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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 66: Year 7: A Blue and White Christmas
The beginning of winter had floated into continuous darkness that began on the day Ron and Hermione left the hospital. They stepped out onto the street that afternoon, and somehow, even though it made no sense at all, found that the world was still moving outside. A woman rushed past them, perhaps on her way home to have dinner with her husband. There was a man crossing the street carrying two bags of groceries, sighing in relief over having completed his least favourite chore of the week. A mother was dragging her daughter by the arm, tiredly muttering something about missing football practice if she did not hurry up. And in the midst of this, in the middle of all those lives that were moving on as if nothing had happened, amongst those people whose monotone day would soon be forgotten in a blur of hundreds much too similar ones were Ron and Hermione, and their child was dead.
They made it home, home to the house were he would have grown up. The cold rain was hitting the windows, almost angrily, as if it knew what had happened, and their son would never press his little nose against those windows and ask to go outside even though it was a yucky day. Hermione passed the kitchen without looking over at the table; she had sat there when she had taken the pregnancy test, on the chair facing the front door, but she could not look at it now. She hurried up the stairs; she would not have to worry about her baby climbing up it and falling down, because the worst thing that could happen had already happened, and she was sure there was nothing else that could hurt as badly again.
They did not speak to each other. Ron went and sat on the front porch, under cover, just staring as the rain poured from the skies, flooding the puddles on the side of the road. Hermione went upstairs and threw out the bloody sheets before crawling into bed and closing her eyes. She wanted nothing more than to fall asleep, to forget everything if only for a little while, but she found that the silence only gave room for her thoughts. They were loud, almost scornful; you were his mother, they yelled at her, it was your job to keep him safe! You were his mother and you failed the most important job in the world, and now he’s gone and it’s only your fault. Hermione wanted to yell back, but the voice in her head was right. It certainly wasn’t her baby’s fault. He could not help what had happened to him, and now he would never even open his eyes, never breathe, never have a dream. The chance to do all those things had been taken from him, all because Hermione had not been a good enough mother to him.
When the feelings of guilt left her alone for just a second, she went back in her mind to St. Mungo’s, to lying in fetal position on that hard cot, and looking back at the healer who was standing so helplessly next to her and whispering, “Why?”
He had taken a deep breath. “I’m sorry, but we don’t know yet. We will run some more tests before you leave… I’m afraid these things just happen sometimes, for no particular reason.”
And so Ron and Hermione had returned home, knowing nothing and understanding nothing of what had happened. Hermione went over it in her head, again and again. She must have done something wrong during the pregnancy. Perhaps she had worked too much, been too stressed. Why hadn’t she slowed down when she had found out? Why hadn’t Ron told her to? Why hadn’t he woken up earlier that night and helped her? When he came into the bedroom after what felt like hours, she wanted to scream at him. He barely looked at her, but just lied down on top of the duvet next to her. He probably wanted to scream right back at her. He probably blamed her for all of it. He hadn’t carried the baby, she had. And she hadn’t done it right.
Ron didn’t find Bill’s owl until late that night. He read the letter announcing the birth of Louis Arthur, then tore it to pieces and tossed it in the bin.
How unfair it was that Ron and Hermione should have had a little boy too in just a little over half year, but they had nothing and Bill had another healthy child. Ron thought of his nephews and wondered if their boy would have been like them. Would he have had the same cheeky smile as Freddie or James’ always-cheerful mood? Would they all have been best friends, got up to mischief together, joined forces in driving their parents mad?
“At least it happened early,” had the healer said. “It gets worse the farther along you are.”
It had taken all of Ron’s willpower not to punch him in the face, because he didn’t care if the baby was one day or a hundred years old, it was still their baby, and they had still lost him, and Ron just couldn’t understand why.
Days turned into weeks that grew colder and colder, while the pain in both Ron and Hermione’s chests remained still, unmoved by any kind words, by any pretty, snowy landscape or grand Christmas tree. No one believed it when they insisted nothing had happened, but no one, not even Harry, could get a word out of them. Hermione was sure she could not speak of what had happened, because her tongue would crawl up and die in her mouth if she so much as breathed a word about it. Besides, she had received enough stares and uncomfortable condolences when her mother had died to know that it would not help. Nothing could help her; nothing could make her feel better.
As time passed by, she began to feel a desperate need to keep the baby with her, but she had nothing to prove that he had ever existed. Her stomach hadn’t started to bulge out yet; there was no sign of his existence on her body. She hadn’t bought him a single item or piece of clothing. He was gone, and they had nothing left of him. There was nothing left but darkness.
