After spending Friday night with Teddy at his flat, they spent Saturday browsing at the Portobello Road Market and wandering around London being spontaneous. It was a different way to spend her day off, but she enjoyed it. Teddy had come home with her for dinner and ended up staying over, but he had left earlier so he wouldn’t be there when the kids got home.
Of course, it wasn’t until after he left that she realized that she needed to get chores done. Now, everything is finished, so she can relax. She’s curious to hear how their weekend went. Rose sent her an owl last night, but it was mostly to ask how she was and to find out what she was doing. It isn’t unusual for Rose to write her during the weekends with Ron, since she’s done that since the separation, but she normally tells Hermione how much fun she’s having or stories about Hugo and Ron being silly boys. This time, it was just questions and vague remarks.
If anything had happened, Ron would have let her know, so she isn’t worried about that. She’s mostly concerned about Rose and why she’s acting so strange since getting home from school. Of course, considering everything that’s been happening in recent weeks, she’s not entirely convinced that she’s not just imagining the mood change in Rose. Ron’s paranoia could be rubbing off on her, after all. It’s the first time that she’s had a child go away to school, so she isn’t sure what the normal adjustment period is or how the routine goes.
Rose is flying a lot, and she’s working on plans for Quidditch tryouts with her two friends when she’s not reading ahead for next year. Hermione gave permission for both Corner and Malfoy to have Floo access, though she doesn’t plan to tell Ron about that. Rose is nice enough to Hugo, so that’s not really odd, and there are times when she seems to be constantly underfoot trying to help in the kitchen or around the house. Maybe Hermione’s just viewing that as strange since it’s been months without Rose being helpful in that way.
While Rose is unpredictable and complex, Hugo is remarkably uncomplicated. She hopes he stays that way after Hogwarts because she’s not sure that she could endure two strange children next summer. There are people who would probably consider Hugo odd now, of course, but she’d hex them for even suggesting it. His reading is improving, and he’s still in his love of nature and animals phase, which has lasted longer than most of the recent ones. She’s curious to see if it continues as long as his Muggle pirate fascination back when he was seven.
Another glance at the clock shows her that she’s still got twenty minutes if they get home on time, which isn’t definite considering Ron’s inability to be punctual outside of work. She sighs and reaches for one of the magazines that Rose left out on the table. It’s about Quidditch, but it has photographs that Hermione can glance at while waiting, though it’s all brooms and gear that she has no interest in at all.
As she flips through the pages, she keeps an eye out for any reference to Swift Air. After all, it was one of these silly magazines that helped give them a lead in Warrington’s history, so there might be something useful somewhere. It’s more tolerable when she approaches it from a professional angle, so keeps browsing until she hears the Floo activate. She closes it and puts it back just as Hugo steps through the Floo.
“Hi, Mum,” he says before he wipes soot off his face and drags his hand down his shirt. “We’re home.”
“She knows,” Rose says as she enters the room. “She’s got eyes, Hugo. She can see us.” She looks at Hermione. “Hi, Mum.”
“Hello, children.” Hermione looks past them. “Is your father not coming by?”
“Nah, he just sent us through. Said to tell you-“
“That he’ll talk to you at work tomorrow,” Rose interrupts. “He’s got That Woman over, so I guess he doesn’t care if we make it home safely.”
“Her name’s Mel,” Hugo points out. “You said it earlier, so you know what it is.”
“I don’t care what her name is.” Rose frowns at Hugo before she steps forward and looks at Hermione. “I missed you, Mum. Did you have a good weekend? Did you miss us?”
“Of course she missed us.” Hugo shakes his head before he comes over to hug Hermione. “She always misses us.”
“I did miss you,” Hermione agrees, returning Hugo’s hug before she glances at Rose. “Did you have fun with your father?”
Rose shrugs and makes a face. “I guess so. I’d have rather been here with you, though.”
“I had fun,” Hugo says. “We went out for burgers and chips yesterday, and we went to the park today with Mel. Dad let me fly with him, but I wasn’t supposed to tell you that.” He bites his lip. “You won’t tell him that I told, will you?”
