Reception (Worth the Risk #43)

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The drive to King’s Cross takes six and a half hours. It would have been less, but there's an accident on the motorway and Ron has to stop for petrol, which led to Hugo browsing the sweets in the shop and asking for everything that took his fancy. He's sneaky enough to ask under the guise of getting something for Rose, but Hermione hasn’t been fooled. Unfortunately for Hugo’s teeth, Ron has been, so they return to the car with a sack full of chocolate and sugary sweets that she will have to attempt to confiscate before Hugo ends up with cavities.

London is crowded when they arrive, but Ron manages to deal with the traffic relatively well. He only curses a few times, and there are no near misses when it comes to accidents, which is an improvement from when they had dropped Rose off back in September. Finding parking isn’t easy, but they finally find a space at King’s Cross with a little time to spare.

After listening to Ron and Hugo chatter about Quidditch for half of the drive, Hermione’s relieved to enter the noisy train station. Hearing a variety of different languages and chatter from strangers is better than sitting through analysis of Quidditch matches that don’t interest her. It’s bad enough that Rose is a Quidditch fan, though, without Hugo also falling into that trap. She’s glad the children have something to share with Ron, of course, but it likely means that Hugo will also want to try out for a school team when he’s older, which could be an issue in sibling relations if he and Rose end up competing on different teams.

“Mum, slow down,” Hugo says from behind her.

She glances back and notices that Hugo and Ron are further behind than she would have thought. “Speed up,” she replies even as she slows her steps. She’s eager to see Rose, but the train won’t arrive for another ten minutes, give or take, so she knows there’s no reason to hurry. Still, she wants to make sure that she’s there when Rose gets off the train.

“I’d think you were doing that power walking nonsense but you weren’t shaking your arse the right way.” Ron scoops up Hugo from behind and carries him as they reach her more quickly.

“Daaaad, you’re embarrassing me,” Hugo mutters as he wiggles and tries to get down.

“Language, Ronald.” She purses her lips and considers whether she wants to tell him to let Hugo go. She decides that it’s between them, though, and continues walking.

“Language, Ronald,” Ron imitates in a snooty sounding tone. “It’s a bunch of strangers, Hermione. I don’t really care if they hear me say the word arse.”

“Oi! What’s this I hear? My baby brother cursing for all the world to hear?” George cries out in dismay, being far louder than is necessary as he draws attention to them. Angelina is behind him shaking her head, and she gives Hermione an apologetic look before she mouths ‘brothers’, as if that explains it all. Which it does.

Ron puts Hugo back down and glares at George. “Yeah, well, you taught me the words.”

“Hello everyone,” Angelina interrupts before George can say anything. “Hugo, you’re looking even more handsome than the last time I saw you.”

Hugo makes a face. “Don’t wanna look handsome. That’s stupid.” Hermione arches a brow and gives him a look, which he notices immediately. “Uh, I mean, thank you, Aunt Angelina.”

George makes a tsking noise as he leans down to whisper, “It‘s a sad day when a nephew of mine is so polite when faced with an overbearing auntie. You’re such a bad influence.”

“Would you like for me to make sure that Angelina hears your charming description of her?” she whispers back before she elbows him in the ribs and smiles sweetly.

“None of that. Whispering between you two usually means plots and schemes,” Ron says as he looks at them suspiciously.

“We were just talking about what a wonderful man you are, baby brother,” George says innocently as he flutters his eyelashes. “Now, are we going to stand here blocking traffic or are we going to fetch our children? Of course, I’m not sure if I even want the kids to come home. Mary says that Fred and Gideon are fighting after some prank Fred and Fabian pulled on a girl that Gideon fancies. It’s all so dramatic that I can’t believe my children are part of it.”

“I can’t believe that Gideon is already fancying girls,” Angelina mutters. “I was hoping we’d have another year or two, at least, before we had to deal with that.”

Ron snorts. “I can’t believe that it’s Gideon with the first crush. I’d have thought Mary would fall first.”

Hugo is listening attentively, which means everything said will likely be told to his cousins as soon as possible. She glances at the clock and then reaches for Hugo’s hand. “While they stand around talking about teenage drama, we’ll go wait for your sister.”

“Hey, now. None of that. Was my idea to go get them before it was yours,” George calls out. Angelina just laughs and joins Hermione and Hugo.

“There are times when I don’t know how I can be married to that man,” she confides to Hermione. She smiles. “The rest of the time, though, I don’t know how I’d ever live without him, so I guess it’s a good balance.”

