ (link on my author page) for some recs. Most of them are James/Lily and Sirius/Remus at the moment, but I plan to add more in the next few days.
Anyway, this is my holiday gift to all of my readers! It's the chapter you've all been waiting for, so please enjoy and let me know what you think!
Chapter 12: The You I Never Knew
The unfamiliar beeping and tubes around him began to unnerve him. He'd never been in a Muggle hospital before and didn't understand what all these machines were for. All he knew was that Hermione was hooked up to too many of them for his liking. If he could, he'd whisk her away to St. Mungo's where he knew how to communicate to the hospital staff beyond "is she going to be alright?"
Ron squeezed Hermione's hand reassuringly and brushed a stray lock of hair off of her bruised cheek. They'd gone through a war together, but he'd never seen her look so banged up before.
Effing Muggle automo-whatsits. Nothing but death traps.
But, he scolded himself, Hermione wasn't going to die. She was going to make it because above all else, she was a fighter. He saw that in her during the Second War, and he could see it in her now against the stark white sheets of her hospital bed. And if the Muggles couldn't help her, he would take her to St Mungo's, charges against him be damned. As long as Hermione was alive and safe, that was all that mattered.
While he sat there in silence with her, he wondered what she had wanted to say to him in the café. As for him, he wanted to know what had happened to her in the decade that they had been separated that made her who she was now. When he walked into her hospital room, it took him a moment to recognize her beneath the bruises and years apart. She was still beautiful, though a little different than he imagined she would be. And the air about her, even while she lay still in the bed, was still very much Hermione. She may have looked older, but she certainly hadn't changed all that much. He just knew.
He had hoped that he would be able to be reasonable about his feelings when he saw her again. Just because she was hospitalized didn't mean that she hadn't left him without word all those years ago. He hadn't been rational though. The moment he laid eyes on her, he had no other desire than to hold onto her, and he knew that it would take something extraordinary to get him to leave her side.
The sight of Harry leaning against the door frame caught Ron's eye. "Ron? Listen, there is something that I need to talk to you about."
"Not now. Whatever it is can wait."
Harry stepped further into the room. "It really can't. I thought Hermione should be the one to tell you, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen unless she wakes up right about now." Ron noticed the guilty look on Harry's face. "I just want you to know that—"
Ron's attention snapped to the doorway where a girl, probably around his niece's age, stood frozen. Her eyes went back in forth between him and Hermione before resting on him for a long, uncomfortable moment. He shot a look at Harry, as if to ask if Hermione had a daughter. Harry looked pained and nodded, and Ron turned back to the girl, his stomach flip-flopping violently. He needed out, needed fresh air. If Hermione had a child that meant she was involved with someone else. Why then would she want to be with him? Maybe the whole "date" at the café was really just to catch up. How could he have been so stupid?
It wasn't until he cleared the doorway to her room that something struck Ron. He turned to look back at Hermione's daughter, who was looking at him crushed. Red hair. Freckles. Around the age of his niece. But his niece was ten years old. He noticed a faint outline of a wand in the girl's jacket pocket. Eleven years old, old enough to be at Hogwarts. Red hair. Freckles. She reminded him a bit of Ginny. Ginny. His sister. Oh, God…
Adele peeked around the corner of the doorway to see her father sitting alone in the waiting area, looking very lost in thought. She had to wonder what he was thinking about. No one had told him that she was his daughter, at least not that she knew of, but the way he looked right before he left her mother's room suggested that he already put two and two together.
Though he hadn't spoken to her yet, he had stuck around, which was a good sign as far as she was concerned. Maybe he was just trying to collect his thoughts before he talked with her. She could only imagine how hard that must be for someone who just found out they were a parent. What do you say to your eleven year old child in that situation? She just hoped that he'd come around soon. She was tired of waiting, especially when she was so close to him.
After returning to the common room last night, she had asked Kip to see his Ron Weasley Chocolate Frog card. It was strange to see her father for the first time on some trading card, and even stranger to get a blurb about why he was famous. She really hated how she had to see and learn about him that way. But it was sort of exciting to have a famous father. He'd fought in a war with Uncle Harry and ended up being a hero. How many children her age could say that their own father was an honest-to-God hero? Adele looked down the hall at him again. She imagined a lot of things about him in the past, but she would have never thought she'd be able to say that.
"Here. I thought you might like a cup of coffee."
