Chapter 4 : Family Ties
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"Hermione! If you don’t come out of here soon, the Hogwarts Express will leave and we’ll have to stay here for Chritsmas!" Ginny yelled through the door. And I bet that’s what you want! she added silently.
Hermione finally walked out of the bathroom. She looked slightly green, but Ginny knew her friend had had no bout of nausea in the morning for a full month now. So she must have been upset because she was going to spend Christmas at the Burrow with all the Weasleys. Well, not all of them, Ginny reminded herself sadly. But it would be the first time Hermione would set foot there since… Since the day Ron proposed and she accepted. No wonder she’s not feeling well.
They met with Harry in the Common Room and a few minutes later they finally reached the carriages – there were still a couple of them to take the last departing students to the train station, in Hogsmeade.
We all can see the Thestrals now, Ginny mused. Seeing Hermione’s looking at the one pulling their carriage, she knew her friend was having the same thought. They remained silent as they were crossing the hills where the Battle of Hogwarts took place, none of them daring to take a look outside.
But once on board the Hogwarst Express, Hermione started to fidget again.
"Are you all right, Hermione?" Harry asked, seeing her pull on her collar for the thousand times.
Hermione nodded her head. "Yeah… just a bit too hot."
He nodded his head. Half an hour later, he stood up. "I’m going to see if I can find the trolley lady. I’m starving."
Ginny shook her head, chuckling. Then she shooed him off.
Hermione woke up when the door closed behind her friend. She’d been drowsing.
"Do you really feel all right" Ginny asked her.
"Yeah…" she yawned. "I…"
"You’re pregnant, yes, I know," Ginny let out matter-of-factly.
Seeing Hermione staring at her, wide-eyed, she made a face.
"Hermione, you threw up almost every morning for three months, your mood changes faster than anyone can say Quidditch, you’re falling asleep during classes and you’re waist is not that slender anymore."
"I’m not a guy – and when I say I’m not a guy, I mean I’m not Harry – I’m your friend and even if my mother still see me sometimes like a baby, I’m a grown woman," Ginny interrupted. "So of course I would notice!"
Oh, Merlin, is she mad at me? Will they all be mad at me? Are they going to hate me because I didn’t tell them about the baby sooner?
Her heart beating madly, Hermione gulped – she wouldn’t throw up again! "I’m so sorry, Ginny. I…" she began.
"Stop fretting," her friend interrupted. "It’s good neither for you nor for the baby."
"But they are…"
"They are going to be happy and love you even more – if that’s possible."
I hope Ginny is right. Charlie didn’t hate me for not telling, right?
"Stop fretting, Hermione." Then Ginny seemed to ponder that. "In fact, I would, too. Because once Mom will know, she will fuss and fuss… I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes."
"Oh, Merlin…" Hermione whined.
"I’m kidding!" the redhead quickly added.
Of course, they both knew she wasn’t, but they didn’t talk further about it. Because just at that moment, Harry came back with an armfull of cauldron cakes, pumpkin pasties and all sorts of food and drinks.
At first, Hermione refused to eat anything. She felt queasy. But half an hour later, she could have eaten everything on the trolley. She caught Harry looking at her as she was licking her fingers clean of the last crumbs of the pumpkin pasties she had just wolfed down. But he averted his eyes when they met hers and he didn’t say a word. Nevertheless, she felt herself blush. I must have looked like a pig.
The rest of the trainride was thankfully uneventful.
As they were apparating at two hundred paces of the Burrow, Hermione told herself it would have been easier if some of the rules at Hogwarts were not so strict. They could apparate, but all students were supposed to use the Hogwarts Express. She rolled her eyes. Her back was killing her after having spent hours in a train. She was hungry again. And she was…
Oh, Merlin! She thought, her breath catching in her throat. Why did I say I would spend Christmas here? But her parents had been relieved, because they had planned a cruise on the Meditarranean Sea, and thanks to the Weasleys’ invitation, they didn’t have to cancel.
"Are you all right?" Harry asked her.
Hermione nodded. "I might have eaten too much chocolate frogs."
He took her hand briefly and squeezed it: "You’re going to be fine," he winked at her. Seeing her gape, he chuckled and added: "Hermione, you’re my best friend and contrary to popular belief…" He looked at Ginny from the corner of his eye. "… I pay attention."
