"What!" Hermione and Ron both screamed at the same time. "I'm -" she continued, "I'm The Power until ... until Ron and I ...?" her hands moved, of their own accord, to her flat stomach.
"We're only 17," Ron protested. "We can't be parents at 17. How would that look?"
"That's the smartest thing you've said or done in a few weeks, Ronnie," Fred told him.
"The smartest thing I've done," Ron said as his eyes met his older brother's, "was telling Hermione I loved her and marrying her."
"By running away," Harry pointed out.
"Were there any attacks while we were gone?" Ron asked his best mate in a scathing tone.
"Hey, I'm the one who told them to lay off you," Harry told him. "I'm just sore that you ran off and I wasn't invited to the wedding."
"We couldn't help it," Hermione said softly. "He proposed and less than 12 hours later we were married."
"So he could sleep with her," Bill muttered.
"What!" Molly screamed.
"That's how we found them, Mum. In the bed having a tumble."
"Were you being careful?" Molly asked.
"Yes," Hermione told her defiantly. "I'm not ready to be a mother."
Ron moved to put an arm around her, a sigh escaping his lips. "You can't possibly think that the war will continue until Hermione gets pregnant," Ron said to Lupin.
"I'm afraid it's true. Hermione's child is the only one who can end the war ... or, the conception of her child, that is. After about five months, the fetus will start to show magical ability. At that point, a baby from the Light will exude such power as to protect Harry and everyone in the Light. A baby from the Dark will show such power as to instantly protect Voldemort and his closest followers, mostly Malfoy and those he chooses," Lupin explained. "I'm afraid the end of the war lies in Hermione."
"This is why I wanted her protected!" Ron yelled. "She's the key! I can't ... Hermione has to have a guard on her at all times."
"You as well, Ron," George said. "He can't do anything to her as long as you're married."
"This is why we left," Ron mumbled.
"I think I need to leave," Hermione said as she silently stood and walked out of the room.
Ron's eyes followed her all the way out before he turned back to the questioning glances of his family. "She needs some time. She just found out her child is the only way to end the war. She's 17 years old ... just leave her be," he reiterated as he saw his mother stand. His eyes fled to Ginny. "Just give her a little bit of time."
Harry's eyes wandered to the door Hermione had fled out of. She had grown so much in the last few days alone. Orphan. Wife. Key to saving the wizarding world. He'd thought he had it bad. He was the Savior. His link with Hermione was what would ensure a victory for the Light. Best not hack her off any time soon.
"I, uh, I reckon ..." Ron started. "Oh to hell with it," he muttered. "I'm going to go upstairs with Hermione." Before anyone could protest, Ron was out of his seat and out the door, heading towards the stairs.
"It's not that I don't love the girl," Molly began, "It's just that they're so young ... married at 17."
"We were married at 18," her husband reminded her gently.
"It's not the same," she protested.
"No, it's not," Arthur agreed. "And it's not the same because he's your baby boy, isn't it? They love each other, Molly. Who are we to tell them that the love they share is any different from the love we shared at their age. So they got married before the left Hogwarts ... it's not as great a tragedy as you seem to think it is."
"They'll have to stay in separate quarters."
"No they won't, love. You know things like this have happened before. Students used to marry much earlier than Seventh Year back in the old days. Don't be angry before you give them a chance to be happy. It's as new to them as it is to us."
After a few moments of silence Molly whispered, "We have another daughter."
"Yes, love," Arthur smiled as he kissed the top of her head. "Yes we do."
"Hermione?" Ron asked as he peeked into the room she was supposed to be sharing with Ginny. "You in here, love?" He pushed the door open wider and saw that the room was empty. With a crinkled brow, he made his way to his own room. There, on his bed, was his wife. She was laying flat on her back with her flat stomach exposed.
"I'm too young to have a baby."
"I know, love," he told her as he moved to sit beside her. "We don't have to have children until you're ready."
"We can't wait," she whispered to him. "Not if this ... this nonexistent baby is the only way to end the war. We can't allow innocent lives to be taken because I'm afraid to be a mother at 17. I won't be the reason for more death," she said as she sat up and placed her lips on his neck. "I can't bare to think that anyone would die because I'm too afraid."
"Love, it's okay to be afraid. We're still kids ourselves. They can't seriously believe ..." he trailed off.
"They do. And ... and we must," she replied, a heavy pang hitting her square in the chest. "Shield the door," she told him.
"Not here. Not now."
"The sooner we do this ..."
