30 May 2006

"Nnn…Hrrmynee?" Ron turned over, raising his head slightly. He'd distinctly felt the bed move, but the space beside him was empty. That was unusual.

"I'm fine, Ron, go back to sleep," said Hermione's voice from the doorway. Then their bedroom door shut with a snap.

Ron sighed, rubbing his eyes. Neither he nor Hermione had had a proper night's sleep in a week. Perhaps it was because Mum and Dad had made it look easy, or because he simply didn't remember a time when Mum was pregnant, but Ron had somehow always imagined that waiting for a baby to arrive was a much more peaceful activity. Punctuated with bits of frantic worrying, certainly, but overall—well, it was nine months, wasn't it?

He sat up, resting his back against the headboard, and yawned. Certainly, he'd expected mood swings, appetite changes, lots of preparation—after all, about ten seconds after Hermione had gotten the news from St. Mungo's, Flourish and Blotts had been completely cleaned out of every parenting book they had. Ron, being a good sport, had agreed to read a few of them with Hermione; she'd managed to find a few Muggle books as well, and those had been his favorite. Muggles had very strange ideas about how babies ought to be born.

"Look!" Ron had cried one night not that long ago, holding a book under Hermione's nose. "This lunatic wants you to let a sturgeon cut you open and take the thing out!"

Hermione had laughed. "You mean a surgeon," she said, her shoulders shaking with laughter. "Sturgeon are fish, a surgeon is a Muggle doctor, and it's his job to cut people open."

Ron, thoroughly disgusted, had stuffed the book beneath the mattress. "Like that's a whole lot better," he told her, picking up Magical Maternity Magazine. Hermione had shrugged in agreement.

For the first months of Hermione's pregnancy, everything went swimmingly. Hermione had occasionally unpredictable moods coupled with a generally cheerful disposition, odd cravings and a new desire to learn to cook, and absolutely everything that the pregnancy books and magazines had told them to expect. They'd gone to all their appointments, and the baby looked just fine in all of them.

Then, almost a week ago, around the beginning of her eighth month, Hermione had started having sharp pains in her stomach.

Anxious and frightened, Ron had hurried her off to St. Mungo's, where the Healers had kept her for two days. It wasn't false labor, but it was, apparently, a slight problem in Hermione's diet. She wasn't getting enough—something or other—all Ron had cared about was that Hermione and the baby were both okay, and that the Healers would be able to fix it.

Or, so it seemed. The baby had never moved very much—Ron teased Hermione that she must spend her entire day in the office of International Magical Cooperation waiting to feel a kick, and that's why Bulgaria had gotten the bid for the Quidditch World Cup next year. Although the Healers had treated Hermione, checked for the baby's heartbeat, and assured her that everything was fine, it had been nearly three days since she'd felt any movement at all, and she was understandably distraught.

Ron tried everything to make Hermione feel reassured that everything really was all right. He surprised her with flowers (this had alarmed Hermione more than anything else, and she had asked Harry if Ron had fallen victim to a jinx during a new Auror training session), he cooked dinner (or, rather, tried to cook dinner and burned it so badly that they'd just ordered in from the Leaky Cauldron), and tonight, he'd shown Hermione what he'd been doing all day after holing himself up in the nursery.

"Okay, open your eyes," Ron had said, stepping back and opening his arms wide. The walls were painted a very pale powder blue, decorated with white polka dots and trimmed with tiny yellow ducklings. It had taken a lot of difficult charmwork, but Ron had succeeded in making the little ducklings walk around the white trim near the ceiling, ruffling their feathers and nestling down into little yellow fuzzballs with beaks.

Hermione had taken it all in, clearly trying valiantly to keep a smile on her face.

"Her—Hermione?" Ron asked, stepping forward and taking her arms. "Don't you like it? I—I can make it another color—"

And Hermione had burst into tears, hurrying from the room as fast as she could. Ron sighed, hanging his head. He'd brought Hermione a tray for dinner and left it outside their locked bedroom door, but by the time he'd gone up to bed, the tray was untouched. Not bothering to Vanish the tray, he used Alohomora to get in the bedroom door—if Hermione really didn't want him in there, she would've tried harder to keep him out, he reasoned—and climbed into bed beside Hermione.

She was fully dressed, but fast asleep for the first time since leaving the hospital, so he had not tried to wake her. Instead, Ron gently kissed her tearstained cheek and put his arms around her very large belly as he drifted off to sleep.

Now, Ron glanced at the clock on his end table. He'd been in bed for nearly four hours, and had to be up for work very soon. He sighed again and climbed out of bed to find Hermione. A quick glance down the dark staircase told him she was not downstairs in the kitchen. Perhaps the bathroom—no, that light was out as well, and the door stood open. That left only one room.

Ron walked silently down the hall, unsurprised to see the nursery door standing slightly open. There was pale, silvery moonlight pouring into the hallway from the window in the little room; Hermione had opened the curtains. Ron pushed the door open quietly and leaned on the doorframe.

Hermione was gazing out the window, her feet up on an ottoman as she sat in the rocking chair Mum had given her last Christmas.

"It's the only thing that made my back feel better," she had said when Hermione thanked her. "Though you ought to be careful about getting stuck in it," Mum laughed, and Hermione and Ron had both grinned.

