Author's Note: Sorry it has been a while since I've updated! I definitely had to work out the feelings and thoughts in this one as I don't think I've ever had similar enough an experience to do justice to how Hermione would feel. Please let me know what you think.
She could breathe. With the morning still gray, the world not quite awake, it was the first thing she noticed when she opened her eyes. The air moved into her lungs easily, the weight that had been sitting on her for so many weeks gone. She lay there for awhile, breathing in and breathing out, getting familiar with what used to be an involuntary action that had turned into just another thing she did not want to face after—
Her breath caught, the sudden pressure around her smothering her. Her eyes squeezed shut, knowing what would come next: the pressure would build and build and she'd grit her teeth to stifle her screams until she felt like her head would implode.
But then it eased. She relaxed a fraction. There was something different about today, something old yet new existing in her mind. She latched onto it and pulled, wanting to keep this strand of strength near her, perhaps gather enough of it to wound around her, protect her from what she refused to face.
Another intake of air. A feeling, different only because it wasn't despair, sadness or grief, tingled at the back of her mind. She couldn't qualify it as good exactly but it seemed to shore her up to a small degree.
Enough to finally look at the awful tale residing at the back of her mind. She explored that dark recess in her mind tentatively. She'd been fighting, scrambling, running, hiding to avoid it, to not confront it, but she knew that she couldn't keep doing that forever. It just wasn't her, to run away from responsibility, from life.
Ron's beloved face and ginger hair formed in her mind's eye and she choked back a sob, wetness escaping the fringes of her lashes. It was just a tear, a small drop compared to the raging river it had been over the past few weeks. Yes, the grief was still there but at least it was no longer suffocating her.
Breathing deeply once more, Hermione decided that it was time to finally look at that night.
They'd been out on a date. She had thought it would likely be the last time it'd be just the two of them before the baby was born so she'd been insistent about going out for a special dinner. She'd overridden Ron's tender concerns over her delicate condition and wanting her to stay home and got him to go out with her.
Oh, god. Her throat constricted and her stomach twisted, a nauseous feeling coming over her. She rolled to the side of the bed, blindly grabbing for the wastebasket just around the bed stand. She gasped into the wastebasket, dry heaving, nothing coming out to alleviate the roiling in her stomach. Her head hung over the edge of the wastebasket, long tendrils of her unwashed hair sticking to her wet cheeks.
She'd basically brought about his death. If she hadn't insisted that they go out for dinner, that they eat at that new restaurant she'd read about in the papers, Ron would be alive right now. Sobbing, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, curling into herself at the edge of the bed as guilt settled into her spirit.
She lay unmoving for some time as the sun rose higher in the sky, brave rays breaking through the darkness of her room, lighting up motes of dust. The tears had subsided, the guilt had eased a little as she'd regained a measure of control. Her brown eyes stared unseeing at the wall.
The night had been playing over and over again in her mind. She could only remember going out to dinner—
his teeth flashes as he laughs, his large hand touching her face tenderly
"I like 'Jack' if he's a boy, don't you, 'Mione?"
"And what, 'Jackie' if she's a girl?" His hand covers hers on his lap and he laughs at the sarcasm in her tone.
—then the world became an explosion of pain and darkness, of dying and living.
"Where's Ron? Tell me where he is!"
"Hermione…he didn't make it." Harry's eyes are filled with tears but he refuses to let them fall, trying to be strong for her.
"No!" The news hits her like an arrow to her heart and the denial is ripped out of her on a wail Her hands fist and she's fighting the truth of Harry's simple statement. His own hands capture her arms gently and he pulls her to him. She sobs into his shirt, the same word repeated over and over. "No. No, no."
Then she'd held her son in her arms—their son. And she'd loved him. Despite the fact that her heart had been completely shattered, there was a fragment of it that had glowed as she'd looked into the baby's small face. But that small glow hadn't been enough to counteract the pain that had sliced through her when his little eyes had opened and the clear blue of Ron's own eyes had flashed before her.
She hadn't been able to face the baby since, fearing that she would be driven into madness if she had to be reminded continuously of who she'd lost. Ron Weasley had been her mate, her love, her best friend for over half her life. How was she to cope with that?
Guilt settled into her bones once more. She knew it was no excuse. Her treatment of her own child had been abominable. She didn't know really how he was being taken care of, who was looking after him, bloody hell, what they were even calling him! Slowly she sat up, the world shifting a little for her, settling into a better angle.
