"The sharp thorn often produces delicate roses." ~Ovid
~Thursday, 10 November, 2005~
The hem of Ron's Auror robe darkened with wetness as he walked across the damp lawn to his and Hermione's home. It had rained sporadically throughout the day, and the early evening sky was still clouded with gloom. Ron could smell the distinct, lingering scent of moisture in the cool autumn air. He couldn't believe it when he woke up to dreary weather that morning; after all, it had been sunny all week. Naturally, it had to be this particular day when it decided to change, as if the day wasn't depressing enough for him and his wife already.
Ron had been caught off guard that morning when Hermione told him she still wanted to go to work. He tried to talk her out of it and convince her to take the day off, but she wouldn't have it. She said she needed to get out of the house, said it would help keep her mind off of things. That didn't last long. Ron had gone to Hermione's office in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at noon to meet her for lunch, but one of her coworkers said she left early. He hadn't been surprised; he had almost done the same thing. But after some thought, Ron decided his wife probably needed some time by herself. He hated the idea of leaving her alone, but he figured she would have asked him to come along if she had wanted company.
She worried him sometimes. She was always so sad, and understandably so, but it pained him that there was nothing he could do. He knew it would take time for her to heal. Even he wasn't completely himself yet. But still, he at least tried to move on. He still met up with Harry for drinks on occasion and attended quidditch matches with his brothers every once in a while. Hermione, however, seemed to have completely shut down since it happened. Aside from her work at the Ministry, all she did in her spare time was read. She had abandoned her many projects which she had once been so eager to accomplish. In fact, the only thing she had worked on in the past year was the garden.
Ron stepped into their quiet little house and ridded himself of his wet work robe, then proceeded into the sitting room. On a typical day, his wife would be curled up in her favorite armchair beside the fireplace, sipping tea and drowning herself in a book. But today was not a typical day, and her chair was empty. He had expected this, and he had a feeling he knew where she was.
Sure enough, as he walked into the kitchen in the back of their house, he saw her through the tiny window above the sink. Their backyard was huge, and from so far away, he could barely make out her form. Hermione was all the way at the back edge of the yard, sitting in the middle of the garden. Without a sweater. By the looks of the sky, it seemed as if it would begin to rain again soon, and the temperature would inevitably drop as nightfall crept up. Ron grabbed the grey sweater she'd left on one of the kitchen chairs at some point during the day and ventured out the back door into the November chill.
It took him about three minutes to get all the way to the rose garden. Hermione had put it together earlier that year in the springtime, and she had done it all the Muggle way. She said she had always wanted a garden filled with her favorite flowers, and that it just seemed like a good time to do it. He assumed that it soothed her to immerse herself in something that wasn't related to work. It had looked truly beautiful when she finished. Hermione had planted roses of purple, pink, and yellow shades. No red roses, though, as Hermione thought they were too cliché. She did, however, plant lovely white ones which she reserved for only the very center of the garden.
Of course, as the summer died, so did the roses, yet Hermione still chose to sit in the garden on that chilly day. She was sitting in the middle, right in front of where she had planted the delicate white flowers. Hermione didn't notice Ron had come out until he sat down beside her and wrapped the sweater around her shoulders. Ron's heart broke at the sight of his wife. She wasn't crying, but there was evidence of earlier tears in the stains on her beautiful face.
"Thanks," she whispered, but she didn't look at him. Instead, she continued to stare at the lifeless roses. "I didn't know you were home already. I'm sorry, I haven't started dinner…"
Ron smiled a little for the first time that day. Only Hermione would concern herself with such a thing when she was so sad. She was always looking out for him. He wrapped his arm tightly around her shoulders.
"Don't worry about it. I'll cook."
She shook her head. "Don't. I'm not very hungry. I'll make you a sandwich once we get inside."
"Hermione, don't worry about me. Have you eaten today?"
She nodded. "I had a little something once I came home."
"Good," he said. Ron brought the hand resting on her shoulder up to gently touch her hair, which was still slightly damp from the rain earlier. "I wish you had told me you were leaving work early. I felt bad. I could have come home with you if you wanted."
