Chapter 3: September 2008 – Hugo's Baptism
There were still a few minutes before the service was set to start. The old stone church was quite drafty, and the stiff backed church pews made it difficult for Hermione to hold Rose in her lap. The little tot squirmed out of her arms and proceeded to pull at the prayer books and hymnals lining the pews. Knowing the ancient floor would turn her white tights grey in a heartbeat, Hermione quickly tried to get two year old Rose back into her lap or at least sitting in the pew next to her to look at some of the picture books she had brought in the nappy bag.
Hermione was digging through the extra nappies and board books when she saw the flash of ginger hair out of the corner of her eye. Looking up she was shocked to see that the red head from the wedding had just walked into the church. He looked even better than she had remembered from that dance all those years ago. The navy blazer set off his hair brilliantly and somehow he even looked fitter than before. She had really thought he would email her after the wedding. She knew she had been the one to leave town, and that it wasn't fair of her to expect anything of him. But, she really had thought they both felt the connection and chemistry dancing that night. She checked her email obsessively for months, but finally when she moved to the Rwandan refugee camp and had no internet connection, she finally let the hope of hearing from him go. That isn't to say she had forgotten about him. She'd allowed herself to have more than a few fantasies about the ginger bloke throughout her years overseas. While she was remembering those daydreams, Rose began to bang the Pat The Bunny book onto the pew. Hermione hurried to quiet her little noise machine before the church echoed with her toddler tympani.
Ron had apparated to the location Fi and Dennis had given him around the corner from the little country church. To say he had been surprised when they had asked him to be Hugo's godfather was a giant understatement. He'd even wondered if it was a prank initially. But Dennis and Fi had him over for dinner and insisted they had chosen him quite intentionally. After getting over the surprise, he had grown to love the idea. While he had scores of nieces and nephews to play with, the idea of having one special little guy to spoil, take to quidditch matches and have all sorts of fun with became incredibly appealing. And knowing that Fi was an only child and Dennis had lost Collin, he knew he was the one fun uncle little Hugo would have.
He followed the wobbly stone path around to the front of the church and made his way into the sanctuary. He had never been to a muggle christening before, so he really had no idea what to expect. Relaxing as soon as he saw Fi and Dennis in the front right portion of the church, he headed straight toward them and baby Hugo. It had only been a couple weeks since he'd seen them at St. Mungo's just after Hugo was born. Crazy Fi had insisted on working right through her pregnancy, and Ron had been the one to bring her into hospital when her water broke while questioning witnesses for a case in Yorkshire.
The vicar was walking them through what would happen in the service when he saw her over Fi's shoulder. It was the muggle woman from the wedding – the one he'd been dreaming about for years. He remembered that night quite clearly, and how disappointed he'd been when she'd told him she was leaving the country for several years. She'd given him that weird list of letters that he'd had no idea what to do with. He'd even mustered up the courage to ask Dennis about her a year or so back, but Dennis had simply said she was in Pakistan somewhere. Smiling, he thought he would try and talk to her after the service and see if they could go to dinner sometime. He still wasn't sure he could be in a serious relationship with a muggle, but he'd never felt chemistry with anyone the way he had with her. Before he could get too distracted thinking about her, the vicar gestured for them to gather at the front of the church so they could begin the service.
"I baptize thee Hugo Collin Creevey in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," said the vicar.
Hermione watched Ron try not to giggle as the water was poured over Hugo's head and Hugo screamed bloody murder. She smiled thinking of Rose's baptism just a few months earlier when Rose had done basically the same thing, though she had been old enough at the time to try to run away as well as scream.
Her parents had been so shocked when she called home to tell them she was going to stay in Pakistan longer so that she could adopt a little girl she had met in the refugee camp. As she'd expected, they launched into arguments about how young she was, how hard raising a baby on her own would be and how hard it would be to meet "Mr. Right" if she was already raising a baby on her own. She'd patiently explained how she had, in fact, managed to think of all of those things on her own and had come to peace with each before deciding to pursue the adoption. It wouldn't do her or Rose any good if she went into that decision lightly. But she had also never been so certain of anything in her whole life.
She remembered the first time she met Rose. She had been three months old at the time but was smaller than some of the other newborns in the Pakistani refugee camp she was working at. Once she had been brought into the camp hospital and placed on supplemental nutrition, she gained weight quickly and developed into the smiling, adventurous spirit she was today. But when Hermione went to bring her back to her birth family, she had been saddened to discover her biological parents had been killed in an IED explosion and horrified to learn that her extended family had let her starve. They claimed she was a bewitched or cursed baby and that they wanted nothing to do with her. Hermione had cringed at hearing this, feeling like her "strange intuition" as she called it would have put her in an equally precarious situation if she'd been born under such difficult circumstances. So she determined to dote on the child herself. And after week upon week of showering her with love and cuddles and food, Hermione realized that she was as much her own daughter as if she'd given birth to her. Similarly, she knew she could never abandon her to a life bouncing between refugee camps and orphanages.
