Awaiting Rose’s Owl
“No Dan, we can’t just use Veritaserum on all his neighbors. Even if it would be easier, that’s not the way we work.”
Hermione glanced through the doorway of the living room where Ron was pacing back and forth in front of the fireplace having a heated conversation with the head of a younger Auror as it bobbed in the flames. She caught his eye and raised her eyebrows, questioning how long he would be. With his back to the fireplace, he rolled his eyes and shook his head as if to say, “Who knows?”
Turning back to the head ranting about tracking down a suspect’s family and the absurdity of Ministry policies about privacy, Ron interjected, “You don’t know the history behind that. People are still a little paranoid…”
Hermione left her husband to his business and walked down the hall toward her children’s bedrooms. After all the excitement of the day: driving into London and seeing Rose off at King’s Cross, and then going out for dinner with the Potters, she expected to find Hugo still awake playing with his Quidditch action figures or reading comic books, but both rooms were dark. She peeked into her son’s bedroom and her breath caught in her throat. He was sleeping peacefully, curled up with the stuffed dragon Rose had given him for his sixth birthday. All evening Hugo had fluctuated between parading around the house boasting his relief at “finally being rid of my annoying sister” and sitting quietly on the floor by his toy chest pulling out all the toys he and Rose used to play with together. Hermione remembered the night the previous year when Hugo had tossed his dragon into the corner, declaring himself too old to sleep with stuffed animals anymore, but he must have needed a comforting reminder of his sister tonight.
She knew how he felt.
Hermione quietly blew her son a kiss and turned toward the room across the hall. It was so strange to see it dark. She was used to seeing the glow of her daughter’s reading lamp well into the night. In fact, many mornings Hermione had entered the room to find Rose asleep with a book either somewhere in the bed or on the floor where it had fallen when she simply could not hold her eyes open any longer. And a few mornings, Hermione had found Rose still sitting up in bed, bleary-eyed and looking guilty. “I’m almost done. I couldn’t put it down!” But that lamp was always burning.
Unable to stand the sight of Rose’s room so dark, Hermione walked to the bedside table and turned on the reading lamp. With a shuddering sigh, she sat on the bed looking around at the bookshelves lining each wall. Once teeming with the books, trinkets and photos treasured by the little girl who called this room home, many of the shelves now stood mostly empty, taunting Hermione. Boldly pronouncing, “Your daughter doesn’t live here anymore.”
Tears rolled down Hermione’s cheeks, and she closed her eyes wondering what Rose was doing right now. Was she sitting in her new common room getting to know her new housemates? Was she exploring the halls of the castle with James and Al? Or was she sitting alone on her four poster bed with the curtains drawn, looking at pictures of home and trying not to cry as Hermione had done her first night at Hogwarts.
“I thought I’d find you in here.”
Her eyes flew open to see Ron standing in the doorway, and she knew he had noticed her tear-streaked face, because without hesitation, he strode into the room and joined her on the bed, hooking one arm around hers.
She leaned her head on his shoulder, giving his arm a gentle squeeze. “It was too dark in here.”
Ron chuckled. “Yeah, I don’t reckon that light’s been off at night since she learned how to read… when she was, what? Three years old?”
He acted annoyed, but Hermione knew the truth. He was so proud of his little girl that everyone in their extended family as well as all of his coworkers had long ago grown tired of hearing Ron brag about his Rosie’s accomplishments. Hermione felt Ron sigh as he, too, looked around at the empty shelves.
“You know, all summer, I was excited for her to start Hogwarts… teasing her about Slytherin and about spending too much time in the library like her mum. But now…”
Ron glanced around Rose’s room again before looking back at Hermione, his teeth clenched and brow knit. Unable to speak, he simply shrugged, and she reached for him pulling him close.
After a minute or two, Hermione pulled away wiping tears from her face. “We can’t be the only parents feeling this way. Shouldn’t we have been warned? Ginny should have prepared me! Or somebody… something.”
