A/N: This fic attempts to deal with infertility and a late-term
miscarriage honestly and maturely, without wallowing in angst or
wrapping everything up in a neat, happy bow. Whether I've succeeded or
not is for you to decide, but if you find the subject matter disturbing
or upsetting in ay way, please do not read any further. This
story fits within the same post-Hogwarts universe as "The Terrible
Burden of Grace," "Domestic Disharmony," and "A Life Well Lived," all
of which are archived on PhoenixSong. My humble thanks to
Katieay and DeviantAuthor for helping me beat this into shape, and to
JenAdamson, my fabulous PhoenixSong beta.
The resounding pop of an Apparating wizard had not even
faded away when Ron bounded up the steps to his front door. He was
having the most perfect day: the air was clear and warm, the Cannons
were ahead in the standings, he'd got an outstanding performance review
from his supervisor at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and
he had found the perfect stuffed animal to finish off the nursery he
and Hermione had spent the past month decorating. It was an exact
duplicate of the teddy bear he'd had as a small boy, and he couldn't
wait for his son -- or daughter -- to grab it in its chubby little
hands and embrace it the way he had embraced his.
he called out as he burst through the door, barely able to contain
himself. He winced when the door slammed shut behind him. Hermione
couldn't bear slammed doors, and would no doubt have a few choice words
Those words never came.
called again, his voice softer this time. No one responded. By all
appearances the house was completely empty; his steps creaked ominously
on the old wooden floorboards. "Hermione, love, are you there?" His
ears strained for the slightest sound from upstairs.
Increasingly alarmed, he pulled out his wand and cautiously made his
way up the stairs. After checking every room, and the nursery twice, he
came back down.
It wasn't like Hermione not to be home at
this time of day. Although she continued to work for the legal firm of
Goldstein, Goldstein and Granger, she'd reduced her workload to
whatever paperwork could be done from home two months ago. After so
many years of trying, and so many close calls, once she'd passed the
twenty-week mark without incident she'd begun taking every possible
precaution. That meant staying off her feet as much as possible, no
Apparating or use of a Portkey, and no leaving the house unescorted
unless it was to Harry and Ginny's, her parents', or the Burrow. She
always left him a note before going, so her unexplained absence was a
Uncertain what to do, he took a Butterbeer from the
fridge, cracked it open, and sat at the kitchen table. An offended
squeak brought him to his feet. With a laugh, he rescued the bear from
his back pocket and set it on the table. "Sorry I sat on you, mate," he
said, lifting his bottle to the toy in a mock toast before tipping it
back for a long pull. The animal just stared at him with its coal-black
Their moment of camaraderie was broken by the
eruption of green flames from the hearth. Since the Floo Network was
the only magical transport available to Hermione in her delicate
condition, Ron naturally assumed she was on her way home, and rose to
welcome her. Much to his disappointment, however, Harry tumbled out of
"Oh, thank Merlin," he exclaimed as he swept
the soot from his robes. "I went to the Ministry an hour ago and they
said you'd left, but when I came here earlier you weren't home, and
your mum said she hadn't seen you, and --"
"What is it?" Ron asked, dread coiling in his stomach. "What's happened?"
"Something's gone wrong. Hermione's at St. Mungo's."
Not again, Ron thought as the dread slithered its way up to his throat, constricting him so he could barely speak. Please, not again. Not now, not when she's come so far. A glance at Harry's inscrutable face, however, revealed nothing. "What happened?" he croaked.
just grabbed his arm and tugged him towards the hearth. "You'd best
come with me," he said. "They can tell you what happened better than I
Ron broke free of Harry's grip long enough to grab the
bear from the table, then followed him into the Floo Network in another
burst of green flames.
* * * * *
Ron had hated St.
Mungo's for as long as he could remember. Too often, it had been
associated in his mind with death and devastation. Even coming here
with Hermione so she could be examined by an obstetric Healer, and
hearing his unborn child's heartbeat for the first time, had not been
enough to mitigate the feeling of misery that settled over him like a
shroud every time he came here.
Harry led him at a brisk pace
out of the fireplace and across the foyer through the door that led to
the patient wards. Ron was desperate to ask him what had happened, to
find out what Harry knew but was reluctant to tell, but he couldn't
help clinging to the belief that the longer he remained ignorant, the
less likely his worst fears would be realized. He clutched the stuffed
bear to his chest as he followed Harry upstairs, hoping against hope
that everyone was simply overreacting.