Hermione was so relieved that for in instant, she thought she might cry. Damn mood swings!
"Come on," Harry said, putting an arm around her shoulders.
Ginny saw them walk side by side and smiled. Just as they reached the door, it flew open and Molly Weasley appeared, wearing an apron. "Come on in, come on in," she said, ushering them in the house. "It’s cold outside."
She all but crushed Ginny against her ample bosom. Then it was Harry’s turn. "Oh, Harry, dear." She observed him for a second. "You look pale and thin… don’t they feed you at Hogwarts?"
Ginny giggled. "They do! But I swear he stuff himself like a pig and yet he doesn’t take a pound!"
Harry laughed, and Ginny made a face at him.
"Oh, Hermione," Molly said. "I was so glad when Charlie said you would come over for Christmas."
Hermione felt Molly’s arms envelopping her into a bear hug… but Molly stopped herself before completing her motherly welcome. Her arms relaxed a bit, and she held the girl during a moment. Then she looked at her – there were tears in her eyes, but she was smiling. "I didn’t know the gift were given so early this year," she told Hermione. "But none of the ones waiting under the Chrismas tree will be better than the one you just gave me."
Hermione bursted into tears.
"Oh, don’t, don’t," Molly cooed. They shed tears of sorrow. But they were also tears of happiness.
Molly was still comforting Hermione when a man cleared his throat.
"Mom, Dad would like you to join him in the kitchen."
Molly threw up her arms. "Never leave a man alone in a kitchen!" she muttered. "He won’t find his way from the sink to the stove!"
Hermione sniffed. "Hello, Charlie."
"Hello, Hermione. Are you all right?"
She nodded her head, took a deep shuddering breath and sighed.
"I guess Mom knows?"
Hermione nodded again.
"And you didn’t tell her, right?"
This time, she shook her head. "How do you…"
Charlie shrugged. "Easy enough: we’ve always been able to hide a few things from Dad, he’s so busy. But, Mom, never – even the twins. She always finds out about everything that concerns her children." He looked at her. "And you’re the daughter of her heart, if not of her flesh, Hermione."
She let him took her to the sitting room.
"You’ll get used to it," he added, just before Fleur came striding towards them.
"’Ermione" she said, her accent thick again when she tried her best to speak English like a native.
"Fleur. How are you?"
The French beauty tucked her hair behind her ear in an elegant gesture and answered: "I’m fine. And I’m so glad I…" Letting her voice trail off, she took Hermione’s hands in hers. "I’m so sorry for your loss."
Bitting the inside of her cheek, Hermione nodded. She knew Fleur was sincerely affected by what had happened on the battlefield. The Weasleys were her family now, and she knew what that word meant. Her heart is in the right place.
Hermione had spent more joyful Christmas Eves at the Burrow, but she felt good surrounded by the warmth of their love. She had truly missed them all. Later that night, after the feast, they started, hesitantly at first, to tell about the best gift either Ron or Percy had made them. A Christmas present, a birthday present…
When it was Hermione’s turn, she simply said: "Ron gave me the gift of life. He lost his life to save mine and the life of our child growing in my womb."
Silence fell on the room during a few seconds, then they all started to talk at once. Molly hugged Hermione again, but more carefully, and Arthur took the girl’s face in his hands and kissed her on the brow. Fleur squealed, then bursted into tears of happiness and longing, and Bill had to comfort her and tell her she would be a mother herself soon.
Fred turned to George and whispered: "Well, it looks like I win and you lose, after all."
Seemingly dejected, George nodded. "You’ll have your money back tomorrow, all right?"
"Yeah," his twin nodded.
Charlie was looking at them in turn. "Wait a second… what did you two bet on?"
Fred and George looked at one another, then shrugged.
"Well, I said Harry and Ginny would be the first to have a child," George said, before glaring at Harry. "But the git has still to do the first move!"
Fred gave the thumbs up to Harry, who blushed furiously. Ginny, too, but it was obvious she was more angry than embarrassed.
Charlie shook his head.
Later that night, as Harry and Ginny were saying goodnight, she observed shrewdly. "You didn’t look surprised when Hermione announced she was with child."
