I really hope you don't mind reading the Christmas chapter a few months delayed. :P But as the chapter is only set around Christmas and not actually is about it, I think it will be fine. :)


15. Obligations and Cooking Lessons


"Finally!" Ron exclaimed relieved as he put his parchment and quill away. "I thought this week would never come to an end."

"Yeah, especially the last few hours went by excruciating slowly," Harry agreed quietly so that Professor McGonagall wouldn't hear him.

"Two weeks of lazing around ahead of us," Ron sighed contentedly when he, Harry and Hermione headed towards the door, not bothering at all to lower his voice. "It's going to be great."

Hermione smiled at him doubtingly. Knowing his mother, there wasn't a lot of lazing around before Christmas. She was pretty sure they all would be busy with Christmas preparations the upcoming week.

Professor McGonagall, who of course had heard Ron's comments, couldn't resist calling him back. "Mr Weasley, one moment please. Before you start your most exciting holiday activities, would you perhaps be so kind and clean the blackboard for me? Thank you!" she said with a twinkle in her eyes and left the room.

Ron stared after her, totally perplexed, his mouth hanging wide open. Harry and Hermione burst out laughing at the sight of him. "Have fun, Ron!" Harry snorted as he too left the room. "See you later!" Hermione added and followed Harry and Professor McGonagall.

"What?" Ron asked startled. "No! Wait! Hermione what was the spell again to clean the blackboard?" he called after her, but she simply ignored him, still laughing.

xxx

The next morning, Ron, Harry, and almost everyone else in Gryffindor run around hastily, searching the whole tower for lost belongings they might need during the holidays.

"Bloody hell, where is that damn other sock?" Ron cursed, throwing all his clothes out of his trunk. "I know for a fact that I had two of them."

"Why don't you just use another pair?" Harry asked.

"They are all dirty, that's why," Ron groused, now busy shaking the clothes on the floor out.

Harry simply shrugged and knelt down to check if any of his things have found their way under his bed, but all he saw was a single maroon and well-worn sock.

"Are you looking for this?" he asked revolted, holding the sock up, using only the tips of his fingers. "Because it doesn't look clean at all!"

Ron ignored his last comment. "Where did you find it? Never mind, give it to me."

Harry handed Ron his sock, who hastily put it on, and then gathered the pile of messed up clothes from the floor and threw them unceremoniously back into his trunk.

"I'm ready, let's go!" he announced and was already out of the dormitory before Harry even realised what was going on. Shaking his head at Ron's behaviour, Harry checked the room one last time, then closed his trunk and followed Ron.

xxx

Molly greeted them on the platform. One after another was pulled into a tight hug. But before it was Hermione's turn, Molly held her away on arm's length to admire her protruding belly.

"I can't believe I'm going to be a grandmother in a few of months already. You look great, Hermione!"

"Thanks," Hermione smiled, blushing slightly, while Ron beamed proudly besides her.

"You've got to tell me everything that happened so far," Molly said happily as she finally hugged Hermione too.

"There isn't much new to tell," Hermione replied. "I've already told you everything in my letters."

"Never mind that," Molly shrugged her off. "Just tell it me again. This is my first grandchild, I want to know everything that's going on, every little detail."

Hermione laughed. "Fine, but don't blame me if I bore you with it, because I love describing things very detailed." And so Molly and Hermione led the small group towards the exit, absorbed in their conversation about the baby.

xxx

The next day, after breakfast, they had settled down in Ron's bedroom. Harry was lying on his bed, reading one of Ron's comics while Ron and Hermione were sitting on the floor next to him, going through boxes of old baby clothes of Ron and his siblings, looking for something they still might want to use for their own child.

"Oh Ron, look at this! It's adorable," Hermione said, showing him a maroon, self-made jumper that clearly once belonged to him.

"You've got to be kidding me," Ron exclaimed horrified. "There is no way we are keeping this ugly thing."

"Why not?" Hermione asked taken aback. "I think it would look cute."

Ron looked at her flabbergasted. "Seriously? What the hell is cute about that old, ugly, and maroon jumper?"

"It reminds me of you," Hermione defended herself.

"Jeez, thanks," Ron said sarcastically as he scowled at her.

Hermione ignored him and turned around to Harry instead. "What do you think, Harry? Wouldn't you agree that the jumper is cute?"

"What? No! Don't drag me into this, Hermione!" Harry refused alarmed. "I don't want to be caught in the middle of one of your arguments. You know that!"

"Why not?" Ron wanted to know. "Not that long ago you complained that you feel left out whenever Hermione and I talk about baby stuff, and now that we want to include you, you want to butt out? Besides, it is your duty as his godfather to give us your opinion."