When he saw Ginny, his
father, and his in-laws standing in a huddle outside a closed door at
the end of the corridor, however, his heart sank. Bringing Muggles into
St. Mungo's was a complicated procedure undertaken only in the worst of
crises; if the Grangers were here, then the news must be very bad
Ginny turned and saw the two men headed towards her.
"Thank goodness you found him!" she said to Harry as she came forward
to embrace Ron. Her chin trembled and her eyes were shiny when she
looked up at him. "She's been awake for about ten minutes now, asking
Ron pulled back and grasped her by her elbows. "Ginny, please, you have to tell me -- what happened?"
She shook her head and stepped back, breaking free. "Just go in and see her, Ron."
His shoulders slumped. He hazarded a glance at his in-laws, but there
was no news forthcoming from them, either. His frustration was rapidly
reaching a boiling point, to the point that he wanted to rage, to hit
someone, to hex something. Instead, he took a deep breath and opened
The curtains had been drawn over the windows,
leaving the room enveloped in dimness. Ron heard a faint patter against
the windowpane and realized it must have started raining since he left
On a bed near the far wall, Hermione lay on her side,
her back to him. A lamp on the bedside table cast a golden circle of
light on the pillow beneath her head. On the other side of the bed sat
an empty, straight-backed chair.
Ron winced as the click of
the door closing seemed to echo through the room. Hermione stiffened at
the sound, then half-turned towards him. He could see the glint of
wetness on her cheeks reflected in the lamplight. Dread slithered
within him once again, awakened by the sight of her delicately pale,
blotchy face framed by an unholy mass of brown hair. He hurried to her
side, scooting the chair as close to the bed as he could get and taking
her hand in both of his.
"What happened, Hermione?" he whispered, almost afraid to speak.
She sniffled. "I'm so sorry, Ron."
He reached forward to tuck a lock of hair away from her face. "Sorry
about what, love?" He tried to smile at her, but it felt so unnatural
to do so he thought his face might crack. "You didn't try to use Mum's
antique sewing machine again, did you?"
A mewling sound escaped from her throat as she shook her head. "I - I lost the baby."
dread that had risen up in him, its hood unfurled, now struck, sinking
its fangs deep into his heart. In truth, this was the news he had
feared the moment he saw Harry emerge from his fireplace, but having
expected it made it no easier to hear.
They'd tried for years
without success to have a baby. A year after they were married,
Hermione declared her desire to stop using contraception and start a
family. Though the very idea of raising a child terrified him, Ron was
only too happy to give her what she wanted. They made love with
abandon, wherever and whenever the mood struck. Fred, who had caught
them in flagrante not only once, but three times, had even
taken to calling them the "rutting Weasleys", though never when his
mother or Hermione were in earshot.
Yet despite all their
enthusiastic coupling, Hermione's menstrual cycle remained as
stubbornly predictable as ever. Meanwhile, Harry and Ginny's brood
increased on what seemed to be a yearly basis. Just before their fifth
child was born, Hermione dragged a reluctant and embarrassed Ron to a
Healer who specialized in infertility. For two years they were
subjected to a battery of spells and potions, including one
particularly foul-smelling swill that made all of Ron's body hair fall
out. Despite the endless indignities he and Hermione endured, however,
none of the spells or potions bore fruit.
Hermione then decided to turn to Muggle science. Losing his hair had
been a mere irritation compared to what those crackpots put him
through. Sex with Hermione lost all pleasure as he was called upon to
perform any time her body temperature reached a certain level -- a
demand that frequently required him to invent clever excuses to leave
work -- and to fulfill his procreative duty in a variety of
alternatingly ridiculous and uncomfortable positions. When Ron found
himself locked in a small room with a plastic cup and a stack of glossy
Muggle magazines depicting naked women flaunting their intimate bits
for all the world to see, however, he knew that his pride had hit
rock-bottom. So he flung the empty cup at the smirking attendant and
fled, too distraught to bother with concealing his Apparition from
As only she could, Hermione convinced him
to return to the clinic, though it hadn't been easy. In the end, it was
his profound love for her and wish to help her fulfill her desire to
have a baby that brought him back. He refused to use the clinic's
resources to provide the samples they required, however, and so, once a
month, he would lie back on their bed and fantasize about a plump,
full-breasted, wide-hipped, smiling Hermione surrounded by a host of
children while her expert hands coaxed him to orgasm. Once they'd
cleaned up they would then Apparate to the clinic, where Ron would
endure the agony of watching the doctor insert a long needle into
Hermione's flat abdomen and slowly depress the plunger, implanting
Ron's sperm directly into her uterus.