Ron looked over to Harry who had invited himself to sit in the chair next to him. He didn't particularly want to see his best mate at that point in time, mostly due to the fact that he had a sneaking suspicion that Harry knew about Adele before he did. Harry's silence on the matter was enough to question where his loyalties lay.
"You knew, didn't you? About Hermione's daughter. Our daughter. Damn it, I don't even know my own child's name!"
"Adele. And yes, I've known. It's probably been about a week. Not long." Harry sighed heavily. "She didn't come to me, Ron. I had to find her."
"Yeah, well, you bloody well didn't think to mention anything to me. And you'll forgive me if I say I think I had a certain right to know."
"I wasn't about to lead you on some wild hunt for Hermione after everything you've done to try to move on! I didn't even know if Adele was Hermione's, and then I found out the whole truth. Hermione wanted to tell you herself. I figure that was why she was meeting with you today."
"About eleven years too late, if you ask me," he said bitterly.
"What's between you and her is your own business. I'm not about to get in the middle of it. I'm just trying to explain to you why I didn't speak up sooner. But I tried to tell you tonight, before we left to come here. You wouldn't listen though. When you get your mind set on something, you never do, Ron."
Ron chuckled in feigned amusement. "So that's how it is? Suddenly this becomes my fault. The way I see it, you could have spoke up, Harry, but you didn't. And you didn't just keep her from me. You kept her from Ginny and Mum and the whole family. How do you think they'll feel when they hear about this?"
Harry stood, defeated. "It's no use trying to reason with you when you're like this. Just try to understand that there are shades of grey, Ron."
Ron was tempted to give Harry the finger as he walked away he was so angry. But even in a blind rage, Ron knew that that would be extremely immature. He'd known a week, which wasn't long by any means. But it was a week longer than he'd ever got, and Ron couldn't help feeling bitter towards him for that.
And what about Hermione? He didn't even know where to begin with her. What had caused her to run off with his child? Maybe she hadn't known at the time, but that wasn't an excuse to not come back or at least let him know. How little did she think of him to have to think that he'd be okay with abandoning the two of them? Would he have liked to have been a father at eighteen? Hell no. But that didn't mean that he wouldn't step up and be a man about it. In all honesty, he could think of a lot of worse things to be at eighteen. Being a family with Hermione and Adele would have been tough but certainly doable. Ron sighed. And all of that was terribly easy to think when he was nearly thirty and looking back on things with the sense of an adult.
Ron had gone to get a snack when he ran into Mrs. Granger coming out of the cafeteria. She smiled at him pleasantly and walked along with him back towards Hermione's room. She hadn't said anything for a long while, which he preferred, not especially feeling in the talking mood, but she eventually spoke up when they reached the waiting room.
"How have you been, Ron?"
He took a sip of his beverage. "I've been better."
"I suppose there isn't much point exchanging pleasantries, is there?" She sat down in one of the chairs. "I can't imagine what you must be feeling right now."
Ron wanted to say how funny it was that no one had bothered to think of his feelings a decade ago, but shut himself up before the words could escape him. Lashing out would not help anyone. And more than anything at that moment, Ron wanted answers. Mrs. Granger would be able to provide him with some, he was sure.
"What happened with Hermione? Why'd she just leave?" It came out rather gently much to Ron's surprise.
It appeared that Mrs. Granger was surprised as well, as if she expected to see the hot headed boy she knew long ago. "It's hard to say. I know that she was under the impression that you were involved with someone at work after you two had been…intimate. And she was also terribly concerned about your Auror training. She knew how important it was to you."
"Those are really shitty excuses."
"What were you expecting?"
"Something a lot more…reasonable. This is Hermione we're talking about, after all."
"Since she was young she was always treated like she was a mature adult. She was so bright, you know. It was easy to forget that she was really just a child. I remember how surprised I was when she sent me a letter fretting about how she liked you and that she was certain that you'd never notice her. It's such typical behavior of a teenager, but it seemed so unlike her to worry about boys." She paused. "And then she got pregnant with Adele, which was entirely unexpected. She didn't take it well. She was only an eighteen year old girl, after all."
Ron thought that her mother made some sort of sense. Everyone always relied on Hermione because she was so level headed and quick to come up with a solution. He'd been surprised how she reacted to his going out with Lavender in sixth year; it certainly wasn't like Hermione at all. It was really easy to forget that she was sometimes just a normal girl with normal problems. Maybe being known as the brightest witch of her age was more of a burden than a blessing.
