A/N: Love to reviewers
This is not the end of the series. I intend on writing more of these.
Part of a series. This will make no sense at all unless you've read the others. Seriously, none.
The title is taken from the phrase 'The love which dare not speak its name'. I regret I do not know the author and cannot, at the moment, find out, as my laptop is acting wonky and refuses to open tabs or another browser.
Rudolphus Lestrange lay in his neat, masculine bedroom in Cardiff. A medi-wizard had come and declared it quite hopeless. Bodkin's apoplexy is almost inevitably fatal, and the nearly two decades Rudolphus had spent in Azkaban had clinched it. A matter of time, the man implied but dared not say. So Rudolphus, feeling rather well for a man about to join the ancestors, called his child to him a final time.
Hermione, roused from supper, rushed in, dropping her cloak on the floor. Rudolphus tried to smile but a surge of pain came and he grimaced instead. Half throwing herself in the chair beside the bed, Hermione took her foster father's hand in her. "I came as soon as I—oh God, Rudolphus."
Rudolphus shook his head to clear it. "Hush, pet."
Hermione squeezed his hand a little. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. How do you feel?"
"Glad you… came. I wanted to… see you… one last time."
An elf appeared and took Hermione's cloak. It returned a moment later bearing a cup of pumpkin juice for Hermione and a draught of painkiller for Rudolphus. It had to help him drain the phial, but once it was down, Rudolphus smiled.
"I didn't want to… die without ever… having told you—I always… meant to say…you're a good girl, Hermione. Bellatrix and I considered… that…we were both… always so proud."
"Thank you. I…it was a challenge at first, wasn't it?" What could she say? What could she possibly say to the man that had almost certainly killed her natural parents and then treated her—always—with such terrible, complete tenderness? The man who'd destroyed her life and called her his best girl, his pet?
Rudolphus made a muzzy sound that might have been a chuckle. The painkiller was a sweet ice in his veins, the pain receeding under it's gentle caress, it's all-forgiveness.
"It certainly was. But always, you were so…good, so decent. She always told me…Bellatrix…that she …muggleborn…but it…that first time." Hermione nodded as though she understood. His mind was drifting, she understood. All she could do was be there for him and wait for the end.
Rudolphus tried to formulate a thought but the painkiller was making it difficult. "Stubborn, though. That letter…Weasley…the pendant…bad girl, Hermione." Hermione was glad he was too far gone to see her face change at the mention of the letter she'd sent Ron. He'd died right after, Ron had. She forced down the tears that still threatened, even all these years later, and made herself agree.
"I suppose I was. I wanted so much for…well, it was hard at first. But you were always so kind to me."
" Bellatrix was always.. so jealous of …them. We had you, but …she was so…angry. Hated them! I told her…silly to, but…Bellatrix…was…" He shrugged as much as he could, trying to indicate what they both knew about Bellatrix.
"Hated whom, Rudolphus?" Hermione's breath caught ever so slightly. She knew he meant her parents, her real parents. Their faces had faded in her mind, their voices grown dim with the passing of years where she could not, even to herself, speak their names.
Rudolphus fought with everything he had. "Not bad. Good girl, so proud. At your wedding…beautiful…my beautiful girl all grown up…so proud …cried. Bellatrix cried…too… when she…saw you. Made me swear not to…."
Hermione managed a small smile. "She said she had a cold when I asked."
"Of…course. Wanted you…happy on your…wedding day. Always wanted... see you smile."
"Whom did Bellatrix hate?"
"Muggles. Your…muggles. We had you, but they were…your parents."
Hermione couldn't deny it. She clasped his hand a little harder. "I'm sorry."
He shook his head. "Don't be. We must be what…we are. Never mattered to…me. You were..always my..best girl."
Tears started and Hermione repressed them. "Oh, Rudolphus." She brought his hand, still strong and clever, up to her cheek. Guilt and pain warred inside her. He was her parents' murderer, her foster father, the last link to a vanished world. Once he was gone, so were her parents, both sets. She swallowed a sob.
