Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended
Summary: Ron and Harry must find a way to go on after Hermione dies in childbirth. H/H/R relationship.
Author's Note: Written for the Trio Fuh-Q-Fest. The challenge: Hermione dies in childbirth.
Many thanks to my betas Lissanne and Merin, and my Britpicker, Bethany.
I like the movie uniforms - don't shoot me. Also, please note that this is a Trio fic - the three of them together - which, of course, then becomes H/R slash after Hermione's death. The rating is for angst and some swearing, not for overly graphic behaviour.
"Come on, Hermione, just a little more!" coaxed the Healer by her feet.
"Yes, you can," Harry encouraged. "Listen to the Healers - and here, take my hand before you break Ron's fingers."
"If I ever get out of this, I'm going to break more than your fingers," she swore, glaring up at the two men. "I'm going to break those parts that got me into this predicament in the first place."
Harry didn't miss a beat. "Fine - you can break us later. For now, though, you have to push."
Tears sprang to Hermione's eyes. "I can't!" she wailed. "I'm so tired and I just can't." Her voice trailed off to an exhausted whimper.
Ron leaned over and pushed her sweaty hair from her face. "I know you are, love. But you're also the strongest woman I - we - know. You've never failed at anything you set out to do, and I know you can do this. This is our baby. In just a couple of minutes, you can see the baby we've all waited so long for, and we can be a real family together, the four of us. Remember how much we've looked forward to that?"
She nodded mutely.
"So, take a deep breath, listen to the Healers, and push like you've never pushed before. You can do it - you're almost there. And remember that Harry and I are here, and we love you."
"O - okay," she whispered, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. "I'll try."
"All ready now?" asked the Healer. Hermione nodded. "Right, then - on your next contraction - push!"
"Excellent! Now take a deep breath, and do it again."
"And one more time - it's almost out!"
She pushed once more, her face red with effort. The moment stretched to an eternity as the infant was eased out into the world, finally slipping into the hands of the Healer.
Hermione collapsed against the pillows, eyes closed, as the attending assistant announced, "It's a girl!"
Harry and Ron turned to each other, beaming. They were now two and two in the household - two boys, two girls. Perfect.
"Hermione, did you hear that?" Ron bubbled, looking down at the woman who had made it all possible. "It's a little girl, just like we wanted!"
But the new mother did not open her eyes to acknowledge Ron's enthusiasm.
"Hermione?" Ron's voice rose a little and he touched her arm to rouse her. "Hermione, wake up - you did it!"
"Come on, Hermione." Harry nudged her other shoulder. "Don't you want to see your beautiful daughter? Hermione?" He frowned slightly.
In that moment, the golden halo of the monitoring charm which surrounded her turned icy blue. The Healer, who had been checking over the baby, hurried to the bed. "You need to leave now," he quickly told the two men who stood on either side.
"What? Why? What's wrong?" A note of panic crept into Ron's voice. "What's going on?"
"Now. Assistant O'Malley, please escort them out." He was already turning his attention to Hermione, wand in hand.
"But-" Harry's protest was cut off as he and Ron were practically shoved out into the corridor. The door closed unceremoniously behind them, leaving them bewildered and alone.
"What d'you think is going on?" Ron asked, looking nervously at Harry.
"Dunno. But it can't possibly be good, can it?" the other man replied. He stepped aside as three more Healers came barreling down the corridor and banged into Hermione's room without a word. He and Ron exchanged stricken looks.
Harry didn't know how much time passed after that. It might have only been fifteen minutes, but it felt like days, weeks, years. The assistant came out with the baby shortly after the Healers had gone in, murmuring something about taking the infant to be footprinted, magically scanned for any abnormalities and cleaned up a bit, but he and Ron stayed rooted to the spot, watching the door and waiting, waiting.
Finally, the door clicked open and the original Healer came out. Harry saw the solemn face and knew what he was about to be told, but he didn't want to believe it. It couldn't be - not after all they'd been through.
"I'm sorry," the medic began, but Ron cut him off before he could say the dreaded words.
"Noo!" he cried. "No, you can't - you can't tell us that. You can't! What did you do to her?"
Harry put a hand on Ron's arm to silence him, even though was feeling exactly the same inside; every fibre of his being screamed in protest at what was happening.