"Fine," Harry sighed and sat up. "But don't blame me if you don't like my decision," he warned Ron.

He took the jumper from Hermione and examined it thoroughly. "I would keep it," he finally said, handing it back to her. "As far as I can tell, it still is a completely fine piece of clothing. I can't find any holes or other damages."

"Are you completely sure about this, Harry?" Ron asked scandalised. "Because I swear I will make you take our son for a walk while he is wearing this ugly thing."

Harry laughed. "Honestly Ron, it's not that bad. You should at least keep it for now. You can still decide later if you actually want to use it or not."

"Thank you, Harry!" Hermione said happily and put the jumper on top of the To Keep pile.

"Don't even think about getting rid of it later, Ron," Hermione said when she noticed Ron glowering at the jumper out of the corner of her eyes. "If I can't find it later on, I'll simply ask your mother if she would be so kind to make a new one, and I'm pretty sure she won't deny doing that for me."

"Fine, you win!" Ron gave in. But he couldn't help adding. "For now!"

x

"Ron, Hermione," they heard Molly shout up the staircase. "Would you come down here for a moment please, we have something to discuss with you."

"What does she want now?" Ron complained, putting the tiny shirt he was just examining aside, and got to his feet.

"Don't know, but I guess we'll find out," Hermione said. "Help me up!" She held her hands out to him and Ron pulled her to her feet.

"Sit down, please!" Molly said as soon as they entered the living room.

Now a little concerned that they did something wrong, Ron and Hermione sat down next to each other on the sofa.

"It's not so long now until the baby is born and we wanted to talk to you about how we are going to handle it," Molly started the conversation. "We expect you to do as much as you can yourself. Of course your schooling shouldn't suffer and we are going to support you wherever we can, but this is your baby and we won't do you a favour if we take over completely. You have to learn to handle your baby yourself."

Ron and Hermione nodded in agreement. That was exactly what they expected and what they wanted to do as well.

"Ron, I'm also going to take you to the Ministry with me on Monday so that you can start on your new job," Arthur informed him.

"What?" Ron exclaimed in shock. "It's almost Christmas and the baby isn't even born yet."

"It's still a whole week till Christmas. Enough time to at least get acquainted with the job, and then you can start immediately working full time during the summer holidays."

Ron groaned unnerved and sank against the back rest of the sofa, rolling his eyes.

Molly watched him disapprovingly. "You knew this was coming, and shall I remind you that you agreed to it as well?"

"I know!" Ron moaned and leant back forward again, resting his arms on his knees. "I just never thought I would have to do that before the baby is born. I really hoped to enjoy my last holidays without having to be overly responsible."

Hermione gave him a small smile, and took his hand in hers, squeezing it lovingly.

Arthur clapped him encouragingly on the shoulder. "Come on, Ron, it's not that bad. It might even be fun," he said enthusiastically, beaming at him. "I for one am looking forward to having you with me on Monday."

Ron wasn't convinced at all that it would be fun, on the contrary really, but his father seemed to be really happy at the prospect of him coming along, so that he didn't have the heart to disappoint him by telling him that he didn't expect at all to have fun.

"I'm really sorry Ron, I was trying to get you a job as my assistant, but they wouldn't agree to this," Arthur told him sadly. "I'm not sure what they have in mind for you, but the Minister promised me they would find something suitable for you."

Ron only nodded at that, not sure if he should be relieved, or worried that he wouldn't have to work with his dad.

xxx

It was early in the morning when Hermione came down the staircase for breakfast. Much to her surprise, she found Ron already sitting at the table, stuffing amounts of food in his mouth as if he was seven month pregnant and had to eat for two, or by the look of it, rather three. But she couldn't help but smile at the sight. Slowly she walked over to him and placed a soft kiss on top of his head before she sat down next to him.

"Morning, what are you doing up so early?" she asked.

Ron gave her a small smile and replied, "Dad is going to take me to the Ministry with him today, remember? To get me a job!"

Hermione nodded absentmindedly, while Ron was piling an enormous amount of food onto her plate.

"Stop Ron, that's enough, I can't eat that much," she cried out horrified.

"No problem," he replied. "It's not for you anyway. It's for my son and believe me, he is very hungry!"

"Is that so?" Hermione laughed.

"Yeah," Ron grinned, leaning forward to kiss her on the lips.

"Hm, hm, sorry to interrupt your cosy little session, but Ron you have to hurry up, your father is already waiting for you," Molly interrupted them, causing them to jerk apart, startled.