“That depends. If you take your things up to your room and wash your face, it’ll be our secret,” she promises.
“Do I have to wash up?” Hugo whinges before he sighs. “Fine. Just don’t tell Dad that I told about flying. He doesn’t like when you yell at him.”
“What if I tell him?” Rose asks. “You have to leave me alone next time I Floo call my friends or I’ll tell Dad.”
“Mum! Tell Rose that’s not fair.”
“It is too fair! You don’t want me to tell Dad so you have to do what I say.” Rose smiles smugly. “Isn’t that right, Mum?”
They haven’t been home very long at all, and she can already feel a headache coming on. “Rose, don’t blackmail your brother. Hugo, don’t eavesdrop on your sister’s private conversations. Now, both of you go upstairs and put away your things. When you get back down, we’ll have a slice of cake and you can finish telling me about your weekend.”
They both look like they might argue until she mentions cake. At that, they mutter and head upstairs, bickering along the way. While they’re gone, she goes into the kitchen and cuts the cake. She doesn’t often let them have sweets before dinner, but it’s still early enough that it shouldn’t interfere with their appetites. Rose gets back first and sniffs the cake.
“Oh, it’s chocolate. It smells great, Mum.” She smiles before she opens the cabinet and gets down three glasses. “Milk or juice?”
“Milk for your brother. I’ll take juice,” she says as she finishes cutting. “So, what’s wrong?”
“What?” Rose looks guilty and shrugs. “Nothing’s wrong. I just wish I’d been home with you instead of stuck with Dad and That Woman.”
“Hugo said that you didn’t have a problem calling her Mel earlier,” she points out gently. “Rose, you don’t have to dislike her just for me. She isn’t taking my place or trying to steal your father.”
“I don’t care about her,” Rose mutters. “Dad acts so silly around her, and I just don’t like her. You can’t make me like her, either.”
She sighs and rubs her temple. “Of course I can't make you like her, but Mel makes your father happy. Don’t you want him to be happy?”
"He was happy without her before. I don't see why he needs her now."
"It's not a question of whether he needs her. He likes her, and it's irrational to think someone being happy with a given situation, like your father being happy before without Mel, means he can't be more happy with a change, or that he should stay in exactly the same state forever. People change, and their needs and wants change with them."
"Well, he can just change back. It's bad enough he just left, but as far as I can see, he did that to get away from us, then decided he didn't like being alone and replaced us anyway. So I don't have to like her."
“Oh, Rosie. It’s not like that at all. You know that your father didn’t leave you. He left me because we weren’t happy anymore. There's a difference between getting away and running from something, and choosing to live in a way that feels better for everyone. And then he and Mel started dating. That doesn't make Mel a replacement of me or you. It makes her a friend that he likes and that's good for him. No one is going to make him not want you or Hugo. It’s complicated, I know, but you’re old enough to understand that he’s not going to choose Mel or any woman over you.” She’s known since Easter that Rose wasn’t happy with Ron dating again, but she foolishly assumed it was because of things changing. Now, she realizes that maybe she should have forced this talk back then.
“Mum, why’s Rose crying?” Hugo asks as he enters the room. He frowns at her and steps closer to Rose. “Did Mum make you cry?”
“I’m not crying,” Rose denies as she angrily wipes her eyes. “Mum didn’t do anything.” She looks at Hermione and scowls. “It’s not fair that he’s happy when he left us. I don’t care if you told him to go. I don’t like her, and I don’t want to leave you alone anymore because Daddy doesn’t need us. You can’t make me go back to see him.”
“He’s your father, Rose. That hasn’t changed just because he’s dating someone now. It’s been years since we divorced, and it’s not fair to want him to be alone and unhappy,” Hermione tells her. “I know it doesn’t all make sense to you yet. You’re both still young. I like Mel. She’s good for your father, and I’m not angry that he’s dating her. I’m glad he’s happy, and you should be, too.”
