Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own Harry Potter or Doctor Who. They belong to the brilliant JK Rowling and Russell T. Davies.
A/N: So I definitely should have been working on Stuck With You rather than this but it was niggling at me to be written and . . . here we are! I hope you like it!
. . .
The Girl Who Was Tired of Waiting
In the first month of her pregnancy, Hermione devoured all the books on pregnancy that the prenatal clinics – both magical and Muggle – had to offer.
She signed up for a birthing class in the second month, one which Ron grudgingly attended, rolling his eyes every time her hand shot into the air to answer the instructor's question – a kindly, apple-cheeked woman, obviously unused to having What to Expect When You're Expecting quoted verbatim – and doing his best not to giggle at the breathing exercises.
In the third month she moved on to infant care, engaging in heated debates on Internet forums over which was best, formula or breast milk and whether vaccinations were worth it in the end. Ron tried to get rid of the computer, after one too many sessions of her crying and cursing at the screen, fingers slamming the keyboard – this can't be good for the baby, love – but she just about bit his head off.
"Do you want me to just be totally clueless when the baby comes – is that it, Ron? So that your mother can act like she knows better than me how to raise my child, just like she always does?"
Still, the cursing stopped after the fourth month when she started on parenting techniques – spanking or time-outs and how to survive the terrible twos – and learned that a fetus's ears begin development at eight weeks. She abstained from swearing altogether and every time Ron muttered bloody hell under his breath, she made him drop a Sickle in the swear jar. At least by the time their baby reaches its' teens, the Jar – importance inherent in the capitalization – would already be an established part of their household.
In the fifth month, she began researching grade schools. Despite Ron's insistence that his mother's homeschooling was equal to none, she wanted their child to have a partially Muggle upbringing and not become entirely reliant on magic. She chose the Ottery St. Catchpole primary school, hoping to assuage her mother-in-law, and tried her best to ignore the dirty looks she received.
By the end of the sixth month she had received the very best in baby equipment, clothing, and accessories – all in a gender-neutral yellow except for Mrs. Weasley who insisted it would be a girl and knitted a tiny pink jumper – from friends and family and even a few members of her fan club (still going strong since 1998 and we hope you are too with a baby on the way, read the card they enclosed with the breast pump). The few items that did not meet her stringent specifications were discreetly returned, including the state-of-the-art bassinet sent from the new Mr. and Mrs. Krum (with their best wishes) in favor of Ron's old one, handcrafted by Mr. Weasley and engraved with the initials of his brothers (Fred and George's accompanied by smiling stick figures). Mrs. Weasley's smiles seemed more genuine after that.
She set an appointment in the seventh month for Dean and Seamus to come decorate the nursery. When they were finished, an animated mural of Hogwarts stretched across one wall – complete with a Quidditch pitch, tiny players darting across the ceiling – while the Gryffindor common room decorated the other three.
"Talk about biasing the kid early," said Dean, but he had grinned as he added the last touches to a red-and-gold lion.
That had been a week ago.
And now, at eight months, all Hermione had to do was sit around and wait.
It terrified her.
"Enjoy this time while you can, Mummy," chirped her all-too-cheery midwife, Holly – who told anyone who would listen that I was a Christmas baby and drove Hermione steadily more insane as the months wore on. There were only so many times she could take being called mummy by a woman ten years her senior, as if Hermione herself – the girl who had played a key role in Voldemort's downfall, the woman who was rapidly rising in magical law – had been erased the moment that little stick showed up positive, usurped by this unfamiliar being of Mummy whose top priorities were the best brand of nappies and the next PTA meeting.
It wasn't like she planned on being a stay-at-home mum; once the baby was old enough she would go back to work and let the adoring grandparents or aunt and uncles or any number of adoring ginger relations look after it for the day. Still, the thought of an actual, tangible baby to put down to sleep in that handcrafted crib and dress in those allergen-free onesies filled her with dread.
The books said that this was a perfectly normal feeling for expectant mothers to have, that "it all changes when you hold your child in your arms for the first time." Then again, the books also said that 20% of new mothers experienced postpartum depression. This wasn't like researching a paper where the wizards quelled the goblin uprising and a bezoar was found in the stomach of a goat no matter which book you read. In this case, both sources were equally credible and Hermione had no idea of which side she would fall on.
Despite her fear, part of her just wished she could get it over with already, like taking a practical exam that she hadn't fully prepared for. At least then she'd know for sure, one way or the other. And maybe, like the exam, she would discover that she'd done pretty well after all.
But this wasn't an exam. This was a human life – her and Ron's human life.