Ron snorted and wiped his own damp face on his sleeve. “I can see it now. Next year when we go to buy Rosie’s books, there will be a new display in Flourish and Blotts. ‘The newest book by Hermione Weasley! Waving Goodbye to the Hogwarts Express: A Witch’s Guide to an Empty Nest.”
With a little chuckle, Hermione smirked at him. “Don’t tempt me!” But then she sobered, “You know, I never really appreciated how difficult it must have been for my parents to let me go to Hogwarts. At the time, I was just so excited… everything was finally making sense. All the strange things that had happened to me. And, of course, I did a bit of reading about the wizarding world…”
Ron rolled his eyes, “A bit?”
Hermione gave him her “pretending to be annoyed” smile and continued, “But for Mum and Dad… sending their little girl off to, not only an unknown school, but a completely unknown world! I never really thought about it…”
She sighed, shaking her head. How had she ever gotten her parents to approve her attending Hogwarts? She could not imagine sending her daughter away without knowing where she was going and what she would be learning and experiencing.
Ron slid off the bed and walked over to the window seat where some of Rose’s old stuffed animals still sat. Picking up Panda, a black and white puppy Rose had carried everywhere the year she was two, he looked back at Hermione. “Yeah, I never thought about it either, but you’re right. That must have been hard. I’m not sure I could do it.”
He replaced Panda and picked up Borasco, a formerly fuzzy hippogriff worn beyond magical repair from so many adventures in the garden. “At least we know what Rosie’s getting into. We know Hogwarts. We know her teachers and some of the other kids. We’ve been through all her lessons.”
Leaning down to return Borasco to his post watching the window, Ron shook his head. “If she’d had her heart set on going to some crazy Muggle school or something, I reckon I’d have at least wanted to visit the school first.”
They remained silent for a while, Ron wandering around Rose’s bedroom adjusting the position of the few remaining toys, books and knick knacks. Hermione knew that when her husband felt uneasy, he couldn’t sit still. So she simply watched as he walked from shelf to shelf, his fingers seeking physical reminders of his daughter.
Rose had promised to send an owl as soon as she got to her dormitory, so although neither she nor Ron mentioned it, Hermione knew that they would wait here in Rose’s room until the owl arrived, bringing news of their daughter’s first night at Hogwarts. Hopefully that letter would set their minds at ease: if Rose sounded upset or lonely, though, she might not be able to stop Ron from Apparating straight to Hogsmeade to check on his little girl.
“Hey, did you notice Hugo was sleeping with his old dragon?” Ron rejoined her on the bed, and she nodded, smiling. “I wonder if Ginny missed me when I went off to Hogwarts.”
“I’m sure she did. Didn’t you miss your brothers when they started school?”
Ron scoffed, but gave her a sheepish shrug. “Not Percy so much. But I guess the house was a lot quieter when Fred and George left.” He grew quiet again looking toward the door. “Maybe I’ll try to take off early now and then so Hugo and I can go out to the field behind the Burrow to practice Quidditch or something.”
Tears swelled in Hermione’s eyes again. Ron was a great father and had always made an effort to spend time with his kids, but with Rose away, Hermione knew that Hugo would probably need some extra attention for a while. She loved that Ron recognized that as well.
Scooting closer to Ron, Hermione put her arms around him again, kissed his cheek, and then rested her chin on his shoulder. They sat quietly for several more minutes until a thought occurred to Hermione. “I wonder if she’s already met her future husband.”
“What?” Ron looked at her, shocked, until his face dropped and she knew he understood. “Oh. I didn’t even think of that.”
Hermione smirked. “Well, our first meeting wasn’t exactly something to write home about, was it?”
“I don’t know. If she writes about some incredibly annoying bloke who really gave her a hard time on the train, we’ll know that’s him, won’t we?”
Ron pulled back and gave her a big grin, daring her to fight back, but Hermione snuggled close to her husband and sighed. “I just hope she makes as true and lasting friendships at Hogwarts as I did.”