“I’m happy,” Hugo says softly. “Mel is nice, and Daddy laughs a lot now. He didn’t use to, before.”
“When we go to school, you’re going to be alone. That’s not fair, either.” Rose bites her lip before she says, “Maybe I shouldn’t go back to school? You can teach me, and I’ll stay home with you. You need me, Mum.”
“Stop talking that way. You’ll be going to school in September with your brother.” She isn’t sure where all this is coming from, but she knows that Rose is obviously upset. “I won’t be alone, so you don’t need to keep worrying about me.”
“Yeah, Rose. You have to go to school. Mum wouldn’t let you stop going.” Hugo looks shocked at the idea of not attending Hogwarts, which is good because she doesn’t need both of the children acting crazy.
"But then Daddy will have That Woman, and Hugo and I will both be gone, and you'll just be you, here by your--"
“I’m dating someone, too.” Hermione blinks when she realizes what she just said. Oh God. This isn’t the right time. Not at all. Why did she say that? Rose is staring at her with wide eyes and Hugo looks confused.
“What?” Rose shakes her head. “No, you’re not. You're just trying to make me like her.”
“Mum wouldn’t lie.” Hugo frowns and reaches out to run his finger through the white creamy frosting on the cake.
Hermione purses her lips. "I might, for a good reason, about some things. But not about this."
“Mum? Dating? But…” Rose stares at her, and she wishes that she could take back what she said.
“I am,” she says softly. She sighs and runs her fingers through her hair. “For the past few weeks, I’ve been dating someone.”
“But—why didn’t you tell us? Does Daddy know?”
“I didn’t want to say anything until I knew it might be serious,” she answers Rose. “Your father knows. He felt a little weird about it at first, like I did about Mel, but he accepts it, and he’s been helpful. We just want each other to be happy.”
“I like Teddy more than Mel,” Hugo announces as he looks at Hermione. “He makes you smile more than you have in ages. Plus, he’s funny.”
“Wait. Teddy? Our cousin, Teddy?” Rose puts the glass she’s holding down and stares at the counter. “How does Hugo know? Did you tell him? Why didn’t you tell me? How can you be dating Teddy? He was dating Victoire, and you’re so old. That’s just wrong, Mum.”
“He isn’t your cousin. I didn’t tell Hugo. I already said why I didn’t tell you.” She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “He isn’t dating Victoire anymore. I know that I’m older than he is, but that’s not really important to us.” She can’t say that it isn’t wrong because there’s a part of her that still wonders if it isn’t.
“I figured it out,” Hugo says proudly. “He’s around all the time, and he makes Mum smile.”
Rose looks shocked and disbelieving. “You’re really dating Teddy?” she asks quietly. She looks back at the counter and frowns. “I don’t want cake anymore. I’m going to my room.”
“Rose, please stay. We can talk about this.”
“I’m going to my room, Mum. Just leave me alone,” Rose says before she turns and leaves the kitchen.
Hugo walks over and gives Hermione a hug. “Just give her time. She’s not seen how Teddy makes you smile yet,” he tells her while patting her shoulder. “I love you, Mum.”
She looks down at him and tries to smile. “I love you, too, baby.” She hugs him tight before letting go.
“I’m not a baby. I’m eleven.” He smiles and pulls a plate of cake towards them. “It looks really good, Mum.”
It’s difficult to remain in the kitchen and not go upstairs to talk to Rose. She wants to go, but she knows Rose well enough to know that it would just make things worse. Still, she can’t help her inclination to go make everything better for her daughter. Only, she doesn’t know how to make this better. Teddy was right. She should have told the kids without waiting for the right moment because this certainly hadn’t been the perfect time.
“Mum?” Hugo nudges her. “Can I have Rose’s slice of cake since she doesn’t want it?”
“Hmm?” She shakes her head and looks down at Hugo. “No, but you can have a second slice after dinner. Save Rose’s slice for her. She might want it later.” She leans down and kisses the top of his head before she pours him a glass of milk and listens carefully just in case Rose comes back downstairs.