Tuesday, Three AMAuthor:
The Last Good Name LeftTeam:
Hermione hasn't seen Ron in years, and she didn't expect to see him now.
Black smoke hung thick in the air, orange lights reflecting against it in a strange parody of the entertainment district in a city centre. Hermione stared at the chaos in the street, shivering slightly in her night clothes. The baby nuzzled her cheek.
Firemen were striding about purposefully and she stayed out of their way; she watched one man, sweat dripping from his fringe, calmly speak with a harried looking man. The other man's face was covered in soot and he held one of his slippers in his hand, soaking wet. He shook the water from it, and nodded at what the fireman was saying. Hermione blinked back tears.
She glanced up: an entire block of flats, destroyed. Some windows were still belching acrid smoke. She closed her eyes to the damage, smoke damage, water damage, fire damage. She would have to phone the insurance company in the morning.
The harried looking man put on his wet slipper, and wrapped his arms more securely around the small girl leaning against him. The girl's face was streaked with tears, and she had a tattered photograph in her hand. The photo was singed at the edges, and Hermione shuddered, imagining the girl's fingers closing around the burning photo. She buried her face in the baby's hair and turned her back to the scene.
Out of the corner of her eye, a flash of red hair caught her eye.
"Ron?" she whispered.
The passing man paused and glanced her way. He was dressed similar to the other firemen, but something felt off: his clothes were similar, but too loose, too shiny; they shimmered strangely in the flashing lights.
"Hermione?" Ron took an aborted step toward her, surprise etched across his face, and then his expression changed as he gestured to the burnt building. "Is that?" He sounded calm, detached.
Hermione grimaced. "My flat? Yes. It was, I suppose. Not much left now." She refused to turn and confirm her supposition.
Ron scratched the back of his hand and glanced away. "It'll be all right," he said. "We'll get it fixed."
Hermione blinked at that, and struggled to form coherent thoughts. The number for the insurance company was in a file in the desk in her office, she thought, and now her office was no longer there; the file probably wasn't either. "You're a fireman?" she said inanely.
"Extinguo, yeah." Ron was still standing several feet away. He held himself very still, as if Hermione was about to fall apart at any moment.
"Extinguo, wizarding" he paused and glanced around to see who was listening.
He shrugged lightly. "Sometimes magical elements have strange reactions to fire. Imagine if someone's potions stash went up in flames."
Terror grabbed Hermione. "Oh, god," she breathed.
"This wasn't too bad; not much that caused extra damage." He looked up appraisingly at the building. "You didn't have much wizarding stuff, did you?"
Hermione shook her head.
"Living as a Muggle?" Ron asked.
"David knows," Hermione said.
For the first time, Ron's face displayed something other than a professional calm. "David?"
"My husband; he knows. Gin" Hermione broke off and glanced back at the harried man and the little girl. "Our daughter is a witch."
Ron stared at her intently. She couldn't read his face and looked away. The baby began fussing again; she was grateful for the distraction. She couldn't even remember the insurance company's name, anyway.
They stood in silence for long moments. One of the firemen passed by and nodded at Ron; Ron nodded back at him. Hermione thought the man's helmet was oddly shaped, but couldn't work out how it was different than the others.
Ron interrupted her musings, whispering, "Ginevra?"
She nodded, not looking at him.
"She'd have liked that," Ron said thickly. "I'll have to tell Mum."
Hermione smiled. She was surprised by how easy it felt. "How is your Mum?"
Ron snorted. "Charlie's wife had another son a few weeks ago, so mum's been gone in Hungary since then. Dad misses her, but it's better when she's busy."
Hermione nodded again. "Hungary?" she asked.
Ron grinned. "He's head of a reserve near"
A woman, the singed ends of her hair straggling out of its braid and her helmet dangling in her hand, stood nearby. "Sir?" she interrupted him.
Ron waved her off and stepped closer to Hermione. "I've got to get back to work, make sure everything is," he gestured at the still-smoldering fire. "Can we I'd like to meet up with you for a coffee or something. Sometime. Would that D'you think your husband would mind?"
"No," Hermione said, staring at Ron's hand on her arm.