As a solicitor, she knew the chance of a single, Christian, British woman legally adopting a refugee orphan in Pakistan was slim to none, but she was never one to be deterred by long odds. Her "strange intuition" had served her in similarly challenging situations before, and she just felt in her heart and her gut that she was supposed to pursue this and she would succeed. A few times she hit road blocks, but she could always manage to smooth things over or confuse an official enough to just sign the darn paper work. She never did anything illegal or unethical. But, she had found over the years that if a person in authority was not giving her what she truly, earnestly needed she seemed to have some ability to simply will it into existence. She wasn't quite sure how it worked – whether it was prayer or meditation or some sort of shakra situation. But, she had learned to control it over the years and use it to her advantage. And, she certainly used it in adopting her daughter. It was not easy, but she was persistent and persuasive, and after nearly 14 months she had been able to bring Rose home to London as her legal daughter and a fully British citizen.
Despite her family's initial hesitations, by the time they left Heathrow airport with their granddaughter in their arms they were fully and completely enraptured. She'd arrived back in London a few weeks before Christmas, so initially they stayed with her parents. They'd enjoyed Christmas with the Creeveys as usual, and it was incredible to see how far they had come as a family in such a short time. After the holidays, Hermione had been able to find a job representing refugees in London which she loved. And then she was able to lease a flat for her and Rose. It was a small place, but it was cozy and perfect for Hermione and her young daughter. She knew she would need a larger place eventually, but for now it was just right.
As the vicar concluded the service, Rose was squirming to move off of Hermione's lap and explore the church. Hermione's mum took her hand and the two of them went off to look at the stained glass windows and the flowers on the altar. Hermione started putting the prayer books and hymnals back into the pew rack when she saw the red head approach her from the front of the church.
"Hermione," Ron said as he approached her, "I thought that was you. I'm Ron Weasley, we met at Dennis and Fi's wedding."
"Hi, Ron. Of course I remember you. Good to see you again," she said as he reached for her hand. She was shocked to feel the same spark at his touch that she had felt all those years before at the wedding.
"So you're back from your travels? When I asked Dennis last he had said you were in Pakistan or something." Ron realized he had held her hand slightly longer than he should have. He had been distracted by the same jolt to his magic that he had felt at the wedding. What was it about this muggle woman that continued to captivate him so?
"Yes, I…." As she spoke, Rose came running down the center aisle of church and jumped up into her arms exclaiming, "Mummy! We see pwetty fwowers!"
Shite, thought Ron. She said Mummy didn't she? Hermione must have gotten married overseas. Her little girl looks like her father could be Pakistani or something. He tried to see if she was wearing a ring to be sure, but the little girl's layered dress was covering Hermione's left hand.
"Lovely, darling," Hermione laughed as she adjusted Rose onto her left hip. "I am so glad Grandmum could show you the pretty flowers. Ron, this is my daughter, Rose. Rose, can you say hello to mummy's friend Mr. Weasley?"
"Hawo, Misser Weezy," she crooned.
Ron laughed. As disappointed as he was to discover the woman who continued to haunt his fantasies was married and had a child, he had to admit the daughter was absolutely adorable.
"Well, hello there, Miss Rose. It is lovely to meet you. You have on such a pretty dress today."
"Rose have twirly dress!" she announced proudly.
"Oh. That's good. Twirly dresses are the best dresses, I hear," he grinned at the little girl.
"I have twirly dress for church. Baby Hugo get hair washed at church so he no have a twirly dress. Only big girls not babies."
Ron laughed as Hermione tried to correct her daughter, "He wasn't getting his hair washed, love. It was part of the baptism ceremony." Ron wasn't sure as to what the ceremony actually symbolized, but he thought Rose's assessment seemed pretty accurate to him.
"Mummy wash Rose hair next."
"Well, ok love, Mummy will wash your hair when we get home."
She looked back up at Ron and smiled, but just as she went to say something else, she heard Fiona call him.
"Ron, we need you over here for some pictures,"
Ron looked back at Hermione. "Godfather duty calls. Rose is absolutely precious. I am so glad I got to meet her. It was lovely to see you again." And with that he leaned and gave her a slight embrace.
"You as well, Ron," she mumbled as she caught her breath in his unexpected embrace.
"Take care, Rose," he waved at the little girl as he walked back towards Dennis, Fiona and Hugo.
"Bye Bye," waved Rose.
"Bye bye is right, Rose," Hermione said sadly. She had really thought they had a connection and couldn't help but be disappointed at his lack of interest.
"Well, love, should we head home and wash your hair?"
"Mummy wash Rosie hair!" the girl cheered.
"Right. It's just the Granger Girls then," Hermione said trying to cheer herself up with her peppy voice. "We are going to have a girls' night. We'll wash your hair, and you can brush my hair after that. And maybe we can paint your toenails later." She packed up the nappy bag as the little girl squealed at the fun ahead of her. Hermione and her daughter headed out into the car park behind the country church and never looked back to see the eyes of the red head wistfully watching them leave.