A/N: Dear faithful readers and friends, I am sooo sorry that there was a disgustingly long wait on this update! I just...life and other stories and my mending wrist...I'm sorry! I promise I will never abandon this story or any other story. Even if it takes me some time between updates I will never leave anything unfinished. So, I'll shut up now and I do hope that you enjoy this chapter! Also, thanks to my lovely friend deathlyhalfbloodprince because she was the one to nudge me along so I could update this fic.
The distraught voice definitely sounded familiar and Hermione turned over in bed, dimly trying to figure out what it was doing inside of her and Lucius' bedroom.
"Harry?" she asked groggily, lifting her head from her pillow and turning to face the sight of her disheveled and very anxious best friend. "What's wrong?"
"Ginny...her waters have broken...don't know what the fuck I'm supposed to be..."
"Wait, wait a minute, Harry!" Hermione interrupted, still somewhat incoherent from being jolted out of her nap. "How long ago? Has she started having contractions yet?"
"Not that long ago—five minutes or so. And no, I don't think so. She said she felt fine and was going to change her clothes but I didn't know what else to do so I ran through the Floo and—"
"Harry! Slow down," Hermione ordered, pushing herself to sit upright and glaring fiercely at her friend. "Take a deep breath."
Harry did as he was told, and eventually some of the panic left his green eyes.
"You're lucky that I'm not in my nightie," Hermione threatened, yawning as she shoved the lightweight blanket off her legs. "And what if Lucius and I were together?" she went on to ask, slithering out of bed and using her toes to blindly fumble around for her shoes.
"Your house-elf told me you were alone," Harry told her, bending down to help find her shoes. "So I knew I wouldn't accidentally catch you two...in...you know."
When he stood back up Hermione saw that he was blushing and she laughed.
"Ani is with Remus and Teddy for the day, and Lucius and Draco are tending to some business. So I'm free to go with you, but I should leave Lucius a note."
"Yes, you should," Harry encouraged, running a hand through his messier than usual black hair. "Because the last thing I need is your husband storming Grimmauld Place, asking why I've kidnapped his precious wife."
"Harry!" Hermione giggled, reaching for her wand and slipping it into her pocket. "Lucius isn't that bad, well... he's gotten better."
"If you say so," Harry replied dubiously, watching as Hermione scribbled a note and left it on the dresser. He then followed her out of the bedroom. "I still thank you for leaving a note, because I don't fancy having my bits hexed off."
When the two Flooed back to Grimmauld Place they found Ginny in the drawing room, wearing one of Harry's shirts and a dry pair of pyjama bottoms. She was sitting calmly on the sofa, flipping through the pages of a magazine and sipping a cup of tea as if she didn't have a care in the world.
"Harry, why the hell did you drag Hermione over here?" she asked with slight exasperation. "Not that I'm not happy to see you," Ginny added before Hermione could take offense, "but I'm fine. And Hermione, you should be resting."
"Well," Harry began, sounding baffled, "I just thought that you'd want Hermione here instead of—"
"—Mum?" Ginny finished with a mirthful expression on her face. "Yeah, I suppose you have a point. All she'd do is fuss over me and drive me batty. Pull up a chair, Hermione, rest your feet. Harry, you too, before you pass out."
"I'm not going to pass out," Harry grumbled, although he did sink down into an armchair opposite the sofa, looking as if a small burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Hermione took her place next to Ginny and pulled one of the sofa's decorative pillows into her lap. "So...now what?" he asked.
"There isn't much to do besides wait," Hermione answered. "It's not as if Ginny is going to drop the baby right this minute. How do you feel, Gin?"
"My back aches a bit," she replied after a minute, tossing her magazine aside, "but it's nothing dire."
"Hope you've had enough sleep last night, Harry," Hermione chuckled. "Because once her labor really begins, you won't be getting any rest."
"From what you've told me, there's no rest to be had once they're born, either," Ginny amended. "Didn't Aniella keep popping up in your bedroom once she began walking?"
"Yes," Hermione answered, shaking her head. "And she used every tactic possible as to why she should be allowed to sleep in our bed. Aniella is her father's child."
"You're right about that," Harry added from his side of the room. "Ani made a very convincing argument about why I should let her have extra biscuits. Then she made me promise that I wouldn't tell you."
"And you gave them to her, didn't you?" Hermione narrowed her eyes at Harry, feigning exasperation.
"What?! How could I say no to my goddaughter?"
"You know he's a pushover," Ginny murmured, leaning forward to rub her lower back. "All it took was one glimpse of that innocent smile and Harry turned into the cuddly lion."
"I am not cuddly," Harry protested. "I'll have you know that I am firm and manly. Very manly."
"Yes, you are," his wife murmured soothingly, turning her head to roll her eyes at Hermione, who had to fight back a chuckle.