Ron let go and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Oh."
"I mean no, he wouldn't mind. I think it would be nice We'll make a date, soon?" she said, conscious of a little desperation in her voice. Ginny had school in the morning, she thought suddenly. What was she going to wear?
Ron looked relieved. "I'll send Pig?"
Hermione gave a short bark of laughter. "Pig is still alive?"
Ron grinned back at her, and for a moment, she couldn't smell the smoke or feel the wind tugging at her thin nightgown. "Short trips only," he said, and waved briefly as he walked away. He crossed paths with David and Ginny on his way to talk with the same fireman who had been speaking to David. Hermione thought Ron might have stared a little at Ginny as he passed her.
When David found them, he wrapped his arms tightly around Hermione and the baby. Ginny clung to both of them.
"I forgot Maura, Mummy. She's all burnt up now! I forgot!" Ginny cried.
"Shhh," Hermione said, running her fingers through Ginny's hair. Hermione leaned into David's solid body. "Your slippers are wet," she whispered into his chest.
"I know," said David.
They didn't move for a long time; Hermione kept her face turned away from the ruined building. Ginny cried into Hermione's hip, the baby cried into her shoulder, and David kept sighing into her hair.
"Do you remember the name of the insurance company?"
David pulled her face up and looked at her. "We'll take care of it in the morning, dear. Right now we've quite a bit on our plates."
"That's a no, then?" She smiled.
"That's a no."
Hermione could hear several of the firemen discussing something about vectors and building stability. She tried not to listen.
"Hey, I'm off," said Ron, pulling Hermione out of her daze. She looked up from David's chest at Ron, who stood some ways off, a wan smile twitching his lips.
"We've done all we can here for now, and you you've a place to stay, right?" he asked suddenly.
"Yes," David replied. Hermione blinked in confusion, wondered where they could possibly go. "My parents have a place," David said. "We'll be fine."
"You'd be welcome to stay with me, but" Ron gestured at the bundle in her arms.
"Yes, he's a nuisance all right," said Hermione. "Too busy staring at the flames tonight to scream the neighborhood down tonight."
Ron nodded, although the look on his face indicated he had little idea what she was talking about. "How old is he?"
Ron scratched at the back of his head. "I never thought... I guess I never thought of you as a mum."
"For almost seven years now."
"Gi your daughter?" Ron glanced at Ginny. "She'll be going to Hogwarts?"
"Assuming she gets her letter, I expect so." Hermione stroked Ginny's head; Ginny was watching Ron as intently as he was watching her.
Ron smiled briefly at Hermione, nodded at David, and turned to go.
Hermione watched him stride away through the water and ash on the street. He began to fade into the darkness, the reflective stripes on his back growing fainter with every step. Suddenly, on a whim, she shoved the baby at David and dashed after Ron. She could hear the baby begin to complain behind her, and her slippers slapped wetly on the street.
"Ron" she called.
He spun around immediately. "Yeah?"
She skidded to a stop in front of him. His face was eager. "Do you" She had to swallowed to get the words out. "Do you ever hear from Harry?"
Ron looked as though he had been struck, and shook his head silently.
Hermione slumped. "Oh."
Ron's jaw worked for several minutes before he asked, "You?"
"No." Hermione stared at Ron's chest. "Is he"
"Alive?" Ron broke in. "Dunno. I've asked Dad, even asked Percy."
Hermione nodded, and they stood in silence. "It was nice to see you," she finally said.
Ron flashed a small smile. "You, too. I'll tell Mum about Gi what d'you call her?"
"Ginny. We call her Ginny."
Ron nodded. "I'll tell Mum. She'll like that."
Hermione stepped back. "Take care, Ron."
"You, too, Hermione." Ron turned again.
He looked at her.
"It was nice to see you."
He nodded and took a small step toward her. "Let's not lose touch again, all right?"
She smiled. "I'd like that." They both stared at each other, and after a small hesitation, they hugged, desperately, briefly.
As she turned to return to David and the children, Hermione called out again. "Ron?"
"Thanks. For" she paused and smiled quietly. "For everything."
"No problem," he said, and grinned at her.Voting for this fic is now closed!