Hermione blushed scarlet of embarrassment. Although being a couple for more than five month now, showing signs of affection in front of Ron's family, especially his parents, made her feel uneasy.

"And Hermione dear…"

"Yes Molly?"

"Since Ron is getting a job today, I thought I'll give you an introduction in housekeeping spells. What do you think?" Molly smiled at her.

"Sounds lovely," Hermione answered with fake enthusiasm. Ron arched an eyebrow at her and she gave him a miserable smile.

Ron smirked back. "I'll better go then. See you later." He was about to get up when he decided on a last mouthful of eggs, then still chewing, he left the kitchen to find his dad.

xxx

"All right, let's start then, shall we?" Molly said eagerly. "I thought we could begin with cooking spells. After all, there is nothing as important as being able to prepare a proper and healthy meal for a child, isn't there?"

Hermione only nodded, thinking about ten other things she thought were at least equally important, but she kept her mouth shut.

"First I'm going to teach you some basic spells, and when you manage them, I had the idea that you could make dinner tonight. How does that sound?"

"Great!" Hermione forced herself to say.

"Splendid! One of the most significant facts to know is that cooking doesn't depend only on the right amount of ingredients, or the precise wand movement, but it is foremost about taste and the right feeling of timing," Molly started the lesson. "One would reckon that it is quite similar to potion making, but let me ensure you, cooking spells are more complicated than you might think.

The crucial difference is of course the taste. It doesn't matter if a potion tastes awful as long as it provides the desired effect. But cooking is all about taste, isn't it? What I'm trying to say is that you have to develop a certain feeling for it."

"Right!"

"Let's try something easy at first, like boiling a pot of water," Molly suggested.

xxx

At the same time, Arthur and Ron arrived at the Ministry. After clearing Ron's presence with the security wizard, Arthur took him up to the first floor, where the Minister of Magic and his support staff were located.

They got out of the lift and set off along a long corridor, turned a corner and went along another corridor until they finally reached the office of the Minister of Magic himself.

Arthur knocked onto the door and a moment later someone called for them to come in. Two men were inside the office. Ron recognised one of them as the Minister of Magic, but the other one, he had never seen before.

"Morning Arthur!" the Minister greeted them. "And this must be your son, Ron? Nice to meet you, my boy!"

"Nice to meet you too, Sir," Ron said, shacking the hand the Minister offered him in greeting.

"This is Alaster Gumboil," The Minister introduced the man next to him. "He is looking for someone to help them out in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for some time now, so I suggested you for the job, Ron."

"Law Enforcement?" Arthur repeated excitedly. "That sounds interesting, doesn't it Ron?"

Ron nodded, but wasn't entirely convinced yet. But he supposed it could have been worse.

x

Ron followed Alastor Gumboil to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement on the second floor. After greeting the other staff, Gumboil showed Ron to a tiny, windowless office, hardly bigger than a broom cupboard. On one side of the room was a desk, almost invisible under huge piles of folders and stacks of loose parchments, and the remaining sides were covered with book shelves full of books in different shapes and sizes.

Ron's eyes were bulging and his stomach was churning when he saw the room. It was like he just walked into his worst nightmare.

"This is going to be your working place, Ron," Gumboil introduced unnecessarily. "I know it is a bit crammed right now, but as soon as those piles are gone, you'll see it's actually quite roomy in here. And at least you get your own office, right? I can tell you, not everyone is so lucky. Many of our employees have to share their offices with at least one other person, and you are only a temporary help."

Ron only nodded without really listening to what Gumboil was saying. He couldn't care less about his working place, but he was anxious to find out what kind of job Gumboil had in mind for him.

"What …?" Ron cleared his throat. "What am I going to have to do?" he asked a bit frightful.

"Oh you are going to love it," Gumboil promised enthusiastically and slapped Ron encouragingly on the back. "I found a real treat for you."

Ron smiled hopefully. So maybe those awful piles of folders and boring looking books were only stored in here, and he wouldn't have anything to do with them after all.

"You see those folders?" Gumboil asked. Ron's smile instantly disappeared, and this time he hardly managed to nod as the dreading feeling returned.

"What about them?" he croaked, and he had to clear his throat again.

"They come to us from the Ludicrous Patents Office," Gumboil explained. "Each folder contains at least one strange invention and they have to be checked over if they violate the wizarding law. And that's going to be your job."

Next Gumboil pointed at the bookshelves. "Those law books should help you with your research."

Ron went pale. It was even worse than he had imagined. He had feared he might have to put the folders in their right order and then store them away appropriately, but now he would actually have to read this crap!

