Let's Just Keep Our Fingers Crossed (3/3)
Conclusion of the fluffy silliness, as we're off to walk the Bay to Breakers tomorrow (Run? Run? Are you mad? Jim Fixx died of a heart attack, you know. Besides, as we've learned, if you run you slosh your martini, which is just not on.) As to what Fred did to George, well, that's up to you – it's one of my throwaway lines, like when Sirius, Remus, James & Peter lost the map…the world may never know. Let your own imagination go wild.
The Grangers had indeed remembered to sweep their chimney, but that was hardly a surprise. Considering that Mrs. Granger had practically had a heart attack that time Ron and Hermione had decided it might be fun to just 'pop over' and surprise the Grangers to demonstrate how their new Floo Network connection worked, inadvertently covering the otherwise immaculate white carpet in the front room with the roughly five pounds of soot they shook loose. She had tried to say it was nothing, and that she really was happy to see them, but that after they had made an agreement to only arrive in such a fashion if something particularly important was happening.
This is particularly important.
As soon as Ron stepped onto the hearth, however, he could sense something was amiss. The table in front of the Granger's sofa had the remains of what looked like dessert and coffee, and it took Ron a moment to realize that oh…they've got guests!
His father appeared behind him as soon as he came to this conclusion, unfortunately, and bumped into him.
"Careful there, Ron! Now…"
"Dad! Shush!", hissed Ron, reaching up to put a hand over his father's mouth. Arthur looked a little surprised, but did stop talking. That's when they both heard the voices in the hall.
"So glad you could come, and so sorry to have to get you out of here like this…." They heard Mr. Granger saying, in an overly loud voice. Ron realized he must have heard them. Thank gods they seemed to realize what was going to happen when Liz rang!
"Quite alright, Bert," someone replied, and Ron couldn't help but give a shudder. Hermione had been suggesting that perhaps naming the baby after their fathers would be nice. Ron refused point blank to have a son called 'Bert'.
Ron and Mr. Weasley stayed very still on the hearth, and after hearing Mrs. Granger also address her soon to be ex-guests rather too loudly and the door slam, turned to look at the door. The Grangers practically ran in, and then tried not too look too put out at the sight of the Wizards who had suddenly walked out of their cosy little fireplace. Ron realized he still had his hand on his father's mouth at that point, and quickly removed it with a rather sheepish smile.
"Mr. Granger, Mrs. Granger, good evening," he said, trying to sound calm.
"Ron, Arthur, …good to see you both," Mr. Granger managed to laugh slightly then, and shook his head. "We've just had a call from Mrs. Black. How's my girl?"
"She's fine…well, she's started, you know, having the baby." Ron turned rather red as he realized he was sounding like a bit of an idiot in front of his in-laws, who rather terrified him much to Hermione's annoyance. It didn't help when his own father ran forward quickly to shake the Grangers' hands vigorously with his usual enthusiasm.
"Hermione's in very, very good hands with an excellent healer. You remember Katie Lupin?"
"Yes, of course," said Mrs. Granger, even as she gave her husband a rather confused look. "But, I thought that…."
"We've gone to fetch her doctor," broke in Ron, "just now. But we were at the Lupins when the labour started and I feel it's best she stay right there and have the baby."
"Ah." They both looked at Ron a little sternly.
Ron had expected the Grangers not to be pleased with this. They were a little nervous over the idea of Hermione not going to a Muggle hospital in the first place, but this was obviously an even worse option than the Wizarding hospital in London, although all of the healers there thought Hermione was a bit daft for wanting to have the baby there in the first place. He stood there trying to think of what to say when his father stepped in and saved him.
"Bertram, Bromwen, I understand that you've been a little nervous about this. No doubt you've been remembering when Hermione herself was born. Molly and I remember well both when we had our first child and when our first grandchild was born, and it's only natural to feel a little, well, put out. But please, I know you know how that Ron would never let Hermione do anything he didn't feel was best for her. Wizards, as a rule, have their children at home, and have been doing so for centuries. Ron and all his siblings were born in our house. And Katie had all three of her children right there in her and Remus' home. This isn't something rash, or anything untried or unexpected. Hermione, and your grandchild, are in very capable hands, in a safe and comfortable place, surrounded by their friends and family. What better way to start life, eh? And I know that Hermione wants you there as soon as possible as well. What do you say?"