The Healer shook his head sadly. "It was a brain aneurysm - a weakness in the artery wall. They're very rare, but they're disasters waiting to happen. All the pressure from her efforts to push must have been too much for her system - we couldn't stop the bleeding in time. I'm sorry. Do you want to say goodbye?"
Harry and Ron nodded numbly.
They stumbled back into the room where they had been so joyful another lifetime ago. Hermione had been straightened out from the tangle of her labours and looked calm, peaceful, tidy and pale under the sheets. Neither one of them knew what to say - or think.
When the assistant came back an hour later, they were again perched on either side of her bed, just as they had during her labour, their eyes glued to the unmoving face. Silence filled the room. She cleared her throat and they both jumped.
"We need to know what you're naming the baby." She held up an official-looking piece of parchment.
Harry and Ron stared at her blankly.
"I'm sorry," she said, and both men cringed at the repetition of the words which had heralded their nightmare. "I'm sure it's the last thing on your minds, but we need to fill out her birth certificate and make sure her hospital cot and things are properly labeled."
The men exchanged glances. Ron nodded. "It's-" Harry's voice croaked. He cleared his throat and tried again. "Vivian. Vivian Rose Granger."
The assistant carefully wrote down the name, then looked up. "All right - thank you. Everything else seems to be in order. You should be able to take your daughter home tomorrow."
"Home?" Ron and Harry exchanged another glance, the same thought on their minds. How can we possibly go home without Hermione?
"Okay, so we just undo these snap things, and pull apart the nappie- It's okay, sweetheart, it'll only be a moment."
Vivian continued to wail at being exposed to the cool spring air.
"Ron?" A note of nervousness crept into Harry's voice. "Could you hand me a clean nappie?"
"I can't find them," Ron answered, pulling open several drawers full of tiny socks, shirts and knitted caps. "Herm- I don't know where they ended up."
Harry tried to help Ron look, but found himself unable to do much with a half naked baby on hand. He put one hand on Vivian's chest to hold her in place and stretched out a foot as far as he could toward a small cabinet nearby. "I found them!" he crowed, pointing with his foot. "Grab me a couple, would you? Oh, hell."
"What?" Ron asked, bending down to retrieve the nappies.
"It's too late," Harry moaned. "She just went again. All over my hand. It's on her clothes now, too."
Ron tossed the nappies at Harry and grabbed a fresh outfit while Harry feverishly used a cleaning charm on the baby's bottom and bundled her in the new nappie.
"There," he proclaimed in triumph, once he'd finally wriggled the new clothing onto the now-squalling baby.
Ron looked at her nervously. "Why's she still crying?"
"Dunno." Harry looked just as lost. "Maybe she's hungry?"
"She might be." Ron's face crumpled as comprehension dawned. "She she was going to breastfeed ."
"Well, maybe there's something about formula-making spells or something in one of those books we have ." Harry trailed off. Why did everything have to remind them of Hermione? Then he took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. "C'mon," he said, nudging the hunched form of his surviving partner. "We'll figure it out. We have to."
Harry paused in his reading. Did he hear stirring? He cocked his head - yes, it sounded like Vivian was waking from her nap. A glance at Ron showed the red-haired man still had his nose buried in that day's Prophet and hadn't so much as twitched. Harry supposed it was possible Ron hadn't heard the slight noise, but there was no way to tell. For nearly a week, his partner had studiously avoided interacting with the baby as much as possible. It wasn't just fear of handling a fragile new infant, that much Harry knew; he'd seen Ron interact with his newborn nieces and nephews as they'd arrived and while there had always been some nervousness, there was never avoidance. No, in Vivian's case, it seemed like Ron, still buried in his grief, was avoiding the inadvertent cause of his wife's death as much as humanly possible.
When the burbling down the hall turned into a window-rattling wail, Harry's suspicions were confirmed. Ron didn't move so much as a freckle to indicate he'd heard his daughter's call. Without a word, Harry got up to retrieve the infant from her cot. Then, without stopping to either change or feed her, he strode back to the lounge and held the baby under Ron's nose, blocking his view of the paper.
Ron looked up from his interrupted reading material, his mouth set. "What?"
"She needs to be changed."
"So change her. I'm busy." Ron looked back down at the Prophet, but with Vivian's wailing form taking up most of his range of vision, Harry knew there was no way his husband was actually reading.
