A/N: Sorry for the hiatus again. I had a working Saturday last week and a one-day weekend wasn't enough for anything, let alone getting into a creative mood. Anyway, enjoy!
Sins of the Past
Later Hermione would vaguely wonder why her body saw it fit to react to unexpected stress with cranking up her inner thermostat but at that exact moment her brain refused to cooperate. Her parents were a mere dozen feet away. Closing in steadily, her mother's heels clicking on the hard surface of the floor. The sound was like an ominous countdown. They were at the foot for her bed. Her mother was smiling. 'Wait, what? That doesn't make sense. She should be angry with me...'
"Hermione..." Jean breathed, finding it difficult to restrain herself from smothering her daughter in a hug. Setting her eyes on her temporarily forgotten daughter made Jean all too aware of the fact that she had missed close to five years of her life. 'She's all grown up now...'
Minerva chose to stay away from Hermione's room for the time being, allowing the family their privacy to reunite after a half a decade. Although she would have dearly loved to support her lover trough the emotional upheaval the meeting was likely to foster, she suspected that her presence might actually stilt some of the conversation. While the Grangers did their best to take the news of their relationship in stride she wasn't blind to their initial shock. 'Hmpf...well I guess I would be shocked too if I suddenly learned that the child I had temporarily forgotten about was dating one of her rather older teachers...' Minerva mused silently as she strode down the hallway of the Australian Magical Council. This time she was very careful to observe protocol.
While High Councillor Robinson wasn't completely hostile about their sudden and quite unannounced visit she made it clear that she wanted answers. Particularly about why Hermione neglected to inform them that Australia had become an unaware and quite unprepared host to what amounts to war refugees fleeing from the most dangerous man on Earth. The Animagus had a hunch that High Councillor Robinson appeared to be as calm about the affair as she was only because her country came out of the Second Wizarding War literally unscathed.
"Ah, Minerva. Just the person I was itching to talk to", the voice of said High Councillor jolted Minerva from her thoughts. Although she was not prone to slouching, the Animagus had the sudden urge to straighten her back even further and her stomach muscles tensed in anticipation of the unavoidable discussion. The Scottish witch imagined a dramatic sigh escaping her lips with some pleasure as she plastered a pleasant enough smile on her face. Only her cast iron will stopped her from rolling her eyes at that moment, bowing her head from the neck in acceptance of the not too subtle invitation.
"So... you're not mad at me?" Hermione asked, her voice small. She glanced up every now and then but her eyes were trained on her lap for the most part.
"Sweetheart, I won't deny that I am...upset about all that has happened, but..." John tried this time. They appeared to be going in circles and the moment they finished reassuring Hermione that they were not upset it was like something erased it and they had to start all over again. "Love, are you sure that we are not in some kind of a weird...magical time accident? I feel like I've been repeating myself forever", he tried breaking the tension. "You saved our lives. That's the bottom line and nothing else matters..."
"Although..." Jean cut in and a mischievous smile formed on lips as she waited a few seconds before continuing "maybe the candy shop in Sidney was overdoing it..." she tried for a deadpan monotone but her smile betrayed her instantly.
"And in Australia of all places!" John Granger countered, catching on to what his wife was up to. "Like you don't know that your poor old father hates everything that has less than two or more than four legs..." his imitation of a genuine upset appeared to be better than his wife's as Hermione's eyes grew to the size of saucers when she realized her mistake.
"Oh, Dad, I'm so sorry!" Hermione exclaimed, and wanted to go on but her next words were swallowed by her parents' suddenly erupting laughter. The bushy haired young witch looked at them in bewilderment until she caught on, realizing that they were trying to make her feel better about the whole ordeal.
"Well... I guess if you're acting like a pair of teenagers on April's fool you really must not be too angry." She muttered, finally allowing a small smile to grace her lips.
"And how exactly do you know that?!" The outraged voice boomed with such ferocity that the surrounding portraits experienced slight tremors as their frames shook against the wall.
"Now, Minerva, no need to get so upset..." the portrait closest tried to calm the raging witch.
"Of course there is need! You, YOU, of all people, Alfred Ross, should know how important a tradition it is!" the dark haired witch countered the placating words, her attitude completely unheeding. "EVERY Ross child must be brought to the Manor before the first full moon after their birth! And you're telling me that they're in Australia?" the elderly witch fumed and paced back and forth inside her portrait.
