Disclaimer: Harry Potter and its characters do not belong to me.
"Hermione I really don't see how it matters."
"How can you say that? Of course it matters. This is our child we're talking about."
"But is all this stuff really necessary?" Ron brandished the long list and looked at it in disbelief. Hermione's small, neat script covered one side of the paper and went onto the back. Jabbing at a random item on the list, Ron continued. "Look... changing mat. Do we really need a changing mat?"
Hermione just stared at him. Trust him to pick one of the most necessary items to complain about.
"Of course we do. What did you expect? You can't just have a baby, shove it in a corner somewhere and wait for it to grow up. You have to actually do something. Look after it."
"I know. I just didn't know doing something would involve so much... stuff."
"It's all necessary 'stuff' Ronald. But the baby's not due for three months; we have plenty of time left so we don't have to get it all today..."
Ron snorted. "We couldn't if we tried. There's no way we'd get all this home without making about twenty trips."
"Don't exaggerate. And stop arguing. We want to give our first-born everything they need, don't we?" Hermione asked, purposefully loading the question so there was only one answer her husband could give.
"Yes, Hermione." Ron sighed.
She nodded, satisfied. "Right. Prams."
They headed over to the left of the shop where rows upon rows of brightly coloured prams stood. Ron stared at the large number, his mouth falling open slightly in disbelief. He hadn't expected this many. How many different designs could there be for what was basically a basket on four wheels? Some quick arithmetic told him his answer and it made his head spin.
Apparently Hermione felt differently. Her face was filled with excitement and she smiled.
"Where to start?"
Ron walked over to the nearest one and walked around it, observing it from every angle. "This looks complicated. How are we even supposed to take it down when we need?" He bent down to reach underneath the fabric to the frame underneath. He began to fiddle around to establish how the frame folded.
Suddenly he swore loudly as the metal frame of the pram shut on the fingers of his left hand causing quite a number of excited parents-to-be to cease their cooing over blankets and bottle warmers to shoot him disgusted looks. Hermione looked on in despair.
"Er... isn't your husband in pain?" a voice alerted Hermione to the presence of a saleswoman beside her. The woman was in her early twenties and surveying the scene in alarm. Glancing at her name badge, she saw the woman's name was Elle.
"Probably. He's certainly swearing a lot." Hermione replied as she calmly observed Ron grappling with the frame and then sighed as a string of expletives escaped his lips. She winced as they became progressively more violent, hoping her baby was asleep and unable to hear his (or her) father's language. She didn't go as far as some of the other pregnant women who were positioning their hands strategically over their bumps in the places where they believed their babies' ears were. Hermione saw this task as rather futile mainly because she had no idea which position the child was lying in, so had no way of knowing where the ears were. Anyway, she was sure placing her hands on her stomach would do very little to muffle Ron's swearing.
She made a mental note to talk to him about acceptable language with an infant in the house before the baby was born.
Elle cleared her throat.
"Does he need any help?"
"In every way possible." Hermione replied dryly. "Know any good psychiatrists?"
Elle laughed appreciatively. "Sorry, no. But I can get his hand out of that pram for you." She stepped forwards and within a few moments Ron was free and staring at the deep purple bruise on his hand. He felt it gingerly and winced.
"Thanks." He nodded at Elle who smiled back at him as she folded the pram again, managing to keep all her digits out of the frame.
"No problem. I can get you an ice pack for that if you want?"
"That'd be great. Thanks." Hermione jumped in.
"I'll be right back." Elle disappeared through a door in the back of the shop and Ron looked up at his wife.
"Why?" he whispered. "I can just use mag-"
"This is a Muggle shop, Ron." She hissed urgently. "You can fix it when we get home but we can't risk anyone seeing here." She returned her gaze to the rows of prams. "Do you like any of these?"
"Not that one." Ron said, eyeing the one he had just been fighting with in dislike. "That one's lethal."
"You should have been more careful. And I'm sure it's not lethal. You just need practise opening them."
They walked up and down the aisles of prams, commenting on a feature every now and then. Elle returned a few minutes later to give an ice pack to Ron.
"Thanks." He pressed it to the wound and flinched as the cold temperature caused a sharp pain to spread across his hand.
"It's fine. Is this your first?" she directed the question at Hermione, gesturing to her stomach.
"Yes. I'm due in a few months."
"Would you like any help choosing some things? If you'd like I can come round with you and help?"
"That'd be great. We're not really sure what we're looking for."
Ron snorted again. "Not that you'd know it." At Elle's questioning look he held up the paper in his left hand. "She has a list. Seems to me like she knows exactly what she wants." Hermione snatched the list from him, shooting him a death glare.
"I told you. We need all these things Ron."
Elle looked on in amusement. "I think you'll be surprised at just how much stuff babies need. I'll bet there are some things that aren't on that list of yours. Anyway, do you want to start with prams?"
Ron backed away slightly causing his wife and Elle to smile.
They began walking down the front of the display, Elle adding comments on certain designs and pointing out prominent features. As they stopped in front of a large yellow pram which had caught Hermione's eye, Elle spoke.
"You're the Weasleys, right?"
At this Hermione's head shot up and she stared hard at Elle, whose eyes were still fixed on the pram before her, her hand caressed the soft yellow fabric of the blanket lying inside. Ron, who was reading the box of the packet of bottles he had just picked up from a shelf, wasn't really listening and it was a few more seconds before he noticed conversation had ground to a halt, but he still had no idea why. He looked from Hermione to Elle and back again.