Ron felt like bursting into tears at this but the Grangers still looked a little nervous standing there being lectured, however nicely, by a balding wizard wearing long blue robes and bouncing excitedly on his heels while he grinned at them. It was silent for a few moments, and then Mrs. Granger nodded and smiled a little shakily at her husband.
"Bertram? I…I think I'll just go back with Arthur and Ron." She eyed the fireplace warily, but stepped forward. "You can follow…"
"I'm coming with you. Right now!"
Mr. Weasley gave him a sympathetic look. "Mrs. Lupin will be able to give you something at the other end for the, well, nerves."
Mr. Granger went a little green, but did nod, and now smiled at Ron. "It's worth it."
Ron pulled out his wand and lit a fire, but then realized he didn't bring any Floo Powder with him. Horrified, he turned to say something to his father, but as he faced him Mr. Weasley simply reached into his robes and pulled out a small bag with a chuckle. Ron had to give a small laugh of relief.
"I've done this before, son. Bromwen? May I escort you?"
"Yes, thank you," She walked deliberately up to the fireplace and took Arthur's arm.
"Yes, that's it. Now just close your eyes and hang on." He took some powder out of the bag, and then handed the bag to Ron.
Ron watched his mother-in-law and father step into the flames and vanish with a 'whoosh' before he turned to Mr. Granger. He gave a nervous smile again, and tried not to let Mr. Granger see just how anxious he was to get back to the Lupins.
"Right. Ready, sir?"
"Ron, before we go, let me say to you again what I said when you married my daughter. I am pleased and happy for you both, and I do realize you would never let anything hurt her."
Ron went positively scarlet. "Yes, thank you."
Mr. Granger took a deep breath and moved up to the spot his wife had just disappeared from, looking at the flames warily. "You're welcome. Just wanted to get that out while I was still capable of coherent speech. I'll never, under any circumstances, get used to this."
Ron came to stand next to him and Mr. Granger took his arm, rather tightly.
"Let's go then."
"Wait!" Mr. Granger looked at Ron's black and orange robes for a moment, and then asked, "Did the Cannons win?"
Ron gave a small laugh and nodded. "Yes, sir, they did indeed."
"Well then this is turning out to be quite a day for you. Congratulations. Now, let's get this rather gruesome little trip over with."
Katie was waiting at the other end with a goblet in her hands. As soon as Ron dragged the rather beleaguered looking figure of his father-in-law out of the fireplace and set him on a chair, she gave it to him and said 'drink' in a tone that made Mr. Granger instantly down whatever it was she had offered him. His face got its colour back almost immediately and he straightened up in his seat with a surprised look.
"Feel better?" Katie now asked in her normal good-natured voice.
"Very much. Excellent in fact!" He looked down at the goblet then stood and handed it back to her. "I'd ask for the recipe but I doubt it would do any good. And, come to think of it…I may not really want to know what was in it."
"No, I doubt you would," agreed Katie, sending the goblet over to the sink. "Go into the living room, won't you? Hermione's fine and wants to see you both…."
Ron's rather tenuous calm shattered and his earlier panic came back.
"What? Why isn't she upstairs yet? Shouldn't she be in bed?"
Katie didn't so much as lift an eyebrow as she ushered them out of the kitchen towards the front of the house. "No, not just yet. She's quite comfortable where she is and it gets rather painful laying down too soon, trust me."
When Ron and Mr. Granger got into the living room, Ron groaned at the sight. Hermione had been put in one of the overstuffed chairs and a blanket had been wrapped around her. His mother was on one side and her mother on the other. Both appeared to be fussing, and both were talking, although Hermione seemed not to be listening to either of them. Sirius and Harry had retreated to stand back against the bookshelves and were leaning against one of the cases with their arms crossed looking rather amused. Ginny was back, with Percy, who looked vaguely disgruntled. He was still dressed for work and Ginny had obviously demanded he leave the Ministry and come with her. Then he noticed, to his horror, that his sister-in-law Sarah stood on Percy's left. If Sarah's here that means….