“Does Gideon really have a girlfriend?” Hugo asks, making a face that gives his opinion on the idea of his cousin dating. If only he’d keep feeling that way until he was older. Fifty would be good. That’s when she thinks that she’ll be ready for Rose to start dating, though Ron argues that seventy-five is a good age.

“I don’t know,” Angelina says with a shrug. “He’s only thirteen, so I doubt it. George just likes to overreact.”

“I do not,” George denies as he and Ron catch up with them. “Hugo, don’t listen to your aunt. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

“Grown-ups are so weird,” Hugo murmurs as Angelina slaps the back of George’s head lightly.

When they reach the entrance to Platform 9 , she takes a moment to prepare herself for what awaits her on the other side. She’s already developing a slight headache after being trapped in a car for so many hours and the antics of George and Ron. It will now get worse because, on the other side, there’ll be even more Weasleys waiting for children, along with old friends who enjoy every mini-reunion they have, whether it’s at Finnigan’s or King’s Cross.

“Mum, are you okay?” Hugo looks up at her, and she notices that he seems to be worried. Bloody hell. She hadn’t meant for her deep breath to be seen.

“I’m fine. You know how I get after a long car ride,” she tells him. It’s the truth, but not the whole truth because she doesn’t want to tell him that it can be overwhelming sometimes when most of the family is around. This is also the first time that she’ll be around them since she’s started dating Teddy and, despite the fact that few of them are even aware of the fact, she feels awkward. Ginny knows and isn’t speaking to her, which will likely be noticed. George knows but doesn’t really care. And seeing Bill and Fleur will be very uncomfortable if only for the fact that she’s dating their daughter’s ex-boyfriend.

Hugo seems to accept her answer and walks through the barrier with George and Angelina. “Here. It’s water,” Ron says as he hands her a cold bottle. He puts his hand on the small of her back and gently nudges her. “They won’t know just from looking at you, and Ginny’s not going to say anything.”

“I hate when you do that,” she murmurs, opening the bottle and taking a drink before she glances at him. “Is it really that obvious?”

“Nah. I just know you too well.” He grins. “I’ve not started studying mind reading or anything, so no worries there.” His smile fades as he glances at the stone column before them. “If you’re this nervous without any of them even knowing about him, how are you ever going to be okay with all of them knowing?”

Before she can answer, he kisses her cheek and then steps through the barrier. Bugger. She really does hate when he does that, especially when he manages to surprise her with his insight. This isn’t about Teddy so much as it’s about her irrational insecurities when it comes to her friends and family. While several have been so accepting it still doesn’t seem possible, there are others that she knows will react like Ginny or even worse.

Ron’s right, though. None of them will know. It’s not as if she’s wearing a sign that says ‘I’m dating a sexy twenty year old’, after all. Still, she’s apprehensive about Rose coming home, for more reasons than just seeing how different her daughter is after a year at school, and the anxiety over her relationship with Teddy just adds to her emotional disparity at the moment. With a shake of her head, she steps through the barrier and joins her family to wait.

“Thought we’d lost you,” George says as she approaches them. “Alright?”

“Fine. I think I might have got car sick. Water helps.” She holds up the bottle that Ron gave her before she takes another drink.

The platform is crowded. It almost feels surreal to be here waiting for her child when it was only yesterday that she, herself, was arriving on the train after her first year at school. That day can’t have been over twenty years ago. In a few weeks, she’ll be back here putting Rose and Hugo on the train before returning to her quiet house. The children have grown up so fast, and she’s torn between proud of them and wishing that they’d never grow up.

She returns a greeting from Padma and Percy, who have joined the waiting group. Within moments, there is teasing about Tim being in Slytherin, but Percy is able to turn things back on Ron since Rose was sorted into Ravenclaw this year. Two more voices join the group, and she gives Bill and Fleur a friendly smile before she focuses on the clock nearby.

“You’re being awfully quiet,” Harry whispers before he gives her a hug from behind. She leans against him briefly before she sighs. He kisses the top of her head and lets go. “Do you think Al is going to suddenly want to paint his room yellow? I’ve been having nightmares about everything turning yellow. Does that make me a bad father?”

“Yellow?” She looks at Harry and starts to laugh. It’s a good feeling, and it helps ease some of the tension that she feels right now. Harry looks smug for a fleeting moment before he does his best to look concerned. “I don’t think it does. You can be proud of him regardless of his House without wanting everything yellow.” She shakes her head. “Thanks.”

“For what?” He winks at her before he turns to greet George. She notices Ginny standing beside Fleur and nods in greeting. Ginny returns the nod quickly then starts talking to Lily.

