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Chapter 5 : The Humming Heart
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Restless, she gently set the hourglass down by the bath tap and stood up. Hermione had kicked off her work shoes as soon as she’d stepped through the front door, and now she crossed the tiled bathroom, barefooted, in two strides. She wedged the small window open and inhaled the summer air; really, she was just looking anywhere but at the small plastic stick lying on the porcelain of the sink. She drummed her fingers against the windowsill and watched a fly land briefly on the ledge before taking off again. Ever heart-thuddingly aware of the murmur of the hourglass, Hermione turned to check the progress of the sand - it had run nearly the whole way through - and her elbow knocked an empty cardboard box from the windowsill and onto the floor. Hermione picked it up and, sitting once again on the side of the bathtub, read through the instructions as if she didn’t already have them committed to memory. She wondered for the second time in as many minutes what on earth she, Hermione Granger, was doing standing there in the bathroom, holding a box emblazoned with the words ‘Pregnancy Test’.
It was such a horribly blatant box that Hermione had spent most of her afternoon at work trying to decide whether she should seal her handbag shut, in case today was the day she dropped it and the contents fell out, diaries and keys and sodding pregnancy tests littering the floor of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Or, she’d worried, what if this was the day that she tripped and hurt herself on the way home, and someone wanted to check her handbag for identification and they couldn’t get past the spell? Coincidences had a nasty way of sneaking up on you; you had to expect the unexpected. She thought suddenly of old Mad-Eye Moody barking his mantra, ‘CONSTANT VIGILANCE!’ and laughed nervously to herself at the thought of what he would have said, had he known that she would one day apply his wisdom to hiding a pregnancy test at the office. She had settled for clutching her handbag on her lap, beneath the desk, as she’d sorted through the Department’s correspondence. Madam Hipp had kept bringing her cups of tea, thinking Hermione was still feeling ill as she’d barely moved from her desk since her lunch break.
In truth, Hermione had felt much better that day; the weekend at Freddie’s naming ceremony had been relaxing, despite the amount of people and noise. After cornering her in the kitchen, Molly had gone out of her way to keep Hermione fed, watered, and resting, and all without raising any suspicions. Hermione had been grateful, but also slightly frustrated ... after all, it wasn’t a fact, yet.
Ginny had noticed that she hadn’t joined the champagne toasts to George and Angelina’s baby son, and after a bit of gentle prodding, Hermione had admitted that there was a vague, slight, unlikely possibility that she, too, was pregnant. Ginny, like her mother, had read Hermione’s anxiety perfectly and didn’t overreact; instead, she had just hugged Hermione and made her promise to let her know either way... and to take a test on Monday, ‘no dragging your heels!’. Hermione had never balked at taking any sort of test before; exams had been a source of stress, but she had always taken them in her stride. Here... well, she and Ron may well have written the answer some weeks previously, and she now had no say in the result.
Ting! A noise like a glass bell echoed through the bathroom; the hourglass had run through. Hermione looked at it and thought longingly of the old time turner she’d used many years ago ... she wanted to turn back time just once more, to three minutes previously... but nothing would change by going back three minutes. Hermione moved towards the sink, and froze in her tracks as she heard a noise outside the bathroom door. Someone was struggling with the front door key; the door was opening, slamming shut carelessly. Ron. Oh God, what would Ron say?
‘Hello? You home, love? I’ve brought dinner.’
‘One moment,’ Hermione squeaked noiselessly, before clearing her throat and calling more clearly, trying to keep the quaver she felt in her chest from sounding in her voice. ‘One moment! I’m just in the bathroom.’
She remained stock-still as she heard Ron move into the kitchen and it wasn’t until she heard the soft thud of shopping bags hitting the counter that she released the breath she had held since she’d heard his keys in the door. Hermione steeled herself, and stood over the sink, bracing one hand against it. She reached out and picked up the plastic stick carefully, barely even seeing it as she chewed her lower lip. Come on, Hermione, she told herself, just look at it. Just...look...
Two blue lines overlapped each other in the tiny window of the test. Hermione’s eyes widened. As if she might have, for the first time in her life, forgotten something that she’d read, she grasped at the instruction leaflet to once again go over the section on how to read the result. Her lips moved silently over the words: “If the two lines form a ‘+’ in the Result Window after the development time, your result is ‘Pregnant’.”Hermione looked at the undeniably cross-shaped symbol glaring up at her from the test in her hand.