"I thought you said you had enough baby blankets," Hermione asked, gesturing to the side of the sofa where a folded up, half-knitted yellow blanket lie, its ball of yarn and two knitting needles shoved into the middle.
"Oh, that," Ginny sniffed, giving the work-in-progress a casual look. "I do have enough, but mostly I began making that because I needed something to do with my hands. It was either knit, read, or sleep away half the day. Go ahead and add a few more rows if you like."
"I remember when you used to make those lumpy hats for, what was it called, puke?" Harry asked, watching as Hermione pulled the blanket into her lap and fiddled with the needles.
"S.P.E.W.," she answered crisply, jabbing the end of the needle into the next stitch with more force than was necessary. "And my hats weren't that lumpy."
Harry gave a barking sort of laugh, which made Hermione brandish both yellow wool covered needles in his direction.
"Careful, Harry, or you'll be getting those same hats as Christmas pressies this year," Ginny warned.
"That's if he's good," Hermione countered. "He might just end up with a stocking full of coal."
Harry continued taking the playful abuse from his wife and best friend. As time went by, Ginny would pause between sentences, inhaling deeply whenever she felt the tugging in her abdomen. Eventually she got up from the sofa, pacing the length of the drawing room and leaning against the wall for support when things because too intense. On her last pace, Ginny lingered near the hearth for a longer stretch, and Harry went over to ask if she was alright. It was at that moment that the fire glowed green and Mrs. Weasley's face appeared.
"Hello! Anyone in?"
"Hi, Mrs. Weasley," Harry greeted, remaining by Ginny, who was still drawing in deep breaths and clutching onto his hand.
"I've made far too much stew and those lovely sons of mine have decided to stay out for dinner. Shall I pop over through the Floo?"
"Err, yeah, that would be fine, although I don't know if Ginny is up to eating anything right now..."
At that moment, Ginny let out a soft cry that was easily heard by her mum. Hermione noticed that the worried look on Harry's face was slowly turning into panic, and he kept peering at the hearth, then his wife, and back to the Floo as if he expected Mrs. Weasley to walk through right then and there. Thankfully she appeared two minutes later, stepping through the green flames and into the drawing room.
"When did it start?" she asked Ginny after hastily waving to Hermione and setting down a basket that held the previously offered dinner.
"Sometime this afternoon," Ginny answered through gritted teeth. "My waters broke but I've been fine so far, until now—"
Another muffled groan cut off her words, followed by a stretch of strained silence.
"Good god, Mum," Ginny asked when she had finally caught her breath. "I think you're barking mad to have gone through this multiple times."
"Oh, Ginny, it was mostly a breeze after the first three," Mrs. Weasley replied, pulling her wand from the pocket of her pink knitted jumper and summoning extra pillows from some other room in the house. "Now you rest your feet and let me know if you need anything," she continued, directing her daughter to sit down.
Ginny clearly didn't mind being fussed over as if she were a child instead of a woman about to have one; she sank into the cushioned seat and allowed her mother to prop up her legs on an ottoman.
"The first three," she muttered under her breath as her mum placed another pillow behind her back. "It'll be a bloody miracle if I do this a second time."
"That's what they all say, dear," was Mrs. Weasley's lighthearted reply as she turned to smile at Hermione.
"Fine," said Ginny, turning to her husband. "Harry, next go around, you're carrying the baby."
"Just smile, say 'yes', and nod your head," Hermione whispered, remembering that she said something similar to Lucius when she was in labor with Aniella. "You'll thank me later."
Harry was smart enough to heed his best friend's instruction, thus avoiding a row with his very pregnant and easily-tempered wife.
Ginny's labor was slow, but its pace did nothing to decrease the pang of contractions whenever they hit. Although she hadn't said so, Hermione was sure that Ginny was glad for her mum to be nearby. That was something Hermione missed; even though she was grateful for the other women in her life who supported her during her first pregnancy, deep down she somewhat regretted that her mother was gone. Hermione wished they'd had the opportunity to bond while shopping for baby clothes, setting up the nursery and such. Then there had been the matter of more personal details, such as wanting to know why the hell certain parts of her body were doing strange things and if it was normal.
In spite of her mum not being around, her extended family had done a wonderful job of supporting her since her unceremonious return from Australia. Hermione had no idea how things would have turned out had it not been for the Weasleys and everyone else.
"Mrs. Weasley," Harry asked in a hushed tone an hour later, casting a nervous glance at his wife who was attempting to sleep, "is it normal to take this long?"
Mrs. Weasley was still in the middle of working on the blanket Hermione had earlier. "Yes, and definitely the first time around," she answered over the soft clacking of the needles. "Don't be nervous, Harry. I know my girl, she'll be just fine."
