Chapter 16: Better Be Home Soon

Stepping out onto the busy sidewalk, Hermione took a moment to feel the sunlight shining on her face. Spring in New York City was beautiful, as the trees and flowers of the city parks bloomed in all their glory. While there were people milling about everywhere, much as in muggle London, she found them to be much friendlier than she expected. The city was also surprisingly clean, owing to the efficient sanitation department. Unlike London however, the muggle and magical community was interwoven in the city's Burroughs, so that there was no obvious distinction of where the muggle world stopped and the magical one began. Despite the fascinating history of the city that she would have ordinarily absorbed with glee and the excellent weather she had experienced since arriving in America, Hermione Weasley was miserable.

How could she enjoy this once in a lifetime experience, while her marriage was falling apart? She had been grieving, hurting, and feeling incredibly guilty when she last saw her husband. What was she thinking? How selfish could one woman be?

After years of wanting a baby, they were about to finally achieve their goal. Ron was carrying their child back in England, and was due at any time to have the baby. Ginny had written to her saying that Ron was out of hospital, and on bed rest at The Burrow. What Ginny neglected to say was how Ron was doing emotionally. She didn't need to, wasn't it obvious? She knew that Ron needed her the most now, especially after losing one of the babies. How he must hate her for leaving, not to mention what the rest of the family must think of her. Well, it couldn't be any worse than what she thought of herself. Hadn't she been the one to basically abandon her husband and unborn child?

After Ron nearly died, the reality of their situation came crashing down around her. She nearly lost him. She knew for certain that had Ron died, she would have too. His and her lives were forever bound to one another, and she couldn't imagine her world without him in it. And she would have been the one to blame. Hadn't she been the one defending the woman that tried to kill Harry, and had made a good attempt at killing Ron with that letter? When Ron had lost one of the babies, she had emotionally shut down. She was useless to Ron, and their child, and most of all to herself. Ron and the baby would be better off without someone so useless in their lives. She didn't deserve to be a Weasley, after what she had done.

Hermione walked several blocks without realizing it, lost in her own thoughts of self-doubt and depression, when she thought she had seen something out of the corner of her eye. She looked around, but didn't see anything or anyone she recognized. As she continued on her way, she had a strange feeling that she was being followed. After years of practice, she expertly ducked into the nearest building, which happened to be a department store. She zigged, zagged, and double-backed until she was fairly certain that if anyone had been following her, she would have lost them by now. Emerging from a perfume counter, she turned to head for the door when she ran into someone she indeed recognized. Well, two someones with very red hair.

"Hemione, fancy meeting you here!" Fred Weasley was the last person Hermione had expected to see today.

"Simply smashing that we've run into you, my dear." George Weasley wore an identical smile on his face.

"What are you two doing?" Hermione was clutching her chest, the fear from moments before now replaced by annoyance. "You're lucky I didn't hex you into next week. Are you trying to give me heart failure? I thought someone was following me."

"Why, it's only your two favorite members of the family come to call on you. George, I don't think she's at all happy to see us," Fred said with a mock tone of hurt in his voice.

"I do think you're right, brother of mine."

It was true. She wasn't happy to see anyone from the family, let alone two obnoxiously cheerful one. "What do you want?" Hermione suddenly realized what their arrival might mean, and her eyes opened wide in terror. "Has something happened? Is Ron OK?"

Fred's face fell almost imperceptively, but Hermione noticed. Fred and George exchanged a look.

"Answer me! What's happened?"

"Well, it seems that there's trouble in the Weasley family. Trouble not caused by us, for a change. Hard to imagine, I know. Anyway, one of our brothers has found himself in the peculiar state of having a bun in the oven, and his wife has flown the coop. Mind you, we could understand her leaving under normal circumstances. Merlin knows this brother of ours is a right git at times, and his wife is much too good for him. But we can't stand seeing him so sad. Everyone knows that he's not worth a damn without her, so we took it upon ourselves to help in any way we could," Fred said, emphatically.

"We figured that the best way to help was to bring said wife back home. And so, here we are, begging you come back with us," George said, without his usual sarcasm.

Hermione closed her eyes to try and stem the flow of tears that threatened to fall. A few slipped out and began to fall. "You must think I'm a horrible person to leave the way I did. But I just would have kept hurting him. He's better off without me around."

George enveloped her in a hug, and this time she couldn't stop the tears as she wept openly against his chest. Fred gently patted her on the back.

"You're certainly not a horrible person, and don't let us ever catch you saying that again. In fact, you're the best thing that ever happened to Ron. We just don't understand, is all. But we've got plenty of time if you want to tell us," George said, as he continued to hug her.

"Why don't we get out of this store, and go somewhere more private to talk," Fred added.