"And what about those loose papers?" he asked, trying really hard not to sound as dejected as he felt.

"Oh those … well … you see …," Gumboil smiled slightly abashed. "Some of the folders are stored here for … a little while already. And, well, over the time, and thanks to some very clumsy employees, some might have lost a parchment or two. No big deal, really. Just put them back into their appropriate folder. Anyway, I have to go now. If you have any questions, you can find me in room number 919, just down the corridor on the left-hand side. Have fun Ron!"

Ron nodded in acknowledgement, not trusting his voice any longer.

"Oh, one more thing," Gumboil stopped at the door. "If you … for some reason … uh … might think that one of these applications isn't … uhm … relevant anymore … feel free to put it into the trash."

Ron frowned after him and then turned around to face his task. Slowly he approached the daunting looking piles of folders and parchments. How and where was he supposed to even begin?

Gingerly he reached for one of the folders on top of a dangerously crooked stack right at edge of the desk. In slow motion he lifted it up, fully aware that this whole thing could collapse any minute.

It didn't collapse though. Relieved Ron released the breath he didn't even notice he was holding, and opened the folder. It contained a few sheets of parchment. If Ron had thought his work couldn't get worse he was proven wrong immediately. The parchments weren't only closely written upon, but the handwriting was so awful that Ron had difficulty making out more than a couple of words at a time.

He quickly closed the folder again and decided to put it aside for now and to work on another one instead. Or maybe he should try putting those darn loose parchments into an order first. Ron sighed resigned and sank down onto the worn out chair in front of the desk.

xxx

Under Molly's careful supervision, Hermione had used her wand to chop up vegetables and stir spoons, boil water and add ingredients to it. Although she wasn't actually cooking yet, but merely practising the basic movements, Hermione gained a whole new kind of respect for Molly. The individual procedures were no problem to master, but doing several at once was actually really hard work and needed a lot of concentration, which surprised Hermione, Molly always made it look so easy.

"Very good, Hermione," Molly praised. "I think we can start on something more advanced now. How about you have a look at my recipes and see if you find one you'd like to try for dinner."

Hermione looked eagerly through the recipes, but couldn't decide which one would be the best to try first. She didn't dare to cook one of the more elaborate meals, but she also didn't want to make something too simple, because she hoped she would be able to impress the others with her cooking skills tonight.

"Why don't you make one of Ron's favourites?" Molly suggested after a while. "I think he deserves a little treat after his first day of work."

"Great idea," Hermione said excited and now only put a closer look at his favourite dishes.

"Oh dear," Molly exclaimed suddenly. "I almost forgot that I have some errands to run in Diagon Alley today. Do you think you could continue without me, Hermione? It won't take long, I promise."

"It's fine Molly, I think I can manage now," Hermione said confident.

x

Intently, Hermione read the instructions for the first step of the recipe. She wanted it to be perfect. Like Molly had suggested she wanted to try one of Ron's favourite dishes and she had chosen to make chicken pie. The recipe didn't seem to be too complicated, and Hermione was sure she wouldn't have any problems with it if she did it the muggle way.

Secretly, Hermione hoped to make the best chicken pie Ron had ever tasted. Of course she would never admit it aloud, but if she managed to create an even better pie than Molly that would be awesome. Ron would be happy and so proud of her.

"Hey Hermione, how does it go? Do you need some help?" Harry asked as he turned up in the kitchen to get something to drink.

"No thanks, Harry, I have to do this on my own. Besides, you are not of age yet, so you couldn't help me anyway. But you can keep me company if you like."

"That I can do," Harry laughed and stole one of the uneven pieces of the carrots that Hermione was busy chopping up right now.

xxx

Ron scowled at the clock next to the door. He was sure that thing was moving extra slow on purpose. Only four hours had passed and he already had been bored to death with his job after the first few minutes.

Groaning he shifted his attention back to the folders in front of him. He had given up on the loose parchments ages ago, because he had no idea how to sort them out. Most of them gave no indication whatsoever where they might belong to, no name or date, only an excerpt of the application itself, which meant that Ron had to read them first before he could even begin to look for their respective folders.

Languidly Ron pulled a thin, but very battered looking folder from one of the rear stacks, hoping this one wouldn't take so long to work on as it only contained two sheets of parchment. He quickly scanned the text, looking for something that might prevent him from reading the whole thing. But it was no use, he couldn't find anything in the text that might help him. He sighed in defeat and was just about to start reading when his gaze wandered to the date on top of the parchment.