"Nightmares…remember. She always came."
"Always. She tried, didn't she?"
He nodded. "Never…blamed you. Hated them, not you." The light was fading, but that was all right. Rudolphus was tired. His child was here with him, and he could let go soon. But not quite yet. He would not go into the ancestors' presence without having made sure Hermione was taken care of.
" She came...last night. A dream…looked the same as…ever. Ask you…a favour?"
"Anything at all."
"Say it…just once? To…both of us? She wants…to hear it again."
Hermione breathed deeply. Rudolphus is staring at some point above her head. Her skin goose pimples and, for a second, she feels a cold, bony hand on the nape of her neck. 'Get on with it, then.' She almost laughs out loud. Only Bellatrix would act that way as a shade.
Rudolphus didn't hear it the first time. He was dreaming, and what he was dreaming is this:
He doesn't believe her at first. "She did, Rudolphus."
"If you say she did, Bellatrix, then I believe you."
Bellatrix huffs. "You don't either."
"She's never shown the slightest inclination in the past." Bellatrix shrugs and hugs her shawl tighter about herself. She snaps her fingers and an elf appears, squeaking an apology for letting the room cool down. Bellatrix is too distracted by her argument with Rudolphus to care about the idiot creature at the moment.
"Try it yourself, then. She's due for one any time now." Rudolphus nods and lets the matter drop. If Bellatrix wants to believe Hermione called her 'Mum' whilst half asleep, that's her own affaire, he supposes. He doesn't feel the same kind of burning rage towards the muggles, now so much food for the worms, that his wife does. They have the girl, and that's enough for him. And a very good girl she is, mainly.
Besides, it isn't as though he'd want to be called such a common, muggle appellation anyway. If she were to call him anything besides his given name, it would be 'Father'. But he finds himself waiting all the same, and when next she has a nightmare, he quietly slips into his dressing gown and goes in his wife's stead.
The girl is thrashing wildly, blankets a tangled heap about her. She's sobbing convulsively, trying to ward off some grim figment of her own mind. Rudolphus sighs and goes to wake her, meaning to hug her and send an elf for a potion to put her back to sleep. She's still quite weak from the year she spent on the run, and he and Bellatrix both agree that Hermione needs plenty of rest.
She flips onto her stomach and he seizes his chance. Putting a hand between her shoulder blades, Rudolphus rubs. "Shhhh, pet, it's only a dream."
She gasps and starts awake. For a dizzy second she's unsure where she is or why; but she feels the masculine presence and makes the obvious leap in her sleep fogged state. "Dad? Wh't time's't?"
Rudolphus freezes for a second. Then, remembering himself, he says softly "Three seventeen, love. Was it the werewolf again?"
Hermione rolls over and comes fully awake. "Yes, sir. I'm all right. Sorry to have woken you."
"Not at all, dearest. That's what I'm here for. I shall call an elf for a potion, all right?"
She nods. While they're waiting, Rudolphus hugs her and she lets him. She's finally put a bit of weight back on.
It's a relief to them both when the phial is in hand. She drains it and nearly falls back. He guides her to the pillow, tucking the snug eiderdown about her shoulders and smoothing her hair. "Goodnight, Hermione." She says nothing, of course.
He goes back to his chamber deep in thought. He loves Hermione like his own, even then, and feels no ire toward those stupid muggles who were lucky enough to produce such a sweet, wonderful little witch. He certainly doesn't feel disappointed that she didn't call him anything when she'd woke up. Not at all.
Hermione nods. " I said I love you…Father. And Mother as well."
Rudolphus nods and falls back. "No man ever had…better…daughter. Was fortunate…in you. Love…" His head slumped to the side, and though he lived three more days, that was the last thing he ever said. Hermione never left his side, not once, and when he was gone she let herself weep. For Rudolphus, for Bellatrix, for Mum and Dad. Found and lost, remembered and forgotten.
She wept, Hermione, but she waited as well, if not with joy than with patience and peace born of long resignation. She would see them again, and there, in that place, she could call them all by their true names.