Hermione shrugged. "I just didn't feel like staying after-" she stopped suddenly, and dropped her gaze from the dead roses to the cold ground. She started to play with the faded grass in front of her.
She shook her head. "Nothing, it's nothing."
Ron kissed the top of her head and rubbed her arm softly. "What happened, love?"
Hermione remained silent for a moment. She leaned forward and picked one of the wilted roses in front of them. The white petals had browned since the end of summer, a couple falling off as she brought it closer to her. She looked at it sadly, twirling it a bit. When she finally spoke, her voice was quiet.
"I got some interesting news from Ginny today."
"She came to the Ministry to have lunch with Harry, so she stopped by my department to say hello before she headed up to his office." She gently touched the top of the rose, another petal falling off as she did so. "She's pregnant again."
Ron closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. No wonder Hermione left.
"I'm happy for her," Hermione continued softly. "Really, I am. I know she and Harry have been wanting another baby."
Ron leaned his head against hers. "Oh, Mione…"
"But why did she have to tell me today…why today…" her voice trailed off.
Ron felt a lump grow in his throat. He'd kill Ginny. "I'm sure she didn't mean any harm. She probably just forgot-"
"Well, I haven't," Hermione snapped. She looked up at him for the first time that evening, and Ron's heart ached at the sight of her eyes swimming in unshed tears. "I haven't forgotten what today is. Why has everyone else forgotten except me?"
"I didn't forget, love."
"I know you didn't, Ron. But everyone else…it's like no one cares…"
"Oh, Mione, of course they care. They just…"
Ron sighed, but nodded. "Yeah."
It really was awful that no one seemed to remember what a terrible day this was for the two of them. Was it really that simple for everyone to just pretend it never happened?
The rain began to come down lightly as Hermione lifted her hand to touch the polished rock that was surrounded by the wilted white roses. She gently moved her fingers along the top of it, her hand shaking as she did so. Sure enough, Ron saw a single tear escape her eye and begin to trickle down her face, mingling with the rain.
"He would have been a year old today…" she said quietly.
Ron could feel the tears begin to sting his eyes as he pulled Hermione closer to him.
"I know," he whispered.
Hermione slowly began to break down. "Why did this happen? Why us? Why him? He didn't do anything wrong…"
"I know, sweetheart, I know," Ron choked out. He hugged her tightly and buried his face in her hair. She sobbed into his neck as he, too, allowed the tears to fall.
It was so unfair.
The healers said there was no way to know why Hermione went into labor three months early. They said it just happens sometimes and there's no real reason why. After all, Hermione had done everything right. She ate healthy foods, got plenty of rest, and saw her healer regularly. Everything had been just fine. But in the end, it was pointless. None of it mattered.
Their son was born so tiny, so fragile. When he came into the world, they waited with bated breath to hear a scream, a cry, a whimper, even, but he was silent and unmoving. Ron had experienced some horrendous things in his past, but nothing could measure up to the indescribable pain of holding his lifeless little boy in his arms. He had never cried so much in his life. Their son didn't deserve to die. He should have been spending the day in the warm house behind them, celebrating his first birthday with his family. Instead, he was laying cold beneath the small stone in the middle of Hermione's rose garden, beneath the white roses she had chosen because they were so pure, so symbolic of innocence. Innocent. Pure. That's what he had been.
"Ron," Hermione sobbed, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…"
"Oh, Mione, it's not your fault. It's no one's fault, no one's…" Ron said through his tears in a shaky voice. He held her tighter and they both cried for a long time as the rain came down at a steadier rate. They were soaking wet and shivering, but they didn't care. They stayed there in the garden, grieving a precious life that was lost too soon.
When their sobs mellowed out into silent tears and slightly unsteady breaths, Ron and Hermione continued to hold each other and stare at their son's small gravestone. They both wondered what he would have been like, or which of them he would have resembled more. There were so many things that could have been, that should have been, but they would never get the chance to find out what they were. After a long silence, Hermione spoke up. "I'm sorry," she said with a sniffle. "I didn't mean to break down like that…"
Ron looked at her. "Hermione, you never have to be sorry for something like that. Never."