"Harry Potter's friends?" Elle continued after a few seconds had passed in silence. Ron joined his wife in staring at the shop's employee.
"How did you...?" Hermione's brow furrowed as she regarded Elle with something approaching suspicion. Elle grinned and looked back at the couple.
"Check your hand." She said to Ron, who suddenly noticed his left hand was no longer throbbing. He lifted it and was amazed to see that there was now no trace of a bruise. Hermione seized his wrist for a closer look. Not even a mark.
"How did you...?" Hermione said again, turning her wide-eyed gaze back to Elle who was smirking at their looks of shock.
"You're beginning to sound repetitive. I always heard you were good with words. Actually I always heard you were good at everything. You wouldn't believe how much Professor Flitwick talked about you."
A look of realisation crept onto Hermione's face and she relaxed into a grin. "You're..."
"A witch. Yes." Elle said quietly, ensuring other customers couldn't hear her. "A 'just and loyal' Hufflepuff. I left a couple of years ago. I'm working here while I train to be a Healer."
Hermione smiled. "It's great to meet you. I'm Hermione and this is my husband Ron." She gestured to Ron who was still standing a little further back from the prams than the two women but he smiled when the women looked at him. Elle nodded.
"Hi. So do you know if you're having a boy or a girl?"
"No. We decided-" Hermione started.
"You decided." Ron muttered quietly from behind her.
"We decided," Hermione continued, shooting a look at Ron, "that we didn't want to know until he or she is born."
"Mum wasn't happy. She wants to know what colour jumpers to knit for Christmas."
"Tell her to go for maroon to match his or her daddy." Hermione teased lightly and Ron smiled good-naturedly.
"I've told her no more maroon. If you tell her to knit another maroon one I'll make sure you get one too and we'll be a little matching family."
Hermione and Ron both grinned at the mention of 'family' and Elle, who had been watching the exchange with interest and amusement, shook her head slightly. Hermione turned back to Elle.
The three of them wandered up and down the aisles of prams, Elle pointing out various important features as they went and by the time they had reached the end of the third aisle, Ron was dizzy from all the information. Eventually they chose a simple design with the most important features including an adjustable handle and a sizable storage compartment underneath.
The shopping trip passed in a blur of brightly coloured accessories and, despite his best efforts, as time went on Ron could barely disguise his piqued interest at the various items on sale. Blankets and bottle warmers, car seats and cribs, disposal units and dummies, baby monitors and bathtubs, Elle wasn't kidding when she said that babies needed a lot of things. And some of the items which had made their way into the trolley, as Elle had predicted, weren't even on Hermione's list. Ron stared in awe as the trolley rapidly filled up and, while the women were cooing over clothes to bring the baby home from the hospital in ("And before you ask, Ron, no the baby can't come home wrapped in a blanket."), Ron was already trying to mentally work out how to get all the purchases in the car.
Finally they headed over to the checkout to pay. Elle slipped behind the counter as the objects were taken out of the cart and placed onto the desk. Elle scanned the items through and continued talking to Hermione, albeit in hushed tones, about various Hogwarts professors as she did so.
Ron reloaded the shopping cart and waited while Hermione paid. When she reached out her hand for the last bag on the counter Ron knocked her hand out of the way. She looked at him with a raised eyebrow and a questioning look.
"You're not supposed to carry anything."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "It's not heavy, Ron."
"I don't care. I don't want you to carry it."
"Stop arguing." Ron said and Hermione grinned as she recognised he had parroted her earlier words. She rolled her eyes again and conceded the point.
"Fine." She turned back to the cashier and accepted the receipt held out for her. Ron tried, and failed, to balance the bag on top of the items in the cart, throwing himself over the cart and catching it from falling just in time. Hermione turned at the sudden sound of his fumbling behind her. He quickly righted himself and gave her a smile of such innocence that Hermione had to laugh.
"Come on then." She said and they began walking towards the entrance. As they reached the car park she continued, "That wasn't so bad was it?"
"It was okay." Ron said quietly. "What do we need to get next time?"
Hermione's eyebrows rose. "What, no sulking? No passionate but ultimately pathetic objections?"
Ron shook his head. "Like I said, it was alright. And we need to get everything ready for our baby."
With no small amount of difficulty, Ron pushed all of their purchases into the back of the car. Hermione had attempted to assist him a few times but, after becoming resigned to the fact that her husband's protectiveness and testosterone wouldn't let her, now stood at the side watching him lodge smaller items into any available space.
Twenty minutes and numerous sniggering passers-by later, Ron finally managed to shut the rear door and leant, panting, on the door, facing his wife.
"Alright?" Hermione asked, slightly concerned at the unnatural shade of red her husband had turned. He satisfied himself with nodding his reply, finding that his voice had deserted him. He waited for a few seconds before attempting any kind of speech.
"When we get home..." he paused while they both climbed into the car. "I'm not even trying to get that lot out of the car without help. I'll call Harry over."
"Ginny too. He won't leave her alone when she's so close to her due date in case he misses it; no matter how many times Ginny tells him childbirth isn't one of those 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' deals. You'd think he'd have worked that out after James took so long. Anyway, it'll be good to see them all." Hermione said as she started the car.
"We can all go out later, after we've unpacked." Ron suggested as Hermione manoeuvred the car out of the car park. On the way home they discussed the evening ahead of them, Ron's hand reaching over now and then to touch Hermione's stomach, smiling happily.
AN: Hi everybody! Hope you enjoyed the story. The character Elle is named after a friend of mine as a thank you for getting me into fanfiction and for generally being an all-round lovely person. Thanks Elle!