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"We're leaving tomorrow," Hermione said. "I can't believe it. Do you realise we're not returning to Hogwarts?"
Ron, and Hermione were sitting in a corner of the Weasleys' garden,
enjoying the warm evening. It was August - more specifically, Bill and
Fleur's wedding day. The bridal couple had already left, but the last
wedding guests were still lingering outside.
"Yeah, no more silly prefect duties." Ron grinned at Hermione. "You'll miss them terribly."
"Honestly, Ron. Be serious." She frowned thoughtfully. "I mean it. We're not going back. I can't believe it yet."
Ron sobered. "You're right, it's hard to imagine. You know, I'll be the third child in the family not to finish school."
"You will finish it someday," Hermione exclaimed. "Once the search is over, I'm definitely taking my NEWTs. And you are, too!"
Harry, who had been sitting beside them quietly until now, spoke.
don't know what you're getting into," he said in a low voice. "It's
going to be dangerous. We might not return." He sighed. "I'm wondering
if I'm right, taking you with me."
"Don't, Harry," Hermione said. "We might be acting silly today, but we want to come with you."
"Yeah," Ron said. "So don't try to sneak off without us."
smiled slightly. "Thanks. You know I'll be glad to have you there." He
got up. "I'm leaving you to it, then. I'm... erm... making an early
night of it." He entered the house.
"I bet he's going to sneak up on Ginny inside," Ron mumbled.
"I wondered," Hermione replied thoughtfully. "They did seem rather quiet earlier, when they danced together."
"I only hope he doesn't tell her we're leaving."
"I think she already knows."
cares about Harry and Ginny right now, anyway?" Ron asked, grinning and
trying to break the mood. "Other things are more important."
"Such as..." He searched for a distraction. "Look." He pointed at the sky. "The stars are starting to show."
hadn't noticed it was growing dark already," Hermione said, surprised.
"The day has passed so quickly." She gave a little shudder. "And it's
He laid his arm around her shoulder in an
attempt to warm her, surprised at his own daring. They had been engaged
in light flirting for three weeks now, taking it a small step further
each day. Hermione leaned back onto his shoulder and stared upwards.
"I don't believe in Divination," she said. "But sometimes, on a night like this, when I look up..."
"...You think there has to be something up there? If only Trelawney could hear you now. I feel the same, though."
"I wish I could predict the future," Hermione said wistfully.
"Me too. But I'm not Trelawney - I know it's going to be all right. I don't know how, but everything will work out."
Hermione turned her head. Their noses were almost touching. "You think so?"
Ron stirred gently under her so that he could move his head even closer. He gave her a soft kiss on the lips. "Yes."
were brilliant yesterday," Ron told Hermione. "The way you answered
those questions that the sphinx asked was simply brilliant."
After a one-month search, Harry, Ron and Hermione had found what they presumed was one of Voldemort's Horcruxes.
cup had been buried in a hidden tomb in the graveyard where Voldemort
had been resurrected. Guarding it had been a sphinx that wouldn't let
them pass unless they answered its questions.
"Any of you could have done it," Hermione said, although her voice was tinged with quiet satisfaction. "It was pure logic."
"Harry and I don't think logically. We're lucky to have you. You're our mastermind."
Hermione laughed. "I could get used to that name."
Ron thought, Hermione was their mastermind. Harry needed her as a
friend and as a helper on his quest. But Ron needed her as something
much closer. As easy as their banter was, things had changed.
hunt was more than a game, he only yesterday had truly come to realise.
They could all be killed any day. Hell, they were lucky to have
survived yesterday. If Hermione hadn't been able to answer the sphinx's
questions, they couldn't simply have turned around and left. The beast
would have taken its toll. Their lives.
There was no
Dumbledore to help them, no Madam Pomfrey to tend to them afterwards.
This was different from looking for the Philosopher's Stone in their
first year, or their one-day excursion to the Ministry of Magic when
Sirius had been killed. This took much longer. It was like climbing
over one prison wall only to discover that there was a bigger one
behind it, and still bigger ones after that. Trapped between them,
there was no going back.