Hermione let go of George and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "My place is close. Let's sit down and have a cup of tea."

XXXXXX

Molly had always been proud of the fact that she and Arthur had raised their children to be strong and independent. Sometimes they were a bit too strong and independent for their own good, if truth be told. But watching her youngest son as he slept, she thought about the events of the last couple of weeks that had led him to be living at the Burrow again. Her heart ached when she thought about the child he had lost and the trouble with his marriage. She wasn't exactly sure what had driven Ron and Hermione apart, but she knew that the loss of one of their children had been a terrible blow to them both, especially given the circumstances with that Sam woman. She still couldn't believe that Hermione would go all the way to America with their child due so soon, but she didn't blame the girl for needing some time to sort out their problems.

As she watched the rise and fall of Ron's chest as he slept, she was reminded of him as an infant, and how she loved to just watch him sleep. All of her children had been special in their own way, but Ron had been an especially easy baby. By the time he came along, the other boys were demanding so much attention (especially Fred and George), that Ron got much less of her time than the others had at the same age. But the night was just for the two of them, once the boys had been put to bed. It was their nightly routine to walk around the house, with Molly singing softly in his ear until he fell asleep in her arms. Once she laid him down in his cradle, she enjoyed just watching his soft baby face and the rise and fall of his chest. And now her baby boy was about to have a child of his own. At any rate, Molly was glad to have him back home again where she could take care of him until the baby was born. It was nice to be needed by one of her children again.

Molly was broken out of her reverie by Ron's sudden tossing and turning. His face was screwed up, as if in pain, and beads of sweat had appeared on his forehead. As she hurried to his side, she could hear him mumbling "No…please…" It was obvious to Molly that Ron was having a nightmare. After his fifth year and again during their search for the horcruxes, Ron had been plagued with nightmares that routinely woke the family up in the middle of the night, and they took turns comforting him until he had calmed enough to fall back asleep. As a mother, those times had been heart-wrenching to watch, and Molly was thankful when they had seemed to go away. She hadn't known him to have nightmares in years, but it was no wonder they were occurring again with all the stress he had been under.

Molly sat on the edge of the bed, and began stroking Ron's hair away from his sweaty forehead. He continued to mumble "not dead…please no", but the thrashing about had decreased, and his breathing was returning to normal as Molly whispered comforting words into his ear.

Ron opened his bleary eyes to see his mother sitting next to him, stroking his hair and smiling at him. The nightmares had returned, and he felt like a scared teenager again. There had been a time where it was normal to wake up in a cold sweat and find one of his family members sitting with him, so it was not altogether unsurprising to find his mother there comforting him.

"Mum? Sorry, did I wake you?"

"Oh no, dear. It's still early yet. I came in to check on you, and you started tossing and turning." Molly continued to stroke Ron's hair, and he found that he didn't mind so much. "How long have you been having nightmares again, dear?"

"It's been off and on for the last few weeks." Ron wanted to change the subject quickly. "So, anyone home besides us?"

Molly, sensing that her son wanted to forget about whatever was troubling him in his dreams, stopped her ministrations and sat up straight. "No, your father is still at work and Ginny sent an owl to say she would be over later tonight. That reminds me; Fred and George also sent an owl and said they were coming by later. Those two are up to something, I know it." Molly shook her head, trying to imagine what her two most mischievous offspring were going to do next.

"Well, if anyone would know that, it'd be you, Mum. I don't know how they made it to adulthood, with everything they've done over the years."

Molly leaned in closer to Ron and with a lowered voice said, "Yes, well, it amazes me some days too, Ron." Ron laughed for the first time in a couple of days, and Molly thought it was the best sound she'd ever heard. "How are you feeling, dear? I remember being that heavily pregnant when I had Fred and George, and it was no picnic. In fact, I think you're even larger than I was."

"Ginny warned us about that. She said I would get really big, not having the proper, eh, equipment and all."

This time, Molly let out a huge laugh that made Ron smile. "I suppose I'm alright, considering. I'll be glad to let the little bugger out soon, though. My stomach is as hard as a rock, and I'm really getting uncomfortable."

"Have you been having any pains?" Molly placed her hand on Ron's very round stomach, and was rewarded with a tiny kick from her grandchild. She felt tears welling up in her eyes, and dabbed at the corner with her apron. "Oh Ron! This is so wonderful. I remember each of my pregnancies like it was yesterday and there's nothing like this feeling of having your child moving inside."

"Which one of us was the hardest pregnancy?"

"Well, each pregnancy was special, but I think yours was the hardest."

"Really? Why Mum?"