Shifting the baby to one arm, he used his other to unceremoniously pull the red-haired man to his feet. He bent one of Ron's arms out, placed Vivian in the crook, and held her there with his hand.
"Your daughter," he said clearly, "deserves to know her father."
Ron looked away, although he did not hand the baby back to Harry. "She's got you, hasn't she? Besides, maybe she's your daughter."
Harry made an exasperated noise. "If you'd managed to look at her closely for even ten minutes since we brought her back, you'd know full well she's yours. She's got Hermione's brown hair, but those are pretty damn obviously your ears." He waved his hand impatiently. "But that's not the point. Genes or no genes, we were all in this together, remember? And now we really have to do it together, because we're all she's got."
Ron continued to stare to the side, over Harry's head, but Harry thought he saw the glisten of tears in his partner's eyes. "I can't," he murmured, his voice catching. "I can't look at her. It hurts too much. I can't see my ears or anything else she might have of mine - all I saw that first day was Hermione. I killed her, Harry. I killed her. How can I look at Vivian ever again when all I can see is Hermione's hair and Hermione's nose and Hermione's mouth and I killed her." A few tears escaped and silently ran down Ron's cheek.
"What are you talking about?" asked Harry, reaching out to brush the moisture away. "She had an aneurysm. We couldn't know about it. It was just one of those things."
Blue eyes finally turned to look at Harry. "But I was the one telling her to push so hard. And Vivian -" he nodded down at the whimpering bundle in his arms, "- if she's really mine, then it's my fault Hermione got pregnant. If that hadn't happened, then she'd still be here with us ." Ron's voice trailed off as the knot in his throat became too tight to speak around.
Harry pulled him into a hug, taking care not to crush the baby. "It could just as easily have been me, you know," he murmured against Ron's neck. "But she was so happy to be adding to our family - you made her happy, Ron. We both did." He pulled back to lift the baby from Ron's arms, but Ron held her close, raising one shaking hand to caress his daughter's cheek.
"I'll feed her," he whispered brokenly. "You're right - she needs both of us now. And she's all we've got, too."
Ron charmed the door shut behind him and threw his cloak over the nearest chair. He wasn't sure which was harder, the days he went to work on almost no sleep, or the days he took his turn staying at home with Vivian on almost no sleep. He supposed work was marginally easier - at least he knew what he was doing at work. On the other hand, at work he had to keep up a professional front all day long, which was nearly as draining as dealing with a tiny baby.
It was oddly silent in the house; normally there would be sounds of crying or gurgling or Harry's own baritone rumble as he talked or sang to their daughter. Ron peered into the kitchen and then the lounge. He saw the remains of a bottle on the table, and Vivian's broom-shaped teether on the sofa, but the downstairs was otherwise empty. Vivian's bedroom was likewise unoccupied. Deciding to check one last place before panicking, he slipped down the hall and poked his nose into his own bedroom.
Harry was stretched out on the king-sized bed they shared, Vivian nestled in his arms. By their even breathing, Ron could see they were both fast asleep.
Quietly, he pulled off his shoes and removed his outer robes. Then he crept onto the bed behind Harry, spooning him gently, and then propping himself up on one arm to look down at partner and daughter. This was his usual place, the side of the bed by the window; Hermione had never liked being confined in the middle, and liked it even less during her pregnancy when she'd had to get up numerous times in the night. Harry hadn't minded, however, murmuring that he'd grown up sleeping in a small space and, besides, he liked the sense of security from having his partners on either side. But now, despite Vivian being cradled in Harry's arms, there was an enormous empty space on her other side, where Hermione should have been. Ron looked down at the two remaining people he loved most in the world, wishing with all his heart that Hermione could have witnessed the tender moment. That she could have been part of it. He and Harry were gradually getting the hang of fatherhood, and Vivian seemed to be thriving, but it was nothing like the loving paradise they had imagined. He loved Vivian - even though it still hurt to look at her, he loved how she wrapped her tiny fingers around his giant ones, how she snuggled trustingly into his shoulder, how she was the product of such a rare and deep love. But he hated that this love had also brought upon its own demise, removing an irreplaceable part of his heart, and of Harry's.
"Goodnight, sweetheart," Ron murmured, smoothing Vivian's hair as he bent over her cot. "Sweet dreams." He tiptoed out and returned to the lounge, where Harry was reading a book.
