Story Notes: Happy Birthday, Amanda!
Thanks to Natalie/hestiajones for beta reading this at the speed of light. *hugs*
How to Wait
Ron read the note again before folding it into quarters and closing his hand over it. He glanced at the photo of Hermione he kept on his desk: she’d been reading in a lounge chair the last time they’d gone on holiday. She’d made an attempt to tie back her hair, but bits of it were in full rebellion, blowing around in the wind. He’d said her name, and she’d looked up with an easy smile… This had been his favorite photo of her ever since.
Without opening the note, he saw her handwriting again in his mind, steady as ever, the words rolling around in his head. She would not be smiling now, wherever she had gone.
He rose, gathered his things, and slipped out of his office, locking the door behind him with a wave of his wand. Halfway down the corridor, he poked his head into Harry’s office. “I’m not going to make lunch.”
“Everything all right?”
“Hermione’s not feeling well.” That’s not a lie, he insisted to himself. “I’m going home to check on her.”
“Let me know if you need anything,” said Harry, already turning his attention back to his work.
At home, Ron dropped his things inside the door and scanned the small parlor, spotting Hermione’s work bag on the chair. Relieved that she had indeed come straight home, he made his way for the stairs, thinking again of the words she’d written in the note she had sent him at the Ministry:
I’m not pregnant, again. Sorry I got our hopes up this time.
I’m taking the afternoon off, but don’t worry… I’m all right.
Don’t worry. Of course not—why would he worry? It had only been eighteen months of trying to conceive, several tests and meetings with healers, only to discover that there was no medical reason preventing them from getting pregnant. It should have been a relief, but he’d wondered if it would have been easier--at least for him--if they’d been given a reason for the difficulty, some kind of explanation. It wasn’t that they minded waiting, but every month that passed without success brought with it a louder echo of the question rattling around in both of their minds: What if? What if this isn’t going to happen for us?
He found her lying on their perfectly-made bed wearing jeans and a pink, long-sleeved shirt, her feet bare and crossed at the ankles, knees pulled up; she was on her side, facing away from him. He slipped off his shoes before lying down with her and slipping his arm around her stomach; he pulled her close, her back against chest and his face in her hair.
She sank into him, holding his arm and hooking one of her ankles in between his. “I told you not to worry.”
“Yeah, I can see I didn’t need to, since you’ve taken an afternoon off for the first time in five years and you’re lying in bed in the fetal position.”
She chuckled a little in spite of everything, but the gloom settled over them again instantly.
Ron sighed heavily. “I’m so sorry, Hermione.”
“Me, too,” she said feebly.
Why did she have to be late? This whole thing was so much easier to bear when they didn’t have a reason to get their hopes up. Just yesterday she had said again that she was several days late. He had not dared to hope, but her eyes had become so bright when she discussed some physical things she was experiencing that could be pregnancy symptoms. He had not been able to resist her optimism, and now... here they were, heartbroken again.
“Ginny’s pregnant,” Hermione said in a dull voice. When he didn’t respond, Hermione shifted, rolling toward him until she was on her back, looking up into his face. “She stopped by the office this morning to tell me; Harry was going to tell you when you went to lunch.”
He didn’t say anything for a long time. Then all he could manage was, “Are you upset?”
Her face crumpled a bit, and Ron saw her eyes glistening with tears. “I don’t want to be. I want to be happy for them.”
“I didn’t even know they were trying.”
“That’s the thing. They weren’t.” She brought a hand up to cover her eyes as the tears slipped away, sliding down into her ears. “It’s so unfair.”
She was all out crying now, and he pulled her closer. He felt his own eyes itching with unshed tears. She was right: this wasn’t fair. They got pregnant by accident? What kind of joke was this? How was Hermione going to cope for the next nine months with a front row seat to Ginny’s pregnancy when they’d been trying without success for nearly two years? Come to think of it, how was he?
She sniffed loudly and looked up at him. “Are you all right?”
His heart clenched. Her eyes were red and her cheeks were wet and blotchy, and there wasn’t a thing he could do to make her feel better. Truth be told, he felt pretty much the same as she did. “I’m disappointed, too.” He wiped her cheeks with his thumb until they were dry. “Will we have to tell Harry and Ginny now?”
“No,” she said. “We can’t. They’ll feel awful for us, and guilty for something that should only be wonderful. We can’t do that to them, Ron.”
“So we fake it.”
Her brow furrowed. “But we are happy for them, aren’t we?”
He thought it over for a few moments. “I don’t feel too great about it right now, but yeah… if I ignore our own situation, of course I’m happy for them.”
“Me, too.” She smiled, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. “We’re going to be an aunt and uncle again.”
Her smile was beautiful, even more so to him because the evidence of grief was still all over her face and her posture. She was so strong, so resilient. It was one of the many things that made her so attractive. “This kid will be lucky to have us—that goes without saying.”
She laughed, and the sound made him feel a bit lighter.
He ran his fingers through her hair. “I should take the rest of the day off, too.“
“Would you really? That sounds so nice.” He had barely managed to raise a suggestive eyebrow when she continued. “I need a distraction.” He continued to smile knowingly, so that she had to clarify further. “Something that has no connection to pregnancy,” she said meaningfully.
“Damn,” he said, pretending great disappointment, though in truth, he was only moderately so.
“At least for the next several hours,” she added playfully, punctuating the words with a lingering kiss.
He studied her face, thinking what a wonderful mum she would be if she were given the opportunity. “A distraction sounds good," he said. "We'll be completely miserable if we choose, and feel sorry for ourselves as much as we want. And then tomorrow… tomorrow we will try our best to shake it off and move forward.”
She traced the line of his jaw. “Yes,” she whispered. “And tomorrow night, I'll invite Harry and Ginny to dinner, and we’ll congratulate them and be happy for them.”
He pulled her lips down to his for another kiss. “I love you. And however long this takes…”
“We’ll keep trying,” she finished for him.
She settled back into the crook of his arm and closed her eyes. “Where should we go?” she asked after a while.
A low chuckle rumbled in his chest. He knew there was only one place she would want to go. “Flourish & Blotts?”
“Mmm… a Muggle bookshop might be better—I don’t want to run into anyone we know, do you?”
“Wherever you want, love,” he said sweetly, kissing her on the head as he gave her a squeeze. “But I get to pick where we eat.”
He couldn’t see her face, but suspected she was rolling her eyes when she laughed and told him that they had a deal.
As always, I'd love to know what you thought of this. I realize it's a bit more of a grown-up topic, and might not be for everyone... this is just one of those things I've always imagined happening in that eight year gap before Rose comes along.
I hope you liked it, Amanda! Thanks for all the encouragement you've given me since the day I started posting Shell Cottage. Happy Birthday!