Without losing a beat in the rhythm of her knitting, Mrs. Weasley went on to reminisce about the birth of each of her children. Fred and George had been the easiest, which the older witch claimed should have been a warning about what was to come. Percy was stubborn and seemed intent on remaining where he was; Hermione noticed that Harry sniggered into his hand upon hearing that. Things hadn't changed that much; Percy had remained stubborn even to this day, and they all secretly tolerated him in small doses. Just as Mrs. Weasley began talking about her pregnancy when she carried Ginny, the Floo activated and Mr. Weasley, followed by Charlie, stepped out of the green flames.
"Charlie! What are you doing here?" Molly exclaimed when she saw her son.
"Hey, mum. Thought I'd surprise you and dad for a visit. Didn't expect all this, though."
Molly merely smiled before turning to her husband. "Hello, dear. I see you got my note."
"Yes, I did," Arthur replied, coming over to kiss his wife. He then shook Harry's hand, gave Hermione a gentle pat on the shoulder, and stopped by the chair his daughter was curled up in. "How is she?" he asked with great concern, looking down at her sleeping form.
"Ginny's alright," Molly calmly told him. "She's just a bit worn out. Seems like we have some time so you might as make yourselves comfortable."
Charlie and Mr. Weasley settled on a loveseat that was transfigured to a wider size. Charlie was much shorter than his dad, yet his bulky frame took up at least half the sofa. Slinging one tanned, muscled arm over the back cushion, he stared at the growing pile of baby blanket in his mother's lap.
"When do you think you'll give me reason to make one of these for you?" Mrs. Weasley asked, setting the blanket down to pull more yarn free from its ball.
"You're free to knit me a blanket whenever you like," Charlie answered, lifting a hand to sweep his long red hair out his eyes, "but yellow isn't really my color. I'll take orange, if you don't mind."
"Goodness," Molly exhaled. "You know full well that I meant a blanket for a…little one."
"Mum, you know damn well that I have no interest in getting married or procreating. The only little ones I'm interested in are baby dragons. Beyond that…"
Mrs. Weasley gave an exasperated groan. Charlie shot his dad, Hermione, and Harry, a devilish look that made them all laugh. Harry was still trying to contain his snorts when Ginny stirred out of her sleep.
"Charlie?" she asked through a yawn, shoving the blanket away from her face to peer at her older brother's tanned and freckled face. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"I've come to give mum a hard time," he grinned cheekily. "Didn't know you were about to burst, though."
"Oh, shut up," Ginny laughed, patting her front. "I am not about to burst. I love the hair, by the way."
"Charlie, why have you let your hair grow so long, love?" Mrs. Weasley countered, critically eyeing her son's long ponytail.
"So, how's Norbert, I mean, Norberta?" Harry piped in, most likely to avoid an hour-long discussion over Charlie's new hairstyle. "Do you still have her?"
"Yeah. She's pregnant, too, believe it or not." Charlie scratched his chin, a thoughtful look on his face. "A bit touchy at times, though, and then she won't let anyone come near her. Not even her mate."
"Well...do you blame her?" Ginny asked pointedly, looking down at her protruding belly.
Out of everyone in Grimmauld Place, Charlie was the only one who continued to remain eerily calm. When asked about it by Harry, he replied, "Have you ever been near a dragon who was about to lay eggs?" When Harry told him 'no', Charlie gave him a knowing look. "Exactly. I think I can handle my pregnant little sister; at least she can't breathe fire."
Each time a contraction hit, Ginny leaned heavily against her older brother, squeezing his hand until his knuckles were white. Because things were still taking so long, Mrs. Weasley suggested that Ginny walk around the house as much as possible. Charlie hated being indoors and hated being still for so long, and was eager to move from the confines of the drawing room. Harry had just risen to help Ginny up from her chair when Charlie almost knocked him over, loudly volunteering to walk with his sister.
"We can even go outside, if you like," he enthused, looking towards a window. "Fresh air, bright English sunshine... relatively speaking. Whatever you want."
"I want to sleep without feeling like my back and stomach are being torn to shreds," Ginny retorted. "Can you do that for me?"
"Hmm, nope, but I can take you for a turn up the street," Charlie replied easily. "Anyone that looks at you funny, just give a roar. It's not as if you don't have an excuse."
"I'm not a bloody dragon, Charlie!"
"You could've fooled me."
Hermione was sure that Ginny was going to tear her brother into minced meat. The strained sound of her voice carried in from the hallway, yet when a small laugh followed, Hermione understood why Mrs. Weasley said that Ginny would be fine. Then again, Ginevra Weasley was the same witch who had broken her nose as well as her arm in three places during a Quidditch match, all without barely batting an eye. It also hadn't been enough to stop her from kicking aside her broom while launching herself at the player from the opposing team who was responsible for her injury. It had taken three teammates to calm Ginny down, one of whom pointed out that her arm was broken and that maybe they should get off the pitch and head to the medical tent. Hermione had never broken anything, and while she was sure that it hurt like hell, chances were a broken bone paled in comparison to being in labor.