How many days had she been like this? Selfish, so fucking selfish she'd been acting. She brought her feet to the floor carefully, testing her weight before standing up fully. She stood still for a moment, waiting for the spinning to stop. Mad at herself, the remorse drumming at the back of her mind, she pulled on a dressing gown, determined to do right by her child.
In the hours she'd been laying there, when she'd finally calmed down enough to think a little logically, she knew that Ron wouldn't blame her for his death. God, she missed him, but that didn't mean it would make up for the fact that their baby hadn't had his mother in the beginning days of his life. She knocked her forehead against the door, her hand on the doorknob. Ron would be disappointed in her.
Taking a shuddering breath, she pulled the door open quietly. It would be the first time since she'd been back from the hospital that she was exiting her room. The hallway was dim, muffled voices coming from the kitchen. She wasn't sure if it was her parents or Gin and Harry but she didn't want to face them just yet; she just wanted to see her baby.
Her bare feet made their silent way to the door across the hall. It was slightly ajar, a line of light escaping through the crack. Cautiously, she pushed the door open, the shame tremoring through her, a thought crossing her mind of maybe she could do this another day. She threw it off with a shake of her head. She couldn't. She wasn't made to be a coward. Not to her own son.
The door slid inward, revealing the fanciful decorations she'd put together in her pregnancy, knowing that her baby's soon-to-be grandparents would insist that the new family stay with them for a time. The ice cold hands of grief slipping tighter around her again. No new family now.
As the door opened fully, she was met by a sight she had never even entertained in the slightest. A sight that turned that ice cold grief into burning fury, a feeling that she welcomed because it was activeand alive yet held her still with the force of it.
Power surged within her and the window shattered. Hermione barely flinched but the other adult in the room did and looked up with a startled expression, the baby in his arms starting to cry, sensing the change in his happy world.
Draco Malfoy was sitting in a chair near the cradle. Holding her baby. Her baby. "What the fuck are you doing here?" Her voice, unused for some time, came out hoarse and laced with dislike.
She didn't even give him a chance to speak before she advanced on him, the man stumbling out of the chair and backing towards the opposite wall, her baby clutched to him. "Give him to me!" She didn't register how his arms carefully handled the child, how one of his hands was patting the baby's back, trying to calm it. All she saw was the tormentor of her youth, the ex-Death Eater, in her home and trying to take her child. And she wasn't going to let that happen.
"Malfoy! I will curse you into oblivion if you do not hand him over right the fuck now!" Her finger was pointed at him in accusation and in preparation for spell-casting, as if to replace her wand.
He held up a hand in a pleading motion, his gray eyes worried and just a bit scared. Hermione had gone insane and there was no way he was going to hand over Jack with her being unable to control her magic.
Harry stumbled into the room, his coat still on from Ron's service. "Wha—" he cut himself off, taking in the scene before him in a second. Hermione in her dressing gown, her curly hair in disarray, her eyes wide in fury, glass shattered around her feet. Her finger pointed at Draco, crowded up towards a wall, his body turned to shield the baby. Harry moved, making a grab for Hermione, bringing her hand down firmly as she fought him. "Hermione! Merlin, Hermione!"
She wasn't giving up, still trying to get at Malfoy who was now making his way towards the door. "He's got my son! Harry, my baby!" The fury was now edged with despair. He couldn't just let Malfoy leave with him.
"It's okay, Hermione, it's okay. He's okay. 'Mione, he's fine. He's helping," Harry's voice was pitched in a soothing tone, hugging his close friend to him, trying to communicate with his words and his gestures that Draco was okay. He'd seen it for himself and known that Ginny had been watching the man and for some inexplicable reason, trusted him with the baby.
Hugging her head to his shoulder as her tense muscles relaxed and she started crying into his shoulder, the anger leaving as sudden as a flick of a switch, he turned to face the doorway where Draco stood in shock, still trying to calm a wailing Jack. "I think you should go."
Draco nodded, his eyes wide as he took in the broken form of Hermione. Jean, Hermione's mom, appeared to take the baby from him, her brown eyes glancing at her daughter, her expression sad. He handed Jack over, his hand caressing the baby's soft head for a moment before he slowly made his way down the hallway, dazed at what had just happened.