The other portraits in the darkened hallway gawked at the scene unfolding with mild interest. Most of them remembered Minerva Ross from when she was a young lass and thus knew that directly involving themselves in the argument was not only pointless but quite detrimental if one's goal was to bring it to a swift close.
"I'm told that Minerva left to fetch Hermione's parents and that Hermione chased after her in something of a frenzy." Alfred attempted to explain to his sister that her namesake was not gallivanting across the globe for no good reason this close to the full moon.
"What did you say?" Minerva abruptly stopped her pacing to look at her older brother's portrait.
"I said that Minerva finally decided to take matters into her own hands. She went to fetch the Grangers." Alfred said, pride evident in both his tone and his features. He'd always had a soft spot for his grand-niece but he especially agreed with this particular decision of hers. He had been pestering Minerva to bring the Grangers back almost from the moment Hermione's pregnancy was announced to the family. Even though the young Animagus privately agreed with him she also told him in no uncertain terms that he was not to broach the topic in front of Hermione. The fact that she was finally standing up for her convictions was very much to his liking.
"Well I guess THAT at least will serve to shut your mouth about the subject." Minerva grumbled semi-good naturedly. She had no qualms about her great-granddaughter dating a muggle-born and a witch at that but the incessant bickering between Minerva and Alfred had begun to annoy her. "However, the fact remains that there will be a full moon in just three days. I hope Minerva will not forget that."
"I'm sure she won't forget to bring the wee lass home." Alfred said, happy to have managed to placate his sister.
"I wonder if she's inherited any of the Ross features. Her hair most likely..." Minerva mused, her tone becoming significantly gentler than before.
"Oh, lass, I hate to break it to you..." He said with a wicked chuckle. His original intention in bringing up the subject was to bring home the gossip everyone was dying to hear, but of course he should have known that his sister's temper would blow up in their faces. It always had. "It's definitely not the hair. I've been told that the little lady is a redhead." The devilish grin plastered on Alfred's face slowly morphed into a concerned frown as he witnessed his sister's raping paling. The change was almost instantaneous and had she not been a portrait he would have seriously entertained the possibility that she might faint.
Hermione was ecstatic when the healer said that her ribs were so well healed that it was safe to try sitting up, despite being sore just about everywhere. She remembered Madam Pompfrey's distressed reaction to Harry's loss of bones in their second year and that the matron said that regrowing bones was a nasty business. 'No kidding...' Before the potion really kicked in Hermione entertained the idea that she could perhaps stay up and watch her breast being moved back to its place by her slowly growing ribs, but was very soon proven wrong. The pain was so unbearable that sometime during the night she started thrashing around, her muscles contracting involuntarily, and the night shift healers had to perform a Full Body-Bind spell on her to keep her from damaging her still tender ribs.
The brunette witch gingerly put her arms next to her hips on the bed, experimenting with putting some weight on it before attempting anything more solid. When the expected pain didn't rear its ugly head she pushed some more and within a few seconds found herself in a sitting position in the bed. She was still sore and she was told that her thigh wasn't quite healed yet but the fact that she could now sit upright was refreshing. "Thank you, Healer Johnson." she said gratefully to the visiting healer.
"Please, call me James." The young man said with a broad smile. He fussed around with her pillow and her bed cover just slightly more than was actually necessary but it was enough to cue Hermione in.
"James." Hermione repeated, an amused expression lighting her face up.
"Ah, have you managed to persuade the young healer here to let you sit up?" the welcome lilt of her lover immediately attracted Hermione's attention. Minerva was about two beds away from her and since most of the beds were empty she allowed her voice to carry over the distance. The brunette knew for a fact that Minerva's keen hearing would have allowed her to hear most of their previous conversation if she was anywhere near the room, which would explain the subtle hints of mirth around the corners of her mouth.
"He's been doing most of the persuading actually." Hermione said with a cheeky grin.
"Has he, now?" Minerva replied raising an eyebrow at the young man who was quickly catching onto the fact that the two women's inside joke appears to be on him.
"And I'm so happy he did too, love. I can sit up!" Hermione beamed, discreetly smuggling the term of endearment into the conversation. She stretched her arms out towards Minerva in the universal sign that she wanted a hug.
The Animagus happily complied, a similarly playful grin gracing her lips as she bent to envelope her lover in a gentle hug. "Naughty witch", she whispered into Hermione's ear before easing back just far enough to turn her face and capture soft lips with her own.
It was a very simple and rather short kiss yet so much emotion was packed into it that it left the poor healer's face red right up to the roots of his hair. He mumbled something about other patients and a vague promise to check on Hermione later and scurried right out of the room without so much as a glance backwards.