"Oh, fuck off, Charlie! I'm not one of your fucking dragons, all right?!"
What Charlie said or did was unknown, but Ginny's bellowing in response carried loud and clear through to the drawing room. Hermione saw that Mr. Weasley had gone a bit pink around the face, while Mrs. Weasley went on knitting as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened.
"Well, you've said worse to me, dear," Arthur murmured after a while.
"Did I? I don't remember." Molly sounded nonchalant but there was a mirthful expression on her face, and it made Hermione lift a hand to suppress a laugh.
Right then Ginny shuffled into the room, one hand pressed to her lower back while she shot a mutinous glare at her brother. Harry looked a bit shocked yet Charlie remained unfazed by everything, and cheerily asked Ginny if she needed help back into her chair. He still didn't take it personally when she snapped at him, even though she hadn't given an answer.
"Gin, do you want me to call St. Mungo's for the Mediwitch?" asked Harry, pausing by her side.
"Yes," she answered in a strained voice.
"I'll go, Harry," Mr. Weasley interrupted as the younger man began bustling towards the hearth. "That way you won't have to leave Ginny."
"I'll go with you, Mr. Weasley," Hermione called after him, rising from her chair. She didn't know if he would become panicked upon arriving at St. Mungo's, and thought that some extra support would be beneficial.
The trip to St. Mungo's was swift. Locating Ginny's Mediwitch, however, was taking too long. When the witch was finally located, the staff explained that she was in the middle of another delivery and there was no telling when she was be through. That alone set Mr. Weasley on edge, and Hermione launched into her take-control attitude, the one that Harry and Ron claimed could single-handedly bring the most staunchest of persons to heel. When everything was said and done, her own Healer was located and traveled back to Grimmauld with the two.
As usual, Lora was all business as she made her way to her soon-to-be patient, but she did pause to inquire after Hermione and ask how she was feeling. Yet soon as they were inside the house, she kicked everyone but Harry out of the drawing room, flicking her wand to shut the door closed with a loud snap.
"Well she's not very chatty, is she?" Mrs. Weasley sniffed, still holding onto her pile of knitting as they all waited out in the dimly lit hallway. "Who was that? And where is the Mediwitch Ginny's been seeing?"
"We were told that she was in the middle of another delivery," Hermione explained. "I didn't think to ask who else would be standing in for her so I just asked them to find our Healer. Lora is excellent, I assure you. Ginny'll like her."
"Lora... Lora Piedmont?"
"Yes, that's her."
"I've heard her name but never saw her face. She only takes on private clients, but I've heard good things about her," Mrs. Weasley continued, craning her neck towards the shut door of the drawing room as if she wanted to eavesdrop. "But I wonder what's taking them so long?"
"It's only been a few minutes," Mr. Weasley replied. "I'm sure we'll find out soon en—"
The door of the drawing room was opened and abruptly closed, causing Mr. Weasley to stop mid-sentence.
"Someone needs to fetch Ginevra's belongings," Lora stated. "She needs to be taken to St. Mungo's."
"What's wrong?" Mrs. Weasley asked sharply. "What's happening with my daughter?"
"She will be fine, but I advise that we not linger any further. Now, Mrs. Potter's valise? I hope it's already been packed."
"Yes, it has, I'll get it," Molly said flusteredly, shoving the now tangled pile of yellow yarn into her husband's hands and making her way to the stairs.
"Very good. Mr. Weasley?"
"Yes?" Arthur answered, fervently looking around for a place to set down the blanket upon.
"We're leaving now but you and your wife are more than welcome to meet us at the hospital. And you," Lora paused, staring shrewdly at Hermione, then to Charlie, "you look pale and unsteady on your feet. Young man, would you please see that Mrs. Malfoy gets home safely?"
"I'm fine," Hermione protested, even though she now realized that she was indeed a little lightheaded, mostly likely from missing lunch, then experiencing a rush of adrenaline, and Flooing twice within the span of fifteen minutes. "I promised Ginny that I would stay with her like she did for me when I had Aniella."
"I understand, but before we reach the point of you also needing a bed in the hospital I suggest you go home and rest. You may see your friend tomorrow." Lora's tone was stern, and she gave a curt nod towards Charlie, who stepped forward and gently grasped Hermione by the elbow.
"We'll keep you posted, Hermione," Mr. Weasley promised as she was being led away.
Even though Hermione wanted to turn around and go back into the drawing room, she thanked Mr. Weasley and allowed Charlie to fully hold onto her arm.
"So, the Floo is out of question," he mused as they stood in the vestibule. "Are you able to Apparate?"
"Yes," Hermione replied, sounding just a tad petulant. "I don't know why she thinks I need an escort but what do I know. Are you ready?"
