Ch 100: Sept 1st
Ron hadn't been able to sleep for more than an hour or two at a stretch the night before. And, when their alarm went off to wake up on September 1st, Ron felt the combination of exhaustion, stress and nausea hit him like a wave. He slammed the alarm off and jumped out of bed to run to the loo, where he promptly emptied the contents of his stomach. Hermione came up behind him and rubbed his back softly.
"Ok as I'm going to get today, I suppose."
"I'm going to go get you some pepper up potion. Why don't you take a hot shower and meet me downstairs. I promised Hugo and Rose pancakes today, and I think you'll feel better once you have the potion and get some food in your stomach."
He nodded, and she went off to start cooking. Twenty minutes later he was showered and dressed, and had poked his head in on each of the kids to be sure they were up and getting ready as well. Rose was sleepily getting up, but Hugo was already up, showered, dressed, packed and was double checking he had all of his things in his trunk.
Seeing the excitement in his eyes buoyed Ron greatly. "Wow, you are ready to go already, aren't you little man?"
"Didn't want to forget anything. I know you can send me something by owl if I forget it, but it seems like it'd be much easier to just be sure I have it all from the start."
"You sound like Hermione," he laughed.
"She said she'd make pancakes this morning," he grinned.
"Yeah – she's already down there working on them. Want to head down?"
Hugo bounded down the stairs towards the kitchen as Ron followed slowly behind, trying to take in every minute with the kids at home. Breakfast ended up being fun, and between the pepper up, tea and maple syrup, Ron was feeling much better by the time they loaded Hermione's car with both trunks and both kids. Hermione navigated London morning rush hour while they enjoyed their last bit of family time together.
"George wouldn't let me in on the pool on which house I would be sorted into," Hugo reported.
"With what money are you betting on things anyway?" Hermione asked.
"Oh, it wasn't a lot. But it didn't matter anyway as he didn't let me in. Said I had too much inside sway on the outcome."
Ron chuckled. "Well, my galleon was on Slytherin. But, I will be thrilled to hear you have sorted into any of the four houses. I really can see you doing well in any of them."
"My galleon was on Gryffindor," Hermione said. "But then again, I probably know the least about it since I have never been under this famous hat anyway."
"What about you, Rose? Did you get in on it? Are you with Dad predicting I'll be with Al and Scorp?"
"Nope. I am sticking with my earlier prediction of Ravenclaw."
"Anyone put me in Hufflepuff?"
"I think Percy and Angie both did."
"Perc is in the pool? I thought he was too worried about gambling being illegal and all," laughed Ron.
"What about you? Which would you have bet on if George had let you in?" Rose asked.
"I think I would have bet on Slytherin. But I really have no idea."
"What about Lilly? What were the predictions on her?"
"100% Gryffindor," Rose reported.
"Even though Al is Slytherin?"
"Lilly is like an exact copy of her dad but with Ginny's temper," Hugo said. "And Harry is all Gryffindor."
"Did you know the Sorting Hat wanted to put him in Slytherin?"
"WHAT?" all three of them gaped.
"Yeah – the Sorting Hat said he would have done well in Slytherin, but in the end he argued with the hat and was put in Gryffindor."
"So you think Lilly could go either way too?"
"Not sure. I think there could be too much of her mum in there to be Slytherin," said Rose.
"Yeah – there is nothing sneaky about Ginny," Hermione chuckled. "She just straight up tells people to their face whatever happens to be on her mind."
"Couldn't have said it better myself," laughed Ron.
Before long they had found their way to Platform 9 ¾. Rose ran over to hug Scorp, and Draco and Astoria waved hesitantly to Ron and Hermione. Hermione smiled broadly and walked over to greet them, and Ron was close behind.
"Hello, Malfoys," Ron said. "You ready for your third year, Scorp?"
"Yes, sir," Scorp said formally.
"And Hugo is off to Hogwarts now, too, right?" asked Astoria.
"Yeah," said Ron, trying to hide his anxiousness.
"Well, that's thrilling for Hugo, but not quite as thrilling on you two, right?" asked Draco.
"Yeah, something like that," nodded Ron.
"I completely understand," said Draco quietly.
"Hey! The Potters are finally here!" yelled Hugo.
Sure enough, Al, James and Lilly came running down the platform, followed by a haggard looking Ginny and Harry.
Once Al had greeted Scorp and Rose he said, "I am beginning to doubt I will have a single year at Hogwarts where we are not worried we are going to miss the bloody train!"