"All settled in?" Harry asked, looking up.
"Mmmhmm," Ron confirmed. "Out faster than you could say 'Nox'." He looked over at his partner, who had his nose buried back in the book. Harry had continued to be diligent with his fatherly responsibilities, even though he, Ron, was now doing his fair share. But something nagged at Ron. Harry looked worn; he wasn't eating well and, midnight feedings aside, Ron knew he wasn't sleeping well, either - which probably explained why he kept dropping off during Vivian's naps instead. There's no disguising your insomnia when sharing a bed with someone else, is there? he thought, remembering years past when any one of the three of them had been stressed by something and unable to sleep.
He watched his husband read for awhile, until Harry finally looked up and asked, "What?"
"It's not nothing," Harry responded, sounding edgy. "Staring at someone for twenty minutes without saying anything is not nothing."
Ron sighed. "I was just wondering how long you were going to pretend you were fine, that's all."
"I am fine." Harry frowned.
"So, in other words, I'm just an enormous wuss for falling apart every half an hour in the past month and a half?"
"No, of course not! It's perfectly normal to react like that," Harry said. His reassuring tones only irritated Ron further.
"So why haven't you cried yet, then?" he demanded.
Harry shrugged. "Maybe I don't need to. I'm doing all right, aren't I?"
"Well, you're functioning. You take care of Vivian and me. But you're not following your own advice, Harry. You think after making me face what I was ignoring, I'm going to let you do the same?"
"What am I ignoring then, if you're so smart?"
"We lost Hermione!" Ron spat, his patience gone. "We. Lost. Her. Noticed that giant empty space in bed yet? The utter lack of colour-coded daily schedules on the desk? Haven't missed the feel of her in your arms? I sure as hell have. You can't make me believe I'm the only one who cares that our trio is now a duo!"
Harry threw down his book. "Of course I care!" he spat back. "But let me tell you something, Ronald Weasley. In case you hadn't noticed, I've lost just about everyone I've ever cared about." He started counting on his fingers. "My parents, Sirius, Dumbledore, and now Hermione - and she hurts most of all because I loved her. I loved her as much as I love you, and there's now a fucking hole in my heart that no one can ever replace, not even you!"
"You don't think I know how that feels?" Ron countered. "I've got that same hole now too, but you keep pretending it's not there! I can't be the only one mourning here - you've got to let it out too, or you'll explode."
"Tears won't bring her back, Ron. I learned that when I was four. Crying won't bring back the dead." Contrary to his words, tears sprang to Harry's and he wiped them away angrily with the back of his hand. "It won't bring her back. It-" His throat closed up and he couldn't continue.
Without another word, Ron pulled Harry into a bone-crushing hug, supporting him as he cried out a lifetime of loss.
"Are you getting hungry, sweetheart?" Harry looked up from the parchment he was writing as his own stomach rumbled. "I sure am. It's after noon already." He looked over at his daughter, who was sitting on a quilt on the floor, reaching forward for a toy. She burbled in his direction in response to his voice, a smile lighting her face.
"I'll take that as yes, then," he said, smiling back. With a stretch, he rose from his chair and slipped into the adjoining kitchen to prepare Vivian's bottle. Ron was already there, fixing himself a sandwich.
"Time for the munchkin's lunch?"
"Yep." Harry slipped behind Ron and wrapped his arms around the other man's waist. "Although now I think I might have a tidbit too, as long as I'm here." He trailed his lips up Ron's neck, stopping to nibble on his earlobe.
Ron set down the knife he'd been using to cut his sandwich and inhaled sharply as Harry's tongue traced around a sensitive spot. "Mmmmm," he murmured. "But much as I-" another gasp "-like your proposed menu, we should probably wait until her naptime. I'd hate to - gah, you're not making this easy - have her start wailing in hunger just as things get interesting."
Harry released Ron and leaned around to give him a quick but proper kiss on the lips. "I suppose you're right," he sighed, heading toward the cabinet where they kept empty bottles. Then he looked back and waggled an eyebrow at Ron. "But I'm holding you to that naptime promise."
Ron grinned back. "I'll be here."