Charlie nodded his head and in a split second, the pull of Apparation yanked them out of Grimmauld Place and into the ornate drawing room of Malfoy Manor. Hermione found out that Lora had a point when she suggested that she return home; the moment they landed a wave of dizziness came upon her, and she swayed on her feet.
"You OK?" Charlie asked, easily catching her before she could fall. "Maybe you ought to go lie down."
"I will. I just want to see if Lucius is home first."
"Yeah? And what are you going to do, walk all over, screaming his name?" Charlie chuckled and peered around the large, open space. "I'm surprised you two don't have his and her whistles just to keep up with one another."
"You're almost as horrid as your brothers," Hermione said, rolling her eyes. "Tipsy can find Lucius faster than I can, just give me a minute."
She summoned the house-elf, who disappeared soon as Hermione asked her to find Lucius. A second later, there was a loud pop and the tiny house-elf stood next to the startled blond wizard, who was holding Hermione's letter in one hand and looked as if he had been in the middle of reading it.
"Everything alright?" he asked, looking mildly curious as to why his wife was standing in the middle of their home with her old boyfriend's brother.
Once Charlie explained the situation, Lucius merely thanked him for seeing Hermione home, and asked him to send his regard to the Potters. After Charlie said his goodbyes and used the Floo to travel to St. Mungo's to meet his parents, Lucius rounded on his increasingly anxious wife.
"I should have stayed with Ginny," Hermione fretted, pacing back and forth. "What if something's wrong with the baby? Lora wouldn't tell us anything, just that Ginny needed to go to the hospital. What if—"
"There is no sense in getting yourself all riled up," Lucius told her. "Lora has extensive training and your friend is in good hands. Before you upset yourself by jumping to all sorts of wild conclusions, perhaps you should just wait until the Weasleys contact you with an update. Can you do that?"
"Seeing as I have no other choice..."
Hermione wanted to point out that it was hardly taxing for her to have dinner in the dining room, but once Lucius was insistent upon something, it made no point to argue with him. They had just finished their meal when Tipsy reappeared in their sitting room, this time standing between a jubiliant Aniella and Teddy, and an exhausted-looking Remus.
"You two look like you had fun," Hermione said to the children after greeting Remus. "Did you have a good day?"
"Yes! Daddy took us to the zoo," Teddy told her, bobbing back and forth in place the way little boys tended to favor. "We saw a lion and a hippo and a mekat—"
"It's meerkat, Teddy, not mekat," Aniella interrupted bossily, causing all of the adults to titter.
"Just like her mother," Lucius murmured loud enough for only Hermione and Remus to hear, pretending not to notice when his wife to narrowed her eyes at him.
"—a mekat and a giraffe and butterflies and—" Teddy went on talking as if he hadn't heard Aniella. He would have continued if Hermione didn't gently cut in.
"That sounds wonderful, Teddy. But I think your father is ready for a nap."
Teddy turned round to look up at his father. "Nah, he always looks like that."
"Is that right, son?" Remus chuckled. "I wonder why."
"Ani, did you say thank you to Mr. Lupin for taking you out?" Lucius asked his daughter.
"She did; Aniella is always polite," Remus replied, winking at the little girl. "And Dora already fed her and Teddy so you don't have to worry."
"Thanks again, Remus. And tell Tonks I said thank you, as well," Hermione told him. "Ani, say goodnight to your uncle and Teddy."
"Goodnight, Uncle Remus. 'Bye, Teddy. And it's meerkat, not mekat."
Teddy stuck his tongue out at Aniella, and Aniella gave him one of her smug looks that came from being the product of a swotty know-it-all and an over-confident Slytherin. Before Teddy could reply, Remus steered his son out the door with a hasty 'goodnight!' called over his shoulder.
"Aniella Sophie Malfoy, was that really necessary?" Hermione asked her daughter.
"What? He was wrong, Mummy. Teddy kept saying meerkat wrong."
"I understand, but you could have been nicer about it."
"Alright," Aniella acceded, sounding as if she was ready to change the subject. After kicking off her trainers and leaving them in the middle of the floor—a single glance from her father was enough to make her walk back to pick them up and move them to the side—Aniella climbed onto Lucius' lap and wriggled around until she was comfortable. "Guess what else we saw? This funny-looking dog and an otter. I wanted to feed the otter but Uncle Remus said no."
"Uncle Remus was right to say no," Hermione replied. "They like to bite."
"Is that why an otter is your Patronus?" Lucius asked, his tone thick with suggestion.
It didn't matter that the two were married for a length of time; Lucius still had the ability to make Hermione blush whenever he wanted. Right now her cheeks were glowing, although Aniella didn't catch any of the furtive exchange.
"What's a Patronus?" she asked, looking curiously between both parents who were still staring at one another. When Aniella's answer didn't come fast enough, she fervently patted on Lucius' shoulder until he was looking at her. "Daddy, what's a Patronus?"
