A/N: Much thanks to my beta, gwen1170, who fast and wonderful!
Seven years, five weeks and four days after Ron's disappearance
Professor Hermione Granger-Weasley refrained from pinching the bridge of her nose to fend off the oncoming headache, and attempted to listen courteously to the question that Miss Rachel Persdon, third year Ravenclaw, was posing to her on the methods for Transfiguring gerbils into silver snuffboxes versus mother-of-pearl snuffboxes. Class had ended some fifteen minutes ago, and lunch hour in the Great Hall had already started, but Miss Persdon was very dedicated, although others of her class might have called her every bit the Know-It-All that Hermione herself had been had a similar age, Hermione tried to tap into her diminishing well of patience to treat the girl well and laud her for her desire to know.
"Miss Persdon, I think you have an excellent grasp of the subject, far in advance of your classmates. You should have no worries regarding this bit of magic at all." Miss Persdon smiled enthusiastically and opened her mouth for another question, but Hermione cut her off quickly. "Remember, Miss Persdon, to be in top form for accomplishing your goals, it is necessary to take care of your body as well as your mind. I suggest you head down to lunch with your friends. I'm sure Mr. Sweeton would miss you if you neglected to appear."
Rachel Persdon blushed becomingly, and made a hasty retreat. Hermione smiled, remembering days when Ron could make her blush with equal parts embarrassment and longing at the mere mention of his name. Her words to Miss Persdon echoed in her head, forcing her to remember that her bodily needs were for more than just food. Her body still throbbed at the memory of last night. She should feel guilty, she supposed, taking pleasure with a man who was not her husband, at least, he hadn't been yet…
God, but the whole thing was confusing. Still, she had needed him desperately; after having fallen asleep wearing her husband's shirt and crying in misery, part of her having given up hope that he would ever hold her in his strong arms again. When she was at her lowest, he had managed to find a way to come to her. And now, it was time for her to go to him.
She opened the door to her office, crowded now with two desks and the fireplace, and exchanged a smile with Ted Tonks, who was preparing for afternoon classes. She was very grateful to him for stepping in at the last minute and taking half of her teaching load so that she could spend her afternoon at St. Mungo's. That had allowed her to keep her position as the youngest Transfiguration professor in six hundred and fifty three years. Teaching also allowed her to focus on something other than worry and grief.
"How are the Lupins doing, Ted? Have you seen Dora and Remus lately?"
The amiable brown haired Muggleborn gave her a huge grin at the thought of his daughter and her husband. "They're doing well. They brought Reggie and Linda over for tea just this last Sunday. Reggie takes after his da, already reading books that he shouldn't be able to until he comes to Hogwarts, and he's not even seven yet!" He beamed with pride, and Hermione smiled politely in response. A bit of her ached though, the part of her that longedr for little red-haired children of her own.
Ted sobered a bit, as though he knew what she was thinking. "You get going now, dear. Your young man is waiting." Her eyes teared up a bit and she nodded, cursing herself for continuing to be an emotional wreck even though she'd had weeks to learn how to cope with the raw emotion bubbling inside of her. For almost two months, she'd tried to shut off her sadness, to take each day one at a time, rather than think about the future, but the strain and worry were starting to catch up to her as she began to fear that she would be spending the rest of her life alone, her husband a victim of a powerful series of hexes while leading an Auror raid.
She took a pinch of Floo powder, and with a dash into the green flames of her office fireplace, she was in the lobby of St. Mungo's. The attendants and Healers knew her on sight, and gave her polite nods of greeting as she made her way to the Spell Damage ward. She stopped for a moment as she felt a brief but intense pain in her lower abdomen, but she continued down the hall, reminding herself that she really needed to eat more often. As she approached his doorway, she looked in and listened for a moment as the current visitor spoke to the man lying unconscious on the hospital bed.
"Sirius said, 'I want Daddy' today, just as clear as you please, already in competition with James' sentence from last week, which Harry swears was, 'Me see Quidditch!' They're going to put Fred and George to shame, I'm certain!" Ginny bit her lip, and ran her hand across the unwrinkled brow of her brother. "When you wake up soon, you'll be shocked at how much you've missed, but I'll tell you something, brother dear, that I haven't even told Harry yet. You'll get to see those missing moments with the next one soon!"
"Oh, Ginny, really!" Hermione couldn't hold back her exclamation.
Ginny jumped in surprise. "Hermione!" Her eyes rounded in shocked expression, "Promise you won't tell Harry that you knew before he did!"
Hermione pursed her lips, "Only if you tell me how far along you are!"