And he would be damned if he lost
Hermione now. He wanted to live and get back the years they had lost to
bickering at Hogwarts.
"Mastermind," he repeated and pulled Hermione closer. "You'll solve all the problems."
don't want any more problems. Imagine - we're going to have to go
through what we just did three more times. I don't want to."
"We'll manage. And for the moment, we can take a break."
"You are the mastermind," Hermione said, kissing him. "A break. That's the right idea."
Another Horcrux down. Two to go.
"Are you all right?" Hermione lay a cooling package that Ron had conjured over Harry's eyes.
"I'm..." He groaned. "It hurts."
locket had been protected by a nasty spell that - as Hermione suspected
- was supposed to blind anyone who touched it. Thanks to a powerful
protective spell and Hermione and Ron's help, Harry had been lucky: he
was slowly regaining sight.
"I want to talk to Ginny," Harry whispered.
Ron looked at Hermione, who stared helplessly back. Normally, Harry
held back his feelings. He never talked about Ginny.
"You will, mate," Ron said, trying to sound hopeful, but failing miserably. "Some time."
it make you feel guilty?" Hermione whispered that night as she was
lying next to Ron. Tonight, Harry slept in Hermione's tent.
stiffened. He knew what Hermione meant. Trapped in their frantic hunt
for the Horcruxes and their growing despair, Ron and Hermione found
comfort in each other. But what about Harry?
"It does," he finally said. "Terribly."
He sat up. "He's my best friend. I shouldn't leave him alone like that."
eyes glistened. "I know. I feel like I'm excluding him. Worse, that I'm
showing him what he could have if it weren't for the prophecy. You know
that's why he broke up with Ginny?"
"What?" This was the first Ron had heard of it. "He broke up with her?"
Hermione's eyes opened wide. "You didn't know?"
"No! I thought maybe she told him she'd wait for him or something. But not that they'd break up."
for him?" Hermione laughed bitterly. "If you weren't a boy, I'd say
you'd been reading too many romance novels. Wait for what? For his
broken body to come back after he and Voldemort have killed each other?"
"Hermione!" Ron gripped her, shocked. "How can you say that? He'll live."
saying it and maybe one day I'll believe it. If I'm not dead myself by
then. Or you," she sobbed. She clung to him. "I don't want you to die.
Nor Harry. Oh Ron!" She broke down completely and started crying
Lost for words, Ron rocked her to and fro.
"We'll live. I'll... I'll protect you! And I want you to love me. To believe in us," Ron said desperately.
give me a reason to love you," Hermione whispered, leaning closer. She
wrapped her arms around him and clung to him. "Make me forget. Just for
tonight." Her eyes darkened. "Make me feel like a woman."
felt paralysed. Hermione's hair brushed his face, tickling his skin.
Her mouth was only inches from his. He tried to tear his gaze away from
her trembling lips up to her eyes. Before he could say anything, she
brushed her lips against his.
He didn't have the chance to say anything for a long time.
A few hours later, Hermione shook Ron awake.
"Ron, I'm sorry. Forget what I said last night."
slowly shook his head and opened his eyes. Hermione was in the camp bed
with him - a wonder the thing hadn't yet crashed down - but instead of
lying tucked safely under his arm like she had fallen asleep last
night, she was now sitting up, desperately calling him.
"Mm?" he managed croakily.
Before he could say anything else, she kissed him soundly. Again, he shook his head, dazed.
"You wake me up at, what, four in the morning to kiss me?"
"It's five o'clock, Ron." She frowned at him while he rolled his eyes.
"Still, it's the middle of the night."
"I need to talk to you." Her tone was serious and, he noticed, slightly scared. "About last night."
Ron felt defeated. He'd done the wrong thing. He'd gone too far. All she had wanted had been some consolation, and he ...
"I love you."
Ron blinked. "Er... Um. I love you, too, Hermione."
"You - you do?"
Ron felt a headache forming. "Of course. What d'you think last night was about?"
"Oh," Hermione said. "You don't feel... used? Because of what I said?"
Inwardly cursing the complicated ways of girls, Ron sat up, so that he no longer had to look up to Hermione. "Why should I?"