Everyone laughed, and then the Malfoys stepped aside to say their farewells to Scorp. Following their lead, the Potters hugged each of their kids, lingering on Lilly. Hermione and Ron hugged Rose tightly and then turned to Hugo.
"Please owl us tonight and let us know how you are doing, alright? And don't worry about the hat, darling. Any of them will be better for having you in it," Hermione said. Then she hugged him again and stepped back a bit to give the boys some space.
"Bye, Dad," said Hugo, not looking Ron in the eyes.
"Come here," Ron said quietly. "I won't get mushy and embarrass you. I promise. But I want you to know how very proud I am of you. And I want you to let us know how you're doing. And don't hesitate to let Rose or Al or any of your cousins know if you need anything, alright? Whether it's help in class or a friendly face. Anything. Promise me?"
Hugo nodded, not wanting to risk crying if he talked.
"Ok, give me a hug and then go find Lilly."
Hugo reached up to hug Ron while Ron knelt down and held him tightly to his chest. "I love you so, so much, Hugo. So, so much. And if I told you really how much we'd both be crying. So, go get on the train. I shoved some money in your pocket when your mum wasn't watching, so be sure to get all sugared up when the trolley comes by, alright? Eat enough candy to make your mummy proud too," he added as he felt the lump grow in his throat.
He felt Hugo chuckle against his chest so he sighed, kissed his head and stepped back. Hugo smiled, gave a wave, and ran off to join Lilly as she boarded the train. Hermione sided up next to Ron, slid her arm around his waist and tugged his arm around her shoulder.
"Don't cry yet, alright? Wait 'til we are out of range of any photographers or Hugo will see it in tomorrow's paper," she whispered as she leaned up and kissed his cheek. He nodded and kept waving as he saw Hugo and Lilly get a seat in the same cabin. Then in a great storm of steam, the train blew its whistle, and it chugged off towards Scotland.
"Come on," Hermione said tugging him towards the car park. "We'll see enough of the Potters and everyone else later."
And with that, she walked him back to the car. As soon as they pulled out onto the road and away from any possible paparazzi, he fell apart and started crying, getting increasingly frustrated at himself. She kept driving them out of the busy city, and as soon as she could she found a McDonalds where she pulled into the car park, pulled up the brake and turned to hold him. He cried into her shoulder for a while.
"I'm sorry," he cried. "Shite, you were so strong when Rose left. But fuck, Fi should have been here for this. She should have gotten to see him get on that damn train. She-" he lost his voice in sobs again as Hermione held him. "God, she loved him so, so much. And she would have been so fucking proud of him. It should have been her. She should have been the one launching him. She should have fucking been here!"
"I know. I know. But since she couldn't be, you were."
"We were," Ron corrected through tears.
"We were. You're right. And through us he has been able to still know them and still feel them. Dennis and Fi will always be with him. And with us, really."
"I know. I do know that," he said, slowly regaining his composure. "I knew I was going to sad about sending him off. But I did not foresee this gut punch of missing Fi so much today. I'm so sorry. It's not like you didn't put both your children on that train too. And it's not like you don't miss Dennis. I am not sure why I am such a sappy git today. I don't know what you did to me, Hermione. I never cried before I met you!"
"Ron, love, take a deep breath. Hey, hey, look at me," she said trying to catch his eye. "It's ok. We're ok. The kids are more than ok," she continued as she held her hand against his damp cheek. "Grief comes up and smacks us sometimes when we least expect it. I had my unexpected breakdown sitting on Dennis' grave last fall. I don't think you've broken down like this at all, and you were partners for fifteen years! You were more than overdue, don't you think?"
He laughed a little, wiping away the tears. "Well, since it took me about twenty years to finally breakdown again over the war, I guess I am really well ahead of schedule."
She giggled, wiping some tears off of his cheek. "I love you, Ron Weasley. And I love how fiercely you love those around you." With that she kissed him softly. Holding his face tenderly she then said, "Come on. Let's get you home. You, my dear husband, either need some pudding, a drink or a shag."
He laughed heartily at a comment so out of character from his wife. "Well, now that we have an empty house, is there any reason we can't have all three?" he said cheekily.
Ron and Hermione were up early the next morning. Hermione was packing up the last things for their trip while Ron more or less stared out the window looking for an owl with word from Hogwarts.
"Ron, relax. I am sure we will hear from them this morning. The portkey isn't until after lunch."
"Well, if I haven't heard anything by eleven I think I'll just pop up there myself. I do sort of work there, you know."
