Hi guys! Guess who has been obscenely ill for the last week? That would be me. BUT, the good news is that I got my Round 2 story done for QLFC! This round, the Catapults had to write about various prompts regarding Ancient Runes, and you know what that means - Hermione time! (with a little bonus Minerva thrown in!) As Captain, I had to write about an individual using their Ancient Runes expertise for work!

Writing this put a big smile on my face, so I hope you'll show it some love.

Hugs, MDPM

18 May 2006

Hermione rested her forehead on her fingertips, ignoring the ache at the base of her neck that was creeping steadily upward across her scalp. She sighed and took a slow breath, resting her other hand on the side of her extremely pregnant belly.

When she'd gotten the news of her pregnancy seven months ago during an otherwise routine visit to the Healer, she had taken her lack of symptoms as a good omen, and promptly set about making plans to keep working up until the moment she absolutely couldn't (and as far as she was concerned, this would be the precise moment hers and Ron's firstborn decided to make an appearance).

Her grand plan had been stymied, however, when, in her third month, a relatively minor complication had prompted Hermione's Healer to order light bed rest for the duration of the pregnancy. Even Ron hadn't tried to make her see the bright side, she was in such a foul mood—not only because she had to start her medical leave from the Ministry months ahead of schedule, but also because having nothing to do meant that she had plenty of time to worry.

"I promise, it'll be okay," he had told her, giving her a goodbye kiss on the first morning she was to stay home. "Just relax, and—"

Ron had gamely swallowed the rest of this sentence at the look on her face, and had come home from the shop early to keep her company.

After only a week at home alone, Hermione was going spare and looking for something—anything—to do. It was a good thing that Ginny happened to be pregnant as well; without a training schedule to worry about and a fairly mobile job writing for the Daily Prophet, Ginny could bring James over, put him down for a nap on Hermione's sofa, and spend the afternoon dispensing wisdom that only two pregnancies and a two-year-old could possibly have bestowed upon her.

These engagements, however, were somewhat few and far between; Ginny was farther along in her pregnancy than Hermione, and with a toddler already underfoot, she was understandably occupied. Then, at last, after nearly a month in which Hermione had reread every novel, textbook, magazine, and cash register log in the house, a letter arrived with the perfect solution to her boredom.

Edith Q. Wormwood, a low-level researcher at Boyle & Buddle's Publishing House, had apparently contacted Minerva McGonagall at Hogwarts, searching desperately for Albus Dumbledore's copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard; it was, apparently, one of only a few still in existence, and Boyle & Buddle's was interesting in producing a new translation. They had put Edith on the case to track down any and all copies of the original rune texts, and it was this search that caused Hermione to invite her over one cold January morning not long after the New Year.

Edith was a small, middle-aged witch with thick spectacles, and fumbled her way halfway through an official inquiry letter (complete with a generous offer of compensation) right there on the welcome mat before Hermione had managed to invite her in for a cup of tea.

If it was a shock to be made tea by Hermione Granger herself, then absolutely nothing could have prepared little Edith for Hermione's counter-offer: she would be happy to perform the translation herself, for less than half of what Boyle & Buddle's initially offered, and would, in addition, use her connections with Headmistress Minerva McGonagall to obtain any and all notes on the book that existed in Albus Dumbledore's private collection, now residing at Hogwarts.

And so Hermione had been hired as part-consultant, part-researcher, part-translator, working primarily through Edith, who had quite an extensive background in Ancient Runes as well. Hermione had whiled away most of the spring—and her second trimester—sending owls back and forth to Diagon Alley with translations and comparative rune charts. Her mood improved, she was pronounced to be in excellent health at all of her Healer's visits, and, best of all, she was no longer left with only poor Ron as an outlet for her pent-up emotions.

Now that May had arrived, however, Hermione was weighing things a little differently. It was a beautiful, clear Sunday afternoon, a mere four weeks from her delivery date; Ron was working on inventory with George, and Hermione was only two-thirds of the way done with the project, which she'd fully expected to be finished with ages ago.

It was her own fault, too, she told herself grumpily, adjusting the way she sat in her desk chair so that the tension in her back eased slightly. She had been sleeping a great deal lately, which had completely thrown her editing schedule off-track; even now, a stack of letters from Boyle & Buddle's sat open on the desk at her left elbow. She picked one up and stared at it for a moment.

Then she heaved a sigh, lifting her glasses on top of her head and rubbing her eyes. "What do you think?" she asked her belly. "Do you think old Beedle meant 'persecuted' or 'harassed'?" The baby kicked hard, and Hermione pressed a hand against the side of her stomach, wincing. "Hey. That hurts."