Aware that he had left the baby unattended longer than he'd planned, Harry hurriedly prepared the bottle and returned to the lounge as soon as the warming charm was complete. "Here you are, sweetheart," he called. "Nice and-" He stopped dead. The quilt was empty. "Vivian?" His voice rose in panic. "Vivian? RON!"
"What?" Ron asked, running in response to the terror he heard. "What's the matter?"
Harry pointed to the quilt. "Where'd she go?"
Ron knew exactly what Harry was thinking. They couldn't bear to lose anyone else, much less the person they had gained at such a terrible price. "We'll find her, Harry, we-"
A noise by the bookcase behind the sofa caught their attention, and they nearly sprinted across the room in response. There sat Vivian, cheerfully reaching out to pull a book off the bottom shelf; one book was already sprawled inelegantly over the floor where it had fallen.
"Oh thank God." Harry scooped up his daughter and held her close, relief flooding his system. Then he held her out and looked at her. "How did you get here, young lady?"
Ron was beaming. "She must've crawled!" He gave the baby a playful poke. "We'll have you on your first broom in no time!"
Harry rolled his eyes. "I'm still trying to recover from this heart attack - I'm not ready to think of her zooming around in the air!"
"Aww, she'll be brilliant. How could she not be?"
"And speaking of brilliant," Harry had popped the bottle into Vivian's mouth and was now gesturing down with his free hand, "did you notice where she crawled to?"
Ron looked down and then back up. "Books," he replied with a wry grin. "Well, that part of Hermione obviously got handed down."
Harry nodded, wrapping his free arm around Ron and looking from his daughter, contentedly having her lunch, to the books she had discovered. "Wish she could have seen this," he said quietly. "She'd have been over the moon to have another bookworm in the house."
"Well, it looks like we'll have one here again," Ron responded. "Although I'll be just as glad if she never discovers colour-coded notes."
"Happy birthday dear Vivian, happy birthday to you!"
Molly Weasley set down the cake in front of her granddaughter with a flourish; Ron and Harry, standing on either side of their daughter's chair, helped her blow out the lone candle as Fred and George set off a small handful of Wildfire Whiz-Bangs to celebrate.
"Pity Hermione's parents couldn't be here to see this," Charlie said, swiping a fingerful of icing from the cake's edge and avoiding a swat from his mother's wand by the narrowest of margins.
"Yeah, the rail strike means everything's all delayed," Harry said. "They said they should be here tomorrow - we can just have a smaller gathering with them."
"Ah, but they'll miss Molly's famous birthday cake." Arthur placed an enormous piece in front of Vivian, beaming proudly.
"She can't eat all that," Mrs Weasley scolded as the baby gleefully dove into the slice with both hands.
"It's all right, Mum. Vivian will share with her Aunt Ginny, won't she?" The young woman leaned over and poked her fork into an undamaged part of the piece; the birthday girl stopped smearing icing into her hair long enough to make an unsuccessful lunge for the fork.
Harry and Ron stepped back from the hustle and bustle of the Weasley clan, watching as laughter and good wishes were passed around for their daughter.
"One year," Ron whispered, reaching for Harry's hand.
They stood in silence, remembering.
Day 1554 (4 years, 3 months and 2 days)
"Oooh, Daddy - was this your trunk?"
"Yes, sweetheart," Harry replied, throwing some dried-up ink bottles into the rubbish heap which was steadily growing in the centre of the room. "That's where I kept my things when I was in school." He watched in amusement as his daughter hoisted the lid and poked around, squealing with excitement at his old robes, some charms essays ("What does this say, Da?"), and his Chocolate Frog card collection.
"Why do we have so much stuff?" Ron moaned, surveying the cluttered and dusty attic.
"Because," said Harry, "I had nothing of my own when I was growing up, and you weren't much better off. I think we both developed the need to hang onto things because they were ours."
"Probably." Ron shrugged, plucking a dusty garment from a hook on the wall and holding it out gingerly. "But I can't think why I've still got the dress robes Fred and George bought me back in fifth year - they were better than the tatty thing I wore in fourth, but they're still dress robes. And, besides, they're three inches too short now."
"You kept them because Hermione said they brought out the blue in your eyes, and you know it," Harry answered, smirking.
"I did not!"
"I recall your wearing a shirt just that colour the day we all went out to the lake and exchanged vows."
"Oh. Right." Ron hung the garment back on the hook and carefully brushed it off while Harry choked back a laugh.