She didn't answer. Instead, she leaned forward and kissed him again. "I do love you, Ron."
pulled him back on the bed and snuggled against him. Before Ron could
ask another question, she was fast asleep. He gently stroked her arm
with his thumb, wondering how on earth a girl's mind worked.
Harry's eyes healed.
it was Ron who needed tending. His leg had been caught in a Blasting
Curse from Gryffindor's Cup. Why did Voldemort have to be so inventive?
From the look Hermione wore, he doubted if he would ever be able to
walk properly again.
The worst thing was that Harry apologized.
"I'm sorry. I didn't want you to get hurt."
"Of course not," Ron snarled back before he could control himself. "Voldemort did that, remember?"
"I shouldn't have taken you along. I'm really sorry."
say you want to take on Ron's injury," Hermione said. "We're here for
exactly that. We didn't come along for front seats to see you getting injured. We're sharing the pain."
"You shouldn't," Harry mumbled. "It's my job."
it. Did Harry have to feel guilty about this? It made Ron feel even
worse about his relationship with Hermione. He had comfort that Harry
couldn't have, that they could never give to him. Why did Harry have to
make it even harder for himself?
The guilt was still there.
Each time Ron caught Harry watching them with a contemplative gaze, he
wished he and Hermione were simply innocent best friends, like they had
been five years ago.
But they had never been that. Innocent,
yes. But never best friends. Harry had always been the link between
them. And now? He was no longer needed as a link. Ron fervently hoped
that Harry still felt needed as a friend. Because he was.
That evening, Ron limped towards their tent, leaning on a cane. Muffled sobs were coming from inside.
"Hermione, what's up?"
hobbled towards her. She was sitting on the floor, crying to herself.
He stroked her back only to feel it shuddering convulsively under his
touch. When he sat down next to her he tried to wrap her into a hug.
"Sh... don't cry. Everything will work out," he soothed. "We've found
nearly all the Horcruxes, remember? Only one left. We're almost there.
My leg will heal. Harry will be fine because we're protecting him...
We'll be fine, too. "
"Stop it!" She pulled away from him. "Don't touch me."
At Ron's hurt look, her expression softened. "Please. I have something to think about."
"Concerning us? D'you want to break up?" Ron absently noticed that he was raising his voice.
"No! We talked about that. I told you I needed you."
"Good. 'Cause I'm not going to let you go."
Hermione bit her lip. "You'll have to, sooner or later. You remember that night when we found Ravenclaw's locket?"
pregnant. I can't stay with you," she said in a rush. "I can't be there
when Harry fights Voldemort. I'm having a baby. It's already two months
Ron stared at her. "No."
"What do you mean, 'no?' Don't you understand? I'm going to have a baby, Ron. Our
baby. I can't continue this hunt. I've been thinking about it for ages.
Don't you think I want to come with you? Don't you think I want to stay
with Harry? And you? You have no idea what being here together, just us
three, means to me."
Ron opened his mouth but she wouldn't let
him interrupt. "I want to stay with you, Ron. But I am rational. Like
it or not, I can't endanger the baby."
She was standing now,
hands on her hips. Ron's eyes moved down to her belly. It looked
normal. It was hard to believe. Hermione, one of his oldest friends,
and - he knew it - love of his life: pregnant? With him? It couldn't
be. It simply wasn't possible that this should happen now. God, in a
perfect world, they would still be going to school, sneaking kisses in
the corridors and holding hands. But they certainly wouldn't have such a relationship.
And they most certainly wouldn't be fearing for their lives.
"Is it a girl?" He finally managed to say.
Hermione stared. "I'm pregnant and the first thing you ask is if it's a boy or a girl?"
Despite his shock, Ron had to fight a chuckle. "It's what people usually ask, I think."
Hermione remained silent. Then her mouth twitched. "I suppose they do."
don't think I'm taking this seriously," Ron said. "But I am. And
believe it or not, I want you to have a baby. We'll manage. We'll have
"Ron, I'm sorry," Hermione said, sitting down
again. "This is a shock for you too. I've been showering you with news.
