Chapter 48: All's Well
An icy wind was blowing through Hogsmeade village as Hermione made her way into the Three Broomsticks.
As usual, Stan Shunpike was behind the bar. He nodded at Hermione when she walked in. "Mrs. Weasley," he said cheerfully. "Shall I fetch Mrs. Potter?"
"No, thank you Stan, I'm actually meeting someone here. I'll go up and see Ginny after."
"Alright, you'll be needing a drink then. Whiskey neat?"
Hermione's stomach roiled at the idea. "Oh, heavens no. Just plain soda for me today."
Stan raised his eyebrows, but poured the soda and handed her the glass.
"Thanks," Hermione said, and made her way over to a table near the fire. She was happy to see that the lunch crowd hadn't arrived yet, so the place was still relatively empty. She looked up as the bells on the front door chimed. Minerva McGonagall made her way slowly over to the table. Hermione wondered, not for the first time, how long McGonagall would remain headmistress at Hogwarts.
"Hullo, Professor," Hermione said, standing.
McGonagall looked at her over the rims of her glasses. "Goodness, Hermione are we back to Professor."
Hermione smiled. "I'm sorry, Minerva, it just slipped out."
McGonagall took the seat opposite her. "So why have you called me out on such a bitter day?"
"I think you'll find it worth the trouble. Ron and I have been talking and we'd like to make an endowment to the school to fund a few scholarships."
McGonagall's eyebrows shot up. "Well, that's wonderful news."
Stan shuffled over then and McGonagall ordered a large Gillywater.
"Well, I wanted to discuss this with you because one of the scholarships we'd like to offer is really a post-graduate grant. I was wondering if the school would consider administering it if we also offered two scholarships to Hogwarts students."
"I don't see that that would be a problem," McGonagall said and sipped her Gillywater.
"Good," Hermione smiled.
"So what are the criteria? Are they strictly need-based?"
"The two to Hogwarts are. One should be for a Muggle-born student and the other should be for a student of wizard parents, that and a financial need are the only criteria. The one for a Muggle-born we would like to offer in honor of my parents and I'd like it named after them. The other one we would like named in honor of Ron's parents."
McGonagall nodded. "I think that's a wonderful idea."
"The third, however," Hermione said, "is a bit more complicated."
"Complicated how?" McGonagall asked shrewdly.
"Complicated in that it's a post-graduate grant offered to a student who has the requisite skills and desire to become a healer."
McGonagall looked at her knowingly. "That doesn't sound complicated."
"Well, we want to chose the first recipient, but she mustn't know the money is from us."
"Let me guess, you want to give it to Emma Silsbury."
Hermione nodded. "The problem is that she and Art are dating."
"And you don't want her to feel like the money comes with strings," McGonagall guessed.
"I think we can manage that," McGonagall said and finished the last of her Gillywater. "Who do you want to name the grant after?"
"Actually, we'd like it to be called the Cabrera Grant, after the healer that saved my life."
McGonagall smiled broadly. "That's good then."
"And it won't be a problem for the school to administer?"
"No, actually we have a couple of other post-graduate grants. Charlie Weasley took the one for Care of Magical Creatures, which is how he ended up in Romania studying dragons."
"I didn't know that," Hermione said, surprised.
"Oh yes," McGonagall said. "And there are a couple of others, so it won't be a problem to administer yours."
"Naturally, although we want Emma to be the first recipient, it'll be up to the school to chose the others."
"Fine," McGonagall said.
"Ron ran some numbers and talked to his Goblin at Gringott's about how much the endowment would need to be to cover all three scholarships in perpetuity, and he's willing to transfer the money to Hogwart's accounts as soon as you give permission."
"Then permission granted," McGonagall said with a laugh.
When Hermione left the three broomsticks later that afternoon it was with a sense of accomplishment.
She needed a few things so she spent the rest of the afternoon shopping. After picking up several rolls of parchment as well as a dozen bottles of ink, she treated herself to a couple of nice new quills. Feeling rather lighthearted, she stopped at Honeyduke's and bought some fudge for Ron.
Ron was delighted with the fudge. Not only because he loved Honeyduke's fudge, but because it was a sign that Hermione was well on her way to forgiving him. He knew it was probably too soon to hope for sex, but just having her back in his bed went a long way toward making him feel better.
They were sitting in the parlor and he was licking the last of the fudge from his fingers when he happened to look over at Hermione. She was sitting in the other club chair in front of the fire. She had her feet tucked under her and an enormous tome open in her lap. She was stroking the feather end of her quill against her lips as she read, her brow furrowed in concentration. She looked like she'd managed to put on a few of pounds so her face wasn't so gaunt and firelight danced through the curls haphazardly framing her face. There for a moment in the firelight was the seventeen-year-old girl he'd fallen in love with. It took his breath away.