There was a knock at the front door. Hermione groaned and looked at the clock; was it really three o'clock already? She felt as though she'd only just gotten to work. She sighed and got to her feet, making her way to the foyer.

"We said three or four," said Hermione, even though she smiled as she opened the door.

"Yes, you'll be the one to break my habit of punctuality," replied Minerva tartly, with a withering look before she pecked Hermione's cheek. "How are you?" she asked, looking her up and down appraisingly.

"Tired," Hermione confessed, standing back to let Minerva come in. She pushed her bushy curls back from her face. "Sorry about the papers everywhere. I'm afraid I haven't got round to making tea for us, either, I've been—"

"Translating," Minerva finished, showing herself into the sitting room and picking a spot on the couch that wasn't covered with stacks of parchment. "I guessed as much." She gave Hermione a smile and removed her hat, smoothing back her black-gray hair and adjusting her spectacles. "Haven't you the time to take a break and have a chat with your dear old headmistress?"

Hermione laughed and rolled her eyes, walking to the kitchen. "Are you hungry?"

"No," Minerva called back, "but you should eat something."

"You sound like Molly," Hermione said as she moved around the kitchen collecting milk, sugar, and cups for the tea. "Actually, Molly would be in here, trying to do all this for me and make me sit down…" She flicked her wand and wrinkled her nose as she levitated the tea tray into the sitting room ahead of her. "Sorry. That was mean. I take it back."

"Pardon?" Minerva asked, smiling politely as she smoothed her emerald-green robes over her knees.

Hermione made a face as she sat down, letting her head drop back in the armchair, massaging her belly. "The baby's been sitting on my backbone. I think she thinks it's funny," she told Minerva, who was pouring the tea.

"Knowing her family as I do, I have no doubt of that," Minerva replied.

After they had fixed their tea and chatted a bit more—about Hogwarts, about the Ministry, about Ron, about Minerva's family—Hermione suddenly remembered. "Minerva, I know I only asked last week, but—you didn't happen to find—"

"Oh, yes," Minerva said, reaching into her handbag to produce a yellow envelope. "Albus's notes on 'The Fountain of Fair Fortune.' They're quite interesting. I never read Beedle the Bard until I was at Hogwarts, you know," she said. "And it's been some time since then. I'm looking forward to this translation of yours."

"I hadn't even heard of Beedle the Bard until the summer Professor Dumbledore left me the book," said Hermione, leaning back in her chair as she slit the envelope open. "Oh, now, that's funny," she said thoughtfully, chewing on her pinky nail as she frowned at the yellowed parchment. "He ran into anti-Muggle bias with this one, too, he made a note of it…"

"And handled it admirably, as I recall," said Minerva, sipping her tea. "Did you read the part about the Christmas pantomime?"

Hermione frowned. "What? No…" she flipped through the pages and stared at it, scanning quickly—then she burst out laughing. "Oh, that has to be in the translation—"

"If I recall correctly, that Ashwinder fire was how Silvanus Kettleburn lost the big toe on his left foot," Minerva said, smiling in amusement.

"That is really funny," Hermione laughed, wiping tears from her eyes as she set the parchment down, catching her breath.

"It's good to hear you laugh," said Minerva. "I was worried, when you opened the door."

"Why?" Hermione asked. "Oh—no, don't be silly! Everything's all right." Minerva didn't say anything. "I…well—no, really. I've just been—busy."

Again, Minerva said nothing, watching her benignly. Hermione made an exasperated noise.

"How do you always do that?" she asked waspishly, folding her arms.

"Call it a gift," Minerva replied, resting her chin on her hand and setting aside her teacup. "Tell me what's bothering you, Hermione."

Hermione looked down at her hands for a moment, folded on top of her belly. "I've been having…trouble…with a translation," she said slowly.

"A translation," Minerva repeated, and Hermione nodded.

"And I know you never…well, you never took Ancient Runes," she added, catching Minerva's eye in what she hoped was a meaningful way.

Minerva frowned. "I'm happy to offer any advice I can."

Hermione thought for a moment. "I'm…I've been getting closer and closer to the end of this project, and—I'm worried I'm making it harder than it has to be. I don't know that it was a good idea to take it on."

Minerva shifted in her seat. "Why is that?" she asked, frowning.

"Because—" Hermione took a breath, "—because what if what I've done isn't any good? What if I can't—do it correctly? What if…people don't like it?" she finished rather lamely.

"Ah," Minerva said, and she seemed to take a few moments to gather the words she wanted to say. "Have you discussed this with…your editor?"

Hermione shrugged, gazing down at the floor. "I think they've got…other things on their mind. At the publisher, I mean."