Hermione quickly rubbed the wetness from her face with her sleeve and spoke in a normal voice. "No, I shouldn't have done that. It's been a year. I'm over it. It's done."
"Hermione, this isn't something we'll ever truly 'get over,'" Ron said soothingly. "I know you're not over it. I know you're hurting, and it's not healthy to keep it in. You know you can talk to me, love."
"There's nothing to say," Hermione said firmly. "I'm fine. I'm going back inside." And with that, she stood up and briskly walked back to the house without another word, carrying the dead white rose in her hand.
Ron sighed and looked at the ground. He knew how sad she was, and he understood her need to grieve, but this wasn't the way to do it. No matter how much she tried to play it off like it she was fine, Ron knew it was all an act. For the entire year since it happened, she hid behind her books and her rose garden and pretended everything was okay, that she was "over it," as she called it.
Even though she had cried as much as he had the day it actually happened, she hadn't shown any sign of sadness since, with the exception of today. It was almost as if she felt she had an image of strength to maintain and that she couldn't show any emotional weakness.
He knew Hermione probably wanted to be left alone, but Ron couldn't keep standing by and letting her shut him out. She had been doing that all year. He rose from the cold, wet ground and jogged back to their house, eager to get out of the rain. Once inside, he removed his soaked jacket and hung it next to the hearth, noticing Hermione had done the same with her sweater. Ron checked the sitting room first, and upon seeing that her chair remained empty, he climbed the stairs two-at-a-time.
Ron slowly opened the door to his and Hermione's bedroom. He heard the sound of running water and saw steam seeping from beneath the door of the master bathroom, indicating that she was taking a hot shower like she always did when she was upset. He kicked off his shoes and changed into some dry clothes - he'd shower later. Ron sat down on his side of their bed, leaning back against the headboard and stretching his legs out in front of him. He noticed that Hermione had left the lifeless white rose on her nightstand.
Not long after he came into the room, he heard the steady stream of the shower come to a halt. A couple of minutes later, Hermione emerged from the bathroom wearing a pair of her pajama pants and one of Ron's Chudley Cannons t-shirts, which swallowed her small frame. She had cast a drying charm on her hair and she looked fresh. She joined Ron on the bed, but didn't cuddle up to him like she usually did. Instead, she picked up the rose again and played with it, looking at it with an intense gaze. Despite her apparent desire to sit alone, Ron scooted closer to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. To his surprise, she didn't resist as he pulled her body close to his, though she continued to stare at the rose. He kissed the top of her head.
"You don't have to feel badly for crying," Ron said, reinforcing what he'd told her earlier. "It's okay to cry. It's okay to be sad."
"I know," she replied softly. "But I'm tired of feeling sad, tired of feeling…" she stopped.
"Feeling what? You know you can tell me."
"It's nothing, okay? I'm fine."
"Hermione, stop it," Ron said. His voice was not harsh or mean, but the change of tone indicated that he was being serious. "Give me a little credit. I know it's not nothing. You can try to convince me all you want that for this entire year you've been okay, but I know you haven't and you still aren't. You can keep pretending that you're fine or you can talk to me. I'm your husband and I love you. Please, Hermione, just talk to me." He said that last part in a pleading tone.
It took her a minute or two, but she finally tilted her head up to look at him. His heart shattered when he saw the pain in her eyes that lurked behind the newly formed tears. She was putting up a fight to hold them in, which probably caused the strain in her voice when she said,
"You still love me after I failed?"
Ron kissed her forehead before asking, "What do you mean, 'failed?'"
Hermione couldn't hold it in anymore, and she pressed her face into his chest and began to cry.
"I failed him," she wept. "I couldn't even carry him to term. I didn't make him healthy enough to stay alive."
"Hermione, no, that's not true. You didn't fail," Ron said soothingly as he held her tightly. "It wasn't your fault. You did everything right."
"How can you be so sure? What if there's something wrong with me? After everything that happened in the war…the Cruciatus…everything…what if it damaged me somehow?"
"Honey, the healer said-"
"The healer said our son would be fine, and look what happened!" she exclaimed. "Maybe the healer isn't as smart as we've been led to believe."
"Mione, please don't think like this. What happened was horrible, but it wasn't because of you."
