A/N I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that I am marking this story as complete with this chapter. While I may add chapters every now and then in the future, it won't be at regular intervals.
I never thought I would take this story to more than 5 to 10 chapters and here we are 32 chapters later. Amazing how an idea that popped in my head while in the shower (that's where most of them pop into my head) led to so many little stories. The reason I continued for so long is the wonderful encouragements I received from readers, along with great suggestions for chapters. I definitely wouldn't have gone that far with all this support, so a big great thank you to all of you!
This chapter is about sleep. I am getting a bit crafty here about the picture element and how it mixes with the theme. And fair warning, there are two stories involving sleeping babies (sorry, I was around one during e holidays and that's all I could think of). The second story happens after the story presented in chapter 25 (Growing Up) but it isn't necessary to have read the previous chapter. Finally, the stories go progressively happier, starting with a semi-angsty one and ending with a cute and gentle one. Consider yourself warmed if you don't like babies or cute ;)
About the good news: I have finally published the first chapter of a new multi-chapter story. It has been brewing in my mind for months and I finally managed to write the beginning. It is called Crossing Paths and is set after the battle. It explores how the relationship between our three favorite heroes and Draco Malfoy went from loathsome to civil as their paths crossed over the years. It will mostly be from the Ron/Hermione POV but Mr. ferret will have his turn too.
Anyway, back to this story. I hope you enjoy this chapter. You know what to do...
Disclaimer: despite what happens in my wildest dreams, I don't own Harry Potter.
Lily woke up with a start. She had just had the same horrible nightmare: Voldemort killing James in front of her and then going for Harry, her beloved Harry. As her breathing returned to a more even pace, she felt James's familiar shape and warmth next to her, his arm still wrapped around her waist, completely oblivious to the terrifying nightmare his wife had just had.
She gently extracted herself from his embrace so as not to wake him up. She briefly took a look at the photo sitting on her bedside table, of a happy raven-haired toddler riding a broomstick. Harry just zoomed back and forth, blatantly gleeful at being on the moving toy. Her heart felt both unending love and fear for her son.
She quickly got out of bed and reached for her wand. She made her way to Harry's cot, just a few feet away. She had refused to let him sleep in another room. She lit her wand with a dim light and looked at the toddler soundly asleep in his cot. Harry was so peaceful in sleep. His eyes, so much like hers, were closed, long black lashes fluttering lightly as he seemed to be in the middle of a dream. She saw a mild smile gracing his tiny lips, the same one he would give her, along with long hugs and sloppy kisses. He must have been dreaming of happy things, completely oblivious to the dark threat that had been cast upon his life.
As she watched his chest gently rise and fall, Lily remembered all she had to endure to bring him into this world. Birthing a child was no joke but it was so worth it. She tenderly pulled the gold and red blanket over him to keep him warm. He was so beautiful, so innocent. Her mind still reeled from the revelation that her sweet little Harry could be the target of the most dangerous dark wizard of all times, all this because of a stupid prophecy. Who could be so evil as to want to harm an innocent child?
Lily stroked Harry's messy black hair tenderly and almost jumped when she felt James gently rest his hand on her shoulder and ask her quietly:
"Is something the matter with Harry?"
"No, he is sleeping," she replied in the same hushed tone.
"Good," James said in a long yawn.
James bent down to kiss his sleeping son's forehead and murmuring he loved him.
Lily did the same and followed James back to bed.
As she lay her head down on the pillow, comfortably snuggled against James, she thought of how they had gone into hiding to protect their only son. And she knew she would do a lot more to protect Harry. She wouldn't hesitate to die if it meant the boy sleeping a few feet away could survive. There had never been a doubt in her mind.
Hermione felt drained. It had been a long and emotional conversation with her parents and then her father had left the room in obvious anger. Anger that his daughter had used magic to alter his memory. Anger that she had been hurt and that he had not been able to protect her. Anger simply that she had grown up all of a sudden, whether it had been her choice or not. He had come back and they had made up but she knew it would take time for her relationship with her parents to completely mend.
And now she was back in what had been her bedroom for so many years. As she perused the spacious and well lit room, she wished for a second that she could pretend that the past seven years had never existed. Well, no, that wasn't a good idea, she thought as she looked at Harry and Ron, each flanking her. If the past seven years had not existed, she wouldn't have met the two persons that now meant so much to her.
Neither one had ever been in her room. It was odd. She had spent too many stays at the Burrow to count and had even been to Privet Drive in Surrey but they had never been to her house until now. She saw Harry look around, as if confirming his vision of his best friend's room. Ron seemed awed. Her room had a computer and a CD player, and many other fascinating Muggle artifacts as she had rid the room of all traces of her belonging to the magical world at the same time she had altered her parents' memories. Ron reminded her so much of his father at the moment.
She saw Ron peruse the shelves full of books: her collection of Dickens, Shakespeare, Joyce, Austen, Elliott, Hugo, and many other classics. She saw him take a book off the shelf and was both mortified and touched that she still had it. It was "Sleeping Beauty", the exact same book her mother had read to her over and over when she had been five. The reason being that Hermione had questioned every part of the tale. Why was princess Aurora sleeping so much? And why hadn't she been given the gift of cleverness?
"Is that one of the Muggle tales you mentioned?" Ron asked her.
He opened the book and leafed through until he found the picture of what looked like a young woman lying on a bed, sleeping soundly. It stirred a memory of something Hermione had mentioned when she inherited Dumbledore's copy of the Tales of Beedle the Bard; some Muggle fairy tale about a girl sleeping for a long time.
