Chapter 11: I Come Back to the Place You Are
The next morning Ron woke to Hermione getting out of bed.
"You alright?" he asked groggily.
"I'm fine," she whispered, "just going to the loo."
Ron shut his eyes and dozed back off. He awoke with a start sometime later when he realized she hadn't returned to bed. He looked over toward the loo; the door was open and she wasn't in there. He pulled his pajama bottoms on and headed out to the main room.
Hermione was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and sitting at the kitchen table writing furiously on a long piece of parchment. Another quill was writing by itself on another piece of parchment. She had a cup of tea and a half eaten scone in front of her and didn't see him walk in.
She looked up at him. "Morning," she said and returned to her writing.
"What are you doing?"
"I had a brainstorm this morning about my project, and I wanted to get it down on paper before I forget it," she said without looking at him.
"You're better then?" Ron asked, frustrated with her single-mindedness.
"Loads," she said as she pulled a fresh piece of parchment in front of her. The quill next to her also moved on to a fresh piece.
"Let me see it," Ron said.
"It's not ready. Besides, you know I can't share my work with you."
"Not your work, your side," Ron said in frustration.
"It's fine." Hermione scratched something out on the parchment.
Ron lowered his voice and enunciated each word. "Let. Me. See. It."
She looked up at him and set her quill down. "Oh, all right," she said and lifted up the side of her T-shirt.
Ron could see the thick white scar was back to normal now as it ran under the waistband of her shorts. "Fine," he said and kissed the top of her head.
He went back into the bedroom and cast a cleaning charm and got dressed.
"I'm going out for awhile," he told her as he walked through the living room toward the entrance of the tent.
"It's raining," she said absently.
Ron pulled his wand out. "Accio cloak," he said and his oilskin raincoat came sailing at him from the bedroom. He pulled it on and stepped out into the rain. He'd seen something yesterday on the way to the owlry, or at least he thought he had. It had been out of the corner of his eye and he hadn't paid any mind at the time, but sometime during the night it struck him that he wanted to go back and see if the sign really read what he thought it did. It took some time to find the right tent. The shouts of the crowd were still coming from the stadium today, but the vendors were much quieter in the rain.
Finally he found the tent he was looking for just after the Omnioculars vendor. Sure enough there was the sign. It read: 'Kittens for sale, Mum is a good mouser, Father a wandering Kneazle'. Ron knocked on the frame of the tent and a small boy pulled back the flap.
"Do you still have kittens?" Ron asked him.
The little boy nodded. "Mum!" he shouted over his shoulder.
A frazzled looking witch came to the door.
"I'm here about the kittens," Ron said.
She held the flap open for him to come inside. Ron stepped down into a large living room in one corner of which was a box of kittens.
"There they are," she said. "Just those three left. Had five to begin with. They're ten weeks old, fully weaned. Have you had a cat before Mr. - "
"Weasley," Ron said sticking out his hand. "Ron Weasley."
The woman's eyes widened. "The Ron Weasley?"
Ron could feel himself blushing. "I suppose."
"It's an honor to meet you, sir," the witch said, shaking his hand heartily. "Timmy, come here." She picked her son up. "This is Mr. Ron Weasley, he fought in the final battle with Harry Potter." Her son's eyes widened as his mother's had. "Shake his hand, Timmy, this is a moment you'll want to remember."
Ron shook the small boy's hand. He cleared his throat. "I really just came about a kitten."
"Of course, Mr. Weasley, of course." The witch ushered him over to the box of kittens. "Whichever one you like."
Ron looked at the three gray tabby kittens curled around each other, asleep in the box. "My fiancé used to have a old tom mix like this, only he was orange. Are any of them male?"
The witch scooped a kitten out of the box. "Just this one."
Ron took the tiny kitten from her. "I'll take him then." He reached for his money purse.
"No," the witch said, scandalized. "I wouldn't dream of charging the likes of you. You take that kitten home to your girl with my compliments. He'll make a fine addition to your home."
Ron could feel himself blush again. "Thank you," he said. He tucked the sleeping kitten into the large inside pocket of his coat and stepped back out into the rain.
As he approached Hermione's tent, he could see the older man from the night she Spliffed coming out.
"She's impossible," the man was muttering.
"Good morning," Ron said to him.
He looked up at Ron's greeting and stared at him like he was an idiot. "I suppose that depends on your definition of good," he grumbled and walked off in the rain.
Ron shrugged. Some people.
Hermione was standing in the middle of the living room when Ron stepped into the tent. He could tell just by looking at her that she was in a right temper.
"They're sending me home," she said angrily putting her hands on her hips.
Ron was confused. "And that's bad?"
"Of course it's bad, they're only doing it because I Spliffed, but I'm fine now."
Ron tried to sort through what she was saying, "So you're in trouble?"
"No, he said it was because the fellow whose father died has asked to come back now that the funeral is over, but there's no reason to send me home. There's a tremendous amount of work to do here. We could use the extra hand."
"But I thought," Ron said carefully, "that you had a project going that no one really wanted to pull you off of. Isn't this just an opportunity to get back on track with that?"
Hermione shook her head. "Oh, you're just like him."
"Who," Ron said, "that bloke what just left?"
Hermione stared at him, but then he realized she wasn't staring at him as much as at his coat. "What's going on in your coat?" she said slowly.
"Oh," Ron had almost forgotten about the kitten, which was now clearly awake. "I got you something." He reached into his pocket and pulled out the tiny cat. "No one was selling ponies."
Hermione's entire face lit up. "Oh, Ron," she cried, taking the little ball of fur from him.
"Word is," Ron said, "that his Mum's a fine mouser and his dad was a Kneazle."
Hermione's eyes widened. "Just like Crookshanks!" She held the kitten up to her face. "Aren't you the sweetest thing? Oh, and you're clever, I can see it in your eyes."
All thoughts of anger over being sent back to London seemed to slip her mind, and for that, Ron thought, getting the kitten was worth it. She set the kitten on the floor and hugged Ron. "He's perfect," she said and pressed her faced to his chest.
They both sat on the floor with him. Hermione conjured a string and pulled it for him to chase.
"What'll you name him?" Ron asked.
Hermione bit her lip. "I don't know. Crookshanks had a name when I got him."
Ron looked at the kitten attacking the string. "How about Horatio?"
Hermione looked up at him, a warm smile spreading across her face and lighting up her eyes. "That's perfect." She picked up the kitten and kissed his head. "Horatio." She looked around the room. "You know, there's no sense letting him get used to this tent and then uprooting him to London. Let's just pack up and go home."
Ron smiled at her. "That's the best idea I've heard all week."
In the end, Winky insisted on packing up the tent and bringing it back to London. Ron, Hermione and Horatio took a Portkey back.