"Er dusty in here," he explained when Ron turned on him suspiciously. "She was right, you know," he went on, hoping to salvage the situation. "That colour does bring out your eyes. You should wear that shirt more often."
Ron harrumphed, but a smile appeared at the corner of his mouth as he went back to work. "Maybe I'll wear it to dinner - if you behave," he murmured, hoping Vivian, still poking into trunks and boxes nearby, wouldn't hear him.
"Behave? Where's the fun in that?" Harry answered mischievously.
"Da, look what I found!"
Ron turned at the sound of his name and stopped. Vivian had apparently found Hermione's trunk. Her old white shirt hung to the floor, visible under the pleated skirt, which his daughter was holding up with one hand. A Gryffindor tie was loosely draped around her neck.
"I don't know how to tie this," she said, letting go of the skirt to point to the tie. The skirt slipped down to her knees and she yanked it back up to her armpits hurriedly. Harry could see she had an old pair of Hermione's school shoes on her feet.
"Here, I'll do it," he said, coming to his daughter's rescue. He dropped the pile of Ron's Martin Miggs comics he was sorting through and went to twist the familiar Gryffindor material into a loose knot. "There," he said, slipping it over her head.
"Thanks, Daddy!" She beamed up at him. Then she slowly turned around, the over-large shoes clomping on the wooden floor. "Am I pretty, Da?" She looked hopefully at them both. "What do you think, Daddy?"
"Absolutely," said Harry.
Ron nodded his head in agreement. "Beautiful, sweetheart. Just like your mum."
Day 2390 (6 years, 6 months and 23 days)
"How was school today?"
"All right. Mrs Lyle taught us to write ten new words today." Vivian dropped her school bag and sank into a kitchen chair dispiritedly.
Harry and Ron, both in various stages of fixing dinner, exchanged a worried glance. Normally Vivian came rushing home, fit to burst with excited stories of all the things she'd learned that day. "She definitely doesn't get that from me," Ron had remarked after her third day.
Harry set a glass in front of her. "Lacto." Milk poured from his wand into the glass. "Say when," he prompted his daughter.
"When," she answered automatically, and Harry ended the spell.
"Is something wrong, sweetheart?" Harry asked, returning to his previous task of chopping garlic.
"Some girls made fun of me today because I don't have a mummy like they do," she responded, looking up at him sadly. "It's not fair, Daddy. Why can't I have a mummy, too?"
Harry set down his knife and came to sit by his daughter. "You know why, sweetheart. Mummy died when you were born."
"I know." Vivian gave a small sigh. "But that was ages ago, and I'm almost all grown up now. Can't I have a new mummy?" She bit her lip. "Not that I don't love you and Da, 'cos I do. But it'd be awfully nice."
Ron pushed the roast into the oven and cast the charm for the proper temperature before joining them at the table. "I know it's hard, sweetpea. We wish your mummy was still around, too. The thing is, you know how Daddy and I love each other very much?" The girl nodded. "Well, it's the same with most mummies and daddies, too. They love each other very much, and the reason they are mummies and daddies is their love was so special and perfect, they wanted to be a family and be together forever. Do you understand?" She nodded again.
"What Da is trying to say," Harry cut in, "is that if a mummy or daddy dies, it's very hard to replace them. It happens sometimes - but it's very hard. It's hard to find another person you can love that much, that's so perfect. We-" he pointed to himself and Ron, "-are already different from most people, by being two daddies in love. But it was even more special than that, in that we both loved your mummy, and she loved us both equally. And finding someone new who could fit that role - well, I'm not sure there is another."
Vivian looked at them sadly. "But these girls were mean to me for not having a mummy."
"Well," Ron replied, with a mock-menacing look on his face, "you could always brag to them that you have two daddies instead, two daddies who are the fastest, meanest, best Quidditch players in the whole world. We invented Cheering Charms, weave flying carpets in our spare time, and have even knocked out fully grown trolls."
"You have not!" she giggled, her sadness temporarily evaporating at the bug-eyed look on her father's face.
Ron pretended to be offended. "We have so! Well," he tempered, "maybe only the last one."
"Yep," Harry said. "In fact, we did it to save your mum, and that's when we all first became friends."
"And fell in love?" She looked to Ron for confirmation.