‘You won’t win this time, Crooky,’ he murmured. The cat didn’t move. Ron narrowed his eyes and crouched down to the counter, his face an inch from Crookshank’s squashed nose. ‘I mean it, old man.... I’m the boss here. I have thumbs, look. If I say you can’t have any of my dinner, it means you can’t have any of my dinner.’ Crookshanks stared at Ron for a moment more, and then yawned, as if to say that he wasn’t interested in eating the fish and chips that the tall red-haired human had brought home anyway. Ron rolled his eyes in exasperation, but a rueful grin had formed on his lips, ‘Fine! You’re an endearing old flea-bag, you know that?’. Ron had unwrapped the paper packages he’d bought on his way home, and was feeding small chunks of battered cod to Crookshanks - who’d at least had the manners to nudge Ron’s wrist in thanks - when he heard the bathroom door open and close.
‘I know it’s my night to cook,’ he called, ‘but I thought it would be safer all round if I just got fish and - Hermione! Are you okay?’
Ron had turned to see his girlfriend looking extremely pale and tired as she entered the kitchen. Feverish patches of colour sat high on Hermione’s cheeks, and she was gently biting her lower lip - never a good sign. She gave Ron a peaky smile and ran a hand gently through Crookshanks's patchy fur; he purred in acknowledgement without even looking up from his dinner.
'I'm all right.'
'You don't look it,' said Ron
'Oh, thank you very much!' Hermione said, raising her eyebrows at him.
Ron frowned. 'You know I didn't mean it like that... Do you need a Healer? Do you want me to take you to St Mungo's?'
'No, no... I promise I really am fine. Let's just eat dinner.'
Ron eyed Hermione suspiciously - she ignored him, and moved to the sink to fill a glass of water - but Crookshanks had begun to creep towards the rest of the golden, crispy fish, and hunger overtook his concern.
The food was plated up and, as was their tradition with takeaway, brought into the living room to eat on the sofa rather than at the table. Crookshanks followed at Ron's heels hopefully. Ron started eating and chatting away about his day at work; some rather well-known people were throwing money at the Quidditch match-fixing case, doubtless trying to keep things quiet, but Ron and Harry were onto them. Hermione tried to listen, but found herself pushing her food around on her plate as she tried to work out whether she should just tell Ron about the ba... about the test right there and then, or wait. But wait for what? For him to be ready to hear news like this? That could be quite a while. Hermione looked at him and decided to just wait until he finished his mouthful - she could at least try and prevent him from choking. Ron had paused in his story, having noticed that Hermione hadn't even touched her mushy peas; usually they would fight over who had the bigger portion. He gave her a little smile.
'You all right, love?'
'Ron... I have to tell you something.'
Ron's eyes widened and he paled slightly.
'You're not all right, are you? There's something wrong! Have you seen a Healer? I knew something was up... Is it bad? What's wrong, Hermione?'
'Shhh! Ron! Calm down. It's not that! I haven't been to a doctor, I'm fine! I just... I'm...' She took a deep breath, and the words tumbled out. 'I took a pregnancy test and it was positive.'
Ron stared silently at Hermione for a long moment, his mouth hanging slightly open. He looked as though he'd just walked through a ghost. His mouth closed, he gulped, his mouth opened again... he seemed to be working hard to form any words.
'Ron? Are you all right?'
'A baby...' he managed, '...are you telling me we're having a baby?'
Hermione nodded, unsure of what was going on in Ron's mind. He blinked again, his eyes falling to Hermione's stomach. Slowly, a smile began to spread across his face, until he looked up at her with a beaming grin that almost stole her breath from her lungs. Moving his plate to one side -Crookshanks quickly began to help himself- Ron threw his arms around Hermione and pulled her close to him.
'Hermione! Oh my God!'
She let out a relieved laugh, and buried her face in his shoulder.
'I know! You're happy, then?'
Ron pulled back from the embrace and looked at Hermione, noticing for the first time that her eyes were full of apprehension.
‘Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?’
‘Well, it’s just... it’s an enormous responsibility... and we’re going to have a lot less money... and less freedom... and I don’t know if I will be able to carry on working, and Ilove my job...’ Hermione’s eyes were damp as she looked up at Ron, hating herself for being unable to just feel. She was always thinking, planning, worrying. It was moments like these when it was clear to both Ron and Hermione that they were perfect for each other; she could always help him see sense, and he could always help her let go. Ron planted a gentle kiss on her forehead.
‘You poor thing, have you been worrying yourself sick?’
‘Only for the last few days; the rest has just been actual sickness,’ she sighed.
‘Listen, about all those things - yes, we have a lot to think about but just remember; Harry and Ginny have managed perfectly well, and they’re younger than us, and they’re even having another one. So it can’t be that bad, right?’
‘You’re right, but...well, they own a house, they have savings, they’re -’ married. Hermione paused and thought quickly, not wanting to open that can of worms. ‘ - they’re different from us.’
‘Hermione. You have a good job. I have a good job. We both have families who’ll support us - and bear in mind that my mum and dad raised seven of us on less money than we have between two of us - and we love each other, yeah?’
Hermione smiled at Ron.
‘We do,’ she agreed.
