Ron's face had turned whiter than Nearly-Headless Nick's whole body as the words sunk in. This couldn't be right … it just couldn't. Sure, the child looked like him, but he hadn't seen Hermione in almost two years, so unless she’d fallen pregnant and hadn’t told him, she was lying.
Actually, any way the situation was looked at, Hermione had lied about the baby. Did Harry know? Had they all been laughing at him behind his back?
All this was too much for Ron to think about; he promptly ran to the nearest flowerpot to spill his guts. Upon hearing this, Molly, Harry and Ginny entered the lounge to see what was going on.
"I see you told him," Molly said, watching her youngest son ruin her spathiphyllums flowers.
Hermione winced at the sounds and replied, "Yes."
Hannah looked curiously around at her family, wondering what was happening. Strange men didn't usually run around throwing up.
"Marmee? Is he ill?" the young witch asked, tugging at her mum's skirt.
Hermione bit her lip. "Uh, Ginny, would you take her into the kitchen and get her something to eat, please?"
It would be best if she talked to Ron alone; Hannah needn't hear the sort of language Hermione knew Ron would attack her with. Ginny nodded silently and bent down to pick her niece up.
"No, don't!" Ron shouted quickly. He wiped his mouth and shakily stood up. His pale complexion had now a tinge of green mixed in his sweaty face. "Please."
Ginny hesitated and looked at Hermione for help.
"I don't want her to hear negative things from you. She has a tendency to repeat everything she hears," Hermione sternly explained to Ron.
"Repeat! Repeat! Repeat!" Hannah sang before giggling to herself. Hermione noticed a small smile threaten to appear on Ron's lips, but as soon as the thought had come, the smile was gone.
"See," Hermione said, raising an eyebrow. She nodded at Ginny, who quickly exited to the kitchen, Harry and Molly in tow.
The young mother heaved a sigh and sat on the sofa, smoothing her skirt down. She looked up at Ron, who was pacing and red-faced. "Do you want to sit down?" she asked timidly.
Ron stopped and turned to look at her as though she was mad. "Excuse me?" he asked.
"Sit down, so we can talk," Hermione replied, trying to keep calm.
"Talk?" Ron said, hissing the word out as if it were dirty. "What do you … Merlin! This is just so typical of you," he spat, deciding that acting calm was out of the window now.
"Typical? Having your baby is typical?" Hermione asked, folding her arms across her chest. Ron had said some stupid things in his life, but this took the biscuit.
"What? No," Ron said, shaking his head. "What's typical is that you always have your way."
"I don't always have my way," Hermione retorted, feeling insulted.
"Yes, you do!" Ron said, exasperated. "You've kept this from me for how long? Two years?" His face was heating up, and his voice rose as he spoke.
"I was going to tell you--"
"When? When she graduates from Hogwarts?"
Hermione could feel warm tears forming in her eyes, but she was determined not to show weakness. "You don't know how much I wanted to just owl you. It was such a hard choice not to," she said, her voice quietening.
"A hard choice? You had the choice of telling me, or not. How the hell is that hard?" Ron yelled, his face screwing up as he looked at his former girlfriend with indignation.
Hermione stood up to face him, her eyes flashing. "If I had told you, you would have come home, wouldn’t you?" she asked, placing her hands on her hips, much like Mrs Weasley had done with Ron in the past if he angered her.
Raising his eyebrows, he replied, "No shit, I would have."
"So you see why I couldn't tell you? You would have come home with no career and would probably be working in a dead-end job and be miserable for the rest of your life," Hermione reasoned matter-of-factly. Her eyes softened and she added, "Being an Auror was your dream, and I had to let you live it."
Not quite sure how to answer that, Ron opened his mouth and then closed it again, thinking. Finally, after a moment, he replied, "You could have just let me know and told me not to come home … all those letters and nothing."
"And you would have listened?" Hermione asked, knowing the answer. She smiled knowingly at her ex-boyfriend, and sat back down on the sofa.
This time, Ron joined her. He seemed to have calmed down. "Well … all right, I guess I understand why you didn't tell me," he said, her red face now a pink tinge of embarrassment.
