Here we are at last! Eighteen chapters, and so many wonderful comments, reviews, favourites and follows! Thank you to every single person who has stuck with this fic right to the very end, through some rather emotional events! I can only hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed writing it, which has been an immense pleasure. Thank you especially to those who have commented support for some of the more difficult themes in this fic - for me, writing has to be realistic, even when I'm writing in a magical world.
I will be back soon, with another fic no doubt! But for now I will be working on my real life novel, and attempting to do this thing I've heard of called 'sleeping'!
Until next time, my dearest, most constant Reader,
I am, for ever yours,
Fred knew this pregnancy would be hard. So did Hermione. Still, it was even more difficult than they'd jointly anticipated. Fred had not realised how frightened he would be, how careful of Hermione's every step. How annoyed she'd get when he treated her like the most delicate crystal, liable to break at a word said too loudly. Hermione didn't bank on the anxiety, on the nights she would wake up in a cold sweat, her heart beating so loudly she feared it would wake their Muggle neighbours. She never counted on the nights spent crying in Fred's arms, afraid to have the baby, afraid to lose it, afraid of being a terrible mother and more afraid of being no mother at all.
And yet the months ticked on, Hermione's baby bump swelled, and slowly, slowly, the pregnancy became reality for the both of them. Ginny and Harry, ever busy from looking after James, watched with pride as their friends, who they had thought so horridly mismatched in the beginning, sailed through their last aptitude test, and had been told they would no longer be subject to Ministry scrutiny. They had painted the baby's room a pale cream, having chosen to not know the sex.
'I like surprises!' Hermione had shrugged when they'd told the Weasley's. 'Besides – I don't want everything to be pink if it's a girl, or blue if it's a boy. I hated pink.' She scrunched her nose, and Fred laughed. Molly was, consequently, currently knitting a variety of coloured booties, jumpers and bobble hats. Arthur, already a doting grandad to James Sirius, and counting on become a doting Pop to Hermione and Fred's child, not to mention the possibility of the grandchildren he would have from his other children, had taken a decrease in hours at his job in the Ministry, intending to have as much time as possible with the next generation of Weasley children.
'I swear I will never complain about any kind of pain, ever again! This baby better appreciate all I'm going through.' Hermione wheezed, in between contractions. She had gone into labour three hours ago. Fred, standing near her head and holding tightly onto her hand, chuckled slightly.
'Only you could talk like that when you're about to give birth!'
'About to is the operative word!' The Mediwitch cheerfully proclaimed.
Another two hours later, and the anxious Weasley/Granger parents were allowed in for a cuddle with their beautiful new granddaughter.
'Aurora Jane.' Hermione breathed, staring down into the big, beautiful eyes of her daughter.
Both Mrs Weasley and Mrs Granger were crying; quiet, happy tears filled their eyes and rolled almost silently down their cheeks. George, the proudest uncle in the entirety of the wizarding world, had been unable to resist bursting into the room and had clung tightly to Fred, immediately feeling that tightness in his chest that indicated the level of his adoration for his niece. Angelina, herself just beginning to show the signs of pregnancy, had laughed.
'I'm the one that's meant to be emotional, not him!' She'd dragged him away, only after reassuring him that they would go and see Aurora Jane as soon as they could, when Hermione and Fred were settled back at home. Arthur eventually apparated away with a still sobbing Molly, and Mr and Mrs Granger were escorted out of the dreadfully confusing hospital by a kindly Healer.
Alone, finally, with their little girl, Fred and Hermione took a moment of silence to bask in the wonder of their child.
'Yes Fred?' Hermione tore her eyes away from the now-sleeping Aurora to look at her husband, noted with some surprise the tears on his face.
'I just wanted to let you know that… The last year… Since we found out that we were engaged… It's been the happiest I've ever been. You are the smartest, kindest, bravest, most beautiful witch I know. And now…' Fred's voice cracked, and he waved a hand to indicate he was finished talking.
Angelina and George came around as soon as Hermione let them know it was convenient, which was almost immediately after breakfast the next day. Hermione eyed Fred's gifts of a hand-knitted hat with some amusement, reminiscent as it was of her own attempts at hats during the early stages of S.P.E.W, but with a lot of gratitude. Angelina's gift, which had been compiled with Luna and Ron's wife Tris, was a care-package for Hermione, containing vouchers for Mademoiselle Malkin's Magical Mineral Springs, grab-and-go snacks, some books and magazines 'for all the time spent waiting for baby to nap!', and various lovely smelling body washes and hair products. Aurora Jane, her eyes a dark blue, stared up at her visitors, happily cooing and gurgling.