"Everything else is! Why should this be any different? Everything's my fault. I lost him. I can't get pregnant again. I'm a terrible wife. I don't even have roses anymore." She sort of whispered the last part, and as she said it, a tear fell from her face into the browned petals of the rose in her hand.
Ron kissed her forehead and pulled her even closer to him.
"Listen to me, Hermione. Losing him wasn't your fault. I can't emphasize that enough. You did nothing wrong. As for getting pregnant again, it will happen. I know it will. We've only been trying for eight months, and the healers said it may take some time. I don't know where you got the idea that you're a terrible wife, but you couldn't be more wrong. Yes, even the brightest witch of her age can be wrong. You're the most incredible woman I've ever known, and I wouldn't trade you for anything in the world."
Hermione was silent, with the exception of the occasional sniffle or hiccup, and Ron took the rose from her hand.
"As for not having roses," he said, twirling it as she had earlier, "they'll come back. Next spring, they'll come back, and they'll be just as beautiful as they were, if not more."
"It's not just the roses, Ron," Hermione whispered. "It seems like the second we lost him, everything else that was good in life went with him." She hung her head. "I just want to be happy again. I'm so sorry for how miserable I've been to be around lately."
Ron squeezed her gently. "You don't have to be sorry. I understand how you've been feeling. And hey, if it's any consolation, you still have me. You'll always have me."
Hermione tilted he head upward so she could face him.
"After how awful I've been to put up with, you still want me?"
Ron raised an eyebrow and grinned. "You didn't actually think you could get rid of me that easily, did you?"
For the first time that day, she smiled. And it was a genuine smile, not one of those fake ones she had been forcing all year. Her eyes lit up this time as her lips curved into that beautiful grin he loved so much.
"I love you, Ron."
"I love you too, Hermione. Always."
She wiped away the remaining wetness from her eyes before leaning in to kiss him. Ron responded enthusiastically, as it had been quite some time since Hermione initiated a kiss. He kept one hand on her waist while he allowed the other to bury itself in her wild brown hair. They weren't sure how long they laid there, embracing and kissing - it could have been a few minutes, it could have been an hour - but it was Hermione who broke it. Her lips were pink and swollen from the motions, her hair tousled, and her eyes glazed.
"Ron," she whispered, sounding exhilarated, "I want you…"
"Please, Ron, I…I need this…I need you…"
It was all he needed to hear. They made love slowly and tenderly, all while gazing into one another's eyes and whispering sweet things. For the first time in a year, they weren't a couple desperate to conceive, but a husband and wife in love, finding each other again through their grief.
Afterward, they continued to lay beside each other, and Hermione was the first to speak.
"Do you really think we'll have another baby?" she asked in an almost whisper.
Ron nodded. "I do. When it's meant to happen, it will."
Hermione offered him a half-hearted smile. "I hope you're right. I really want to be a mum. I want a baby…"
He kissed her gently. "I do, too, love."
Ron knew how she felt. He wanted to be a father more than anything. If his friends and family were any indication, parenthood was one of the most wonderful gifts the world could offer, and while he was happy for everyone, it crushed him that everyone else seem to be experiencing it except for him and Hermione. He'd seen how much James Sirius brightened the lives of his sister and Harry, and now the happy couple was expecting another. Bill and Fleur were already the proud parents of three, Percy and Audrey had one daughter and another on the way, and George and Angelina just had their first son and were already discussing trying for another. Ron had even heard through the grapevine at the Ministry that Draco Malfoy and his wife welcomed their first child the month before. Everyone was experiencing the joys of parenting except them, and it seemed totally unfair.
They held each other for a long time, thinking about both the past and the future. With the wilted white rose beside them on the bed, they fell asleep in each other's arms to the sound of the steady rain beating softly against their window.
~Wednesday, 23 August, 2006~
It had been a long, eventful day, and though he was exhausted, Ron couldn't have been happier. He had never thought the piercing cry of an infant could be the most beautiful sound in the world. That cry told him that their baby was breathing, moving, and living. Their baby. His and Hermione's baby, alive and well.
He couldn't stop smiling.