I'm sorry," she repeated.
"You shouldn't be. Let me finish. I love you. And I want you to marry me."
Hermione gave a shaky little laugh. "Is that an order?"
He took her hand and kissed it. "Yes." He paused. "If you want to marry a cripple that can no longer walk, that is."
You're not a cripple. And it wouldn't matter either way." She
considered him for a minute, searching his eyes. "I'll marry you. And I
love you, too."
He felt tears coming to his eyes and smiled. "I can't get you a ring just yet."
She smiled, too, shaking her head. "As if that mattered." She reached up to him and kissed him.
When a few days later Ron was looking for Hermione, he found her sitting in a quiet corner, sobbing to herself.
Bloody hell, did that girl ever stop crying?
Ron limped over to Hermione, wanting to take her in his arms. She pushed him away. "Leave me. I have to think. Alone."
"What is it this time?" Ron tried unsuccessfully not to sound completely exasperated.
Hermione cried even harder. "Leave me alone. I don't want you here. I don't want anyone. Least of all the baby!"
"You don't really want me either."
This was like a slap in the face.
"Hermione, how often do I need to tell you? I love you. I want to marry you. And I'll be happy to have a family."
"You wouldn't marry me if I didn't have this baby," she sobbed. "You wouldn't have proposed to me."
"Yes, I would," Ron retorted, getting angry.
"Where's the ring then? You just made up that proposal in the moment."
course I did. So what? Is that a bad thing? It doesn't mean I feel less
for you." He took her by her shoulders and forced her to look at him.
"Would you want a staged proposal with all my family listening? Or a
perfect speech I read to you off a paper? How about Percy. Would he
suit you better?"
She gasped for air between her sobs and shook her head. Ron could feel his anger rapidly fading.
"Think, Hermione. Of course I want to marry you. I'll admit I hadn't planned to do so for a long time yet. But,"
he continued before she could interrupt, "Our baby" - Hermione's eyes
widened at the term - "made me see sense. There's a war on. I probably
won't have you till forever. And I want to live the time I have with
you to the fullest. You have to understand that. Aren't you our
She gave a small smile and sniffed. "I just
feel like I'm forcing you to do something. And the war is forcing you,
too. I want you to marry out of your free will."
"We are getting
married out of our free wills. Just earlier than usual." He smirked.
"And it's not like I didn't have a hand in... making that baby. So I'm
Hermione hiccupped and nodded, looking down. Ron squeezed her shoulders. "All right?"
Again, she nodded.
straightened and wiped her eyes. "Thank you." In a surprisingly fast
movement, she threw her arms around his neck and pulled him down to a
Now there was a moment of deja-vu that Ron liked.
Harry said. "Last stage tomorrow, hopefully. I don't know if Nagini's
really a Horcrux, but I'll suppose we'll find out soon enough."
Ron snorted darkly.
"Better get some sleep then," Hermione said briskly.
was going to be an exhausting day. But somehow, Ron was dreading the
moment he told Harry about Hermione and himself even more. They had
resolved to break the news to him after the last Horcrux was destroyed
Š which would hopefully be tomorrow.
These things didn't
happen so suddenly, Ron thought. Girls couldn't just have babies. A boy
and a girl couldn't just get married. It was simply not done.
And even if it was, how did you explain it to your best friend? Not any
best friend, mind you, but also the best friend of your - Ron swallowed
at the thought - bride? A best friend who was going to feel horribly
left out if they suddenly had a - Ron gulped again - family?
Just half a year to go until the baby was due. But he was damn well doing this. How long did they have to live, anyway?
wrote my mother a letter, explaining about... things," Hermione
interrupted his thoughts. They were lying in bed together. These days,
it was nearly the only chance they got to talk properly.
wrote to my mum, too. I haven't explained, though. I'm going to meet
her in two weeks. It's going to be really awkward. Has your mum
"Yes. She's shocked. She just can't believe it,
she doesn't understand. Of course, she's Muggle, so she's not involved
in the war. I don't think she realizes what danger we're all in."