"1648?" Ron whispered unbelievingly. "Is this some kind of joke?" But then he remembered Gumboil mentioning that some files might not be relevant anymore. Ron rolled his eyes and unceremoniously threw the file into the trash.

"One down, 6 million more to go," he glumly told the grim wall.

xxx

By the time Molly came back, the pie was already in the oven and Hermione had started on the pudding.

"Sorry my dear," Molly apologised when she entered the kitchen, her arms full of purchases and her clothes stained with soot from the fireplace. "It took much longer than I expected. You won't believe how many people decided to do some last minute shopping today. I mean it's not like they didn't know earlier Christmas is coming, but every year it's the same, people behave like they've just noticed it is around the corner and clog up the streets and shops."

"It's okay, Molly, I've managed everything on my own, and the pie should be ready soon." Hermione informed her proudly.

"Oh, is it now?" Molly asked astounded. She went over to the oven. "May I?"

"Of course!"

Molly opened the oven and examined the pie. "It looks great, just as it is supposed to. I knew you could do it, Hermione!" she beamed.

x

"Harry, Ginny, come down here and help setting the table!" Molly shouted up the staircase.

"Hm, Hermione, that smells delicious," Harry said as he entered the kitchen a few moments later, inhaling deeply.

"Thank you, Harry!" Hermione blushed a little at his compliment.

"Hermione did a great job," Molly said proudly and handed Harry and Ginny plates and cutlery.

"Do you know all about cooking know, so that Ron won't starve if the two of you ever move together?" Ginny asked.

"Well, not everything, of course. There are so many details to keep in mind, I've never thought cooking spells would be so complex, but I think I managed the basics now," Hermione smiled, very pleased with herself. She couldn't wait to see Ron's face when he took the first bite of her pie and she would be able to tell him that she made it all by herself.

She didn't have to wait long. Soon after, the fireplace lit up and Ron and Arthur arrived home.

"There you are," Molly greeted them. "And right on time, dinner is ready."

"Great, chicken pie, I'm starving," Ron exclaimed in delight, already reaching for the pie while still in the process of sitting down. After loading almost half of the pie onto his plate, Ron took a huge bite. Instantly his face screwed up and he spitted the pie back onto the plate.

"BUAH, that's disgusting, mum. Are you trying to poison us? It tastes awful, much like Bubotuber Pus mixed with Polyjuice Potion and dragon dung or something."

After his outburst the room went deadly quiet. Harry, who had his own fork halfway to his mouth, lowered it slowly back down again.

"Ronald," Molly scolded scandalised.

"What?" Ron asked annoyed. "This is disgusting, have you tried it yourself?"

Just then Hermione shot up from her chair and run out of the room.

"What's her problem?" Ron asked bewildered.

"You're such an idiot Ron," Ginny shouted and hurried after Hermione.

"What haveI done?" Ron asked stunned, turning to Harry for an explanation.

"Hermione had her first lesson in cooking spells today," Harry said uncomfortable.

"So?" For a moment Ron waited baffled for further explanations, then understanding hit him. "Oh crap," he cursed as he jumped up to go after Hermione himself.

x

He found Ginny outside of her room, knocking on the closed door. "Hermione? Open the door. Please!"

"What do you want?" Ginny asked angrily when she noticed Ron.

"Apologising to my girlfriend of course," he said guiltily.

"I don't think she wants to talk to you and your big mouth right now," she scowled at him.

"Listen Ginny, I know I messed up, again, and I get that you are angry with me too and only want to be there for Hermione, but this is something I need to fix on my own. So would you please leave us alone and let me handle this?" Ron asked somewhat resigned. It had been a long day and he really wasn't in the mood to deal with Ginny on top of everything else.

"Fine," Ginny said reluctantly after a moment of contemplation. "Just don't make it worse!"

"I won't!" he promised. "Thanks Ginny!" Ginny nodded at him in acknowledgement and finally left.

Ron took a deep breath to brace himself for the task ahead of him, and then knocked on the door. "Hermione?" he asked tenderly.

"Go away Ron!" Hermione shouted.

This reaction didn't surprise Ron at all. To be honest, he even thought she would completely ignore him, so her at least answering him actually gave him a little hope that he could fix things rather sooner than later.

"Hermione please, I'm sorry, I didn't know it was your cooking," Ron now pleaded with the door. "It wasn't that bad, honestly, just … different."

But of course Hermione didn't answer this time. She wasn't stupid; she knew he meant every word he said earlier about her cooking.

"Please Hermione, I'm really sorry. I had a bad day and the last thing I want to do now is fight with you."

Still no response, so pleading obviously didn't get him anywhere. "Hermione, you better open the door, or you will be responsible if I get expelled for using magic outside of Hogwarts," he threatened her instead. "And don't think, I won't do it."