"Hermione," he said as he took hold of her shoulders, "listen to me." His eyes caught hers and he noticed they were strangely and alarmingly blank. "We are not going to do this just because they say it's the only way. There has to be something else."
"If you want to leave me after I get pregnant I won't be mad at you."
"What!" he nearly screamed. The strength and decisiveness of that statement grounded him faster than anything else. It was like instant cold water. "Do you think I would do that?"
"I know you're not ready, Ron. And it's okay. I'm not either. But I don't want this war to go on any longer than it has to. I don't want your family to die."
"Our family," he corrected her. "Hermione, you were just saying that you don't want to be a mother at 17."
"I'll be 18 before I have the baby," she told him.
"Stop dodging the point. You're terrified."
"Of course I am!" she shouted. "I was just told that my child will end the war. And it's either yours or Malfoy's. And, whether the idea of being father to my child is appalling or terrifying, I know you'd rather do it than let Malfoy do it." She paused for a moment. "Unless ..."
"No, Hermione. I want to be the father to all of your children. But we're not old enough. We can't possibly ..." he trailed off and looked into her now-settled eyes. One look and he saw that yes, she was scared, but a part of her wanted it as well. She wanted to be a mum and was more than willing - hoping, really - that he would be the dad. He looked deep into her eyes. "I love you."
"I love you too," she whispered as a small tear fell down her cheek. She swallowed heavily and reached down to grab the hem of her shirt. "Now would be a good time to shield the door. I don't reckon it would be a good thing if anyone came in for this."
"What?" he asked with a cheeky grin. "Don't you think my family would want to be around for the conception of the child that's going to save the arses of the entire wizarding world?"
"Don't swear," she said as she pulled the shirt over her head and he shielded the door.
"Don't worry, love," he mumbled as he knelt before her and placed a kiss on her bare stomach. "The baby can't hear us."
"There is no baby yet," she whispered.
"I'm a Weasley, love. There will be in about an hour."
"An hour?" she asked with a smirk. "Giving yourself a bit of extra credit, are you?"
He laughed joyfully at the return of her playful side. He loved how she could push aside the pressure and become his wild, fun, loving wife again. "It's not extra credit, babe, it's fact."
As soon as they were done making love and Ron collapsed beside her, they both exhaled deeply and groaned knowing they would have to get up and go back to see the family. Hermione didn't want to get up. She wanted to stay safely wrapped in her husband's arms for the rest of her life. When she felt Ron shift she whimpered in protest. "Not yet, love. Just ... just a few more minutes." She snuggled closer to him and tried to use her small frame to prevent him from getting any further away.
"We have to go back down," he said as he placed a soft kiss on her lips. In all honesty, he didn't want to leave either. He loved it when it was just them. That's why Australia was so great. They got to be themselves and be together and love like they wanted to. They didn't have to worry about war or nosy brothers barging in on their private moments. As much as she loved being with their family, she longed for the quiet beaches and the gentle waves that slowly crashed just outside their flat.
"I don't want to go yet," she pouted. "I wanna stay up here."
"We can come back later," he laughed. He had never imagined that he would have to be the strong one in their marriage. He always imagined she would be pulling him out of bed and telling him to get ready for work or he'd be late. He would always imagine himself pretending that he was getting up and then pull her back down to the bed, pinning her there and ticking her until she succumbed to his desires. Never in his wildest dreams did he see himself dragging her out of bed.
"Or we can come back right now," she said with a wicked smirk. She didn't want to go back to the real world. She wanted to stay wrapped up in their little world without interruptions.
He loved the way making love with her always made her want it again. And again. "Love, I think I may need a little more recovery time," Ron laughed. He didn't really but he thought they should go back down to the kitchen and spend some time with his family. They had been gone for so long and he did want to tell his family all about their time. Maybe I can just owl payments to the bloke over there and keep the flat. Me and 'Mione can move over there and have our own little space and ... family.
"I'll go slow," she told him, oblivious to his thoughts, as she slid down his body. Her lips blazed a trail of fire from his adam's apple all the way down to the spot where the blankets tented.
Needless to say it took them another hour and a half to get to the shower. And another 45 minutes after that to get downstairs.
She and Ron held hands as they joined the Weasleys and guests into the kitchen.
One week later they were all congregated in the kitchen again, this time discussing last-minute plans for Harry's birthday, which was only three days away. They hadn't seen Remus in that time, figuring it was all due to the full moon.
"He'll be back soon. The full moon ended last night, so he's probably sleeping it off. He'll be around for supper, I suspect," Arthur said.