"Mmm?" Harry answered, nibbling at her ear.
The girl pulled slightly away. "I’m sure you heard me, Harry James Potter."
He shrugged. "So what if I wasn’t surprised?" Seeing her about to retort, her eyes narrowing, he added quickly: "You didn’t tell me either!"
Ginny tilted her head on one side, then nodded and pressed her body against his again. Their lips crashed, but this time, it was Harry who broke the kiss. "I’m not sure it’s a good idea, Ginny."
"We said we’d wait… we must finish school first!" he reminded her, his breath a little labored.
"You decided!" she hissed. Then she added: "What would have happened if Hermione and Ron had waited?"
Harry sighed and took his time to answer. "I was jealous, you know," he finally said.
She shook her head. "I don’t…"
"When I found out they were together… I missed you so much! I thought I’d die soon and I’d never know how it felt to spend a night with you in my arms."
"So what are you waiting for now?"
"Things have changed, Ginny, even if…"
Harry sighed again. "At the time I thought Hermione and Ron should have waited. But today I’m glad they didn’t and had the time to know each other."
"I’m glad too," Ginny said, snuggling up in his arms. Then she looked up at him and started caressing the nape of his neck.
"Ginevra Molly Weasley, I’m not going to spend my first night with you under your parents’s roof!"
Oh, yeah? she thought. Wanna bet?
Hermione woke up and smiled when she noticed Ginny wasn’t there. Then she grimaced, registering the reason why she was awake – she needed to go to the bathroom. Sighing, because she couldn’t sleep during a whole night without having to get up at least once to relieve herself, she left her warm bed. The wooden floor was smooth and cool under her bare feet.
As she was walking out of the bathroom, a voice whispered. "Are you all right, Hermione?"
She blushed and grimaced – those words were starting to get on her nerves. "Yeah," she snapped. Then she compressed her lips, took a breath and said: "I’m sorry, Charlie."
He shook his head and stepped closer. In her nightgown, with her robe opened, it was obvious now that she was pregnant.
"It’s ok, don’t worry. I bet you’re fed up of hearing people asking you the same question all the time."
Hermione nodded. He took another step towards her, and she couldn’t fail to notice how different he was from Ron. Her lover had been lanky, but if Charlie was still taller than she was, he was shorter, and definitly broader in the shoulders. He was working hard in Romania, and it shows.
The girl felt herself blushing and was thankful for turning her back to the moon. Damn hormones! she whined inwardly. Aloud, she said: "Um, I’m going back to bed. Goodnight, Charlie."
It snowed all morning, and in the afternoon, Fred, George, Harry and Ginny had a snowball fight, soon joined by Fleur and Bill. Charlie saw his mother looked out of the window and smiled, then turned her eyes towards Hermione. The girl was dying to be out there with her friends, it was obvious.
"Come on, Hermione," Charlie said, taking her by the hand.
"Charlie Weasley!" Molly cried, scowling.
"I’ll take good care of her, Mom," he said above his shoulder. "Some fresh air will do her a lot of good." He looked at the girl. "Do you trust me, Hermione?"
She nodded, smiling.
They bundled up and walked out the garden door. Soon, the others were pelting them with snowballs. And true to his promise, Charlie made sure none ever touched Hermione – and that none of hers ever missed their intended target.
When they all get back inside, their cheeks were red and their eyes bright. Molly had made hot cider with spices, and they drank it slowly around the fireplace.
Molly was looking at her family. Fred and George were no doubts talking about some new inventions. Ginny and Harry were playing wizardchess, sitting cross-legged on the rug. She knew they had spent the night together and they both had had what they wanted – well, maybe not exactly, because Harry wanted Ginny, but he was mature enough to resist her. Fleur had her head on Bill’s lap, and he was stroking her hair.
She saw Hermione arc her back, and Charlie solicitously offer her a cushion. The girl smiled her thanks, and they exchanged a few words. She finaly nodded her head, and she turned her back to him so he could rub it with his strong hands.
Molly started slightly, then relaxed and smiled. She was still smiling when Arthur put his hands on her shoulders and kissed the top of her head.
When his wife looked up at him, Arthur saw she was truly happy for the first time in months.
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