At first, Ron feared
that Muggle science would prove no more successful than magic. Then,
one glorious fall day, Hermione informed him that her period was late,
the first time that had happened since it first began its monthly
appearance when she was in her early teens. He'd been so ecstatic the
next day he spent almost an entire week's salary on baby clothes. Three
weeks later, when the cramping began, and then the bleeding, they'd
both been devastated. The doctor reassured them that this was not an
unexpected setback, given the troubles they'd experienced from the
beginning, and urged them to try again as soon as they were ready.
two more years Ron felt as though his life had become a pendulum,
swinging constantly between the extremes of elation and despair as
Hermione would become pregnant, then miscarry before the first
trimester had ended. He clung stubbornly to hope, however, as each time
she managed to carry the child a little bit longer than before. He
knew, though, that she wouldn't be able to continue like this forever;
her already petite frame had grown almost gaunt, and not even magic
could hide the deepening shadows under her eyes. He wanted to tell her
to stop punishing herself, that there were other ways to have a family,
but he feared even the slightest bit of resignation on his part would
push her over the edge. So he remained silent and hoped for a miracle.
That miracle came this winter, when Hermione passed through the first
trimester without incident. Soon her belly began to take on a roundness
that had not been there before, her face began to fill out, her narrow
hips began to widen, and her breasts felt heavier in his large hands.
He was afraid to touch her, fearing the worst, but when one night she
grabbed his hand and pressed it to her stomach and he felt the first
faint fluttering of a new life, he couldn't contain his joy. That night
they made love for what felt like the first time in years.
When panic set in the next morning, it took all the persuasive powers
in the doctor's arsenal to convince Ron that, yes, it was perfectly
safe to have sex with one's pregnant wife, and that, given all they'd
suffered, the mood enhancement doing so would bring would be very
beneficial to both Hermione and their child. He did, however, recommend
Hermione spend as much time on bed rest as possible.
innate protective instincts took control; he became like a man
possessed. He knew the rules he laid down for where Hermione could go,
and when, and under what circumstances, and what she could do on her
own and what she couldn't do without supervision, drove her crazy, but
she bore his obsession with good humor. He took great pride in
attending to her needs, caring for her with the assiduousness he had
learned at his mother's feet as she cared for his baby sister.
also insisted Hermione return to magical care for the duration of her
pregnancy. He would remain forever grateful to Muggle medicine for the
miracle it gave them, but he just didn't trust it. Hermione tried to
reason with him, but that was one argument she couldn't win.
they learned Ginny was herself pregnant again, and due to give birth
not long after Hermione, the two women drew even closer than before.
Relieved that Hermione had someone she could share this experience with
-- and someone she could turn to for first-hand knowledge and advice --
Ron relaxed the restrictions somewhat and encouraged Hermione to spend
as much time with Ginny and her children as possible.
best part about Hermione's pregnancy, as far as Ron was concerned, was
the sex. While she had always been responsive to him, even in her most
unfettered moments she could never completely let go of her primness.
Now, though, she became an entirely different person in bed. It was
scary and brilliant at the same time. Ron had briefly been tempted to
ask Harry if it had been the same for him, then realized that was a
hell of a lot more about his sister than he ever wanted to know. So he
just relaxed and let himself enjoy it.
Now, though, he
realized as he clutched Hermione's cold fingers in his shaking hands,
all of that had been snatched away from him. He didn't think he could
go through any more of this, which would mean Hermione's distress must
be many times more unbearable. He couldn't stand the thought of saying
no to her, but no child could be worth this much suffering and loss.
had come over for tea," she was telling him, stumbling over the words
as she tried to keep her sobs in check. "She'd brought the children
with her, and they'd all gone outside to play. Ginny was telling me
about a spell to ease muscle spasms when the cramps started. She
thought maybe they were Braxton-Hicks contractions, but I knew." She
reached out to grasp the edge of his robe. "I knew, Ron. I knew even before I got here that the baby was gone."
He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the tips of her fingers. "There wasn't anything they could do to save it?"
"Her," she whispered, shaking her head. "Our baby was a girl. A perfectly formed little girl, except that she was dead."
"Do the Healers know what happened?"
She shook her head again. "They want to do a post-mortem, but I told
them to wait until you got here." She looked at him with tears spilling
out of her soft brown eyes. "I thought you might want a chance to hold
our daughter first."