"If you wait a minute I'll show you." Hermione answered, withdrawing her wand and casting the charm, sending out a silvery glow that soon transformed into the shape of an otter.
"Mummy! It's just like the one at the zoo!" Aniella cried when the corporeal otter began dancing around her head. "Daddy, you do it too!"
It wasn't often that Lucius became flustered. Soon as Aniella began clamoring for him to take out his wand, Hermione noticed that he looked uncomfortable. Only once before did they have a conversation about the Patronus Charm. Lucius hadn't thought that he would be able to cast one, and Hermione convinced him that he was a changed man, and that he could try. He only managed a weak one at the time which had no concrete form. To her knowledge, he never attempted again. But with Aniella in his ear, perhaps he would give it another go.
To her surprise, the blond shifted his daughter slightly forward to remove his wand from an inner pocket. Silently, Hermione prayed that the spell would work. Lucius had to verbally cast the charm, and looked just as shocked as his wife and daughter when it worked.
"A lion!" Hermione laughed, watching as the large translucent animal stalked the length of the sitting room. "Why does that not surprise me?"
Aniella was too young to understand why it was a big deal for her father being able to conjure a Patronus; she was more enthralled with the sight of the otter and the lion continuously moving about. Lucius, on the other hand, seemed a bit shell-shocked at this newfound discovery, and remained oddly silent as he watched his lion.
"Well done, love," Hermione told him softly, earning a slow-spreading grin from the man. Aniella had jumped down from his lap to chase behind both animals. The entire time she loudly entreated for her parents to look as if she was the one who cast the charm.
"Alright, Ani. That's enough running around. It's time for your bath and then bed," Hermione called when her daughter's squealing began reaching dulcet tones.
"But Mummy, I'm not sleepy," Aniella protested, pouting as the otter and lion vanished. Her lips then stretched into a wide yawn and she stood in place, rubbing her eyes.
"What was that?" Lucius asked, chuckling. "It's hard to understand through the sound of that yawn."
That made Aniella smile, but she walked towards her father for her usual goodnight hug. Hermine then chivvied her along to her room. In spite of Aniella's refusal to go easily to bed, she nearly fell asleep in the bathtub and had to be carried to bed. Of course, the moment Hermione carefully dressed her in a nightgown and charmed her hair dry, then slipped her beneath the duvet, she woke up and asked for a bedtime story. Hermione was two sentences in when Aniella began snoring, and that was her cue to put the book down and make a quiet escape.
"How long did she last?" Lucius asked as Hermione entered their bedroom.
"She fell asleep in the middle of having her hair washed. But of course, I'm not sleepy, Mummy! Whatever Remus did, I owe him big time. But now it's time for my own maybe a shower. I might fall asleep in the water if I take a bath."
"If you need some help with scrubbing your lovely back, I'm happy to oblige."
Hermione rolled her eyes, but the smile on her face spoke otherwise. She decided on taking a shower, which was happily shared with her spouse. Just as they were in the middle of soaping up, Hermione slipped a hand down Lucius' stomach until her fingertips met his pubic hair.
"Didn't you tell me you were tired, woman?"
"Of course I am. Just never too tired for this."
The tiled seated portion of the large shower ended up being put to good use. Twenty minutes later, Hermione was completely relaxed from two orgasms and made no moves to stop Lucius from rinsing away his seed that clung to her inner thighs. Once they were out of the bathroom, drying off took less than a minute. Neither bothered with pyjamas, opting to keep each other warm with body heat.
"Hopefully Aniella won't come knocking at our door," Hermione mumbled into Lucius' bicep.
"I doubt it," he reassured. "If I receive an owl from your friends, should I wake you?"
Suddenly too tired to speak, Hermione nodded her head. She fell asleep just as swiftly as her daughter, and never heard Lucius' laughter over her prompt snores.
Hermione had never been good at waiting. When she didn't receive an owl from Harry or any of the Weasleys that morning, she decided to visit St. Mungo's on her own once she finished having breakfast. A small bouquet of fresh flowers in her hand, she now walked down the corridor that led to Ginny's room.
"Hello?" she called softly through the crack of the partially opened door.
"Yes, it's me," she replied when she heard Harry's hushed tone. "May I come in?"
"Yes. Please. Hurry."
Even though Harry continued speaking in a soft voice, Hermione noticed that it was laced with a bit of panic. Soon as she walked into the room, which was a lavish yet cozy private suite, she found Harry hunched over a tiny cot. He was wearing the same clothes that she had seen him in the day before; his black hair stuck up more than before, something she didn't know was possible. Scruff was on his cheeks, and there was a worried look on his face. On the cot before him lie his tiny, peacefully sleeping son, dressed in a hat, socks, and an unsnapped babygro.
"Oh my goodness, Harry!" Hermione exclaimed gently, dabbing at her eyes when they began to water. "He's gorgeous!"
"Hey, do you mind crying after helping me? James needs his nappy changed and I didn't want to wake Gin."