George threw an arm around his shoulders and shook him.
"Ronie-kins! Bloody exciting this, isn't it!"
"Let go of me, George, and just back off."
"Oh, is that any tone…."
Ron hissed at his brother through clenched teeth. "I mean it, George."
George just smacked him firmly on the back and laughed. "Bit tense, aren't we? And you don't even have to do the hard work!"
Mr. Granger got around them at this point and went over to Hermione, asking in a loud voice how she was feeling so as to be heard over the mothers. She started to say something then Ron saw her hesitate and look rather strained. He poked George soundly in the ribs to get him to let go and crossed the room to take Hermione's hand. She smiled at him a little tensely.
"Give me the word, Hermione, and I'll cast the strongest silencing spell seen on these islands in the last century."
"Not practical, but thanks. Mum, I don't need another pillow…."
Katie appeared out of nowhere and with the practiced skill of someone who had been through this very scenario often managed to back everyone away from Hermione as she handed her a cup.
"Hermione, that's just some good old fashioned chamomile and peppermint tea to soothe you. Drink it down, then we will get you upstairs and settled in. You seem to be progressing rather quickly…."
"Ron, it'll be hours yet, but yes. That's actually just fine. I had the same experience with Malcolm. And it is preferable in every fashion to the two days our Annie took, I can tell you."
Hermione gave Ron a small smile as she sipped the tea, but before he could say anything else, the fireplace flared up, causing both Mr. and Mrs. Granger to jump about a foot, and Liz came forward. She stopped as all conversation came to a halt and everyone looked at her.
"Well, word does travel fast. Mrs. Granger, Mr. Granger, how are you?"
They managed to stammer out that they were just fine, thank you. Liz nodded then took Katie's arm and pulled her towards the door.
"Excellent. Hermione, you look fine yourself. K? A word?" They vanished out the door, and Ron stood to follow, calling out after Liz asking where the doctor was. Sirius put a hand on his shoulder before he'd rounded the couch.
"Ron? Don't. Trust me. Let them discuss whatever their discussing and you just sit here nicely with your wife."
Harry had come over at that and nodded emphatically. "He's right; don't do anything and just wait to see what they're up to."
Ron gave him a rather desperate look, and then whispered "I don't think the doctor's coming. Why else would Liz want…."
"Just wait for it, Ron," Harry whispered back. "So what? Katie's delivered any number of babies so all in all being here was probably best."
"But the Grangers will explode!"
Just you wait.
Katie and Liz came back after a few minutes. Liz went to stand with Sirius, wrapping an arm around his waist, and gave Katie a nod. Katie faced Hermione.
"Hermione, Mr. Tierrell is, unfortunately, already occupied with another birth, and won't be here for a while," she started. Ron put his head in his hands and didn't dare look at his in-laws, but he heard them both give little noises of surprise. "So, my dear, I'll take care of you two, if that's alright with you and Ron."
"Katie, I wanted to ask you to be my second in the first place, but since you were, well, busy yourself I didn't want to be a bother. I'm thrilled, really."
"Hermione! Annie was born a month ago, I still would have helped!"
"I didn't want to take any time away from you and the new baby, that's all."
Katie gave her a warm smile, but held out a hand to help her up. "You're too sweet sometimes for your own good, Hermione. Remus will, delightedly I might add, take all responsibility for Annie and the other two while you and I take care of this. Shall we get upstairs now?"
Ron and Katie each took an arm and led her from the room. Ron kept his head down, not looking at the Grangers, but he could feel that they were getting a little more put out. Mr. Granger started to say something, but both Arthur and Molly moved forward and started discussing details of the naming ritual, of all things, pulling Harry forward to block the Granger's escape as they did so and going on in loud voices about the importance of godparents in Wizarding society. Ron decided having his mum and dad here, at the very least, was worth it.
As Hermione walked past him on her way out, George gave her hand a squeeze.
"Good luck old girl. We'll be right here."
"Yes, George, that's what worries me," she managed to laugh. "Where's the other one?"
Yes, I'd been wondering that too….
"You're in luck. Both of you. He's off with Charlie at the moment and who knows what mountainside they've dragged themselves up. We've sent an owl to deliver the word, but you should be safe. For a while at least."