Ron swallowed noisily. He hadn't been
prepared for that. He was no stranger to holding tiny infants, having
cradled his nieces and nephews more times than he could count over the
years. The idea of holding his own child's dead body in his arms,
however, was a bit more than he was willing to endure, even for
"I'll see what the Healer has to say," he
said, releasing her hand and standing up. "I need to find out when I
can take you home anyway." She simply nodded.
He looked down
at her pallid face and had to fight back the urge to scoop her up in
his arms and Apparate with her to the other side of the world, where no
one knew them and where no one could pity them. Instead, he took the
stuffed bear from his pocket and nestled it against Hermione's chest.
She looked at it rather quizzically at first, then gave Ron a wan smile
and slowly closed her eyes.
Ron rested his hand on her head, gently stroking her hair. "I'll be back as soon as I can, love," he murmured, then left.
* * * * *
The gathering outside Hermione's room had noticeably thinned when Ron
stepped out into the corridor. His father and Ginny had both gone,
probably to attend to the demands of their own families, leaving Harry
and the Grangers waiting. Also there was a tall, stoop-shouldered man
with wiry gray hair and a bulbous nose whom Ron recognized as the
obstetric Healer. Ron squared his shoulders and approached them.
"How is she, Ron?" Mrs. Granger asked. She held a handkerchief in her
hands that she twisted and knotted between her fingers. Ron could tell
from its limp, bedraggled state that it had been used to dry many tears
today. "How's Hermione?"
He briefly considered lying to them,
assuring them that this was a temporary setback, that Hermione would be
back on her feet in no time. But he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"She's in pretty bad shape," he said. Before either of the Grangers
could press him for details, he turned to the Healer. "Can I have a
word in private?"
He nodded and followed Ron several yards
down the corridor. Harry gently ushered the Grangers in the opposite
direction. As soon as he felt safe enough to speak openly, Ron turned
on the Healer. "What the hell happened? Everything had been going so
well. She saw you just last week and you assured us everything was
progressing normally. What happened?"
The Healer removed his
glasses and polished them on the edge of his robes before carefully
settling them back on his nose. While he waited for an answer Ron
seethed, fighting the compulsion to slam his fist into the nearest
surface, be it a wall or, even better, the Healer's face. When he
finally spoke, his response did nothing to soothe Ron's anger and
"I don't know."
"What do you mean, 'I don't know'? You're the bloody expert!"
"Believe me, Mr. Weasley, where your wife is concerned, I have put my
expertise to the test and found it shamefully lacking. Occasionally, we
will stumble across a medical mystery that cannot be solved by any
means available to us, be they magical or Muggle. Mrs. Weasley's
inability to carry a child to term appears to be just such a mystery."
Ron could feel the day's stubble scrape the skin of his palm when he
scrubbed his hands over his face. "So what you're saying is -- if I'm
hearing you correctly -- is that Hermione and I will never be able to
The Healer propped his elbow on a nearby
windowsill and ran his fingers through his hair. "If you two were to
keep at it, she might be able to carry a child long enough for it to
survive outside her womb, if delivered prematurely. However, I would
strongly discourage you from taking that course of action. The later in
your wife's pregnancy she miscarries, the more difficult her recovery
will be. Not only that, but as she ages the risk of birth defects
increases. That risk becomes even greater when you factor in premature
Ron's breath escaped with an audible 'whoof' as he slumped against the wall. "Why?" he moaned. "Why did this happen to us?"
"I'm very sorry, Mr. Weasley," the Healer said. "I wish I had better news for you."
Ron blinked away the tears that stung at the corners of his eyes and
looked blearily at the Healer. "Does Hermione know yet? Does she know
she'll likely never be able to have a child?"
"Then don't tell her yet. Something like that... that can wait until morning."
"If you wish." Ron nodded. "Very well. I need to examine Mrs. Weasley
one more time and give her a Dreamless Sleep Draught to help her rest
before I do the post-mortem." He glanced at Ron. "Do you wish to hold
your daughter before I--?" Ron's faint shudder seemed to be all the
answer he required, and he nodded in acknowledgement. "You're welcome
to spend a few more minutes with your wife, but I would advise you to
go home and get some sleep. The next few weeks are going to be very
trying for both of you."
"When can she come home?"
"Tomorrow morning, if there are no complications during the night."
"You'll let me know if there are any?"
"Of course, Mr. Weasley."