‘We have a great time together, right?’
‘Well, just imagine all the fun we can have as a little family! I know, I know,’ Ron added hurriedly, as Hermione opened her mouth to interrupt, ‘there’ll be puke, nappies, tantrums, teething... and I don’t think Bill will have a full night of sleep for the next twenty years or so, with his girls. But Hermione,’ he gave her an encouraging smile and absently reached up to wrap a tendril of her hair around his finger, ‘this is us. We can deal with anything together, you know. And anyway, I’m sure our kid won’t be like everyone else’s.’
‘I think we’re going to have to keep telling ourselves that!’ Hermione laughed.
‘With you for a mum, how can our baby be anything but perfect?’
Hermione’s eyes glistened suddenly, and she beamed at her lanky boyfriend, who bore a tiny fleck of ketchup on his chin.
‘Oh Ron. Sometimes you really surprise me, you know.’
‘Hey, I’m a sensitive modern man. I live for the soppy moments.’ Ron joked, before leaning in to kiss Hermione softly. As they broke apart, she gave a contented sigh feeling oddly as if a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. ‘Now, are you going to eat your chips?’
She let out a bubble of a laugh, half-choked with emotion.
‘Help yourself,’ said Hermione, handing Ron the plate, ‘I’m not really hungry. I’ll have some toast later.’
Stuffing a couple of chips into his mouth, Ron looked at Hermione with eyes brightened with excitement.
‘We’re really having a baby?’ he asked with joyful disbelief.
‘We’re having a baby!’ beamed Hermione, for once forgoing the usual telling-off Ron got for speaking with his mouth full.
‘A real little baby!’ Hermione laughed.
Grinning widely, Ron shook his head, gulped down the last of the cold potato he’d been chewing, and put the plate to one side... it was ignored by Crookshanks, who had passed out happily in a haze of cod... Ron stood up, and pulled Hermione to her feet; she gave a little scream of delight and surprise as he put his arms firmly around her, and they twirled around together in the centre of the living room. The nausea, the tiredness, and the vague headache were all forgotten as the room span around her, until the only constant remaining was Ron’s jubilant face above her. They both laughed and whooped until they could barely breathe; then, they collapsed onto the sofa together, exhausted but still laughing.
They remained there for most of the night- talking, planning, worrying, holding each other, and laughing. The coffee table became covered in untouched, cold cups of tea and through the open window, the sun set, the moon rose, and the stars whirred overhead.
As the sun rose the next morning, bright and warm from the first moments of daybreak, Ron and Hermione were still in the living room. They were sitting at either end of the long sofa, legs stretched out comfortably towards each other, with their feet touching together. They both seemed lost in thought. Ron sat up straight suddenly, as if an alarming idea had crossed his mind.
‘What if it’s a girl, and she gets my big feet?!’ he said.
Hermione laughed. ‘What if it ends up with teeth like mine, before I had them fixed?’ she asked, wide-eyed in mock horror.
‘Your teeth really weren’t that bad. You could always fix the kid’s teeth too, if it hates them,’ said Ron.
‘I wouldn’t dare, my parents were upset enough when I did mine. Oh, what if it’s a boy, and it’s only my height? My dad’s not exactly tall, either.’
‘Well, what if it gets my clumsiness?’
‘...and my inability to ride a broom!’ interjected Hermione.
‘Bloody hell, the poor thing would have to crawl everywhere,’ Ron mused.
‘Okay,’ Hermione laughed, counting off on her fingers. ‘So far, we have a short, clumsy, earthbound, big-footed child with dental issues. We are terrible parents.’
Ron smiled and wriggled his toes against Hermione’s feet.
‘Or, we could have a baby with your brains...’ he said, hopefully.
‘...a girl with your height...’
‘...and your lovely face...
‘...but your eyes and freckles...’
‘...and your love of reading...’
‘...but also your love of Quidditch; we want her to have some friends at school...’
‘...she could have your kindness...’
‘...and your hair...’
‘My hair? Really?’
‘I love your red hair, Ron.’
‘...okay, my hair then. But your smile.’
Hermione laid a hand gently across her stomach.
‘I think we may have just created the perfect child. We are excellent parents.’
‘Y’know,’ Ron yawned, a bleary smile crossing his face, ‘I think we are.’
He shuffled around on the sofa until he was lying alongside Hermione, his hand over hers. Ron kissed her shoulder and nestled his face into her hair; she sighed, and fell asleep. He decided to send Madam Hipp a message later, to say that Miss Granger needed to rest, and would be staying at home that day.
Ron listened to Hermione’s soft breathing until he fell into her rhythm and joined her in sleep, their fingers gently entwined over a humming little heartbeat.
A/N: So ... Did Ron react to the big news as you thought? How about Hermione? Please do leave a review to let me know what you think! :)
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