Hermione walked slowly into the coolness of the university library, the smell of books and old paper filling the air and her lungs. She breathed in deeply and closed her eyes, imagining Hogwarts' library. A sense of peace filled her, she felt like she was at home here.
The quietness of it calmed her, and the lack of people reminded her yet of Hogwarts' library. Being an August Sunday, and an extraordinarily hot one at that, she was almost alone in the cool room. All the students were on holiday and all that remained at the small university were the Fellows and a couple of professors. Putting a hand to the small of her back in a supporting position that had come to her naturally over the last couple of weeks, she tilted her head to read the titles above her. Her other hand rested on her protruding stomach. At four and a half months, she had a quite sizeable bump now, and Hermione marvelled at how, for 4 months, she had been practically flat, and then suddenly she had swelled out over the last two weeks. I've been pregnant for half the pregnancy now she thought to herself proudly. Her morning sickness had cleared up and she was enjoying being pregnant. She wasn't too big to move and could still tie her shoelaces, yet she was big enough to be noticeably pregnant and to feel her baby moving inside her. She hummed quietly to her baby as she chose her book, rubbing her stomach in a comforting motion. Just as she was about to take her hand away to pick up a book, she felt a sharp kick and a proud smile filled her face. Patting her stomach she cooed to her baby softly then reached to get her book.
This was how Hermione spent a lot of her free time. Once the upheaval of the move had gone, and she had settled into a routine, she spent a lot of time in the library. But unlike at Hogwarts, where the library had symbolised a place of work and research for classes, the library at Lampeter was her favourite bolt hole. A place to go where she could experience tranquillity, escape into a fictional world with just her and her baby… she'd rub her hands over her stomach, stroking her baby, occasionally cooing to it as it moved, whispering softly about the book she was reading, telling her baby all about the works of Dickens, or Shakespeare or Austin. Today the baby was learning about Virginia Woolf.
How much the baby absorbed – if it indeed had any idea of what its mother was talking about – was something Hermione did not know. But she liked to think her baby could hear her, and at any rate, would recognise her voice and know who its mother was.
Settling down in an easy chair, favouring this to one of the many work tables that resembled the tables in the Great Hall of Hogwarts, she opened "To The Lighthouse" and started to read to herself.
Lost in her thoughts, she barely noticed the approaching footsteps, and she started slightly as a glass of orange juice was pushed into her line of vision. "Oh!" she gasped in surprise.
"For the little mother. You need to keep hydrated."
"Yes. Yes I know. I mean, thank you." Hermione smiled, looking up from her book to the speaker. It was a man, middle aged, with rather distinguished features. Pleasant looking, he reminded Hermione somewhat of Mr Weasley; he shared the same friendly, family-orientated look.
"You like to read." It was a statement, not a question.
"Yes, I do."
The man took a seat across the table, close enough to talk quietly but close enough to be disconcerting, Hermione noted. She warmed to the man as he spoke again. "I've seen you in here a lot. Most days."
"Yes." She replied idly, wondering where he was going with this.
"Always alone." He raised an eyebrow at her.
"I like the peacefulness of solitude."
"I can see that. Drink up."
Hermione lifted the glass to her lips and smiled. The juice was cool, freshly made, and it slid down her throat, sending a shiver through her. "Mmm. Thank you."
"You're very welcome. Remember to look after yourself; you have a baby to think of." The man gently chastised her.
"I know. I do, honestly." Hermione hurriedly assured him.
The man smiled, his eyes almost appearing to nod. "Well make sure your husband looks after you."
Hermione blushed and dropped her gaze. "I'm not married."
"My dear, I did not wish to cause you any embarrassment. Really I should have been more observant. Forgive me, I should not have presumed." His gaze wandered to her left hand, conspicuous by the absence of a wedding ring.
Hermione's gaze softened as she saw that the man did not intend his comment to be a reprove. "It's all right. Really."
"That's all right then. So, do tell me, what are you teaching your unborn child today?" He changed the subject, evidently putting it behind him.
"I'm reading To The Lighthouse and it's fascinating. When I was younger I didn't appreciate it, but now I think I can understand it better. It's all about perception and people's goals and views on life. Of course I don't expect this little one to understand it, but I enjoy it for myself, I find it…" she paused, trying to find the appropriate word. "Reassuring."
"Curious." The man rejoined.
"Why?" Hermione frowned.
"I think, my dear, you are rather a deep character. I am intrigued."
Hermione laughed. "Oh well, I don't know what to say to that!"
"Then perhaps you can tell me why you find Virginia Woolf so, reassuring?"
She held his gaze for a moment or two, looking carefully at him. "Well the characters, what they do, how they see things, it's what we all do, isn't it? They symbolise how different people all see the world, or make goals and I find that reading how someone else realises how different people see things, or what items symbolise to others – reassuring." Her eyes had wandered to the window as she thought and spoke her answer, but when she finished she fixed them on her companion, waiting for what he would have to say.
"So are you saying that you find the fact that other people – Virginia Woolf in this case – have found the human race to be very individual and having different, changing interpretations and perceptions from one's own, to be a comfort?"
"Yes. I suppose I am."
"Interesting." He flashed her a quick smile. "I think my dear; I had better leave you to enjoy the delights of Virginia Woolf. Time is rather pressing, and as much as I've enjoyed this little chat I must go. Goodbye, my dear."
"Goodbye," Hermione faltered as the man strode out of the library, suddenly realising that she did not know his name.