Hermione glanced up as if she felt his eyes on her. "What?" she asked.
Ron grinned at her. "Good fudge," he said.
She stayed up late reading, but when she went to bed Ron was sitting up waiting for her.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
"Yeah, I've just been thinking."
Hermione sat on the edge of the bed. "And?"
"I lash out at you when I'm angry."
Hermione sighed. "Yes, you have a bad temper, but I have substance abuse issues and a tendency to keep secrets."
Ron looked up at her, clearly surprised by her comment. "So what does that mean?"
Hermione smiled. "Probably that we're bad people and we should stay together rather than inflict ourselves on anyone else."
Ron smiled back at her. "That's your solution?"
"Yes. I'm going to brush my teeth."
He was lying down when she came back into the room. She slid in on her side but then curled up next to him.
He looked down at her and raised an eyebrow.
She put an arm over his waist. "Think of it as a nightmare preventative."
He nuzzled his cheek against her hair. "Listen," he said softly, "if you need to talk…about what happened in Bulgaria…I can listen. I promise nothing you say will be thrown back at you."
Hermione closed her eyes. She thought for a moment how to respond. She didn't want him to think she was still trying to keep anything from him. "Look," she said, coming up on one elbow and looking him in the eye. "I don't really know much about what happened."
"But you put the memories back."
She nodded. "Yes, but the thing is once I couldn't hold the shield anymore they stunned me and kept stunning me. I…" She closed her eyes and drew in a slow breath and then let it out before continuing. "I lost the baby because I couldn't tell the healers what curses had been used beyond Crucio and stunning." Her throat tightened and she could feel a tear slip. She didn't want to do this.
Ron used his thumb to wipe the tear away. "I'm so sorry."
Hermione shook her head. "No, you can't say that."
"What? Hermione, I am sorry."
"No, I didn't mean it like that. It's just…if I'd had her, I wouldn't have had Artie."
Ron frowned. "You don't know that."
Hermione gave him a withering look. "You would have raised another man's child?"
"Viktor was going to."
Hermione sighed. "You don't know that either."
"But he was, wasn't he?"
Hermione shook her head. "I don't…" she paused. "I don't know. We were taken right after we told Todor. We hadn't really…" She closed her eyes and pressed her fingers to her forehead. She could feel another tear slip.
Ron cupped her cheek in his hand. "Well, I know this. I love you and I would love anything that was part of you."
She didn't know how she felt about his statement and it all felt like too much. After all, the man before her now might be capable of raising another man's child, but would that have been true of him at 20, Hermione didn't know. She only knew it didn't matter now anyway and she was just so tired of all of it. "I'm sorry, could we not talk about this anymore?"
He pulled her to him and kissed the top of her head. "Alright then."
She clung to him, comforted by the sound of his heartbeat against her ear and his chest hair soft against her cheek, and she cried. She let out all the tears she'd ever held back and he held her and let her cry.
It was cold on Platform 9¾. Ron and Hermione were watching Art and Emma board the train. She hunched her shoulders as an icy wind whistled through the platform.
"I can't believe this is the last time we're putting him on that train," Ron said wistfully.
"He's a grown man now," Hermione sighed. "When did that happen?"
"I don't know," Ron said, nudging her shoulder with his, "but I'm sure it's your fault."
She looked up at him and smirked. "I'm sure it is."
He winked at her. The train began moving and the other parents began to hurry back into the station to get out of the wind.
"So, you're going to work now then?" Ron asked in a much more serious tone.
Hermione turned to face him and nodded. "It's time."
"You'll be home for dinner?" he asked and the concern on his face broke her heart.
"Six o'clock on the dot," she said. She'd meant it to sound strong, but it didn't.
Ron nodded. He started to turn to go back inside when Hermione caught his hand.
He turned back to face her.
"You know when I get home tonight," she ran her hand down his chest. "I'm likely to feel overburdened."
A slow smile spread across his face. "I think I can see to your needs."
"See that you do," she said primly.
He cupped her face in both his hands and kissed her soundly. She melted into him and for a moment the world stopped and the icy wind disappeared and she was safe and warm. She slipped her arms around his waist and pulled him closer and felt the sting of tears in her eyes.
Even after they pulled out of the kiss, they held each other on the freezing cold platform, her head tucked under his chin, where it had fit so perfectly for such a very long time.