"Well, I was so afraid I was going to lose you, dear. It had been a tough pregnancy anyway, and we were in the midst of the first war with You-Know-Who. I began spotting and cramping early on, and the healers all said that I probably wouldn't be able to carry you to term. I had already had one miscarriage after Charlie was born, and these two pregnancies were very similar. I was scared to death of losing you, and I vowed that I would do whatever it took to keep you safe. I was on bed rest, just like you, and hoping that I would get a chance to see you grow up. Needless to say, you managed to hold on, and your father and I knew that we had a miracle. It was because of you that I knew that You-Know-Who would be defeated. You gave me hope, Ron."

Molly wrapped her arms around her son, and rubbed his back. Ron was speechless. He'd never known that his mother had a miscarriage or she had such a hard time with him.

After a few moments, Ron asked the only question he could think of at the time. "Mum, the baby you lost. What would you have named him or her?"

"We never expected to have a girl, that is until your sister came along. We had picked out Daniel. I still think of him as my little Danny, and wonder what he would be like if he had lived. I know how hard things have been on you and Hermione, dear. I understand how devastating it is to lose a child, but you have to go on. For this little one," Molly said as she patted Ron's belly. "Hermione will come to terms with it too, and she'll be back. I know, because I have hope."

A wave of emotion swept over Ron, and he couldn't hold back the sobbing that he only vaguely recognized as his own. Molly was quick to envelop him into a tight hug, and Ron clung to her as he had when he was an infant trying to fall asleep. "I miss her so much, Mum. I just want her here with me. I can't do this without her."

"I know, dear. Things have a way of working out. Don't worry; I'm sure she'll be back soon." Molly rocked back and forth with him until his shuddering subsided. She reached for a tissue and handed it to him. "Why don't you relax for a bit, and I'll make some tea. Dinner will be ready shortly, and I'd better make sure there's enough for Ginny, Fred, and George."

Ron finished blowing his nose, and said "Good, because I'm starving."

Molly flashed him a grin. "That's my boy. I'll just make sure we have plenty to go around then, shall I?"

XXXXXX

Three people Apparated to the edge of the wards around the Burrow. As they made their way toward the house, Hermione felt a sense of panic overwhelm her. What if Ron won't forgive me? What if I made him so angry I cause him to go into labor? What do I say to Molly, 'Hi, sorry I left your pregnant son all alone, but I'm back now only because your other two sons came to drag me home,'?

George could see the hesitation in Hermione's face. "Don't worry, love. Things will work out fine, you'll see. Now get a move on. I can smell Mum's cooking from here, and I'm starving."

"How do you know?" Hermione asked, as she continued to walk toward the house.

"How can you not smell that Yorkshire Pudding? My mouth is watering," George said.

"No, you prat. I mean how do you know it will be all right?"

Fred answered this time. "It's something Mum always used to say. Something about hope in the face of dark times, or was it hope your face is home by dark, whatever. The point is, you two will work it out."

The trio made their way to the house, and stepped through the front door. Molly was in the kitchen, finishing up what looked to be a feast for an army. Her back was turned toward the stove.

"We're home, Mum. Dinner smells fantastic." George said, as he stepped into the living room.

"That's good, dear. Dinner will be on the table in a few minutes. Why don't you and your brother set the table," Molly said without turning around.

"Hope you don't mind, Mum, but we brought company with us. Is there room for one more?" Fred couldn't wait for his mother's expression.

"Oh, well of course." Molly had grabbed a glass from the shelf and was about to fill it with water when she turned around to greet their dinner guest.

The glass shattered into a million pieces.

Molly was overcome with so much joy that she burst into tears as she ran toward her daughter-in-law. "Oh Hermione! I'm so happy to see you, dear. You look far to skinny. What have you been eating in America?"

Hermione was also in tears, as she fiercely hugged her mother-in-law back. She had been worried that Molly would hate her for what she had done. Hermione had always been close to her, even more so than her own mother. The welcome she was receiving gave her hope that Ron would also be able to forgive her in time.

Molly patted the younger girl on the cheek with a warm smile, and nodded her head in the direction of the bedroom. "Go on, he's been waiting for you," she whispered.

Hermione nodded, and started walking toward the bedroom. She was dimly aware of Molly asking the twins how they had found her. As she rounded the corner, she could have sworn she heard something that sounded like "oof", which she suspected was one of the twins getting the air squeezed out of him.

Hermione walked slowly toward the door of the room which currently held her husband and her unborn child. Now there was only a thin piece of wood between them, but it felt like the Atlantic Ocean was still keeping them apart. Her hand rested at her side, seemingly unable to grasp the door handle. 'What are you waiting for? You've come this far, so go in there and see your husband. Are you a Gryffindor or not?' Hermione summoned all of her courage and turned the knob.