"Yes, I'm sure the most professional thing to do would be to pop up to Hogwarts and do a thorough review of the eleven year olds to scan for future auror potential after less than 24 hours of schooling."
Ron made a face at her. "It's a good thing I love you, you know?"
"Uh huh. Why don't you take your vigil downstairs and make us breakfast. Maybe the food will attract the owl."
He scowled again, but headed downstairs to start frying up some bacon. Hermione shook her head at his worrying, but continued to gather all of things they would need for their trip to the French Riviera. She was gathering the sun screen and hats when she heard a yell from downstairs.
"I see an owl!"
She walked into the kitchen just as the owl reached the window. Ron greeted it fondly and gave it treats as he untied the letters from its leg.
"Two letters – one from each."
"Well, open Hugo's first," Hermione said. "But read it out loud, alright?"
Ron nodded, opened the envelope and began to read.
Dear and Mum and Dad,
I just wanted to drop you a short note to let you know I made it up here just fine. Lilly and I sat together on the train in a cabin with some other first years who were really nice. Ellen is a muggle born witch, and her neighbor Richard is a half blood. They were both quite friendly and were a bit relieved to meet some other people in their year. Dad, thanks for the trolley money. Richard, Lilly and I had great fun introducing Ellen to all of the magical sweets. We got chocolate frog cards, and I got yours again. Lilly laughed at me, but Richard and Ellen were amazed when I told them you were my Dad. Hagrid met us at the train and took us over in the boats. He sends his love and has asked Lilly and I to come for tea soon. But, Rose and everyone else has warned me about his cooking. Headmistress McGonagall seems much sterner in school than she has at home. But she did wink at me at one point, which made Ellen giggle. The Great Hall looked amazing for the feast, but we were all too nervous about the Sorting Hat to pay much attention.
So…the big news…tell George the results were…Lilly (and our new friend Ellen) went to Gryffindor and I (with my new friend Richard) went to (oh look – out of paper – maybe I'll write tomorrow if you send chocolate….) Just kidding. Turn the card over to see when I'm done. Love always, Hugo
Ron flipped the card over and instead of a house name, saw an elaborate sketch of a black raven soaring over a blue sky dotted with stars.
"Rose was right!" he said. "Well, good for him. I hope he'll be happy there. Rose said that the best outcome was to be the most conniving Ravenclaw instead of the most artistic Slytherin."
"And I am so pleased it sounds like he and this Richard fellow went together. Always easier walking into a situation with a friend, even if you've only been friends for a few hours."
"Absolutely. And, who knows, they could be friends for life. I met Harry on that train ride."
"Well, I hope Richard could be a great lifelong friend, but I hope they have far fewer adventures and a much saner time at Hogwarts than you and Harry did."
"Fair point," Ron agreed.
"So, are you calmer now? You ok with Ravenclaw?"
"Yeah," Ron nodded. "It wasn't really about the house. I just needed to hear he was alright, you know? And he sounded as witty and conniving and happy as ever. So yeah, my blood pressure is ever so much better."
"Alright – read Rose's next."
"Alright. She says:
Dear Mum and Dad, Tell George to pay up! I'm telling you, the big sister knows these things and, sure enough, Hugo was sorted into Ravenclaw. It was quite fast, too. Felt like the hat had hardly touched his head when it called out "RAVENCLAW!" He grinned widely and headed over to the cheering table. Lilly was sad to be separated from him, but we made her feel right at home with the lions. I saw him briefly after the ceremony, and he seemed to have already become friends with the boy from the train who was also sorted into Ravenclaw. Can't remember his name, though. But, we are set to meet after breakfast in the morning, so I'm sure I will learn more then. I'll send an owl off to find you in France tomorrow. Have a fabulous time on your vacation and don't worry about us. All is well in Scotland. Love always, Rose"
"Yeah, she does. They both do actually."
"So, I guess it's just us who are struggling to adjust then."
"We'll be great, Ron. If anyone in the world is practiced at adjusting to life changes, it's us. But, before we have to worry about how our daily life will feel without them at home, we get to go on a lovely vacation."
"It is going to be brilliant, isn't it?"
"You, a beautiful place and our best friends. Yeah. It'll be brilliant.
(A/N: 100 chapters! Can you believe it? Well - believe it or not we are inching towards the conclusion, but there are some big things still to come. The final chapter will be Chapter 114, so enjoy these last 14 chapters...carrytheotter)