A/N: Round 9 of the QLFFC

Opt prompts: winter wind; blankets; he/she is too quiet these days


A winter walk always seemed more ethereal in Hermione's mind than in actuality. Rose begged her parents to go on a stroll across the valley, but she was too little to go on her own. So, with tireless whining and an almost temper tantrum from the 9 year old, Ron and Hermione bundled their children in their thick scarves, mittens, and cloaks, and the four of them stepped out into the winter wonderland.

The winter wind was bitter cold on their exposed cheeks. Hermione tried to bury her face into the wool around her neck. She was concerned that her children would suffer burns on their faces, but they didn't seem worry. Rose was skipping merrily yards away, kicking snow as she went. Her little brother was screaming with glee, picking up snowballs and aiming them at any object standing alongside the path. Ronald would egg his enthusiasm on by levitating a few of them and having them bounce against his son's back. Hugo could not contain his satisfaction.

Hermione loved to see her son so happy. His laughter was like a warm blanket on a cold winter's day, like this one seemed to be. Despite the bitterness of the temperature, Hermione was filled with the warmth of her children's glee.

But a heavy heart stopped her from forgetting the reasons why her little boy's happiness was always cut short.

She was temporarily distracting watching her daughter fall on her back into a large drift of snow and began to swish her arms. Hugo had finally caught up to her and collapsed right next to her, imitating her movements and giggling. He sat up as his parents reached them, a big grin plastered on his pink tinted cheeks.

""D-d-daddy! I m-m-m-made an angel!"

"So you did, son," Ron responded, picking up Hugo as he spoke, "but you sure act like a little devil, sometimes!"

"I'm not a d-d-d-devil! Y-y-y-you just m-m-m-m" As the little boy tried to phrase his sentence, a look of irritation crossed his face. How hard it was for him to speak!

"Ron, stop exciting him. He already has enough trouble as it is," Hermione chimed in.

He set Hugo back on his feet. "Go play with your sister," he told his son.

Hermione and Ron continued watching their children as they walked down the path. Ron, making sure the children were occupied with their adventure, turned to his wife and said, "Coddling him is not going to cure his stammer, Hermione."

"Over stimulating his senses won't either," she replied back, frustrated with her husband's scolding attitude.

Ron sighed, obviously familiar with the tone of conversation they were venturing towards. "Hugo is growing up, and at his young age, he knows there's something wrong with the way he speaks."

"I know that."

"Yes, but I think it's partially our fault why he's aware of it already. Maybe if we could have acted as if he spoke normally, it wouldn't make him so anxious about his stammer and he'd grow out it."

"Pretending it doesn't exist, you mean? Ron, that is ridiculous. A normal conversation with him takes twice the amount of effort for us to have with him."

It seemed Ron was on the brink of lashing out on his wife. Hermione expected a lot from her children, especially with the success she had with her own life. To have a child with such a crutch broke her heart and her dreams for his future.

He took a deep breath. "Love, I know his stuttering upsets you, but you are putting a lot of pressure on a six year old."

Hermione turned to glare at her husband. "And how do I pressure my son?"

Ron's eyes raised in awe, as if he couldn't believe his wife was oblivious to her tactics. "Anyone who withholds a glass of juice for her child until he finishes his sentence without a stutter could really damage a child's fragile psyche."

"I only did that once to see how he would react," she defended, "and I saw how upset he was, so I never tried that again. He didn't even try talking to me for days! I don't understand why you continue to bring that to my attention. You know how guilty I feel about doing that! But we need to help him overcome this."

"I preferred to hear his stammer than to not hear his voice. Because of all of these exercises we try on him, he is less and less encouraged to speak. He's too quiet these days."

Tears formed in the corner of Hermione's eyes. "I've noticed. And I hate it. But…do you realize how much he will suffer when he starts Hogwarts if he doesn't have it under control? I don't want him to be harassed or bullied by some Draco Malfoy wannabe."

"Hermione," Ron said soothingly, reaching for her hand, "Hugo has at least five years before he starts school. Until then, we can love him and care for him with as much love as we can muster. And then in the meantime, we have to finally realize we can't cure him by ourselves. We should see a specialist. Don't muggles have doctors for that?"

Hermione chuckled at his lack of knowledge. "Yes, Ron. They are called speech therapists." She gave her husband's hand a gentle squeeze.

"See? The problem is nearly solved already." He looked down the path, focusing on his son. "Hugo!" he called out. "Come over here for a second."

Hugo stopped his run and turned to look at his dad, catching his breath as he clumsily made his way back to his parents on small legs. "D-d-daddy, I was winning the r-r-race."

"A race? A race against who?"

"Th-th-th nargles!"

"Well, let the nargles win for now. There is something your mom and I would like to tell you." Ron knelt down to be the same height as the boy. "You know we love you, right Hugo?"

He nodded. "Yes. Bec-c-c-ause you are m-m-m-my daddy."

"But that's not the only reason. You are a very very wonderful person. And we don't want you to forget that."

Hermione followed suit and knelt down as well. "Hugo," she began, smoothing out the wrinkles in her son's hat, "look at me, please."

Hugo obeyed, but the light in his eyes seemed to dim as he focused his gaze from his father to his mother."

The tears came back to her eyes. "I'm sorry for making you feel less than the little boy you truly are."

"Okay…" he said feebly, albeit without a stutter.

This upset her even more. "Oh, honey. Please don't hold yourself back. I love you very much, and I don't want to be the reason you don't let your voice be heard."

A small smile peaked at the corners of his mouth. He didn't speak, still a little nervous, but he threw his little arms around her neck, and settled into a warm embrace with his mother.

"I love you, Hugo," she repeated, tears streaming down her face.

'I l-l-love you too, m-m-mum," he whispered into his neck.