After stepping out briefly to walk the family out to the main lobby, Ron was making his way back down the long, white corridor to their room, dodging healers in purple robes along the way. He opened the door slowly and as quietly as possible, knowing at least one of the room's two occupants was asleep. The sight that greeted him warmed his heart and brought a tear to his eye. Ron stood there in the doorway, transfixed by the sight of Hermione, his beautiful Hermione. She was sitting up in her bed, wide awake and smiling as she looked down at the tiny, pink bundle in her arms.
"You're so beautiful, sweetheart," she whispered lovingly to the sleeping baby. "Mummy and daddy are so happy you're here. We love you so much, Rose. We love you."
He watched Hermione bring up her hand to delicately touch the soft wisps of hair on their daughter's head. Hermione giggled.
"You have your daddy's hair, Rosie. It's red, just like his. Red like the flower you were named for."
Ron smiled at the memory. He remembered that day when in a single moment, the name they would give their daughter was decided. He was surprised when Hermione continued.
"I know you're sleeping, sweetheart, but I want to tell you a story," Hermione said softly. "A story about how you got your name. At our house, we have a garden in the backyard that's filled with beautiful roses, beautiful like you. I put it together last spring, and I planted roses in all different colors. But I never, ever planted red ones. At the time, I didn't like them. But just a few months ago, this past April, Mummy and Daddy came home to find a single, healthy red rose in the middle of the garden.
"You see, Rosie, you had a brother, but he wasn't as strong as you. He couldn't stay with us, and me and your daddy were very sad. When we found out we were having you, we were so, so happy, but we were worried, too. We didn't want to lose you the way we lost him. But just a few months ago, in April, that's when we found out that you were a strong, healthy girl, and that was the very same day we found the beautiful red rose in the garden. You see, your brother is buried in that garden beneath a patch of white roses, and the red rose was among them. And that's where you got your name, sweetheart. It was from your brother." Hermione began to tear up a little bit, and it was evident in her voice. "Sometimes I think he sent me and your daddy the rose to let us know that you would be safe and healthy. And he was right. You're here, Rosie, and you're perfect. You're strong and beautiful, and I don't think there's a child anywhere in the world that's more loved than you."
Ron got choked up as he watched Hermione lean down and kiss their sleeping daughter lightly on the forehead. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever witnessed.
"Hello, Ron," Hermione whispered. She never looked up at the doorway. Instead, her gazed remained on Rose's adorable little face.
Ron chuckled quietly and finally stepped into the room, closing the door behind him.
"You knew I was there?"
Hermione finally looked up at him with a smile. "Yes, I noticed."
Ron sat down on the bed beside his wife and kissed her gently.
"How are you feeling?"
"Oh, much better," Hermione said. "I'm still a little sore, but it was so worth it. Just look at her, Ron. Isn't she lovely?"
Ron smiled and nodded. He lifted his hand to gingerly touch his daughter's Weasley-red hair as her mother had done earlier. Rose moved slightly, but remained asleep. Though Ron knew she needed her rest, he wished that for just one moment Rose could wake up so he could see her beautiful, chocolate-brown eyes that were just like her mother's.
"I'm so happy, Ron," Hermione whispered.
Ron beamed. "I am, too, Hermione."
"That's okay, right?" Hermione asked, looking up at him. "To be happy even after…? You know…"
Ron kissed her again. "Of course it's okay. He'd want us to be happy. And how could we not? She's perfect, Hermione. She's healthy and strong. What more could we ask for?"
"I know," Hermione whispered. She glanced down at Rose again. "I still miss him, though…"
Ron wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "I do, too, and we always will. But we can still be happy. We need to be happy. For her." He brushed his hand ever so softly against Rose's slightly pink cheek.
Hermione kissed the sleeping Rose, then kissed her husband. "I love you, Ron."
"I love you, Hermione," Ron said. "I love you both so much."
Hermione and Ron sat there in silence for a long time, gazing down at the precious little life they'd created at a time when their lives were broken. They would never forget the memory of their son, but their daughter was proof that life goes on and does get better. The roses in life do come back, and through the winter and summer, sunshine and rain, they would now always have one, and she was perfect.
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