"Okay. Thank you for all your help."
The Healer extended his hand, apparently to touch Ron on the shoulder,
but then withdrew it. "I deeply regret the misfortune you and your wife
Ron watched the Healer enter Hermione's room.
His throat and eyes burned with unshed tears. Inside, he felt as if his
heart had been torn to shreds. He'd always been rather ambivalent about
having children, but having had the choice wrenched from his grasp was
beyond frustrating. Even more so was watching the effect their repeated
failures had on Hermione's spirit. He'd seen the lingering, longing
looks she would give Ginny as she grew large with each successive child
and known, without having to ask, how persistently her feelings of
inadequacy gnawed at Hermione. This was an obstacle that not even her
cleverness or his determination could surmount.
"You okay, mate?" a soft voice said beside him.
Ron turned to see Harry studying him. "Never better," he said dully.
"Is there anything Ginny or I can do? D'you want to kip at our place tonight?"
Ron shook his head. "No, I'll be fine." He glanced around. "Where are Hermione's parents?"
"I escorted them to the entrance," Harry explained. "There's an
Underground stop just around the corner, so they should be on their way
home by now."
"Thanks, mate," Ron said. "Reckon I'm going to have to explain what's going on to them sooner or later."
Harry clasped his shoulder. "Later will do. There's a Muggle pub not far from here; why don't you let me treat you to a pint?"
"A pint sounds bloody brilliant right now."
As he had just over an hour ago, Ron let Harry lead the way, retracing
their steps out of St. Mungo's. When they passed through the door that
opened out on to Muggle London, Ron was surprised to see that it was
dark. The rain that had fallen earlier had stopped, leaving small
puddles that reflected the light of streetlamps and splashed beneath
his feet as he and Harry walked through them. Feeling a chill seep
beneath his skin, he wrapped his arms around his torso and hurried to
keep up with Harry. He was glad when he saw the warm, golden glow cast
from a coach lantern that hung beside a sign heralding the Bull and
Lion, so he followed Harry inside.
The pub was small and
cozy, with sturdy wooden booths polished by decades of patrons'
well-padded bums. A billiards table took up one end and a stone
fireplace the other; perched on a platform above the bar was a telly
tuned to some Muggle sport Ron didn't recognize. While Ron took a seat
in an empty booth near the fireplace Harry went up to the bar to fetch
A few minutes later, a glass filled nearly to
the top with dark brown liquid topped with just a sliver of foam slid
in front of him. "Cheers," Harry said.
Ron looked up to see him tip his glass back and raised his own in response. "Down the hatch."
* * * * *
wasn't sure how late it was when he tripped and fell to his knees while
climbing his back steps; if Hermione weren't in St. Mungo's, he'd have
got a tongue-lashing for coming home at such a late hour. And despite
his clumsiness, he wasn't pissed, though he almost wished he were. He'd
sat in the pub for several hours, nursing his beer while talking about
anything and everything under the sun except children or Hermione. In a
way, it was just what the Healer had prescribed. He desperately needed
the distraction and Harry, bless Merlin, had come through in spades. As
envious as he was of the countless ways the wheel of fate had turned in
Harry's favor, Ron knew he was doubly blessed to have Harry as a
But Harry had a family to return home to, so Ron reluctantly bade him farewell and Apparated back to his empty house.
The silence was oppressive. After turning on all the table lamps, Ron
aimed his wand at the wireless set and activated it. At this late hour,
most of the music consisted of what George called "shagging music," but
Ron didn't care if they played mermaid song; he just wanted noise.
The Butterbeer he'd opened that afternoon when he returned home from
work -- before his world had been turned upside down and inside out --
still sat on the kitchen table. It was warm, but he didn't care. He
took several long swallows.
As he tilted his head back to
drain the last of the bottle, Ron spotted the curved newel post at the
bottom of the staircase out of the corner of his eye. He knew he was
going to have to climb those stairs sooner or later, and he knew once
he did the first room he would see would be the nursery. The nursery
that he and Hermione had so lovingly furnished, all for naught; the
nursery that would remain forever empty.
"Fuck," he groaned.
Then, louder, "Fuck!" With a snarl he threw the bottle. It smashed into
hundreds of pieces when it hit the wall. Ron grinned with malicious
satisfaction. Then, before he could talk himself out of it, he hurtled
up the stairs to stand at the door to the nursery. "Fuck," he
whispered, just before he crumpled to the floor in a flood of tears.