The two witches shared a devilish grin before they both erupted into fits of giggles. "Took a shine to you, didn't he?" Minerva asked good-naturedly.
"Apparently. Merlin knows why though", Hermione replied, smiling as she shook her head.
"Well, I don't know about Merlin, but I definitely do. You are beautiful", Minerva said warmly. Sometimes she still wondered how she managed to get quite so lucky.
"Minerva... I know you are biased, but one would think that when I'm short a pound of meat and a few ribs that would...diminish some of my allure", Hermione dead panned.
"Never", the Animagus immediately countered in a likewise deadpan monotone. The average onlooker might have been fooled by her antics but Hermione saw in the shine of her eyes and her pursed lips that she had to fight for control over her facial expression.
"At least you weren't overzealous enough to say that it adds to it", Hermione's tongue in cheek comment hit the mark and the Animagus burst out laughing.
An hour later...
Minerva wanted to leave when Hermione's parents arrived, still feeling somewhat of an outsider but to her pleasant surprise all three Grangers were adamant that she stay.
"Professor Mc... I mean, Minerva." Jean corrected herself and smiled sheepishly at the older woman. "You simply must stay. I know adjusting is going to be something of a challenge for all of us, but you are my granddaughter's...other mother. You're family. I want to get to know you."
The Animagus easily relented, secretly grateful that her in-laws were so keen to make an effort to accept her into the family. When Hermione asked her out five years ago she wondered if such a transition could ever be managed but the fact that the young witch's parents were still without their memories lulled her apprehension somewhat. That is, until now. The fact that not only her lover but also her in-laws were younger than her was a seriously disturbing thought. She looked at Jean Granger and saw a middle aged woman who had some greying hair and a couple of laugh lines but was undeniably attractive. And definitely more age appropriate than her stunningly beautiful daughter. However, Minerva, ever the efficient compartmentalizer, bottled up this particular feeling to examine it at a later point in time. 'Much later.'
"So when do we get to meet our grandchild?" John asked, looking pointedly at Hermione over his newly acquired glasses.
"Uh," Hermione groaned. She had hoped that her parents would start with a bit of light conversation. "Well I left her with Molly before travelling. I expect we can all meet each other once they discharge me."
"Who is Molly?" Jean asked, curious about anyone and everyone in Hermione's life, but especially people her daughter deemed appropriate to care for her child.
Hermione did not respond at first. She felt like a lump had formed in her throat all of a sudden and she felt the need to seek Minerva's eyes out in reassurance. 'Surely she told them SOMETHING...' The possibility that Minerva might have left her parents clueless flashed through her mind but Minerva's reassuring nod confirmed that they did indeed know at least some bits of their new family history.
"She's uh... she's family?" Hermione tried lamely but there was no easy way around it. "She's Arthur Weasley's wife and Arthur is... my second cousin, once removed."
As Hermione waited for the information to sink in she mentally prepared herself for the rest of what she had to explain to her parents.
"Ah, yes, him. Minerva did mention him, but I still don't understand it." Jean said. "If either of us is related to a magical person how is it that we don't have any magic?"
"No one knows exactly why it happens, but sometimes witches and wizards have children who do not possess the ability to wield magic. Squibs, we call them." Minerva injected, easily going into lecture mode. Having been the Deputy Headmistress under Albus for decades she was well used to answering such questions. "And yet still more mysterious is the fact that magic often resurfaces among the descendants of the magical person, usually many generations later. By that time most Squib families have lost their knowledge of the wizarding side of their family and are, to all intents and purposes, muggles. Hence the term, Muggle-born."
"So... you are saying that either Jean or myself are actually..what did you say, Squids?" John asked after a few moments of soaking the information in.
"Squib, dad. Squib. Not squid." Hermione said between coughs, which were actually poor attempts at masking her amusement.
Minerva refrained from commenting on Hermione's antics and wisely swallowed her own mirth. Decades of hearing words mispronounced by muggles and it still did not get old. However, she thought it would be quite tactless to laugh just now.
"Not necessarily. We would need to perform some diagnostic spells to determine if either of you are indeed Squibs or muggles but someone in your family tree is definitely a Squib and the child of one of Arthur's ancestors." Minerva said in her best serious voice.
"And how do you propose we unravel this mystery?" Jean asked, her voice coloured with excitement.
A/N: I hope this chapter makes up for missing out on an update last week! Enjoy and please let me know what you think!