"Great news," Remus said as he entered the kitchen with a wide smile on his face. "I've found a spell that can be used in the place of ..." he trailed off as his eyes darted to Hermione's stomach. Soon, all eyes followed his and were glued to the young witch, Ron's included.
"What?" she asked with a furrowed brow, her eyes not looking down but look at the other faces in the room. "Is there ...?" she trailed off as she finally looked down. Her eyes nearly bugged out of her head. Her stomach was glowing. "What in the ..."
"Please tell me you didn't go do what it's become clear that you did," Bill said, his eyes nearly as wide as Hermione's. "Please, please, please tell me that you two didn't run off and ..."
"What the bloody hell is wrong with her?" Ron asked, ignoring his brother. His hand moved down to her stomach and he felt that the light had a warm glow to it. "Are you okay, 'Mione?"
"I feel fine," she said to him with a furrowed brow. "It's strange. I feel perfectly normal aside from a bit of heat in my stomach. I mean, I just feel ... normal."
"You won't in a moment, I expect," Tonks muttered, her eyes flittering down to the table top.
Before the words finished coming out of her mouth, Hermione was clutching her stomach and running for the nearest rubbish bin. She quickly emptied the contents of her stomach and shakily made her way to a chair as Ginny handed her a glass of water. "What was that all about?" she asked after she took a few sips. "I felt great one second and then like I was going to die the next."
"Welcome to the world of being a pregnant witch," Molly said with a sigh. "Honestly," she turned to glare at her youngest son. "You couldn't even wait and let the idea sink in?"
"Don't go blaming me. You said it was the only way. Neither of us wants to see this war go on any longer than it has to. Plus, we wanted to be parents some day ... why not now?" He didn't take the time to digest the fact that his wife - his 17 year old wife - was pregnant with their child. The first of many, his mind told him.
"It's July, Ron," Harry said.
"Well she won't have the baby tomorrow. And I don't see what the month has to do with it anyway," he replied.
"The baby should be due in April," Ginny told him slowly. Hermione's eyes started to widen with terror.
"And ...?" Ron prodded, clearly not knowing what was going on. In all truth, he didn't see why they were making such a big deal out of ... his eyes widened as well as his brain finally snapped to what they were all on about. School.
"Ron?" Hermione asked slowly and softly.
"Yeah," he said. He didn't have to say anything more. They both knew it now and it would kill Hermione. She was due the end of April. N.E.W.T.s began in the beginning of May. Something would have to give and he knew beyond anything that, even though Hermione knew which she would choose, she would think about it. And make herself sick with worry about it.
"I can't go back to school," she whispered.
"Sure you can," Ginny told her as she wrapped a soothing arm around her friend.
"No," Hermione whispered. "The baby will start showing magical ability in December. Probably right before Christmas holiday. I mean, I could probably go back until then," she rambled.
"We have time to think about that later," Ron said.
Hermione nodded slightly before the tears started to fall. She honestly didn't think it would be this easy. She figured it would take them a couple of tries. That would have given her time to get used to the idea of being a mother. This was too much too fast. She was going to be a mother before she graduated from Hogwarts. She would be pregnant in school.
"Ron," she whispered. She had no idea how it had come to this. A week earlier they had told her she had no choice but to conceive a child. Now Lupin had found an alternative. She didn't know if she was happy that they wouldn't have to use the spell or terrified because, at 18, she would be a mother. She knew it was not uncommon these days for muggle girls to be pregnant at that age but witches, she imagined, waited longer.
"Yes, love?" he whispered back as he cradled her sobbing form in his arms.
"We're going to have a baby."
"Yeah," he said with a tiny smile. "We are."
"So," Hermione said to Lupin as she dried her tears and put on her determined face, "tell me about how this magical ability thing will work out with the baby."
"Well," Lupin told her, "it's really quite simple. You go about life as normally as you can. In about December, I believe you said, you should be feeling a bit more peaky than normal. That's because the baby will be starting to show magical powers. He or she will not consciously be able to tell what they're doing – they're not even going to be fully developed – but at that time, the child will choose between the Dark and the Light. It's pretty clear to me that the choice will be mainly yours. So, Harry," he said, turning to look at the young man, "don't hack Hermione off. If she's in a good mood with you as soon as the baby starts giving off bursts of power, the end will come quickly. From what I've read about you, Hermione -."
"Read about me?" she asked.
"Well, I didn't know it was you until I met you, but yes. From what I've read, you will be pulled to Voldemort and the baby will … eliminate him and his followers. Anyone who's ever pledge allegiance to him."
"Are you sure?" Ron and Hermione asked at the same time.
"Positive. In five months, this will all be over."