"Well—things other than this…translation?" Minerva was looking rather pained. Hermione nodded earnestly. "All right," Minerva let out a breath between her clenched teeth. "All right, well…never having taken Ancient Runes myself—and having only discussed the possibility of a…project…such as yours a few times—oh, Hermione, please, this is ridiculous!"

Hermione smiled in spite of herself. "Sorry," she said, embarrassed. "I…I haven't been able to put it into words before now."

Minerva looked very ruffled. "Well, speaking in code doesn't do anyone any good. And it makes me feel like a fool." She cleared her throat and went on more gently, "Now, as I say, this…topic…is one that Elphinstone and I broached only once or twice. Sometimes I wish we had considered it a bit more."

Hermione sat very still, watching Minerva closely.

"But I can see that you're happy," Minerva ventured, smiling slightly, "no matter how much parchment you try to bury it under."

"Of course I am," Hermione said at once. "Of course I'm happy. And…I know I'm surrounded with people who can give me advice, and between my mother and Molly, they're practically breaking down my door—but I'm—I'm not afraid of any of that!" She gave a sudden, half-stifled sob, her breath catching in her chest.

Minerva looked deeply worried. "Then…what—?"

"What if I'm as mad a month from now as I am right now?" Hermione burst out. "What if I'm so wrapped up in this translation—or whatever the next bloody project is that I throw on my plate—that I just—have my daughter, and then never make any time for her? What if I get so stir-crazy sitting here I go back to work and then forget all about my baby? What if I don't think motherhood's keeping me busy enough and then I just abandon her?" Tears filled her eyes. "And how horribly selfish am I for even thinking all of these things?" she added, her voice rising rather hysterically.

Now, at last, comprehension filled Minerva's features; then her expression shifted to half-amused, half-exasperated. "I had those same fears, well before I was ever even close to being in your position. You aren't selfish," she said seriously, leaning forward and looking intently into her face. "If you were—then you might have done what I did, and worried about it so much that…"

She trailed off thoughtfully, and then gave Hermione a piercing look. "Finn and I decided we were happy as we were. And we were," she insisted. "But I've had a lot of time to think about it…and I think we made a selfish choice."

Hermione opened her mouth, but Minerva held up a hand. "Now. This is about you, not me, Hermione. And you are not nearly so nervous as I was—at your age, or when I finally got married. I'm not worried in the slightest. You are going to immerse yourself in motherhood the way you have done with everything since I've known you; not once, in all these years, have I seen you give up on something until you are the very best at it. So why should motherhood be the exception?"

"But what if—?"

"What if you make a mistake? Good heavens," Minerva groaned, "I think you'd be the first parent to do that. I would have to let the Daily Prophet know," she added seriously.

"Point taken," Hermione said, folding her arms and sighing. She was quiet for a moment, and Minerva freshened her teacup. "Thank you. For saying that," said Hermione at last. "I know I'm being a bit silly, but it's nice to have someone outside my head say it for once. And Merlin knows Ron won't."

"He's a smart young man," said Minerva, and Hermione laughed so hard that the baby started to hiccup.

"Oh, goodness, there she is," Hermione giggled, as she and Minerva both stared in surprise at her gently twitching belly. "I knew she wasn't going to keep quiet for long."

"Well," Minerva said, tapping the sheaf of Dumbledore's notes with her fingertip, "perhaps I ought to let you rest and get back to work. I only came by to give you Albus's notes…"

"Oh, no, please!" Hermione said. "Can't you stay for dinner? Ron won't be home until late, these inventories go on for hours."

"You don't have to go to that trouble," Minerva said, "I'll have dinner at the castle—"

Hermione got to her feet, catching Minerva by the wrist. "No, I insist. Besides, she doesn't get to hear enough of her godmother's voice," she said, linking her arm in Minerva's and leading her toward the kitchen.

It was a moment before Minerva registered what she had said; Hermione turned to her, fighting to suppress a grin. "Her—what?" Minerva sputtered, looking momentarily discomposed.

"Ron and I have been wanting to ask you," Hermione said. She gestured at the tea service and added, "And after all that, who better? Will you do it?"

Minerva looked, for one of only a few times in Hermione's memory, quite dumbfounded. "Surely—Ginny, or—"

"Ginny's already her aunt, and she's got nearly a half-dozen of those who are going to love her to pieces," Hermione insisted, now clinging to Minerva's arm. "Please say yes, Minerva. I'll feel so much better if you do."

"For Merlin's sake—how am I to say no to that?" Minerva said, her voice a little constricted, and Hermione gasped. "I would be honored."

"Oh, thank you!" cried Hermione, embracing Minerva happily. "Thank you, thank you!"

Minerva shook her head, but looked thoroughly delighted. "Goodness, I drop by for tea and come away with a goddaughter…I must be more careful on these visits…"