As her daughter received all the cuddles she could possibly want, Hermione, tired and happy, reflected on how far they had come in so little time. She was married, now, and a mother. And though her life had been complete before, although she had been fulfilled and happy, there was an expansion in her heart that she'd never thought possible. She was in love with her handsome, funny, sensitive and wonderful husband, and her gorgeous little girl – Aurora Jane, named for the dawn she was born under – had taken up so much of her heart that Hermione thought she was going to burst with happiness.
Fred smiled at his wife. She was curled up on the sofa, her eyes closed, head resting on her hand. Angelina and George took a hushed farewell, leaving Fred to tuck his daughter up in her cream coloured cot.
Overwhelmed with love, he sat murmuring stories to Aurora. Stories about a brave, beautiful princess with wild curly hair, who fought off all the bad guys herself, and a handsome, oh-so-charming court jester who fell in love with her.
'The jester,' he told her, 'knew from the start that the princess was special. No other princess in the world knew as much as she did, none were as brave, as beautiful. But he had to convince her first, had to prove to her that he loved her more than any of the handsome prince's the princess could have married. One day, the jester got down on one knee and gave the princess a diamond ring. And the jester felt like a prince, because he'd been lucky enough to win the love of the most wonderful woman in the world.'
Eleven Years Later
'Do you think they'll let me take my O. early, Mum?' The precocious young girl, with dark curled hair and big brown eyes, drew some curious looks from the Muggle strangers about her. This was mostly due to the large tawny owl on top of the luggage rack being pushed by her father. Her mother tutted.
'I told you, Aurora, you're not to think about your O. just yet! The Professors will know when it's the right time, and I'm sure you'll be allowed to do as many as you can fit in!'
'When do I get to go to Hogwarts, Mum?' piped up a voice from Hermione Weasley's side.
Fred laughed, seeing the look on his wife's face.
'Not just yet Alex. Three more years!' The little boy pouted, shaking his hair, still quite long because of his mother's attachment to the reddish brown locks.
'Hey!' Aurora Jane stopped, took her little brother's hand. 'Just think, while I'm away doing boring old schoolwork, you'll get to be at home and play with all our stuff! And I bet Dad will let you help in the shop with him and uncle George if you're good.'
Alexander George Weasley smiled slightly. Aurora winked at her dad.
'I sure will, kiddo!' He picked up his youngest child and swung him onto the top of the luggage racks. Hermione's eyes widened, but she said nothing. She knew her husband would never let anything bad happen to their children, despite his occasionally reckless behaviour. They had been married for twelve years now, and every day she realised how wonderful he was. Secretly, she even thanked Adolfus Salem for introducing that horrific law, now successfully repealed. Without it, she might never have married the man she now considered her soulmate.
Hermione heard Harry before she saw him, with James Sirius and Albus Severus in tow. She waved to him and Ginny, allowed Aurora to run off and see her cousins. They entered Platform 9 and Three-Quarters together.
'Now, remember to give my love to Professor Longbottom, won't you Aurora?' Hermione kissed her daughter through the carriage window.
'I know, Mum.'
'And say hi to Peeves for me, Rory!' Fred chimed in with a grin. 'He'll be glad to know there's a mini version of me and George back in the school this year!'
Aurora laughed, and her parents stepped back as the whistle blew.
Hermione's eyes welled up as she waved and waved goodbye, the train pulling out of the station – somehow agonizingly slowly, and all too quickly both at once.
It had been a hard few years. They had weathered the birth of two children, with all the challenges parenthood came with, and one child, still remembered with the flourishing mulberry tree. Hermione looked at her husband, pulling silly faces at his eldest child as she left for school for the first time. He looked older now, his body, once Quidditch toned, had softened into middle age. There were lines around his eyes, creases of laughter and sorrow and joy and pain, testaments to the stories he'd told his daughter, the laughter and tears he'd shared with his wife, the night's he'd slept no more than five minutes at a time when Alex had been a sickly, needy baby. His hands were roughened still, by the continual use of dubious products for the successful franchise of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes. She knew she had grown too, her body changed by the three children she had carried in her, the two she had birthed and fed as well as she could. She, too, had crow's feet, lines of all the laughter she had shared with those she loved. She had been horrified the other week to find her first grey hair, which had caused Fred an enormous amount of amusement.
The train had long gone, and Fred and Hermione had apparated back to their flat with the now placated Alex, who had immediately gone to his sister's bedroom to play with all her toys, something Fred had strongly encouraged.
As Hermione sat down in the sofa, a cup of tea in hand, Fred pulled her in for a kiss, felt their third, unplanned and unexpected, child kicking in his or her mother's stomach. Fred would swear to his dying day that her lips were as soft then as they were when they first kissed outside her front door.