Her hands shook and she plucked up a baby name book from the side table, idly flipping through it in a half-hearted attempt to calm her nerves. (The books said the occasional glass of wine was alright but the amount of firewhiskey she needed would probably make it come out with two heads.) Ginny had advised her not to make the same mistake of waiting for that gut feeling and coming to from the pain relievers to find that her loving husband had named the children instead – James Sirius wasn't too bad but how could he have possibly thought Albus Severus sounded good? – but so far Hermione had been coming up blank. Giving it a name would make it real, the same as knowing the gender would; she had told everyone that they wanted to be surprised when, truthfully, a surprise was the last thing she wanted. She wanted to know what to expect, a day-to-day itinerary stretching from the first year to the eighteenth. Anyone who wrote that would make a fortune, maybe she would if she survived this.
If she didn't end up next to Gilderoy Lockhart in St. Mungo's first.
She thumbed through the book, faster and faster, pausing at random pages, hoping to find something that leapt out at her.
William: Strong-willed warrior
Elizabeth: God is my oath
Matthew: Gift of God
Amelia: To strive or excel
A sudden flash of light in the back garden followed by a loud crash had Hermione jumping (as best she could) from her seat and striding toward the back door. One hand grasping her wand and the other placed protectively over her belly, she headed out into the yard.
"Who's there?" she called, doing the best she could to sound threatening. She hadn't had need of this voice for several years.
Her only reply was a rustling noise, as though someone were struggling to regain their feet, and several muttered epithets that made Hermione's hand clamp down more tightly on her belly.
"I'm armed!" She raised her wand to chest height, aiming it at the approximate location of the noises. "I'm warning you. . . ."
"I'm not!" the intruder called back, voice issuing from the far side of the garden shed. "Don't shoot, alright? I – I'll be right out, I just landed wrong and my foot. . . ." There was a cry of pain and a muffled thump and Hermione guessed she – at least it sounded like a she – had fallen again. Wand held at the ready, she inched slowly closer to the shed.
A woman lay stretched out on the ground, ankle bent at an unnatural angle and her mouth twisted in pain. At first glance, she appeared to be a several younger than Hermione herself, maybe in her early twenties, but when her head shot up at the sound of footsteps, there was a fierce look in her eyes that belied her young age. It was a look Hermione knew well – one that she had had occasion to use more than once – and, despite the suspicious circumstances, she extended her hand.
"Here," she said. "Let's get you inside and I can splint that leg for you. I'm not the best at Healing spells but it'll do you till St. Mungo's can take a look at it."
Looking dumbstruck, the woman grasped it before slinging one arm over Hermione's shoulders as they limped back toward the house, a bizarre three-legged race.
"Did you just Apparate wrong, then?" asked Hermione, supporting her up the porch steps. "It's happened to my husband a couple of times, he's ended up some poor Muggle's backyard when he was just trying to go down to the store. I'm always telling him he can take the car, but. . . ." She lowered the woman into a kitchen chair, casting her a concerned glance when she remained silent. She couldn't have sustained brain damage from the accident, could she? She had been talking fine earlier.
"Hang on, you are a. . . ." Hermione paused, not wanting to say the word aloud, to incriminate herself further. From the flash of light, she had assumed the woman was involved in the wizarding community, but suppose she was a Muggle who had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time? Of course, there were Obliviation Charms but those were meant to be for serious matters only not silly pregnant women who were so starved for non-baby related conversation that they had to blab to the first person who showed up in their backyard.
"Aren't you?" she finished tentatively.
Brows furrowed, the woman glanced from Hermione's face to the wand in her hand and back again; Hermione was on the verge of performing the Obliviation – she would explain it to the Ministry reps later – when she blurted out, "Are you Hermione Granger?"
"Yes," Hermione said slowly. She wondered if this woman was from the fan club – she had remembered to send a thank-you note for the breast pump, hadn't she? - and, if so, how many autographs she would have to sign. "And you are?"
The woman – the excitement in her eyes making her look more girl than anything now – barely heard her. "Oh, my God," she said, voice coming out as a whisper between her fingers. "I can't believe . . . oh, my God."
"Are you alright?" Hermione frowned, concerned. She had had fans react this way before but, just as she knew she could trust this woman, something struck her as off about her reaction.
"Yeah, yeah . . . I'm – m'fine." The woman ran a shaking hand through her hair, heedless of the blonde strands that fell across her face. "I'm not usually like this, I promise. I've met some people who. . . . But I never thought . . . I mean, he told me, but . . . wow."
"Yes, I imagine it must be a bit . . . surreal," said Hermione sympathetically, trying to wrap her head around this roundabout answer.
"God, you've no idea." The woman buried her face in her hands before quickly snapping her head up again, looking apologetic. When she spoke next, it seemed half to herself. "Oh, I'm being as bad as him, aren't I? That's not to say that . . . I mean, with all you've been through and – and you're pregnant!"