After a few minutes of absolute silence, Ron heard the door click, signalling him that Hermione had magically unlocked it at last.

Cautiously, Ron opened the door and went inside. Hermione was sitting on the floor in front of her bed, her head buried into her arms that rested on her tucked up knees. She didn't look up at him, but Ron noticed anyway that she had been crying. Feeling even more guilty, Ron went over and sat down on the floor next to her.

"I'm so sorry," he mumbled again and then fell silent, because he simply didn't know what else he could say.

"I can't do this, Ron!" Hermione whined after what felt like an eternity to Ron. "I did everything the instruction said, but it went wrong anyway."

"That's not true, Hermione, you probably just need some more practice," Ron tried to ensure her. "It's actually not that hard, so I know you can do it eventually."

"How would you know how hard it is?" Hermione asked sceptically.

"Oh please, mum made me help her with the cooking since I was about five," Ron said, rolling his eyes.

"Maybe, but it is different when you have to do it by magic!" Hermione insisted.

"Nah, it's not," Ron played it down. "Granted, I only tried out a few simple things when mum wasn't there, like scrambled eggs, or my favourite pudding, but it all goes back to the right timing and having a feeling for the taste, doesn't it? But I suppose you need those skills also when you do it the muggle way."

Hermione scowled at him. "Well, I guess I don't possess those skills then," she said cuttingly.

Ron snorted. "Oh your timing is good. It did look great, but the taste was slightly off … fine, very off. But that is okay, Hermione, as much as you want to be, you don't have to be great at everything right away. With time, I'm sure you'll figure out how to do it. Because you are brilliant!"

Hermione smiled at him sheepishly and somewhat consoled. "Thanks," she whispered.

"No problem," Ron smiled back. He put his arm around her shoulders and drew her against him. "I love you," he said as he kissed the top of her head.

"I love you too," Hermione sighed contently as she snuggled closer to him.

"How was your day by the way?" Hermione asked after a while, detaching herself from Ron's embrace to look at him. "I think you said it was bad too, didn't you?"

"Horrendous actually!" Ron said gloomily. "I have to go through a million piles of ancient patent applications and check if they violate the law in some way."

"Really?" Hermione asked excited. "That doesn't sound so bad. In fact it sounds pretty interesting."

Ron gaped at her. "Are you nuts?"

"No, I'm serious. I've heard that the wizarding law can be very complex in certain areas. You have to check and double-check everything, because some laws might overrule the older ones, but in some cases the older laws are still in force although newer ones exist already."

"Are you saying that if I find a law that supports or denies the application, I have to check if there is another law that says the exact opposite and then I have to decide which one is the right one?" Ron asked incredulous.

Hermione nodded enthusiastically, which reminded Ron awfully of Alastor Gumboil. "You might even discover some loopholes, Ron. I bet with all these different laws from various time periods there simply has to be the one or other thing that doesn't make sense. Who knows, you might even be able to revolutionise the whole legislation."

Ron stared at her speechless, sure she had gone completely bonkers now. "I think you are exaggerating the whole thing a little Hermione," he said tentatively. "It's just a stupid and utterly boring job."

Hermione rolled her eyes at him. "It's not! Ron, this is a fantastic opportunity for you to get into Law Enforcement. You've got excess to the complete wizarding law, something no Hogwarts student ever had before. You'd have a huge advantage if you decide to choose Law Enforcement as your career."

"But I don't want to go into law," Ron whined.

Hermione sighed in exasperation and then they fell silent again, both dwelling on their own dismal thoughts.

"This whole thing sucks," Ron stated the obvious after a while.

"Definitely!" Hermione agreed subdued.

"On the bright side, tomorrow can only be better than today, because there is no way it can be worse," Ron said confidently. "Well, at least not for you."

xxx

But it didn't get better, neither for Ron, who hated his job even more with each passing day, nor for Hermione, who simply couldn't get the hang of cooking and not even once got the taste of the things she was preparing right. Even Molly didn't know what to do anymore to help her. Eventually they decided to try it the Muggle way, but unfortunately got the same results. Under close supervision and careful instructions, the meals turned out to be fine, but as soon as Hermione was on her own, something always went awfully wrong.

Both, Ron and Hermione, got more and more depressed and peevish as the week went on, and by the end of the week, they were outright resentful of the other one.

Hermione was angry that Ron couldn't appreciate the great opportunity he was given, and Ron didn't understand why Hermione wasn't able to get something as simple as cooking right, when she was nearly perfect at everything else, and he also was rather annoyed that she kept nagging him about the lack of interest he showed in his job.