Hermione was explaining her mother's feelings as if she understood; yet she sounded bitter.
don't happen that fast in their world. She first met my dad when she
was twenty-six. And I bet she led the most boring life before that."
"You wish your life was less exciting, too, don't you?"
nodded. "I'm scared. I wish I had a normal life. But I can't go back
now. Now I know what it's like to be Harry, without the fame part."
Remember the Triwizard Cup? When I laughed at him because he was being
'noble' and had to save you from the merpeople? I understand him now. I
didn't understand then, because I was just a kid. I think that deep
down, I still took everything for a game back then."
Hermione snuggled closer against him. "I hate growing up."
Ron smiled at her defiant tone. But he felt the same. "But we've already grown up."
Hermione gave a shaky laugh. "Would we be having a baby if it were any different?"
She took his hand and led it down to her belly.
she be all right?" Harry said as he and Ron sat beside Hermione,
waiting for her to wake up. During a failed attempt to kill Voldemort's
snake, she had been bitten and poisoned.
"I don't know,"
answered Ron gruffly. "Usually she's the one who casts the healing
spells. I just hope ours will be good enough."
Hermione said in a raspy voice. She had opened her eyes and tried to
sit up, but both Harry and Ron pulled her back down.
"Funny how we take it in turns to get seriously injured," Harry said. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," Hermione gasped. Her hand was clutched over her abdomen.
"And the baby?"
"What? You told him?" Hermione hissed at Ron.
"No! Thanks for the vote of confidence."
"How does he know then?" Hermione persisted, glaring at him.
"Please!" said Harry sharply, and they both turned and looked at him.
"I noticed all by myself. I'm not blind. You shouldn't have hidden it from me."
"We ... we thought you'd feel left out even more..." Hermione said.
"I don't feel left out at all. I'm happy for you."
gave a wet smile. "Thank you, Harry," she sniffed. "We just thought...
with Ginny... and Voldemort... you'd feel alone. And if I have the
baby, I can't stay with you. I can't be there when you fight him. I
don't want to abandon you like that."
"I don't feel
abandoned. But you have to leave, and soon. It's too dangerous. I can't
believe you stayed this long. You're taking an awful risk."
"I know. But what about you? Later, when Ron and I..."
"Do you know how old my parents were when they had me?"
Ron and Hermione shook their heads mutely.
"Twenty. But I'm sure they would have had me earlier, too. They were married straight out of Hogwarts. In the middle of a war."
Hermione looked at Ron uncertainly, then at Harry. "Are you saying you want us to get married?"
"Bloody hell, Harry. I never thought you'd take it like that."
"There's one condition, though," Harry said. "I'm going to be the godfather."
was sitting in the kitchen of The Burrow. He was meeting his mother,
alone. Hermione had stayed with Harry, so she wouldn't see his mother's
reaction to the news.
"Ron, what have you done? You're hurt!"
Ron looked at his mother. So much had happened lately. On their second
try, they had succeeded in killing Nagini. The snake had lashed out at
his arm. He'd had half his leg blasted away by Gryffindor's cup. He had
been attacked by a vampire and would have been bitten if not for
Hermione's quick thinking.
And he had got engaged, but that
probably was not what she was talking about. Or had Hermione let him go
with a love-bite on his neck?
But that wasn't it. She was staring at his ear. It had a serious cut, he now remembered.
"Oh. That. Yes." He self-consciously passed his hand over his ear. "Doxy attack."
"You shouldn't be doing this," she murmured.
nearly over, Mum. Voldemort will be defeated soon. We want to come home
for a while. We can't do the next thing alone. Killing him." He took a
deep breath to steady himself. "And Hermione and I are getting married."
Molly stared. "Married," she finally croaked.
I hear from you once a month. 'We're fine' or 'we need to meet Alastor
Moody' or 'it's over soon'. I let you go half a year ago because Harry
talked to me about a mission he was on. I let myself be talked into
letting you go. Mere children. You shouldn't be doing this. And now,"
she sobbed, "you walk in and announce that you're engaged to be
Ron watched his mother silently. He felt sorry for
her. But neither of them could change what was happening. No one could
stop them from growing up. It was too late for that. They already were
adults, and not just on legally.