"Well, the falling in love bit didn't happen for a few years. But it was a start," Ron explained.
"Tell me more about Mummy," she pleaded. "If you can't get me a new one, then at least I can tell those mean girls about my old one, even if she's not really real anymore."
"She's real," Harry corrected quietly. "She still lives in here" - he tapped his chest - "and here-" he tapped his head.
"And here." Ron pointed at Vivian. "We see bits of her in you every day, Viv."
"Really?" The girl brightened. "Like what? Tell me!"
"Well," he began. "She had your hair, and your nose. She loved to go to school. And then there was this one time when she ."
Day 4185 (11 years, 5 months and 21 days)
Dear Da and Daddy
I'm here at Hogwarts!! And guess what? I'm in Gryffindor, just like you were. Professor McGonagall, the Headmistress, kind of scares me, and the Sorting Hat really scared me, but then it said I was supposed to be in Gryffindor, so I guess I must be brave after all! I just wish being brave came with a better sense of direction - I'm not sure how I'm going to get down to breakfast tomorrow. All those staircases and trick doors and stuff - how did you ever figure it all out?
The trip was really long, but I met these two boys on the train and we had fun talking and playing Exploding Snap to pass the time, so it wasn't so bad. They ended up in Gryffindor too, so at least I'll recognise someone when classes start. Professor Longbottom is our head of house, and he knew who I was, which was a little bit strange, but kind of cool, too. He said went to school with you and Mummy, and that I look just like Mummy except for my ears, and for being taller than she was. He seems really nice. Do you think I could get him to tell me all the stories about you three that you won't tell me? Ha ha! I'm just kidding. Maybe.
Well, I just wanted you to know that I'm safe. I miss you both, but I'm looking forward to all the new subjects I get to start learning tomorrow. I've got my ink bottles all ready so I can take colour-coded notes and everything. I'll send you another letter in a few days, okay?
Love and kisses,
Harry tucked the letter back into its envelope and turned to Ron, who had been reading over his shoulder. "Well, our trio is now a duo again," he sighed. "It's going to seem awfully empty without her."
"I know," Ron said. "We'll just have to console ourselves by going up for Quidditch matches as soon as she makes the team."
"You don't know she's going to make the team," Harry said. "And besides, she probably won't be allowed in until next year, at the soonest."
Ron waved his hand dismissively. "With the two of us for parents, showing her how to throw a Quaffle and catch a Snitch since she could barely toddle? She'll get in."
"Yes, well, you saw her note. She's going to want to bury her nose in her books, just like her mother," Harry countered. "Maybe she won't even try out."
Ron harrumphed at this. "She can do both if she wants. She was ace at all her primary lessons - she'll probably end up as Head Girl and Quidditch Captain by her seventh year."
Harry smiled. "It's possible. We'll just have to see." He propped the envelope up on the headstone in front of him. "You hear that, Hermione? We might have another Head Girl in the making - second one in the family if Ron's right. Maybe he has some of that Inner Eye rubbish after all."
Ron rolled his eyes at his husband's jibe. "I know what I see, Hermione. The girl's brilliant, just like you. *And she's a brilliant flyer, just like us," he added with a wink at Harry.
"Vivian's also a Gryffindor, just like we all were. She's all of us, Hermione. Just like we'd hoped. Be proud of her - she's wonderful." Harry put his arm around Ron's waist and looked down at the stone. "We just thought you should know."
They stood for a moment and then Ron turned to kiss the top of Harry's head. "It's getting dark - we should probably go."
"Yes, I suppose so."
They gathered up their things, and then prepared to Apparate back home. "What shall we do with our first night of freedom?" he asked, taking Ron's hand.
"I can think of a few things." Ron grinned mischievously. "How about Exploding Snap?"
"What, are we eleven again?" Harry rolled his eyes but was unable to hide the grin that crept across his face.
"I can remember some good things about being eleven!"
"Yeah, well, I can remember some good things about being twenty-three, too!"
"Like say, getting married?"
"Oh, right. Well, since you put it that way ."
"And do you still?" Ron held up the hand with his wedding ring.
"Always." Harry held up his own hand, then looked to the grave, where the third ring had been buried with its owner. "Always," he repeated, quietly.
Then, clasping hands, they whispered the incantation and, with a pop, they went home.
25 April 2004
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