"I'm not asking you to forgive her, Ronald, though I would welcome it. I just wish that you would try to understand what it might have been like in her shoes. She was scared. And we all make irrational decisions when we're scared."
"Did she ever say that she was going to tell me? Or did she just think that I wouldn't have her?"
"She told me that she tried to tell you several times, but things just kept getting in the way. Training and missions mostly. She wanted to be a family with you and Adele. She just didn't think it was possible."
He looked at her. "Well it would have been."
Mrs. Granger nodded. "Thank you." She stood. "Perhaps I should leave you. You must have a lot on your mind."
"Wait." Ron wasn't sure how to go about this, but he tried anyway. "About Adele."
"She's been looking forward to meeting you for a long time now. She's a terribly curious thing and has been asking questions for years. She doesn't know the answers to many of them, but I'm sure she still wants to."
"What should I do?"
"That's a tough question to answer. You can have time with her if you'd like. I don't want to rush you, but if you want to keep her over night, I'm sure she'd like that."
Ron thought about it for a long while. He was surrounded by children all the time. Yet somehow, his own daughter seemed very different from them. He felt so much pressure to get things right the moment he found out about her. He wanted to take her with him, but he wasn't sure if he knew how to properly care for her. She wasn't an infant and solely dependent on his care by any means, but she still needed him. What if he couldn't be a good father?
While the doctor did an examination on her mother, Adele waited down the corridor near the water fountain. Her father still hadn't said anything to her yet. When Uncle Harry came in to check on her not too long ago, she'd asked him if her dad was angry at her. He told her that he just needed a little bit of time to figure things out. Adele thought that that made sense. He'd just found out about her while she'd known about him for years.
When she heard footsteps approaching, Adele stopped fiddling with the button that turned on the water fountain and pretended to be getting a drink. However, she realized that whoever it was wasn't going anywhere, and her heart began to beat quicker. She turned around to find her father looking down at her and putting on his warmest face. She smiled back at him a little awkwardly but didn't know what to say.
"I guess there isn't really a need for introductions. You've probably already figured out that I'm your dad."
Adele nodded. She realized that he looked just about as nervous as she felt, which made her relax a little bit more.
"I guess…I'm sorry that I wasn't around. I would have been if I had known about you."
"It's not your fault."
Her father knelt down. "It is, in a way. May not seem like it, but we can't go blaming your mum for everything."
Adele didn't really understand what he was saying. Everything really was her mum's fault; she's the one who kept all the secrets from everyone. Maybe there were things that no one told her or maybe grown-ups just didn't make much sense.
"Listen, Adele, if you'd like to, and I want to make sure you don't feel like you have to, you're welcome to come back with me to my flat. Have a sleep over or whatever. I…uh, I don't know anything about you, really, and I think it's going to take a lot longer than visiting hours to learn all of it."
She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Her dad wanted her to come stay with him? For so long she imagined what it would be like to meet him and be at his house, but it seemed very strange to actually get to do it. He liked her though; that was for sure. No one invites people to their house if they don't like them.
Ron leaned against the door frame and watched as Adele hopped into bed and pulled the covers over her tightly. They'd had a nice afternoon together. She was really a brilliant girl and reminded him so much of her mum. And while it was harder for him to see, he was certain that there was a lot of him in her too, beyond red hair and freckles. They talked for the better part of the night, him asking her questions about things she liked and her asking questions about him and Hermione. Those were tough to answer, especially given the recent turn of events, but he wasn't about to let any question go unanswered. He had a feeling that she'd got brushed off every time she asked one in the past, and he certainly wasn't about to continue that.
"About time for bed then? Don't have to read you any bedtime stories, do I?" he asked jokingly.
"I'm not a baby."
Ron smiled. "No, you're certainly not." He went over and kissed her forehead. "Sleep well. We're going to Grandmum and Granddad Weasley's tomorrow morning, and I have a feeling you're going to need all the energy you can get."
A/N: Thank you all for reading this chapter! I know it's been a long time coming, but I hope I've delivered it to your satisfaction. I'd love to hear what you thought about it. I do have one important announcement concerning chapter 13 and the epilogue. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that you're going to get to read the final two installments before Christmas. PigWithHair, my awesome beta, isn't going to have much time to beta in the next several weeks, and I also am overwhelmed with finals, moving, and the holidays. But, I assure you that you'll get the end after the holidays are over.