Ron watched as Hermione ran a hand through her hair, drawing a great sniff. Her cheeks were silvery with fresh tear tracks in the moonlight; she had not noticed Ron, whose heart was breaking into a million tiny pieces. He blinked back tears of his own, biting his lip hard.

Hermione rubbed her large belly gently, tipping her head back. Just as Ron thought he ought to go to her, Hermione lifted her wand—he was surprised, he had not noticed that she'd taken it.

Hermione twirled her wand in midair, and a second later, on the windowsill beside her sat a small box. She smiled rather sadly and set her wand down, reaching for the box. She lifted the lid, set it back on the sill, and nothing happened for a moment. Ron frowned.

Then, a soft, twinkly tune began to play, much louder than seemed entirely possible for such a little box, but so heartbreakingly beautiful and gentle that Ron closed his eyes to listen. He was very surprised when he heard a rather tired, barely audible voice start to sing—not well, she would have said, but just right for the song, Ron thought.

"Come with me…and we'll be in a world of pure imagination," sang Hermione softly, a little off on the notes. She sounded tearful. "Take a look, and you'll see into your imagination." Ron opened his eyes. Hermione had both her hands and all her attention on her belly, the only thing in the world that mattered to her right now.

"We'll—uhm—begin, with a—a spin, traveling in a world…of…my creation," she sang, barely keeping the tune now. Ron couldn't see her face, but he could tell she was crying. "What…we'll see…will defy—" Hermione gave a tiny sob, but kept going, "—explanation…"

Ron gave a loud, involuntary sniffle, and Hermione jumped, putting her feet on the floor.

"Ron," she said, clasping one arm around her belly and wiping her cheeks with her other hand. The twinkling tune played on as Ron walked in slowly, feeling his tears building in his eyes, but not paying any attention to them.

"I'm sorry," he said softly, sitting on the footrest before Hermione.

"Don't be," she answered. Her lip trembled. "It was wonderful of you. I—I'm just being stupid—"

"No," Ron said forcefully, swallowing a lump in his throat. "Don't say that. You're not stupid, you're—you're a mum, Hermione—"

They both fell silent as Hermione closed her eyes, tears spilling down her cheeks. She still held her belly tightly with both hands, and Ron reached out for her.

Slowly, Hermione loosened her grasp and allowed Ron to interlace their fingers. She opened her eyes and met his gaze.

He cleared his throat. "What's the song?" he asked quietly, for the music box was still playing.

"Something my mum used to sing for me, when I felt bad," Hermione said, rubbing her belly absently. "I can turn it—"

"No, leave it," Ron told her. "It—it's nice."

Hermione nodded.

"What's the rest of it?" he asked. "Will you sing the rest of it?"

"I can't sing, Ron," she said, shaking her head.

"You can," Ron replied. "You can for her," he said. A thunderstruck silence filled the room.

"Her?" Hermione asked weakly. "You think—"

"I—I don't know," Ron said quickly. "I—I just said it, I wasn't thinking about it, I—I don't know it—"

Hermione's chin was quivering. "I think you're right," she whispered, and Ron's mouth fell open.

"Yeah?" he asked.


And Ron squeezed his eyes shut, finally letting his tears fall. He still clutched Hermione's fingers, their hands pressed together against the hard curve of her stomach. He inhaled sharply and gave a dry sob. Then he lifted his head.

"It's going to be okay, Hermione," Ron promised her. "It is, I know it, it's going to be okay…"

Hermione nodded, still holding his hand, and turned her head to gaze out the window, leaning back in her chair. Closing her eyes for a moment, she found her place in the song, which still twinkled softly from the music box on the moonlit windowsill.

"If you want to view paradise," she sang softly, her voice breaking a bit, "Simply look around, and view it." She met Ron's eyes, squeezing his hand. "Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There's nothing…to it…" her voice faded again, and Hermione looked down at her other hand, still resting on her stomach. Ron extended his other hand and laid it over hers, nodding for her to go on.

"There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination," Hermione said, her notes slightly off as she made her voice louder, stronger. "Living there, you'll be free…" The music gave a soft little scale, and Hermione drew a breath. "If you truly wish to—to be—RON!" she cried suddenly, nearly leaping out of her chair.

"What?" he shouted, jerked from his reverie. "What's wrong, what's happened?"

"I—she—Ron!" Hermione said, her tears spilling over again, but she was laughing, holding onto her stomach, looking shocked. "Ron—here, feel—there," she said rather hysterically, seizing Ron's hand and placing it on the side of her belly, looking excitedly to him for confirmation.

"But that—that's—" Ron stammered. Just beneath his hand he could feel the baby, kicking and moving against his palm. His eyes burned with tears. "Imagine that," he said softly, only half-joking, and Hermione gave a watery laugh, more tears tumbling down her cheeks. She nodded, looking overjoyed.

"Imagine that."

A seriously belated birthday gift for a wonderful reader/reviewer, ThatSuperHotSexyBookworm, who requested a Ron/Hermione story using the prompt "imagination."

I definitely almost made myself cry when I started using the song, because the song just makes me cry in general. "Pure Imagination," of course, words by Roald Dahl, music by Leslie Bricousse and Anthony Newley.