Hermione started at the sudden exclamation, still attempting to translate these cryptic comments, and had to look down at her bump for verification. For a moment, she had almost forgotten, their conversation – having nothing to do with what she would name it and wasn't she excited and did she need a cup of tea, a snack, a massage, anything because she should enjoy this time while you can, Mummy – had driven the thought clear from her mind.
"Er . . . yes, I suppose I am." She laughed nervously.
"Yes." Hermione forced a smile. "Would you like a cup of tea or something?"
"That'd be great, thanks." Hermione moved to put the kettle on and she smiled. "I'm Rose, by the way. And I'm not normally this strange, I promise. I didn't even mean to end up here in the first place, I'm really sorry if I scared you at all."
Hermione smiled back. "It's no problem. To be honest, it's nice to get a bit of excitement what with sitting around the house all day."
Rose laughed. "I'd be the same way, believe me. My mum just had a baby and the way my dad coddled her . . . I'd have gone nuts. S'pose girls like us just aren't made for it. Sitting around, I mean," she added quickly. "Not motherhood. I'm sure you'll be a brilliant mum." Her tongue poked out between her teeth when she smiled and for a second Hermione couldn't help but believe her.
"Is there anyone I can call for you?" Hermione set the two steaming mugs on the table, floundering for a change of topic. "So they know where you are? We have a phone or you can send a Patronus if you want. I can do one if you can't, might be a bit rusty but. . . ."
"Er . . . no, not really." Rose rubbed at the back of her neck, looking uncomfortable.
"Oh. . . ." Hermione paused for a moment, surprised, before continuing. "But your mum . . . or is she on holiday?"
"No . . . not really. It's a, uhm . . . a bit of a long story, actually. A strange story."
"What would you say," said Rose, appearing to choose each word with great care, "if I told you that the wrong place I landed in wasn't your backyard, but this whole universe?"
. . .
Hermione was used to surprises – being told at eleven years old that the strange things she could do were witchcraft and being expected to foil an evil psychopath's plots to take over the world in the years thereafter tended to do that to a girl – but this. . . . Hearing the news that she was Voldemort's love-child would have been less shocking.
"So you're from a different universe," she said, slowly sounding out each word as though doing nothing more than recapping a lesson she hadn't entirely understood.
"Yes." Rose nodded, looking uncertain herself and shifting her splinted leg on the kitchen chair as if getting ready to run. "You don't think I'm crazy, do you?"
"No. . . ." Then, more firmly, "No. I mean . . . I've read about things like this but I never really . . . took it seriously, I suppose. And I can't think of any reason why you'd make it up. But one where we're – where we don't exist at all? Where we're just some characters in a book?" Her voice grew high-pitched, agitated, and she clenched a hand around her tea cup to still her shaking hands.
"I'm sorry," said Rose. "I shouldn't have . . . you don't need this shock right now."
"No, it's – it's alright. It's fine," said Hermione. "I'm glad you told me. It's just . . . a bit unbelievable, to be honest. But it's interesting, really . . . illuminating, it'll certainly lend a different perspective next time I'm reading. . . ." She faltered, at a loss for words.
Rose reached across the table to take her hand, squeezing lightly. "If it makes you feel any better, I ran into a couple of universes where I was fictional, too; they thought I was some obsessive fan or something. Me and the Doctor's whole life, it was just some TV show."
Again, Hermione recognized the look in her eyes: a pain that struck soul-deep and never completely left her eyes no matter how many times she would say she was fine, Harry, I'm fine on those nights in the tent with no Ron to crack corny jokes that, despite her scoffs, kept her smiling still. She had barely been able to handle two months, separated by distance alone, never mind two years, literal worlds apart.
"We used to read about you, you know," said Rose, musing aloud, and Hermione knew better than to stop her. (Those nights in the tent, she would play memories over and over again in her head, but hadn't been able to face saying his name aloud, as though her love for one would be a betrayal to the other.)
"I'd only seen the movies," Rose continued. "And by the time he changed, they were all out except the last one. The old him, before he regenerated, used to be really into the classics and he had this really nice reading voice, all deep, so I'd just fall asleep sometimes and he'd get all offended." She laughed.
"But then the new him . . . he was still the Doctor, but he was so different, he hardly seemed like the same man. He acted all scandalized when I told him I hadn't read any of the books, like it was a crime or something, and he said it was his job to educate me. I thought he was just flirting, the new him did that a lot, but then one day instead of Charles Dickens or Shakespeare or whoever he just pulled the first book off the library shelf and started reading. He did all the voices and everything and it was . . . it was just brilliant. I got really into it, stay up late to finish chapters with him and everything, so he wanted to go ahead in time and get the last book, but I made him wait. Said I wanted to experience it along with everyone else. And the old him, he would have laughed, told me that was just a silly human idea but this Doctor, he agreed. I think he would've done anything to make me happy, all I had to do was ask."