Hermione looked across the room to find Ginny in bed tucked beneath a thick blanket. She was also sleeping peacefully and clearly had no idea about her anxious spouse.
"Okay, Harry, let me put these down and wash my hands first," Hermione laughed, looking around for a place to set the flowers on. "I thought you knew how to change a nappy?"
"I did...I mean, I do. But he's so...tiny! I've only been around a new baby once, and I forgot how small they are. I feel like I'm going to hurt him."
"Babies are a lot more resilient than they look, trust me," she replied after coming out of the bathroom. Once her hands were dried she moved in front of the cot. It took her a few minutes to get the James' nappy changed, and he remained sleep the entire time.
"You're going to have to show me how to do that."
"Change him without waking him."
Hermione smiled as she expertly reswaddled the baby and shifted him into her arms. Harry had just cleared a few things off an armchair and gestured for her to sit down.
"It's not that hard," she mused, staring fondly at the sleeping newborn. "The trick is to feed and change them before they can wake up. Mind you it may not work all the time..."
"I'll take what I can get."
Harry sank down into the armchair next to Hermione.
"Oh, damn. Sorry I didn't owl you. James was born around three this morning and I didn't think you'd fancy an owl tapping on your window at that hour. I had to practically force Mrs. Weasley to leave, and that was after the fact. She looked bloody knackered but didn't want to go."
"I'm sure. So what happened yesterday? Lora rushed us out of the room and didn't tell us much."
"That; she thought Ginny wasn't dilated enough or something. Then she thought James wasn't positioned the right way. In the end everything turned out okay. I did get a broken finger but Ginny said...well I won't repeat what she said, but the gist of it was that a broken finger was nothing compared to what I did to her."
Hermione was overcome with a shaking bout of silent laughter. She didn't want to wake up baby James but found it hysterical that Ginny broke her husband's finger in the midst of delivering her child.
"Did she threatened to hex your bits off?"
"Hex? Nope. No, she said she would use the end of a rusted axe. And that my balls deserved to be hit by a Bludger."
"Yeah, who are you telling? Anyway, Mrs. Weasley was right about Gin being tough; she's the one that snatched the wand out of my pocket and mended my broken finger. I don't know how the hell she did it. One minute she was screaming in pain, the next, she's all 'Oh shut the fuck up, Harry! Give me your fucking wand!' and before I could tell her no, she reached into my pocket and snatched it out. I seriously think her arms grew an extra foot for a minute."
That was enough to make tears of laughter flood Hermione's eyes. Little chuffing sounds came from her mouth, and it literally hurt to have to contain her mirth. Apparently it was contagious because Harry began laughing and he had to clamp a hand over his mouth to keep quiet.
"And what the bloody hell are you two over there cackling about?" a tired voice piped up from the other side of the room.
"Hello, mummy," Hermione greeted, looking over at Ginny. The redhead had pushed the blankets down to her waist and was grinning as she surveyed her husband and best friend sitting next to one another. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I've been knocked off a broom from fifty feet high," she replied. "Beyond that, no complaints, although I could do with a sandwich. I'm bloody starving."
"I'll get you something," Harry told her, getting up from his chair.
"Actually, darling, why don't you pop home for a minute? Take a nap, take a shower, eat, that sort of thing..."
Harry pretended to be shocked when he heard the sweetness in his wife's tone.
"Ginny? Sure you're alright? Are you the same woman that cursed me to hell and back a few hours ago?"
"Since you put it that way...fuck off. Now go home and wash your arse, Potter. And make sure you eat something!"
"Oh, Mrs. Potter, I love it when you talk dirty."
"I know you do," Ginny smirked, although her smug countenance softened when Harry came over and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"I can't promise that I'll be able to stay away from you two long enough for a nap, but I will go change my clothes. Do you need anything from home?"
"No, I have everything, thanks."
Harry gave his wife another kiss and waved to Hermione before slipping out the door. Hermione was about to place James in his cot and wheel it closer to the bed when Ginny said that she would come over because she needed to stretch her legs.
"I heard you broke your husband's fingers," Hermione giggled as her friend settled into the chair next to her.
"Yeah but I mended them, didn't I?" Ginny replied unrepentantly. "Let me tell you, never did I think I would see the day where Lora would laugh, but oh, did she laugh. Her and the apprentice. She said out of all the births she tended to, never had she seen such a thing. By the way, Lora was amazing. Thank you."
"You are quite welcome. And you'd better not tell your mum what you did to her favorite son-in-law's hands. She'd have you."
"Ha ha to you, she already knows," Ginny informed. "Mum came round early this morning. Harry was still asleep so he never noticed. I expect that she'll be back with dad later on."
"I'm sure she will. Nothing is going to keep her from her grandson," Hermione groaned, making Ginny laugh. "Now, do you need help anything?"