For over a minute they sat in complete silence, each wondering what to say next.
Ron cleared his throat, gaining Hermione's attention before he asked in a quiet voice, "What's her name?"
This simple question caused her heart to flutter. "Hannah," she said.
Ron licked his lips and nodded. "Does she take after me?"
"Of course," she replied, smiling at the father of her child. "She has your smile, your temper and I'm sure you noticed - your freckles and hair." She looked down at her hands, which were resting in her lap. "Every time I look at her, I see you."
Ron's anger and shock were starting to subside, and a range of new emotions were taking over. He still felt angry for being in the dark, but a part of him was filled with empathy. It was obvious by Hermione's expression that keeping this secret had been very painful, and he couldn't imagine what she had gone through in the past two years. Another part of him felt sad; he had missed out on important stages of his daughter's life - her birth, first steps and first word.
"I'm sorry you had to do this alone," Ron said, feeling guilty. He understood why he only found out now, and not 24 months ago, that he was a father, but that didn't stop him feeling guilty for not being there.
"I wasn't completely alone," Hermione admitted, looking up. "I've been living here, your mum has been a tremendous help."
"What about work? You've written to me about working at the Ministry," Ron said, a bit confused.
"I've been working from here. I owl in my assignments and go to the office for about an hour or so a day," Hermione explained.
"Sounds like you didn't need me at all," the red-head said, sounding a little hurt.
Hermione shook her head. "Children need fathers, we did need you," she said, looking into his beautiful brown eyes with sincerity.
"This is just so much to take in," Ron said, rubbing his neck gingerly. To think, the only worry he had this morning was introducing everyone to Miranda, and now he was responsible for another human being! Suddenly his face paled and his eyes widened.
"What's wrong?" Hermione asked, taking hold of Ron's right hand with concern.
Ron pulled his hand away and jumped up. "Miranda! I - I have to tell her," he said, panicked. How was she going to take it? Of all the ways he imagined introducing her to his family, explaining to his new girlfriend that he had a daughter was not one of them.
He took the stairs two at a time, leaving Hermione with the feeling that this could have gone better.
After Ron escaped upstairs, Hermione wandered into the kitchen to finally relax.
"From the noise, I gather he didn't take it well?"
"He didn't at first, Molly, but I think he's all right now," Hermione explained, taking a seat next to Harry who was staring at Hannah in awe, watching the small child drink out of her bottle.
Harry turned to his old friend. "She's beautiful," he told Hermione, "just so …" he searched for a word to describe how amazing the baby was, but couldn't find one.
"Breathtaking?" Ginny, who was sitting on Hannah's other side suggested.
"Yeah," Harry said, nodding in approval. He turned back to Hannah, whose bottle was now lying on its side. The small girl blinked and reached forwards, taking Harry's glasses.
"Tank oo," she said, placing the spectacles on top of her head. Harry blinked a few times as his eyes adjusted to the light.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you, Harry," Hermione quietly apologised, looking down at her hands again.
"It's fine, Ginny explained everything to me. I understand why you did what you did," Harry said. "Anyway, just being here now and seeing Hannah makes up for it all." He stroked the red curls on the little girl's head affectionately.
"Where's Ron now?" Molly asked, picking up the discarded bottle, and with a quick tap of her wand, placing the magically cleaned one back into the top cupboard.
"He went to talk to Miranda," Hermione replied, pulling a face. She saw Molly's expression stiffen as she turned back to the cupboard to close the door.
"I'm sorry," Harry suddenly said, averting his eyes from his friends. "I should have warned you Ron was bringing her, but he told me not to."
"Oh, it isn't your fault, dear," Molly assured him, patting his shoulders affectionately.
"It doesn't matter, Harry," Ginny said. "After Ron tells her about this little gem, she'll probably leave." She stuck her tongue out at Hannah, who giggled, still finding Harry's glasses fascinating to play with.
"Maybe, but I've known her for two years and she is quite understanding. She never seems embarrassed," Harry sadly explained.
"Great," Hermione said sarcastically, resting her head on her propped up elbows.