Falling asleep at night was blissful, a sweet relief from that aching that weighed so hard on both of them that they could hardly stand up. Sometimes the dreams would be too real, though; Hermione woke up crying after dreaming about a tiny little baby that could fit in the palm of her hand, and how no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get him to breathe. Ron fell asleep one afternoon and found himself in an ocean, sinking, not even wanting to try to swim back to the surface. The water made his eyes sting, but he kept them open, looking up at the sunrays breaking against the oceantop and splitting into hundreds little pieces of light.
Suddenly, something grabbed hold of both his arms and was pulling him up, and the air felt freezing cold against his skin and he drew it deep into his lungs, and someone yelled, “What do you think you’re doing?”
There was a small rowing boat, and someone was leaning over its edge, still holding Ron in a tight grip. He looked up and felt his eyes widen as he realised just who it was that had saved him.
“I asked you a question,” replied his brother.
Ron blinked up at him. He knew it was a dream, but Fred seemed so real; he could feel his hands around his upper arms, could feel drops of water drip from Fred’s hair and onto his own face. “Fred,” he said again. Everything else that was tearing him apart inside suddenly disappeared, and there was only a longing inside of him, a longing to climb into the boat with Fred and row far, far away.
“What,” repeated Fred, “are you doing?”
Ron swallowed. “What do you mean?”
“You don’t think I saw, huh?” said Fred accusingly. “You weren’t even trying to swim up.”
Ron blushed, suddenly feeling ashamed. “Look, you don’t understand…”
“No, you don’t understand,” Fred interrupted him. “If you drown, she drowns. I think Mum and Dad have lost enough children, don’t you? You need to get yourself together. You’re the only person that can help Hermione, and you’re not doing it.”
“It’s hard for me too,” Ron tried, and Fred laughed, though without sounding very amused.
“Of course it is. But she carried the baby, not you. It’s bad for you, but it’s worse for her.”
“So I’m supposed to just let it go? To be okay with this?”
Fred smiled sadly, suddenly losing his grip around Ron’s arm and letting him sink down again. This time, however, Ron paddled water to keep his head above the surface, desperate not to lose sight of his brother.
“Of course you’re not okay,” Fred said. “But don’t worry too much, okay? He’s with me now.”
And he started rowing, and Ron wanted to stop him, wanted to climb into the boat and go with him, but then the water around him started feeling different, and he looked around to see that it wasn’t water at all, it was sheets, and he was in bed and Hermione was there too, and she needed him more than ever before.
It was already December, and they had not yet spoken about the miscarriage. They had hardly spoken to each other at all since it had happened, and Ron’s voice was shaky, as though being used had become unfamiliar to it, when he touched his wife’s arm and said, “You know it’s not your fault what happened, right?”
And Hermione broke into tears, and they cried into each other’s shoulders until there was not a drop of water left in them. Then Hermione said:
“Do you think he’s with my mum now?”
Ron’s reply confused her, but she was too tired then to ask him to explain. Somehow, even though she didn’t understand it, it was still the first thing that made her feel better that winter:
“I suppose he must be. Who else was watching him when Fred and I were talking?”
Though Christmas was creeping up on them, there was no room in Ron and Hermione’s house for any holiday spirit. The Potter property was its complete opposite in that sense; Ginny had shaken her head and pointed out that James wouldn’t remember his first Christmas anyway, but Harry had ignored her and gone on to decorate every small corner of the house until it put the Hogwarts castle to shame. He had hung mistletoes in every doorway (and took every chance to pull Ginny through them, grin and pout his lips until she kissed him; or carry James through just to stop and say, “Oops! I guess this means you have to give Dada a kiss, James!”). The entire house smelled of ivy, gillyflower and cinnamon, and it seemed every piece of furniture had been covered in glitter, strings of light or fir twigs with bows of red ribbon. Each night would find Harry either baking gingerbread cookies, cooking his own mulled wine or wrapping another set of presents. Ginny laughed at him, but he didn’t have to explain to her why he was doing it. He had never had any happy Christmases growing up, and he was determined to make it as lovely as he ever could for his son.
She left her boys one evening about a week before Christmas, kissing James good night and smiling at Harry, who was in the middle of glazing a giant ham that she was quite sure the three of them would never finish before it went bad. She had trained with both the Harpies and England for the last couple of months and had rather become used to missing James’ bedtime, but she could not help but feel a bit guilty over missing it in order to go to a party.
She couldn’t have turned the invitation down, of course, she thought as she stepped out of a fireplace at the hotel by the National Arena only moments later, not when every important Quidditch name in the country would be there. She only needed to look around to see a handful of her childhood heroes brushing ashes and dust off their dressrobes before heading into the large dining hall across the room.
Ginny was relieved to find Gwenog Jones as soon as she walked through the large golden doors, and surprised to see her wearing a dress – her team captain hadn’t even made such an effort at Ginny’s wedding. Even so, she welcomed a familiar face, and happily listened to Gwenog complaining first about her uncomfortable clothing, then about how the Christmas break from training made her so unrestless she had trouble sleeping.