"Now that you mention it, I'd love a shower. Would you mind keeping an eye on James for a bit?"
"Not at all," Hermione replied, urging her with a wave of her hand.
"You're a doll. Hopefully he stays asleep; I fed him not long ago."
While Ginny took her shower, Hermione fussed with the bed, straightening the sheets and pillows. Ginny was grateful for the newly made bed when she came out of the bathroom, and after putting on a fresh nightgown, settled back onto her plumped up pillows with a happy sigh. Her long red hair was still damp and she immediately accepted Hermione's offer to braid it for her.
"It's just gotten so damned long and thick!" Ginny exclaimed as Hermione ran a comb through her hair, working out the tangles. "I meant to have Harry braid it for me but I think we both know how that would have gone."
Just as Hermione was securing an elastic on the end of Ginny's plait, James began squirming in his cot and making little snuffling noises.
"Alright, little darling, we have to behave for Auntie Hermione," Ginny soothed while reaching over to pick him up. "Don't tell me you're hungry again."
James immediately stopped his snuffling and opened his eyes once he was in his mother's arms. Ginny pulled the tiny knit hat off his head and after setting it to the side, began running her fingers through her son's downy black hair.
"Is that better, love?" she cooed, kissing his small forehead. "No more ugly arsed hat."
"Ginny!" Hermione laughed.
"What? That hat is ugly," Ginny continued, sneering at the hat while gently rocking James. "At first I thought of the staff dressed him in it but when they came in and complimented it, I knew it wasn't them. Therefore it could only be my Mum who snuck it on his head when I was asleep."
"Ginny, it's not that bad," Hermione told her, peering down at the bile-green hat. "Well, on second thought..."
"Exactly. James, do you know that you have your daddy's hair?" Ginny smiled fondly at the few spiky pieces that refused to lie flat. "There won't be a potion or charm that will be able to contain it."
"And his grandfather's as well, from what I understand," said Hermione, remembering the photo of Harry's parents. "Looks like he has your eyes, though."
"So long as he doesn't have his uncle Ron's appetite," Ginny groaned, settling back and situating the front of her gown so she could feed the baby. "If he eats like him then I'll never get any rest!"
"About that—you're not going to get any rest regardless. So enjoy it while he's small because once he's gets walking, he's going to barge into yours and Harry's bedroom in the middle of night, interrupting everything."
"Stop smirking at me, you evil bint."
"Little Miss Dirty Mouth, will you behave?"
"Oh please, Hermione. It's not as if James can understand me. He's too busy with his third lunch of the day. Meanwhile I haven't had one yet."
Just as she finished that statement, Harry came into the room. He was clean shaven, wearing fresh jeans and a button-down shirt, and holding onto a large brown paper bag.
"Sorry I took so long," he apologized. "There was a damnably long queue at that sandwich shop you like. I figured you would still be here so I bought you something also, Hermione."
"Thanks, Harry. You didn't have to go through any trouble, though."
"Shush," he replied simply while unpacking the bag.
When James was finished, Harry took him from Ginny and settled him against his shoulder. He walked around, gently patting his son's back while talking to him in a hushed tone. Ginny immediately settled herself at the table with Hermione, eager to get to her lunch.
"He's such a good daddy," Hermione whispered, peeking over at Harry who was facing the window and murmuring something to James. "You know he was worried before."
"I had noticed," Ginny replied in between bites of her roast beef. "He didn't come outright and say so but I could tell, which is why I told him that he had nothing to worry about. I told Harry that he's a good man and would be a great father."
"Oh, damn you. Now you've gone and made me cry," Hermione snapped, fumbling in her pocket for a handkerchief. "You know I'm a bundle of hormones."
"Aww, you sap. I'm sorry." Ginny smiled. "I also told him he was a damn good shag. Maybe that will stop your tears?"
"Oh hell, Ginny! How many times must I tell you that I don't need to know about your bedroom activities?!"
"Bedroom? Who said anything about the bedroom?"
"You know that? I'm through talking to you."
Hermione attempted to eat her sandwich while trying to get the image of a naked Harry and Ginny out of her head. Ginny, on the other hand, was laughing raucously, and had to force herself to calm down before she could take another bite.
Not wanting to wear out her welcome, Hermione stayed with the Potters for another hour before making her excuses. James had fallen asleep again right after a successful nappy change that was handled by his father. Ginny and Hermione gave Harry a light round of applause, and he took a mock bow in the middle of the room.
"I love you," Hermione said, giving both of her friends a hug. She then walked over to James' cot and said in a low voice, "Give mummy and daddy lots of trouble for me."
"That's not right, Hermione!" Harry called as she headed to the door.
"I know, but that's merely my form of payback for Ginny whispering dirty little innuendos to me while I was trying to eat!"
Hermione could hear Ginny cursing as she closed the door, and she laughed on the entire walk down the corridor.