It wasn't really a surprise
that his mother didn't want to accept the news. But deep down, he had
hoped that she would take it more easily. And he hadn't even told her
about the baby yet. Deciding he had best get it over with, he blurted:
"We're not just getting married, Mum. We're having a real family.
"We talked about it and we both know that it isn't really the right time, but we want to do it."
"But," his mother said weakly, "You have a family."
She was making it difficult for him. "Of course I have you. But you know this is different."
"I can't forbid it. But it's not right."
Both remained silent for a minute.
"Oh, come here," she said suddenly. "Give me a hug."
Ron walked around the table towards her. Her bent down awkwardly as she
reached up for him. When she embraced him with a fiercely tight hug, he
realised she missed him terribly. And she was losing him again. Her
youngest son. Fighting back tears, he returned the hug just as tightly.
"Come home soon. And tell Hermione that she must stay here. It's safer."
When he was already standing in the doorway, ready to leave, she tugged at his arm.
still got some baby clothes. I thought maybe Bill and Fleur would like
them, but if Hermione comes, she can have a look at them."
"Welcome back to the Stone Age," Hermione said bitterly.
were at Grimmauld Place to meet members of the Order. But while Harry
and Ron often attended meetings, Hermione preferred to stay alone in
her room. Ron had come to coax her to come to a discussion.
like the Stone Age. The men go out and fight while the women stay home
and look after the children. You are going to fight Voldemort. I have
Ron was silent for a moment. "I'm sorry. But it'll make me feel better to know that you're safe. That way, you help me, too."
if against her will, Hermione lay her head on his shoulder and mumbled
something that sounded distinctly like "Bloody unfair" against his neck.
"What about school?" he tried to distract her.
"What about it?" She leaned back to look at him.
"You..." Ron didn't know how to say it gently. "You won't be able to finish it. If - when we survive."
mean I won't be able to return to Hogwarts." She waved it off. "My
parents will hate it. But I gave up on that ages ago. Even before I
knew I was pregnant. Seriously, would you want to return there even if
everything went well?"
"No. Everything has changed. But you
always wanted to go back. You were born to be Head Girl, have a career
and end up Minister for Magic."
She frowned. "Life's not over
if I don't return to Hogwarts. It's starting, rather," she said,
pointing at her belly. "And it's not like I can't go on learning and
working. Maybe we'll even be able to take our NEWTs." Her eyes started
to glow. "I'll make sure we will. After you and Harry have killed him."
smiled. It felt good to listen to Hermione when she was making plans.
It nearly gave him the feeling that everything would turn out fine.
was the second night after Voldemort's fall. A scarred Harry and Ron
had arrived home. Miraculously, they had survived. There had been
losses. Remus Lupin was dead, as was Mad-Eye Moody and several other
Harry had disappeared some time during the day
(though Ron noticed he'd spent an excessive amount of time getting
dressed and doing his hair). But today, Ron didn't worry about that as
he spent all his time with Hermione.
"Do you remember Bill and Fleur's wedding?"
"Which part?" Ron asked idly, playing with Hermione's hair.
"You know which part. The kissing part."
"Mm." Ron smiled. "You know that I had planned that for ages?"
"Really?" She smiled. "I'd have kissed you anyway. You were so cute."
"Me? Cute?" Ron pulled a face. "I dunno. I'd rather be..." He searched for the right word.
"Handsome?" Hermione suggested. "Roguish? Don't worry. You are."
Hermione, too, suddenly grinned. "I can't wait to see you change the nappies. Won't you be looking cute then?"
He tried to frown at her, but failed. His gaze slipped off and he stared ahead, wide-eyed. Suddenly he laughed.
"I only just truly realised. We're having a baby. And we're getting married in a month."
She stared at him for a moment as if he had lost his head. Then she joined in laughing. "A baby!"
"I bet she'll be as clever as you are. And as beautiful."
"How do you know it's a girl?"
He shrugged. "Male intuition."
still, Ron looked out of the window, at the sky. It was dark. But there
was faint pink light to be made out. The sun would rise, soon.