"Sleeping Beauty," Hermione replied.
"What's the story?" Ron asked, his curiosity suddenly piqued.
"Seriously? You want to know about Muggle fairy tales?"
"Well, yes," Ron admitted.
He was intrigued by what tales Muggles were telling their children. He wondered what stories Hermione had listened to while growing up. Having just seen her parents had reminded him that Hermione had had a whole life outside of their world.
"Fine. Harry, why don't you tell him about Sleeping Beauty?"
Harry looked embarrassed.
"Hermione, I don't know the story. I've heard the name but it's not like the Dursleys read fairy tales to me."
"All right," she relented.
She started explaining the story to them and then declared:
"This has to be one of the worst tales ever told."
"Why is that?" Ron asked.
"Let's see," she started counting on her fingers, "first, why is it that the fairies give the gift of beauty and song before they even think about giving her the gift of a good brain? Maybe she would have had the sense not to touch the end of a spindle then. And then she just spends the entire time sleeping while she is conveniently being saved by her prince charming. Imagine a story where the main protagonist is asleep for most of it. Imagine if Harry had been asleep throughout the last year."
She had said all this without taking a breath and saw that both Ron and Harry were looking at one another with mirroring smirks on their face, oddly similar to the way they had when she had admonished them about not doing their homework until the last minute when they had been at Hogwarts. She was about to continue her tirade when Harry asked her in mock-offence.
"Wait, Hermione, are you comparing me to a fairy tale princess?"
"You certainly didn't get the gift of beauty, mate," Ron told him grinning broadly. "And forget about the gift of song. I heard you sing in the shower. It's bloody pathetic."
Hermione had to smile too but she wasn't done with her trashing of the tale and its blatant stereotypes.
"What about the magic presented? Why is the older witch evil? And why are dragons presented in such a dark light?"
"Right, Harry joked, slightly amused by Hermione's passionate outburst about a child fairy tale. Because dragons are fluffy and cuddly. I am sure if you had written the tale, the princess would probably have ridden the dragon to save the prince and escape."
"And she probably would have adopted the dragon as a pet or started a new movement called SPUD, Society for the Protection of Unchained Dragons," Ron chimed in.
That earned both Ron and Harry a slap on the arm but Hermione started smiling a bit broader.
"Oh, stop it, both of you."
But she was now laughing too and realised she was no longer feeling as drained as she had after talking with her parents. Nothing like self-deprecation and Ron and Harry. Who would have thought she would ever get a laugh out of silly fairy tale about a sleeping princess?
A quiet whine echoed in the silent night. Automatically, Hermione's eyes opened. She was exhausted but her body seemed to be tuned in to any noise coming from the little being sleeping in the adjacent room. She quickly got out of bed and noticed that Ron was still in deep slumber, obviously impervious to the light cries that announced his daughter was hungry.
As he had mentioned earlier, he was missing the equipment to satisfy that need, namely breasts. Breasts that were currently aching and full of milk, Hermione thought somewhat sardonically.
She went to Rose's room and gently lifted the month-old baby from her cot. She heard Rose babble and cry at the same time:
"I know, I know, Rose. You're hungry," Hermione soothed her. "You are such your father's daughter," she added with a smile as she installed both of them in a comfortable armchair. She opened the flap of her nightgown and offered the heavy breast Rose was seeking. The baby latched on and started suckling greedily as her mother gently stroked her light red curls.
After Rose finished eating, Hermione kept her in her arms, lulling her to sleep. Hermione felt utterly relaxed and it wasn't long before her own eyelids started drooping and sleep overtook her.
Ron woke up. He had felt Hermione get out of bed, likely to feed Rose, but he hadn't felt her come back. Groggily, he rose and went to check Rose's room. There, he found his wife and daughter soundly asleep in the old and comfortable armchair. He felt a surge of love for the pair of them at seeing them so beautiful and quiet in their sleep.
Slowly, he took Rose out of Hermione's arms and into his own. His little girl. He gently put her back in her cot, tenderly adjusting a soft hand-knitted blanket over the sleeping baby, before kissing her forehead.
He then took a still sleeping Hermione into his arms and carried her to their bed. He was about to fall back to sleep when he heard Rose starting to wail. Hermione shot up automatically.
"That's all right, Love," he told her. "I've got her. Go back to sleep."
Hermione seemed to accept this and dropped her head back on the pillow, causing a half grin to grow on his face.
He went back to Rose's room and lifted the baby from her cot. She was crying in earnest. He started bouncing her while walking, something that usually calmed her down, but she kept wailing. His nose finally caught up that it was just a dirty nappy. He hated the bloody things. Why was it that babies didn't come knowing how to use the loo properly?
Reluctantly, he lowered the baby back on her bed and attacked the offending nappy with the same disgust he would have felt if he had had to kiss Draco Malfoy. Thankfully, there was a charm to clean the mess up. He closed the now clean nappy back and thought Rose would just go back to sleep but she had other plans in mind. She was still wailing. Defeated, Ron took his daughter back in his arms and sat in the armchair. He swung her gently, humming quietly a nursery rhyme his own mother had sung to him years ago. After a few minutes, Rose had gone back to sleep, and so had Ron, his daughter still securely snuggled in his arms.
That's how Hermione found them a few hours later as morning came. She smiled tenderly at the picture Ron and Rose offered, soundly asleep in the armchair. She then reached for the camera that had seen so much use since Rose's birth and snapped a photo she knew she would treasure for years to come.
A/N i thought that was anice way to end this. I hope you enjoyed!