The sight that greeted her was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Ron was lying in bed with his eyes closed and the covers pulled up to his chest. One hand was resting on his very round stomach. She felt tears of joy filling her eyes at the sight of him. He looked as if his stomach contained an overly inflated beach ball that was on the verge of bursting. Ginny had said this would occur, but seeing him this way was somewhat of a shock. 'Ginny may have to take the baby sooner than expected. I don't think he can last another couple of weeks.' Seeing him confirmed in her heart that she had made the right choice by coming back. Even if he didn't forgive her right away, she would do everything she could to make it up to him.

Upon hearing the door open and someone walk in, Ron awoke from the light doze he had fallen into. He expected to see his mum or sister there, but instead couldn't believe his eyes. Hermione was standing there, just a few feet away, and she had never looked more beautiful than she had at that moment.

"Hi," was all she could manage to say.

"Is it really you?"

"Yeah, it's me."

"Why…how…when…" Ron tried, but couldn't seem to put his thoughts together at the moment.

Hermione smiled at him, and he knew that his mother was right. Things have a way of working out. He reached out his hand to her, and she closed the gap quickly. She rushed to his side and hugged him tightly. She felt so good in his arms, like she was made to fit there.

"Please, I have to know. Why did you leave?"

The tears were flowing freely now. "Oh, Ron. I'm so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you. That's why I left. I didn't want to keep hurting you."

"That doesn't make any sense, Hermione." His voice was even, but she could hear the pain in it. "Don't you see that your leaving hurt more than anything? I thought I had lost you for good."

Hermione looked into his eyes, and lovingly stroked his face. "I don't know if I can explain this so that you'll understand. I was hurting so much myself, and I blamed myself for everything that happened. If I had just believed you about Sam, then maybe I could have prevented what happened. I was such a fool, and I was filled with so much self-loathing. How could I have let you down so badly when I'm supposed to be protecting you and our child? My heart broke every time I looked into your eyes and saw the pain, knowing that I had been part of the cause. I didn't deserve your love, and I thought that by staying I would continue to let you down. I don't expect you to forgive me, but I realized that my self pity was insignificant compared to what you're going through. I want to be here for you and our child, if you let me."

They were both crying now. Hermione wiped his tears away with her thumb, and then swiped at her own. "Don't be daft. I need you. I love you. The last couple of weeks have been torture without you. My family has been great, but I've missed you terribly. Please don't leave me again. I don't think my heart can take it."

"I'm not going anywhere. I'm done hurting you, Ron. I never want to be the cause of your pain again."

Hermione crawled into bed and snuggled next to her husband, and placed a gentle hand on top of his stomach. "You really are insane, you know that? You aren't to blame for what happened. It was a tragedy, but you couldn't have prevented it. You didn't do anything wrong, other than leaving. And I guess you're entitled to screw-up every once in a while. Just promise me that you won't do it too often. This family can't take two screw-ups. That's my job."

They spent the next couple of hours lying in bed, catching up on all that had happened. Hermione told Ron all about New York, and promised to take him and the baby there someday. Ron filled Hermione in on all his aches and pains, and she spent a good deal of time rubbing his back to ease his backache. Hermione's hand rarely left Ron's stomach, and marveled at every movement she felt beneath her palm. Ginny had brought up a tray of food, and after hugging her sister-in-law and welcoming her home, had left the couple in peace to sort everything out.

Hermione had just drifted off near dawn when she was awoken by a moan. She rolled over to comfort Ron during his nightmare. She brushed his damp fringe from his forehead, and realized that he wasn't asleep.

"Ron, what is it?"

"It hurts," he said through gritted teeth. He was curled up in the fetal position with both of his arms wrapped around him.

"Is it your back again?"

"No, it's my stomach. Something's wrong."

Hermione's eyes widened in shock, and the icy fingers of fear gripped her heart. She did the first thing that came to mind.

"MOLLY! COME QUICK," she screamed at the top of her lungs.

A/N: First of all, I need to apologize for this taking so long. I've changed jobs since my last update, and it's taking a lot more of my time. On top of that, my muse left me for a while, making this my hardest chapter to write. Please let me know what you think. Also, because this took so long and I wanted to at least get this published before the end of the year, it has not been Beta-read. Thank you to everyone that's still reading this story after all this time. Only two more chapters to go now. Hopefully it' won't take me nearly as long to get them finished as it did for this chapter.

The title of the chapter comes from the song by Crowded House on their Recurring Dream album. One more thing – if you like good Ron angst stories, I've got a couple of recommendations for you; Surviving by scribhneoir, Eternal Sunshine of the Scourgified Mind, and Lost In Parasomnia by Solstice Muse. They are all wonderful and I highly recommend them. You can find the link to them on my favorites page. From this point forward, I'll be sending replies to your reviews via fanfiction (if you logged in) in order to keep my author notes shorter than the actual story. I hope that everyone has a wonderful and safe New Year.