Disclaimer: I am not JKR, and as such I do not own any of the characters or locations herein. I just enjoy winding them up and seeing where they go when I turn them loose.
Chapter One: The House of Weasley
"She's got what?" Ron asked. The mashed potatoes on his fork, granted a temporary reprieve when they had paused halfway to his mouth, made a desperate bid for freedom but were unable to achieve any greater triumph than plopping loudly back onto the plate below. Little droplets of gravy splashed up onto his robes. Hugo, who was seated in a high chair across the table from his father, giggled loudly.
"Honestly Ron, you know full well what I said," Hermione replied from the entrance to the kitchen. She reached around behind her back and untied the bright purple apron that she had been wearing. She tossed it onto a counter out of sight on the other side of the door before entering the dining room, but the outline of the apron was still clearly visible on her black shirt. The area it had covered was the only portion not blanketed in flour. Her normally brown hair also had a dusting of the fine powder, something that Ron was quick to pick up on.
"I like the new look Hermione," he exclaimed, "much more distinguished. I just hope I look as good as you do when I'm your age." Hermione fixed Ron in a puzzled glare, then turned and found her reflection in one of the fine silver plates that stood in a hutch beside the entrance to the kitchen. She burst out laughing, and relieved, Ron joined in. He had feared for a moment that he had gone too far.
Hermione pulled her wand out of a pocket in her jeans, and pointed it at herself, still looking at her reflection. "Tergeo," she said softly. Her hair rustled briefly as though blown by a light breeze, and Ron felt something catch in his throat. He loved it when she did that. She turned to look at her husband with a sly smile and then, much to Ron's surprise and delight, she winked at him. "Much better don't you think?" she asked.
"I- uh-" he stammered, openly gaping at her newly clean tresses. "So- Dragon Pox?" He was desperate to change the subject. If things kept on like they were at the moment, he was likely to do something in front of little Hugo that his young eyes need not be exposed to just yet. Hermione's smile faded slightly as the moment passed, and she walked over to the table and took a seat next to Hugo.
"Rose was feeling very ill this morning, so I took her to see Cho. She said it looks like a classic case." Hermione had grabbed the bowl of mashed potatoes from the center of the table and was spooning out more onto Ron's plate. "Please finish these off, all right? I don't know if I can stand to eat them as leftovers."
"Tired of mashed potatoes?"
"Well, we've had them just about every day since we got married," said Hermione, her face flushed. "One day I'll learn to make something else, I promise you. I'll- I'll take lessons from your Mum if I have to." Ron chuckled and reached across the table to stroke her arm with his free hand.
"Don't worry about it dear." He grabbed a forkful of the potatoes – whose fate had now been sealed – and shoveled them into his mouth. Ron couldn't complain, mashed potatoes were one of his favorite foods, and Hermione's were the best he'd ever had. She just couldn't cook anything else. "They're very good," he said without bothering to swallow, and his wife swatted at him playfully.
"Don't do that in front of Hugo, you'll give him ideas," Hermione chided. But it was too late. Already the toddler was babbling with his mouth full of mashed potatoes of his own. Gravy leaked down his chin and onto the tray of the high chair. "Oh dear." Ron laughed heartily.
"Little tyke wants to be just like his dad. And who could blame him?" he asked no one in particular. It hadn't taken long for Ron to adjust to having someone try to emulate him, rather than Harry.
"That's odd," Hermione retorted, once again pulling out her wand, "it seems to me that you're acting more like Hugo than the other way around. Tergeo," she said again, and the droplets of gravy disappeared from Ron's robes. Ron's cheeks turned the slightest shade of pink.
"So it's not serious then?" he asked, once again trying to change the subject.
"Not really, you were never that mature to begin with," Hermione quipped. She reached out a hand to Hugo, and took his hand in hers. She gently pried the spoon he was using away from him, and set it down on the table, out of his reach. "We don't want to grow up to be like Daddy, do we?" she asked while shaking her head. Ron couldn't help but smile, he had no idea how he'd gotten so lucky.
"I meant Rose – the Dragon Pox."
"Oh no, Cho says she should be fine. It's actually better for kids to get Dragon Pox when they're young. Once you've had it, you can't get it again for the rest of your life, and it's more serious to have it when you're older."
"But still," objected Ron, playing with the few mashed potatoes remaining on his plate, "little Rosie all green and covered in boils. I can't imagine it would be too pleasant." Ron was fiercely protective of his daughter; she looked and acted an almost identical copy of his wife. Hermione stopped dabbing at the struggling Hugo's face with a napkin, and smiled up at Ron.
"Well you don't remember having it, do you?" Ron tried to think back to his own bout with Dragon pox, but found himself unable to do so. He did remember when George had caught it though. Fred had been so devastated that the two of them no longer looked alike, that he had rubbed George's bedsheets all over himself until he had caught it as well. He felt a stab of grief, and blinked back a tear. Thankfully, Hermione had turned her ministrations back upon Hugo and didn't seem to notice.
"No, I don't remember a thing. I suppose it couldn't have been too bad."
"That's because you were too young to remember. I talked to Mum Weasley earlier, and she told me all about your case of it. Pretty mild by the sound of it. But that brings me to the point-"
"Oh! So there was a point to this then?" Ron asked, smiling. Hermione ignored the bait.
"I'd like to set up a play date with Harry and Ginny and the kids, so that they can hopefully catch it too."
"Are you nutters?" exclaimed Ron. "Why in the world would Harry or Ginny want three sick kids on their hands?" He was having a hard time just thinking about Rose. Hermione sat up straight, and fixed a glare at her husband.
"I'm not nutters, this is pretty common practice. It was Cho who suggested it actually, and you know she's a Mediwitch."
"And you didn't think that maybe she just wanted to give Ginny a bit of grief?" Hermione rolled her eyes, but Ron pressed on. "We both know that she's jealous that Ginny got the guy in the end." Hermione wadded up the napkin she had been using to clean Hugo's face, and threw it at Ron coltishly.
"Don't be silly, Ronald." Ron swallowed hard. There were only two occasions when Hermione called him that, and half of them he wound up sleeping on the couch. The other half he wound up not sleeping at all.
"I jus-" but he was cut off by a loud wailing coming from the kitchen. Hermione jumped to her feet quickly, and dashed off through the kitchen door. Ron, too, got to his feet, and he reached over the table and plucked Hugo out of the highchair. The toddler had started to cry at the sound of the alarm, and he now clung around Ron's neck tightly. "There there," Ron whispered as he bounced up and down gently. "Nothing to worry about mate. Your brilliant mum will have everything sorted in no time flat." True to his word, the alarm stopped only seconds later. Ron continued to bounce and coo to his son until Hermione reappeared in the doorway holding a pan of what appeared to be very black bezoars.
"Care for a cookie anyone?" she asked with tears in her eyes. Ron stepped forward and kissed his wife on the forehead. He took one of the burnt balls and popped it into his mouth. He instantly regretted it, the taste was unbearable, and it was burning the roof of his mouth, but he continued to chew as if his life depended on it. After finally managing to swallow – it took a good deal of finesse to actually get the hard lump down his throat – he smiled faintly.
"Your best yet," he said. "Truthfully." Hermione sobbed and dropped the tray to the floor with a clatter, Hugo opened his mouth and looked to start wailing again, but was surprised to find Hermione's body pressing against his as she kissed Ron with all her heart. He closed his mouth and reveled in the feeling of warmth from their two bodies.
Ron was quite sure that he'd not be on the couch for tonight at least.