"Only about six weeks, I think I knew almost immediately though." A hand drifted to her abdomen, and Hermione felt a jab of jealously and sorrow. Even if Ron woke up, she would never know the joy of having her love's child growing within her. Ron had taken some nasty hexes during the Final Battle, and some scars hadn't shown up for years. Her morose memory dragged her back to the day, more than a year ago, when the Healer they had visited had explained that magic could not undo the damage done. Although he could function, and function well, in every other….capacity….as a husband, Ronald Weasley could not have children. Adoption was rare in the Wizarding world, and unless a Muggleborn was identified in an orphanage somewhere, neith she nor Ron had felt it would be fair to rear a Muggle child when there would be no chance of it being part of their parents' world.
"Are you all right, Hermione?" Ginny's question cut through her reverie.
She gave Ginny what she hoped was a bright smile. "I'm sorry Ginny, I'm just tired. It's wonderful news though. I'll be a very proud Auntie, and we'll….I'll watch Siri and Jamie anytime you need a break."
Ginny nodded, her eyes growing shiny. "Thanks for the offer…but for now, you need some rest, Hermione. I remember I couldn't sleep much at all, when Harry was in here after Tom was killed. I don't think I could really sleep well again until he could hold me as I fell asleep." She blushed a bit at that, but Hermione just smiled, the sentiment very familiar. Ginny had held out hope that Harry would awaken after his defeat of Tom Riddle even when others started to fear he would never regain consciousness. Her faithfulness had been rewarded handsomely, with a happy marriage, two beautiful children and another on the way, and a lovely house in Hogsmeade where she wrote books, and Harry could come home everyday after a hard day teaching Defence at Hogwarts. Hermione only hoped that she too would be able to keep her hope alive, and that she and Ron would still be happy together someday. After his visitation from the past last night, the magnitude of what she was missing had slammed into her with a harsh fierceness, pulling her hopes down around her.
Ginny rose gracefully, leaving her seat to her sister-in-law. "I'll be going now, Hermione. I've got to pick up the twins from Mum before they manage to tear the Burrow down by the rafters." Ginny gathered up her cloak and bag, and Hermione sat down, staring at the pale freckled face of her husband. Ginny paused at the door as she left, and turned back slightly. "I swore I felt him grip my hand today. I know you'll think I'm crazy…"
"It's possible, Ginny." Hermione cut her off. "Ron…Ron will always find a way to come back to me." Ginny nodded solemnly, and closed the door behind her, leaving Hermione alone with Ron.
She smoothed back the tangled fire-red hair that was becoming overgrown with the weeks in the hospital. Hermione was almost glad, as she had missed running her fingers through its length when it had been an efficient buzz cut since the start of Auror training some five years previously. She had missed how it felt in her hands when they had first made love. The night before flashed into her mind, and a mix of guilt and elation flooded her.
When she had awakened from a fitful sleep after his return to the past, she briefly smiled at her vivid imagination. Then she inhaled, and she could still smell him on the sheets, on her skin. She realized she was naked, and the stickiness between her thighs was not likely to be the result solely of a vivid dream.
She reached for a long-fingered hand, and whispered, "You never told me that it had been more than a dream for you, love." She lifted her other hand to his jaw, feeling the rough hairs of his five o'clock shadow against her palm. His disappearance in Fred and George's shop so many years ago, which had led to breaking through all the idiotic boundaries keeping them apart, was now fully explained. He had been thrown into his fantasy of a night with Hermione, true, but he had also been transported to part of his own life, years in the future, for the time period allotted by four of the Daydream Charm boxes. The Vienata curse had been thwarted, and somehow, Ron had found her when she had truly needed him. She just hoped that he would find her again.
She lay her head down next to his on the bed, and closed her eyes, whispering to him. "I suppose I should have been more suspicious of how very good you could make me feel the first times we made love. I don't think I wanted to know whether or not you had done anything with Lavender. And then how you always want to play that game where I "taught" you how to please me. Did you know that it wasn't a dream, or did you simply like to relive that memory?" She smirked at him, and was shocked when she received a hoarse chuckle in response, and felt a puff of dry stale breath on her cheeks.
"Both." His voice was cracked, but it was there, and her eyes flew open to the sight of deep blue irises focusing blearily on her face.
"Ron?" She asked, her voice shaking with suppressed hope.
He tried to speak, but instead began a coughing fit. Hermione rose to run for a Healer, but Ron wouldn't release her hand.
"Love you, 'Mione. Always come back to you."
Fred and George teased Ron mercilessly about his remarkable prowess and powers of recovery, when, some nine months later, Hermione gave birth to twins. But they were delighted, if mystified, when it was revealed that the twins' names were Arthur Frederick Weasley and Sarah Georgina Weasley. Hermione would say nothing about why she would agree to name her children after her infamous brothers-in-law, other than to comment that at times, they really knew how to be…charming.