Best news I've had all day.
At the bottom of the stairs Hermione stopped and turned to Ron.
"Ron, let me just go up with Katie and get settled, and you deal with that rat pack in there. I'm thrilled that everyone cares, but I just can't take it. I'm sorry, but I have a feeling my parents might be a bit difficult as this goes on."
Ron nodded at her and sighed. "Perhaps we should just let George entertain them?" he tried to joke.
"You know he terrifies them, Ron. Ever since the rehearsal dinner when he released that boggart during dessert and it rounded on my father and turned into his accountant."
Katie giggled at that. "Sorry, but I thought that was just hysterical when Harry told us what had happened. Particularly the fact that Percy was the one who tried to explain to your parents how to get rid of it as it started pulling ledgers out of its briefcase and talking about the land revenue due on their practice. 'Just give a good laugh, Sir, it won't be bothering you any more'," she said, in a rather good imitation of Percy's most clipped and formal voice.
Both Hermione and Ron did laugh themselves at this. "Yes," agreed Ron, "luckily we all laughed so hard at Percy we managed to get rid of it rather quickly."
"Poor Percy. He does mean well, but it would seem most of his good humour went to Fred and George."
"Percy," said Hermione, "is a wonderful chap in his own right, but he should relax more. Anyway, Ron; please give us a bit, as I just want to talk with Katie, then hurry up."
"Not a problem. But I'll be up there soon."
As Hermione and Katie turned to go upstairs, Remus reappeared, coming down the staircase balancing Malcolm on one side and holding Roarke against the other shoulder. Both the children gave Hermione sleepy but confused looks.
"I'm just going to have Sirius take these two back to his place for the duration, as I think we've enough going on. Annie's sound asleep, and I'll just keep an eye on her."
Malcolm looked furious.
"Why does Annie get to stay?"
"Don't you want to go with Sirius?"
"I bet Sirius will let you do some magic."
Katie frowned. "Sirius will put you to bed and Liz will make sure he does it. Don't look like that, Malcolm, honestly. Come on Hermione."
"Good night, Malcolm; good night Roarke."
Roarke said 'bye' softly even as she threatened to fall back asleep on Remus' shoulder. Malcolm did manage a small smile at Hermione as she went past, but turned back to Remus quickly. "Dad…."
"Malcolm, this is one of those times when I am going to ask you nicely to just do as I ask without debate." With that he put Malcolm down, and the boy instantly took off for the living room with a rather dark scowl on his face. Remus looked a little cross for a moment, and then gave Ron a vague smile.
"Tired and cranky; another wonderful parenting experience you get to look forward to. Ten gets you twenty he's trying to rally Sirius against me."
"I suspect Harry will be spoiling my kid just as much."
"Yes, he will. Nothing to be done about it. Come on, let's not face the music for a bit. You look like you could use a drink." Remus motioned for Ron to stay where he was, and went to the door of the living room, leaning in to speak with someone, then coming back out. He moved in the direction of his study. "I'll let Malcolm think he's getting away with something being up with the adults for a while, as it will make him easier to handle in the long run."
Ron followed Remus towards the back of the house. He had to smile when Remus took his wand out with a flourish, gave Roarke a kiss to make her look up and cried "ignius!", sweeping his wand and causing (quite unnecessarily) yellow sparks to flow as he lit the lamps in the room. It had the desired effect and Roarke laughed, even as Remus lifted her up with both arms to jostle her happily before setting her down carefully on the sofa. He waved his wand again, saying something Ron couldn't make out. After a moment something flew past Ron and Remus caught it, handing it to Roarke. It was a large plush bear that Remus' two-year-old happily accepted and embraced, laying back against the arm of the sofa.
"Please. A small one." Remus gave his daughter one more caress on her face then went to pour the drinks. Ron kept gazing at Roarke, then looked up when Remus handed him the glass.
"Thanks. So, son or daughter?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, which is better?"
Remus laughed and went to pour two other drinks. "Ron, that's an impossible question. You love your children simply for who they are; admittedly it is turning out to be very different, but not all that different. Isn't that right, Arthur?"
