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September 20, 1999

Meredith stood by the kitchen bench of their modest cottage-sized house, chopping up a giant pineapple with a knife which could have easily played the lead role in a Rambo movie.

She was a natural in cooking, and sometimes she wondered if that was why she found herself already with a ring on her finger by her twentieth birthday. After all, she thought, smiling, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Naturally she didn’t want it any other way. She was in love; she loved him and she knew he loved her back, even if the actual words were rarely shed in between their frequent bickers. They weren’t the kind of couple who held hands and kissed in public, or who spent hours on the phone arguing about who loved the other one most followed by a just as giggly argument of who was going to have to hang up. The reason for the latter, naturally, was that her husband was a Wizard and had no clue how to work a telephone.

The chiming of the phone sounded through the kitchen. “Speaking of the devil...” Meredith muttered, her previously smily face now replaced by an expression that suggested she had just drunk an entire glass of lemon juice. She dropped the huge butcher’s knife, quickly wiped pineapple-juice from her long, slender fingers and picked up the phone without looking at the caller-ID.

There was no point in looking, because there was only one person who would call at this time in the morning.

“Hi, mum.”

“Dithy!” Meredith’s mother’s voice sounded on the other side of the phone. “I get off work early today, so I can come visit you turtledoves right afterwards. I’ll take the ten past four train out to your house.”

“Er-” Meredith said, playing with her wedding-ring, twirling it around her finger. She had imagined this day to be special, perfect, and her mother was not a part of that special, perfect day. “Listen...”

“Okay, I’ll see you roughly at five, then. I love you. Oh, and I expect you to come pick me up at the train-station.”

The beeping signalized that her mother had returned to work, leaving Meredith alone, holding the line. “Damn,” she swore, before hanging up.

She took up the preparation of her husband’s breakfast-in-bed, no longer smiling, her chopping dangerously hard and fast so that she risked cutting off a finger in the process. Why couldn’t her mother leave her alone for one single day? Why couldn’t she accept that Meredith had a life and a family of her own now?

She positively fumed as she whisked eggs, sugar and flour into waffles and then poured the gooey substance into an iron and started burning hearts for her man.

She would have to calm down before facing him with a heavily laden tray of all his favorite goodies, made almost as delectable as his mum made them. Meredith might be blessed with a certain talent in the kitchen, but what she could was nothing compared to her mother-in-law’s remarkable skills. No one compared, it seemed; not even the chefs on TV.

Meredith arranged the food items carefully on the tray, trying to get the colors to compliment each other as she hummed a nervous song to distract herself, calm her nerves and help her annoyance fade away. Her heart was leaping and she felt nauseous, as though she suddenly had to throw up. Well, she felt that way constantly lately, so it really wasn't anything out of the ordinary.

“Calmly, gently, carefully...” she whispered to herself as she picked the tray up, and carried it up the stairs towards the bedroom. She could hear deep, slow snores from within which made her smile.

“Good morning, sleepyhead,” she said loudly as she pushed open the door with her back, but expecting a response would be optimistic on the verge of being downright foolish. She knew her husband better than that.

Meredith walked over to the where he was laying, put the tray down beside his sleeping frame and slipped into bed. She bent down and buried her lips in his red hair, close to his ear.

“Boo.”

The reaction was immediate and predictable. He sat up straight in bed, his eyes wide and alarmed, his hair a right mess and his mouth aquiver. When he saw her, however, he let out a long, slow breath.

“Blimey. You scared me,” he told her before spotting the breakfast. “Food,” he observed with a broad grin and a second later he was shoveling it in with a spoon supplied by his nervously smiling wife.

Meredith watched him thoughtfully as he ate; watched those familiar features which she had watched every day for over seven years.

She wasn’t sure when it had happened. Perhaps it had been in thei first year, when he saved her life and their friendship was first established. Perhaps it had been that Christmas when he had given her a bottle of perfume. Or when he had been dating someone else just to make her jealous, or when he had become jealous himself when he found out someone wanted to date her, too.

She didn’t know; she could only guess, and her guess was that a part of her had fallen for him on the day she first saw him, on the Hogwarts Express. For it had been him, rather than the Boy-Who-Lived who caught her attention. Him, and that little smudge upon his long, freckled nose.

“Ron,” she said eventually, when two thirds of the food had disappeared into the seemingly bottomless pit that was his stomach.

Ron responded with something that sounded like “Errhit?”

“My mum’s coming later today.”

Ron gave a non-committal shrug and continued to eat his breakfast. He pretended not to care, but Meredith recognized that tiny wrinkle of annoyance between his eyebrows which signalized that he was just as unhappy as her.

“Ron?” Meredith began afresh, determined to say what was on her chest, what had been for her chest for over a month and seemed to grow day by day, inching closer to her stomach for each passing hour as she knew it would soon be obvious for everyone what she was.

Ron looked up at her and his big, blue eyes met her olive ones. He swallowed. “Meredith?” he said, and this time he sounded slightly worried. “Is something wrong?”

“I’m pregnant.”


***


In a dingy city just caressed by the first beams of sunlight a hospital woke up to a new day. Rays of pure sun somehow managed to slip in through the curtains and Hermione yawned and stretched in a salute to the day ahead.

It was going to be hard, especially after last night’s dreams. She slipped a hand under the covers and caressed her stomach, which was now hollowed from years of only having food injected through tubes and needles.

Of course you’re not pregnant,’ she thought, looking towards the curtains, her eyes clouding for a minute before she blinked it away. ‘You’ve been here for eight years, remember?'

The door inscribed with the number 337 creaked open and a nurse with mousy hair who Hermione had never met before peeked in. She smiled brightly as she saw Hermione already awake and closed the door behind her.

“Good morning, Miss Granger.” the nurse said, her dark green eyes twinkling behind horn-rimmed glasses as she crossed the room and ripped the curtains apart, letting the sunshine momentarily blend Hermione as it overwhelmed her like a tidal wave. “Are you ready?"

"Ready for what?" Hermione asked, blinking, the mousy nurse a silhouette against the sun.

The nurse smiled warmly and sat down on the edge of Hermione's bed. "Ready to move on to the real world, of course.”

***


An eagle owl soared towards a large mansion on the British countryside. It was clearly proud to have found the way, proud to have something tied to its foot; everything from the way it soared majestically towards the handsome, carved stone windowsill to the way it cocked its eyebrows while waiting for someone to open suggested pride.

It pecked on the dark glass; once, twice; and the window creaked open.

Someone was reflected in the owl's vivid orange eyes. “Come in, Arabella,” a cold voice called into the chill September morning and the eagle owl flapped its wings and entered into a dimly lit, but handsome, room. “I hope you have something not completely useless.”

The eagle owl poked out its leg and allowed his master to remove the letter from its leg. Once the piece of paper had been taken from it, it shrank, cowered, as though it expected a beating once its master was done reading whatever was on the note.

Eyes moved keenly over cursive writing. “What the hell...” the icy voice whispered; cold eyes landed upon the owl, who lowered its gaze obediently. “What do you mean by this?" the voice demanded.

Arabella gave a soft coo.

"Who is this..." silver eyes returned to the letter before settling on the Arabella, who was immediately reduced to a trembling mass of bones and feathers under her master's harsh glare. "Who is this Hermione Granger woman?”

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