It seems that a lot of parents waited until the last minute to show up. A few minutes before the train is due, the platform is suddenly even more crowded than before. There are people everywhere, talking and waiting, and she speaks to a few friends here and there as they pass by her. Finally, the train arrives, and she has to fight the impulse to do a little dance because it means that Rose is home.

Children swarm off the train, running to parents and giving out hugs or acting as if they’re too old to do that sort of thing, depending on their age. She scans the crowd for dark auburn curls, but she still hasn’t seen Rose. Ron picks up Hugo and holds him above everyone’s head so he can look for his sister, and he squirms when he spots her. “I see her! Rose! We‘re here! Hurry uuuup!”

Hermione focuses in the direction where Hugo’s shouting and sees Rose walking along with two boys, one blond and one with black hair. Scorpius Malfoy and Daniel Corner, if she had to guess. Rose is making faces and glaring at the blond, while the other boy laughs. She looks older, Hermione decides, which is silly since she was just home for Easter hols a couple of months ago. When Rose reaches out to slap Scorpius on the arm, Ron snorts.

“Take that, Malfoy,” he mutters crossly.

“Ronald,” she warns quietly, not wanting to have to hex her ex-husband for behaving like a child with a grudge. She sees Michael step up to the dark-haired boy, which confirms that he’s Daniel, and Rose speaks with him briefly before continuing along the platform towards them. She sees her nieces and nephews joining the group and hugging their parents, but she looks back towards Rose when she spots Victoire giving Fleur a kiss on the cheek.

Hugo takes off running towards Rose when she gets closer and tackles her hard enough to nearly knock her off her feet. Rose stumbles back into Scorpius and tries to glare at Hugo but she ends up smiling. Hermione’s relieved that there won’t be any bickering, yet at least, and walks towards them.

“Hugo, let your sister breathe,” she says when Hugo keeps hugging Rose and doesn’t let go. Rose looks up and smiles at her.

“Mum!” Rose pushes Hugo away and walks over to her, hugging her tighter than she has in years. Hermione’s pleasantly surprised since she’s been worried that Rose was going to be too old for hugs soon. She returns the hug and kisses Rose’s cheek before she lets go.

“You’ll have to forgive your brother. He’s missed you.”

“I have not,” Hugo denies before he looks at a bemused Scorpius. “Who are you? What did you say to my sister that made her hit you? If you were mean, I‘ll-”

“Hugo, enough.” Ron seems reluctant to have to stop the threat likely coming, but she’s glad that he stepped up and put fatherhood above a childhood rivalry. “Don’t I get a hug, too, or am I Hippogriff dung now?”

“You’re so silly, Dad,” Rose mutters before she gives him a hug. When she lets go, she steps back. “I’m starving. The train ride seemed to take forever, and I didn’t trust any of the sweets that Malfoy and Corner had with them, and I never eat anything that the cousins give me.”

“It’s very nice to meet you, Mrs. Weasley, Mr. Weasley.” Scorpius steps up from behind Hugo and introduces himself. “I’m Scorpius Malfoy, Weasley’s rival and worst enemy.”

Rose rolls her eyes. “Go find your parents, Malfoy, and pester them. Besides, you only wish that you were my worst enemy.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Malfoy,” Hermione says politely, reaching over to grip Ron’s arm in such a way that she can use her fingernails if he’s rude.

“Yeah, same,” Ron mutters, glaring slightly anyway.

“Scorpius, your mother is waiting.” A cool voice speaks out from behind them. Scorpius looks up and smiles at his father.

“Father, this is Rose Weasley.” He nods towards Rose before he walks towards his father.

Hermione digs her fingernails into Ron’s arm when he tenses at the sight of Draco Malfoy. Draco glances at Rose and nods politely. “Miss Weasley. I’ve heard that you’re fortunate enough to have inherited your mother’s intelligence - along with her riotous hair, it seems.” He looks at her and Ron and smiles slightly. “Mr. Weasley. Mrs. Weasley. Good day. Come along, Scorpius. We don’t wish to keep your mother waiting.”

“Don’t forget to practice, Malfoy,” Rose calls out as he follows behind his father. He mutters something in reply before hurrying after his father. She ruffles Hugo’s hair before she smiles at them. “Can we eat? I’m still starving.”

“We can go to Finnigan’s,” Hugo suggests as he tries to pick up Rose’s trunk. Ron moves forward to help him.

“Oh, can we?” Rose takes her hand and squeezes. “I’m really glad to be home, Mum. I’ve missed you.”

Hermione returns the squeeze and smiles. “I’ve missed you, too. And, yes, Finnigan’s sounds like a good choice before the long drive home.”