Ron looked over his shoulder to see his father enter the room.
"Spot on, Remus. Ogden's! Very nice, thank you."
"Thank Dexter. He sent it over when he heard that Malcolm had started doing magic."
Remus and Arthur both laughed at this, then toasted Ron, who just stood there looking strained, even as he smiled.
"Nothing's happened yet, dad."
"Well I'd save it for afterwards but I think you'll be distracted."
The men sipped the whiskey in silence, and Ron looked at his father and Remus nervously as they stood side by side smiling at him.
"Ron," said Remus, now going to sit down so Roarke could climb into his lap, going to sleep again almost instantly, "This is going to be a long night. Focus on Hermione, and being there for her. Katie is very good at this, so she should be as comfortable as possible, but if Hermione yells at you, don't take it seriously."
"What does that mean?"
Mr. Weasley grinned and nodded his head. "Very true. Your mother has said some rather nasty things to me giving birth. But they don't mean it. Well, maybe at the time, but it passes."
Ron gaped at both of them and felt himself go a little pale. "What things?"
"This is your fault!"
"Don't you ever touch me again!"
"Gods help me, but if I get the chance some day I'll show you EXACTLY what this feels like!"
Remus and Arthur both started laughing, both at the memories and at the expression on Ron's face. He glared at them.
"I thought," he said tensely, "you were trying to cheer me up."
Remus shrugged. "We're prepping you, that's all."
Ron finished his drink and put the glass back down. "Yeah, thanks, both of you. I'm going to make sure George hasn't finished off my in-laws, then I'm going upstairs."
Arthur and Remus followed him, Remus carrying the now immobile Roarke over one shoulder. Then got back to the living room to find everyone seemed to have settled down. Mrs. Weasley and Mrs. Granger sat opposite each other in front of the fire talking together. Liz had Malcolm sitting with her on another chair, and they seemed to be discussing something in low tones themselves. Mr. Granger had ended up being seated on the sofa between Harry and George, while Percy sat on the floor in front of the low table to one side, much to Ron's astonishment, and Ginny sat on the top of the sofa behind Harry, leaning on his shoulders. Sirius was seated on the floor opposite Percy, and held a pack of cards. Ron stiffened.
Oh, don't you bloody dare, Sirius!
But Sirius was, indeed, busy explaining the rules to Exploding Snap to Mr. Granger. Before Ron could stop him, he and George demonstrated a hand and managed to create a resounding pop with plenty of smoke between them.
As Ron had expected, Mr. Granger gave a nervous laugh, but sat as far back from the table as he could manage.
"How…how about we simply play a nice game of chess?" he said, pointing at the rather elegant carved wooden set that stood on a table near the couch. The pieces heard this, and instantly straightened up and started calling out as to which colour he should choose. Mr. Granger managed to actually turn a little paler at that and backed away from the board, which only agitated the pieces further and they all moved to the side, calling out after him to come back. They only settled when Remus went over to shush them, threatening to put them in the cupboard if they didn't quiet down. There was a little mumbling as they all retreated and resumed their formations opposite each other, but soon stood still and silent again.
Remus gave Sirius a small kick and told him to stand up, then gave him Roarke, who didn't twitch as she was passed.
"Padfoot, will you and Liz please take Roarke and Malcolm back will you. And get them to bed," said Remus, giving Malcolm a stern glance. Malcolm glowered further, but got up as Liz gave him a push and stood up herself.
"Will do, Remus," she said, giving him a hug, then taking Malcolm's hand and drawing him with her to the fire. "Come on, sweetie; how about a nice big cup of chocolate before you go to sleep?"
"No, thank you," replied Malcolm rather icily as he continued to glare at Remus, who returned the look impassively.
"Suit yourself. We'll see you all, plus one, tomorrow. Congratulations, Ron!"
"Thanks," he replied, giving a small wave as Sirius grinned once again at him then moved to vanish into the fire with Roarke. Before Liz could follow, however, Ron stepped forward and knelt down in front of Malcolm.
"Malcolm? I'm sorry, this is my fault, you know. The baby is coming."
Malcolm looked rather surprised.
Ron smiled at him. "Get some sleep, won't you? Then tomorrow I'll show you my useless baby."