To avoid further conflicts they had started to avoid each other, which didn't help their mood either, because they simply missed the other one. Then finally on Christmas morning Ron decided that he couldn't live with the tension between them anymore and that it was time to clear the air.

"Hermione, we need to talk!" Ron said as he found her in the kitchen, furiously added notes and further instructions to the recipes in front of her.

"Merry Christmas to you too, Ron," Hermione said coldly and kept on scribbling away without looking up at him.

"Oh yes, Merry Christmas," he said irritated. He had completely forgotten about Christmas due to recent events. Ron pulled the chair next to Hermione out and sat down. "Look, I can't stand this situation between us anymore, can we please talk about it and make up again?" he pleaded. "I miss you and the baby."

"We miss you too," Hermione confessed and finally put her quill down. "And I hate fighting with you."

"Good, so let's get past this," Ron smiled relieved. "Hermione, I know you are angry with me for hating the job, but fact is that I do and nothing what you say will change that. I'm sorry that I can't see it with your eyes and I honestly tried to regard it as the great opportunity like you do, but it's no use, I still hate doing it. I've come to terms with it though. My job sucks, but I have to do it anyway so that I can provide for my family one day. No more whining about it, I promise."

"Ron!" Hermione sighed. "I don't want you to settle for a job that you hate just so that you can make enough money. There is no need for that. I admit that I was rather angry at you for not appreciating the opportunity you were given, but only because I am jealous. I would do anything for this kind of chance to get into such an interesting job in advance, and seeing you dismissing it so easily simply annoys me."

"I know that, Hermione, but I'm not like you, I don't care about ancient wizarding laws or possible flaws in the system. To me this is just utterly boring stuff."

"Yes, and I'm about to accept that. I'm not angry at you for wanting to do something else, I'm just angry that I didn't get the same opportunity and that I will start right at the bottom like every other Hogwarts gradient when I'm going to apply for a job."

Ron looked at her puzzled. "What are you taking about?"

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked equally puzzled.

"Hermione, you don't have to get a job. That's what this whole thing is about, remember? That I will be able to provide for you and the baby. Besides, you already have a job in a manner of speaking. Your job is to look after the kid and do the housework."

Hermione stared at him totally aghast. "There is no way I'm going to become a stay at home mum," she protested. "As soon as I've finished with school, I intend to get a real job as well."

"Oh yeah? And who is going to look after the child? Because I don't think my mum and dad are going to be happy to keep taking care of him after we have finished school just because you want to work as well," Ron pointed out, getting angry and frustrated once again.

"That's what day care is for, isn't it? To make it possible for both parents to have a job." Hermione said, sounding a bit patronising.

"What the hell is day care?" Ron was at a loss now.

"It means that someone is looking after our child while we are working and is being paid for doing it. Ideally there are other kids as well, so our child won't be alone and learns to go along with other kids fairly early," Hermione explained.

"Let me get this straight, you want to give our child to strangers, just so that you're able to go to work?" Ron repeated unbelievingly.

"I admit it sounds bad if you say it like that, but basically yes," Hermione said.

"Hell no!" Ron shouted out. "We are not giving our child away to strangers just because you don't want to keep your side of the bargain."

"Excuse me what?" Hermione flared up as she sprang to her feet. "When exactly did we decide that I would stay at home, looking after the child while you can have a career? Because I certainly can't remember agreeing on something like that."

Ron looked at her totally baffled. "It's the way things are, Hermione. You are the woman, so it is your job to look after the children."

"Says who?"

"Everyone!"

"Well, too bad for everyone, because I want to have a career as well," she yelled and stormed out of the kitchen.

xxx

"I know it doesn't seem to be fair, Hermione, but Ron is right, it's your job to look after the child and his job to earn your living," Molly said soothingly while she was busy preparing dinner. "It may sound a bit old fashioned, but this is how it works in the magical world, and I for one always felt quite rewarded by taking care of the children."

"No offence, Molly, but I don't think that would be enough for me," Hermione said miserably, solely sticking to chopping up vegetables today as she didn't want to risk ruin everyone's Christmas by poisoning them. "I want to accomplish something besides being a mum."

Molly wasn't offended at all. "You know, before Bill was born I had something else in mind too than 'only' being a mum, but that instantly changed when I held him in my arms for the very first time. And then soon after Charlie came along and then the others and I was just too busy to even think about doing something else. I'm not saying it will be the same for you Hermione, but you never know, maybe being a 'mere' mum isn't as bad as you might think right now."