Closing her eyes again, she tried to focus on the wonderful things in store for her daughter instead of the emptiness of the room. She felt Ron kiss the top of her head before resting his head atop hers. Hermione savored the feeling of just being close to Ron: it had been a long time since they simply sat snuggled together like this. Soon, however, the peaceful moment was interrupted by a tapping on the window.
“It’s here!” Ron released her and bounded over to the window, opening it for the brown barn owl persistently tapping its beak against the glass. After untying the letter from the owl’s leg, Ron plopped back onto the bed, tearing open the envelope. Two letters fell out. On one, Hermione recognized the secret code Rose and her brother had created several years ago after finding one of her books on ancient runes.
“Hugo will be happy to get that!” Ron put the coded letter aside and handed Hermione the other, longer one. He took a deep breath and looked at her with his eyebrows raised. She unfolded the letter, and they both started reading.
Dear Mum and Dad,
Well, I’m here! I’m finally at Hogwarts! The train ride was fine. At first, Al and I shared a compartment with Ashley Wood and a couple of other Ravenclaw second-years. They mostly talked about what classes they were taking. I thought it was interesting, but Al was bored, so we walked around a bit until we found James and his friends. James gave Al a hard time about first-years not being allowed in compartments with third-years. I didn’t want them fighting before we even got to school, so I took Al out to find the trolley. Then we went back to our own compartment and ended up playing chess the rest of the way.
When we arrived, Hagrid met us at the station and took us to the boats. He made sure Al and I were in his boat! I hope the others didn’t think he was showing favoritism, but we couldn’t say no to Hagrid, could we?
And now the news I know you’ve been waiting for… The sorting ceremony! I was nervous, and of course, being a W, I had to wait until the very end to be sorted. But after a bit of deliberation, the Sorting Hat put me in…
That was the end of the page. Hermione smiled at her daughter’s sense of drama. She was anxious to find out which house Rose would be in, but she knew Ron didn’t read quite as quickly as she, so she waited patiently until he reached the end of the page.
Soon though, he looked up at her with excitement. She grinned back and with a dramatic flourish, she flipped over Rose’s letter.
“WHAT!!!” Ron stood up so quickly, he lost his balance a little and stumbled into Rose’s bedside table. Straightening up, he began pacing back and forth, muttering something about possible smoke damage to the Sorting Hat.
Hermione sighed, but looked back at the letter.
So, Mum? Did Dad wake the neighbors with his yell of horror? Tell him to stop pacing and sit down. I’m only kidding! I’m in Gryffindor!!! So is Al.
“Ron!” He stopped pacing and looked at her, unable to hide his dismay. She handed him the letter. “She is your daughter!”
Brow furrowed, he took the letter and read the next few sentences. His features relaxed and with a deep sigh, he sank back onto the bed. “Good one, Rosie.” Carefully avoiding looking at Hermione, he held the letter up, so they could finish reading.
As soon as we got to the common room, I felt like I’d been here before. I felt like I was part of something. I know it will be hard sometimes being away from my family, but I think I’m really going to love being at Hogwarts. I’ve heard stories about this place all my life, and I’m just so excited to finally be here.
I love you both (and Hugo, too) and I’ll write again after my first day of classes. Good night!
Hermione expected to feel tears warming her eyes again, but instead, she felt a deep sense of relief.
“She’ll be all right.” Relief was also evident in Ron’s voice. He reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze. “We’ll miss her…”
Hermione finished his thought, “But we don’t have to worry about her.”
With a smile, he leaned over to kiss her forehead. “Ready for bed?”
She allowed him to pull her up from Rose’s bed and lead her toward the door. Glancing around once again at the empty bookshelves, Hermione felt a little better. She knew her daughter was ready for this, and although the house would certainly feel emptier, Hermione was excited for Rose starting this new chapter of her life. As she and Ron reached the door, Hermione let go of his hand and stepped back across the room to the reading lamp. She reached out to switch it off and Rose’s room went dark.
Hermione felt certain, however, that the lamp in the first-year girls’ dormitory in Gryffindor Tower burned on.
Thanks to Zsenya for her helpful comments and for reminding that the comma is not to be feared!