Malcolm did smile at last and patted Ron on the cheek. "Alright."
Liz took Malcolm's hand and with a final 'good luck' vanished into the fire. Remus came over to stand next to Ron.
"Natural," he said, very softly. "Now, off with you."
Before Ron made the door, however, George called out to him.
"Wait! We need to know what names you've been considering!"
Ron didn't turn. I'm not going to give in to this….
"None of your business, Forge. I didn't give you any help with that, did I?"
"Well, no, but I've got a few suggestions," said George, in a teasing, sing-song voice.
"Not interested, Forge," Ron replied in the same voice.
"Bernatole. Anscaram. Lineaduke!"
"George, do shut up."
A baby's cry suddenly broke through the bickering, and Ron froze.
Remus was at the door in an instant and put a hand on Ron's shoulder as he turned to bolt up the stairs.
"RON! Ron; wrong baby; you haven't missed anything, that's Annie. Come on, let's get upstairs to see to our respective tasks."
Ron followed Remus up the stairs. At the landing, they stopped and turned in opposite directions, once Remus pointed down the left hall.
"Go on. Ron, I know what you're feeling right now, intensely. And can I just say that in a few hours, as overwhelming as this is to you now, it will simply pale in comparison to when you hold that baby for the first time. There is simply nothing to describe it."
Ron couldn't think of anything to say, and just nodded, then turned and walked quickly down the hall to where Hermione, and their child, waited.
Ron sat on the windowsill, watching Hermione and the baby with awe. He's just so small….
Hermione finally turned her exhausted but happy face to Ron and told him to come over. He practically ran to the bed and sat down next to her. She handed the baby to him.
"Well, here we are. So, what are we going to call him?"
Ron couldn't speak as he looked at his son. He waited a while, and then glanced at Hermione.
"Top points again, heart. He's just perfect."
Hermione blushed and stroked his arm. "We both did this, Ron. Well? Name?"
Ron shook his head. "I can only think of what I don't want to call him."
Hermione chuckled. "Yes, not Bert, I know that."
Ron nodded. "Not Bert. George suggested Lineaduke."
"Well he would, wouldn't he?"
"How about Gary?"
Hermione looked at the baby, then smiled again.
"You know, when you first suggested that I didn't like it at all. But he looks like a Gary. Yes, that'll be perfect."
Ron handed Gary back to Hermione carefully, and she held the child closely. "Gary Weasley. Gary what Weasley?"
"Uh, well, I came up with Gary so you have to think of the other name."
Hermione thought about it. "Gary Harold Weasely?"
Ron laughed. "I think that would work, and be well received. It's the least we can do, considering what Harry's had to put up with from us."
"Think he and Ginny will return the compliment?"
"Perhaps; provided they do end up getting married and all that."
Hermione gave a huff. "Of course they will. When they bother to get 'round to it."
Ron kissed her cheek. "Hermione, you sound like Sirius. That won't do at all. Just let them work things out in their own way. Just like they did with us."
Ron stood up, and reluctantly started to go towards the door so he could go downstairs and face everyone. But as he reached for the doorknob, a sound behind him caused him to hesitate. It took him a moment to hear that it was Hermione. He stood there, not moving as he didn't want to disturb the moment, until he realized what Hermione was doing.
Hermione was singing, very softly. Ron managed to stop himself from laughing as he suddenly recognized the tune. Slowly he turned around and walked back to the bed, sitting down once again next to his wife and his new son carefully so as not to disturb them. After a few moments, he joined Hermione's quiet serenade.
"Let's just keep our fingers crossed, and hope for the best…."
As ever, thanks to all who enjoyed this!
A few quick last notes re: questions & requests:
Further exploits of Annie & Griffin are on the list, but Annie is being difficult. Actually it was Griffin's fault, as Gary did something rather rash & Griffin went after him, and now we're at an impass, as Annie is refusing to speak to Griffin. Only Tobias Greendour is happy at the moment.
How Malcolm burned down the shed & incurred Remus' wrath is a WIP. (See? He's NOT harmless)
If you want to see Harry & Ginny done right, go over to Sugarquill & get reading Zsenya & Arabella's latest! Read it anyway!