"I'm not thinking it will be bad, just that I'm sure it wouldn't fulfil me," Hermione whined.

"I think it would be possible that I continue to look after the child," Molly pondered. "But to be honest with you, I don't really want to do this. It is one thing to look after it while you are still at school, but raising another child for the next eleven years till it is old enough to go to Hogwarts, is not what I expected."

"Of course not, Molly, and I would never ask you to do that. That's why I came up with the idea to put her into day care. I would be able to work and our daughter could be with other kids of her age, making friends and learn how to share. It would be for her like having siblings, and if Ron and I decide to have another one, I think it wouldn't be so difficult for her to accept it."

"There is no such thing as day care in the wizarding world, and I don't think it would be a good idea to give the child into muggle day care. It could unintentionally reveal something about our world that could get you into trouble with the authorities," Molly argued.

Hermione sighed defeated. "But there has to be a way to have both, a job and a family. I can't believe no one has ever gone through the same predicament as I do."

"Oh I'm sure there are a lot of young witches nowadays who want to have both as well. But I think in the end they either yield to traditions, or their relatives agree to take care of the children."

Hermione nodded sadly.

"Maybe you can find a part time job," Molly suggested after a while. "I really wouldn't mind looking after the child 2 or 3 days a week. And I think it would be a good compromise for you between taking care of the child and getting professional recognition."

Hermione thought about this for a moment and then smiled. "I think I could live with that, for now."

Molly smiled back at her. "You'll see, Hermione, everything turns out to be fine. And who knows, maybe you will find looking after your child just as rewarding as I did."

xxx

After she had helped Molly as much as she dared to do today, Hermione went up to Ron's room, hoping that he would be in a good enough mood to discuss Molly's idea of her working 2 or 3 days of the week.

Ron wasn't there and she assumed that he hang out with Harry somewhere. Maybe he was even discussing their latest disagreement with him. Nervously she sat on his bed, waiting for him to come back.

"Hey!" he said when he entered his room about a half hour later, surprised that she was there.

"Hey!" she said back.

Then they suddenly started talking at the same time. "Ron I wanted to talk to you about something." "Hermione I've had an idea."

They both started laughing sheepishly. "Sorry, you go first!" Ron said generously.

"Eh, no, it's not that important," Hermione chickened out. "You go first!"

"All right!" Ron nervously took a deep breath. "Hermione, I've thought about the whole bloody situation. You know how much I hate the job at the ministry and you obviously hate the idea of becoming a stay at home mum, so… so what if we switch?"

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked totally taken aback.

"Honestly Hermione, sometimes you're a bit slow, aren't you?" Ron teased smiling, "I mean, you can go to work, doing whatever you want to do, and I'll stay at home, looking after our child and do the other stuff like cooking and washing the socks and whatever."

Now Hermione was at a complete loss of words. Did he really just suggest what she thought he did? Was he actually serious about this?

"So … what do you think?" Ron asked nervously when Hermione still hasn't said anything. "Should we do it that way?"

Hermione looked at him scrutinisingly. "Do you … do you really mean that?" she asked unsure.

"Yeah I do," Ron confirmed.

"And you do the cooking?" She still couldn't believe this was happening.

"Em ... well, yes … I mean, it can't be worse than yours, can it?" he replied a bit frightened.

To his utterly relief Hermione started to laugh. "No, I think it can't. Although I never tasted it myself, so …"

"Trust me, it was awful," Ron interrupted her.

"But what will the people say? I thought it is the way of things that the woman stays at home and the man earns the living," she asked still a little unsure that he actually meant what he had suggested.

"Screw them," Ron said vehemently. "Who cares what other people think? If there is even the slightest chance that it works for us, then I think we should at least try it."

"Are you absolutely sure about this? I mean you probably will be the only stay at home dad around here," Hermione pointed out.

"Yeah well, I will also be the only seventeen year old dad around here so what difference does another first make?" he shrugged it off. "Besides, I was actually a bit jealous of you that you would be able to spend so much time with our kid while I'm stuck in some dingy and stuffy room most of the day. So I guess we both get what we actually want out of it."

Hermione beamed at him and then threw herself into his arms, kissing him happily on the mouth. "You are the best, Ron!"

"So it's settled then, you go to work and earn the money and I stay at home with the kid!" Ron smiled happily back.


It feels so good that I finally was able to post this chapter, especially as parts of it (a few scenes of Hermione's first cooking lesson and Ron's reaction to it, and very rudimentarily Ron's idea to switch places) were already written way before I even posted the first chapter of this story.

Please let me know what you think, I would appreciate it! :D