In a Different World

I

It was the red hair that caught Dennis' eye at first. "Weasley red" he would have thought in the past, but those days were gone. He put the thought from him determinedly. Even five years ago, Ginny Weasley had been remote, totally out of his reach. Now, when they quite literally lived in different worlds, there was no point at all in thinking about her. He turned his eyes away from the little girl, sat down and unwrapped his burger and fries. Still, he knew that she was there, and when he had finished his meal and pulled out his sketchbook and pencil, it was the child, red hair plaited, face intent on dipping her fires just so, whose likeness he began to draw.

The girl's mother, sitting opposite her and glancing up to check on her now and again, was oblivious to his attention. Her own meal lay neglected in front of her as she frowned over the thick textbook she was reading, stopping now and again to make a note in the margin or to underline something. Intent on the child and on his picture, Dennis was unaware of her save as a maternal presence that might at any minute question his interest in her daughter.

It was the little girl who broke the spell that held each of the three of them in their own thoughts. Holding up a small bundle of fries in one hand, she spoke accusingly to her mother: "No more sauce!"

The woman shook her head, sighed and marked her place carefully in the book before looking over at the girl with a smile.

"All gone?" she asked. "Never mind. I'll get you some more."

She stood up slowly, and as she turned towards the counter, Dennis saw her face properly for the first time.

"Hermione?" he gasped to himself, and then louder, "Hermione!"

She jumped visibly and regarded him wide-eyed, the confusion in her eyes quickly followed by a spark of recognition. He saw her lips soundlessly forming his brother's name. Then she walked a few steps towards him hesitantly, and there was something else in her eyes now, something that looked very much like fear.

"Dennis?" she asked, and her voice was shaking. She definitely looked afraid now. "What are you doing here? I thought…" She swallowed hard. "I thought we were safe here."

Behind her, the child's voice rose in irritation: "Mummy! I want some more sauce!"

Hermione jumped, and swung round to face the child.

"Put your coat on, Amanda," she ordered sharply. "We have to go."

The little girl sent up a wail of protest, and Dennis took a step forward, his hands outstretched.

"No, wait!" he said. "It's okay. I didn't mean to upset you. I'll go if you want. I was just surprised to see you. Here, I mean. It's been so long since I saw anyone from…" He cut his sentence short at the shake of Hermione's head and the frantic glance she threw towards her daughter.

Dennis sighed. It would have been so nice to talk to her. She would understand; and, Lord knew, there was no one else who did. But clearly she did not want to talk to him – or to anyone else from a past that she had apparently cut herself off from. He knew when he was beaten.

"It was lovely to see you, Hermione," he said quietly. "Let Amanda finish her lunch." He gathered up his sketchbook and his bag, turned and walked out of the restaurant without looking back.

But he knew that she was watching him as he left.