“Well, I’ve got a baby,” Ginny commented, “so you’re not alone there.”
“Yes, but you chose to have a baby, didn’t you?” muttered Gwenog. “I didn’t choose to have a break. In fact, if it had been up to me, we would be up in Holyhead flying right now instead of going to some silly party.”
Ginny couldn’t help but laugh, and excused herself to go get a drink before the bar would get too crowded. As she waited for the bartender to pour her eggknod, another familiar figure appeared next to her, leaning over the bardisk and humming along to the Christmas tune that a pianist on a stage in the back of the room was playing.
“Avery,” Ginny said, grasping the man’s attention and making him turn towards her with a smile.
“Well, if it isn’t Ginny Potter!” he said. “Enjoying yourself?”
“I suppose I am,” she admitted. “I was surprised when I got the invite, though.”
Avery Hawksworth smiled again. “I don’t see why. You’re one of the best players in the country, Ginny. Besides, everyone who’s playing against Nigeria after New Year was invited.”
Ginny felt her jaws drop. “You don’t mean…?”
“Didn’t I tell you?” replied Avery casually. “It wasn’t that hard a pick, you know.”
Ginny didn’t even notice that the bartender had placed a glass in front of her and nearly knocked it over when she brought her hand up to stroke her hair from her face. “But are you sure?” she said. “We have to win, don’t we, or we won’t qualify for the World Cup?”
“We do,” Avery nodded, smiling as he handed the bartender a couple of Galleons to cover both his and Ginny’s drinks – she was too occupied to even think about paying anyway. “That’s why we need you.”
Ginny felt as though she was dreaming as she walked back from the bar, her feet so light that she might have been flying. Eggnog had never tasted better either; she was bursting with excitement and looked around the dining hall for someone to share her news with, anyone who would care to listen…
She had pulled up a chair next to Oliver Wood’s in the next minute and grabbed his arm, not even noticing she was interrupting his conversation with an old wizard who most certainly must have been a Quidditch player; his face was a bit squashed and his nose crooked, as though he had been hit by a Bludger a few too many times.
“Oliver,” Ginnny nearly shouted, “Oliver, I’m playing! Against Nigeria! After the new year!”
Oliver’s eyes widened, as did his smile. “No way? Ginny, that is amazing!”
“I just can’t believe it!” Giny sighed, placing her glass on the table with a happy sigh.
“It’s here in England as well – Merlin knows why because it’s going to be freezing cold – but you’ll get to play at the National Arena! Man, I have dreamed about playing there since I was at Hogwarts!”
“I’ve dreamed of it since Fred and George snuck me out of the house to let me fly on a broomstick for the first time,” Ginny replied, “even though Mum had told them I was too young…”
Oliver reached over to grab his own glass of butterbeer and rasied it in the air. “We should toast then,” he said. “This is it, huh? Your big dream coming true?”
“It is,” Ginny said, reaching for her own glass but freezing in the middle of the movement to look back at her friend, her smile suddenly fading. “Oh, Oliver, maybe I shouldn’t have come to you…”
Oliver smiled. “Don’t be silly. I’m so happy for you.”
They clinked their glasses together and the old wizard across the table coughed and shook his head. “You’re certainly noble, aren’t you, Wood? I think I would hate her, if I were you.”
When Ginny woke up the next morning, with her arms wrapped around James who was sleeping quietly next to her, his little hands clasping the fabric of her nightgown and his face pressed up against her neck, she considered heading out to do a few laps on her broomstick and practice her throwing. That was until she looked down at James’ peaceful face, at his eyelids fluttering slightly when she moved, at the way he was holding onto her as if he was worried she would disappear while he was sleeping, and she knew that she wasn’t going to leave him. She was going to lie as still as she could until he woke up, and then she would have a long breakfast with him and Harry, and perhaps she would even decorate the tree with them, even though she had told Harry the night before that it was a bad idea, that half the ornaments were made of glass and that it was a setup for disaster. Perhaps if they only hung them on the higher branches, she thought, it would be all right, and perhaps James wouldn’t remember, but they could take out the camera and they could show him photos when he was older. She wrapped her arm tighter around his little body and closed her eyes again. Yes, she thought as she breathed in the scent of him and felt his black hair tickle her nose, there was plenty of time to practice her throws later. In that moment, nothing could have torn her away from James.
A/N: I am back home and I am working hard on finishing the next couple of chapters and replying to all of your reviews - both things are way overdue and I apologize. Things should be better from now on. By the way, if it didn't sink in the hundreds of times I've said it before: you are all so amazing for reading this story and I'm so very grateful. Thank you again!!! Xxx