Hermione didn't say a word. In the years she and Ron had circled around one another, she had fielded enough prying questions to know that they would do no good.
"We didn't get to finish it. I think he knew we wouldn't be able to, the way he'd rush through chapters sometimes or else how he'd just sit there with the book open on his lap and wouldn't say a word. Really freaked me out sometimes. But I suppose that's just his way, though. He talks a lot but doesn't really say much. I mean, the first time we . . . when we – look at me, I'm as bad as him – he just acted like things were perfectly normal, as if we hadn't just. . . . And I thought, well, maybe he didn't want this, maybe this was just an accident and I left it alone. But then it happened again, and it kept happening and I wanted to ask what we were doing, told myself I'd never be that girl . . . but he just made it so easy, you know?"
Hermione didn't know. She wondered if Rose even knew she was here. Still, she nodded anyway.
"I thought we'd have all this time. But then I was stuck on one side and he was stuck on the other and . . . he was gonna say it, I know he was going to . . . just something to hold on to. 'Cause, I – I didn't even have a picture of him. Mum told me to forget him, tried to set me up with a few blokes and make some nice, domestic life but I turned 'em down. None of them really understood, 'cause it wasn't just him I fell in love with, you know, it was that whole life where you don't just sit around and wait for these terrible things to happen, you actually do something about them. And now, with the dimensions collapsing . . . I won't anymore, I can't. By the time Torchwood cottons on, it'll be too late; there are already a few that . . ." - Rose blinked, appearing to come to herself - "never mind. You lot are safe and sound, right? And you – expecting a baby!"
The tongue-touched smile almost reached her eyes. She must have grown good at fooling people, the same way Hermione would laugh along with Harry's corny jokes and playfully lecture him on his lack of knowledge of A History of Magic so that by the time they went to bed, he at least half-convinced of her emotional stability and she curling up with an old, ratty jumper of Ron's – one she had packed in the beaded bag and now kept secreted under her pillow – it would be easy to dismiss those strange, almost inhuman sounds as the whistling of the wind.
Hermione reached across the table to take Rose's hand, squeezing lightly. Harry never offered comfort, either on these nights or on the mornings after, and she was grateful for it. His sympathy would only have made things worse because, while they both may be either the abandoner or the abandonee – flip sides of the same coin – how could he possibly understand? Love is the epitome of self-centeredness, each story an epic romance unique only to its' participants, to others incomprehensible, until they write one of their own.
"Would you like an autograph?" They weren't the right words by far but Hermione thought she could sit here for years and never find the right words – words that meant I hope you find him and you're braver than I could ever be and please don't let the universes collapse. These would have to do.
Rose grinned. "I think he'd kill me if I didn't. 'Course, he'll make some speech about paradoxes first, but he'd – he'll love it, I know he will."
Hermione didn't need to ask who she wanted it made out to, the look in Rose's eyes when she saw that name scrawled across a napkin - Doctor who? Hermione had asked at first and Rose had said Doctor, just Doctor – was answer enough.
She helped Rose limp back out into the back garden.
"We have this special facility back at ho- . . . back in Pete's World," Rose explained. "Otherwise it's best to do it in a cleared space, and I definitely don't want to do anything to harm your baby. What is it, a boy or a girl?" She pulled a strange-looking device from the pocket of her leather jacket and punched in a few numbers – Hermione thought they might be coordinates – studying the screen with a furrowed brow before turning back to Hermione.
"Not sure yet." Hermione stroked a hand across her belly, a nervous tic as though, if she were to repeat it often enough, it would become proof positive of her maternal instinct. "We . . . er, want to be surprised."
"Nervous?" Rose didn't bother with subterfuge.
"A bit." It was a bald-faced lie and they both knew it.
Rose nodded, punched in a few numbers. "For what it's worth," she said, with another tongue-touched smile. "I think you'll make a great mum. Right, better stand back."
Stationing herself at the edge of the garden, Hermione barely turned in time to see Rose disappear in a second flash of light. Her hand was raised in farewell and, one hand on her belly, Hermione waved back hoping that she saw it. Beneath her fingers, the baby kicked.
. . .
When their daughter – seven pounds and nine ounces, with Ron's eyes and Hermione's hair – came, screaming, into the world two weeks early, Hermione wasn't surprised at all. She was just another girl, tired of waiting for life to start.
. . .
A/N: Leave a review and let me know what you thought! I really enjoyed writing this one and I hope I did OK with the Hermione/Rose relationship. I plan on coming back to this eventually (why can't I make anything a one-shot anymore?) and writing something that includes Ten or TenToo and Rose. I have a lot of different ideas for that but for now will be working on the second chapter of Stuck With You. Hopefully it doesn't take me as long to publish as this one did.