"I can just picture it," Ginny said, sighing. She cleared her throat and put on an Irish accent. "Oh what a wonderful baby! She looks just like you, Ronald! When we get married, I'll be her step-mum! Won't that be super?"
This caused Harry to laugh out loud, Molly to change her laugh into a cough and Hermione to sit up straight in panic.
"They're not getting married, are they?"
"What? No, but give it a few months and she'll have Ron in his best dress-robes practicing 'I do'," Harry said, sighing. He looked over at the red blur that was Ginny for a fleeting moment, before realising she was looking back and averted his gaze, his cheeks flushing pink.
"Why do you care so much anyway, Hermione?" Ginny asked suspiciously. She turned to Hannah and pried Harry's glasses from her, and helped him put them back on. "I thought you were over Ron."
"Well I am, of course I am! I just don't want Hannah having a step-mum, that's all," Hermione said quickly, blushing slightly. It was true, she didn't want a step-mum for her daughter, but then again, she really didn't want Ron to date anyone else. She thought she could handle it when the day came, but seeing him again today just brought back all the happy times they had spent together.
"Sure, okay," Ginny said. She didn't believe her friend, but even if Hermione admitted to wanting Ron back, there was nothing she could do about it.
"Would you like some tea, Harry dear?" Molly asked, gratefully changing the subject.
"Yes please, two sugars," Harry said. He looked around the kitchen. It was just like he remembered, but for the formula in the fridge, bottles in the cupboard, and a few photographs of Hannah here and there. "So, what's been going on while I've been gone that I don't know about? Apart from Hannah being born, of course."
The girls took a moment to think; their social lives were quite dull when Hannah was born. They hardly spoke to anyone other than Neville and Luna.
"Erm, Neville's doing well at St Mungo's, they're letting him see patients now – supervised, of course," Ginny said, trying to remember what else Luna told her at work.
"Thank you," Harry said as Molly handed him his tea. "How's Remus?" he asked, concern sweeping across his face. Over time Harry had accepted Sirius' death and slowly learnt to deal with it. Remus, on the other hand, was taking longer to accept it. He had spent twelve years hating the man and was then given only two years to make up for the time lost. Losing James and Lily so young had hurt Remus but that day in the Ministry had been something completely different.
Hermione's expression softened greatly as she answered. "Better, we think. He's Hannah's Godfather, and he loves. It gets him out of the house." In Sirius's last will, Remus inherited Number 12 Grimmauld Place and a third of his gold - the other two thirds had gone to Harry and the Weasleys.
Harry smiled; he was glad Remus was feeling better. The first few months had been tough for both of them. Finishing the last drops of his tea, Harry stood up.
"I better get going, see how he's doing."
The three women walked with Harry to the fireplace.
Mrs Weasley gave him a big motherly hug, welcoming him home properly. "You will stop by tomorrow, won't you, dear?"
"Wouldn't have it any other way," he replied, making a move to pick up his suitcase. Ginny was quicker to pick it up and handed it to him. She did make a move to hug him but, at the last minute, lost her nerve and, instead, grabbed his hand for a firm shake.
"See you later, Harry," she said quietly. Harry nodded in return.
He turned to Hermione, who gave him a sisterly kiss on the cheek. "Take care, and send Remus our best."
"I will," he assured. Harry turned to the stairs and shouted up to Ron, "Oy! I'm going now, you two." There was no reply, but he guessed they were still busy discussing Ron's newly found fatherhood. After a quick wave to Hannah, Harry Apparated home to Grimmauld Place.
"Byesie bye!" Hannah called as he went with a pop.
Hermione took a deep breath. The time to confront Miranda and Ron together had come at last.
"Let the party begin," she whispered to herself as she made her way up the staircase.
Author's Note: Make this chapter last ... I have a little bit of writer's block. I will spend tonight thinking in bed ideas - the best place you know to plan (the plot for his story came to me in a dream, you know).
But good news, I have half term on the 12th of this month (two weeks after everyone else's spring/easter break. Terrible.) for two weeks, so I will find a few days to write, and if I can't, I'll bring a notebook whereever I go to make notes for future chapters.
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