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The Blossoming by Athene Goodstrength
Chapter 9 : Meeting the Midwife
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5

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Monday 10th October 2005.

Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Ministry of Magic.

The Auror’s Office was always a busy place, with people constantly going out to crime scenes, conducting interviews, following possible leads, and then returning to dig themselves into a foxhole of paperwork. A network of cubicles had been created with tall polished oak partitions which were themselves covered in photographs and posters of various wanted Dark wizards and witches. One such cubicle had a space devoid of the scowling faces of criminals, covered instead with photographs of a baby with a tuft of black hair and pages torn from a magazine showing a sleek, polished racing brooms. There was also a prominently-displayed photograph of two young women, one red-haired, the other brunette, their arms around each other as they laughed. Above it all hung a red and gold banner bearing the words ‘Gryffindor Pride’.

Two desks had been pushed together to create one large table, on the surface of which lay scattered many pieces of parchment covered in two rather messy styles of handwriting. Hermione had tutted and begun to tidy the papers when she’d arrived from her own office elsewhere in the Ministry building, but Ron and Harry had quickly complained that she was ruining their organised mayhem. Pauline, the stern office secretary who had seemingly been running the place for over forty years, had bustled over to reprimand Ron for having a visitor to the office outside of the allotted lunch break. However, a quick glimpse of Hermione’s ultrasound photo had somehow made the gaunt face melt into a soppy smile and Pauline had decided to permit ‘non-regulation inter-office fraternization’ just this once. Hermione had made Ron budge up so that they could share his seat at the desk as Harry, sitting opposite them, told them about his unexpected return to Privet Drive.

‘Wow,’ said Ron, leaning back and letting out a low whistle as Harry finished speaking. Pauline looked up from her desk to find the culprit and Ron quickly ducked beneath the partition of the cubicle, and leaned across the desk towards Harry. ‘That’s… that’s worse than I thought it would be.’

Harry chuckled softly, then sighed. ‘I don’t know what I was expecting when I said I’d go.’

‘Closure?’ Hermione suggested quietly. ‘Some studies show that confronting unpleasant memories, like confronting a Boggart, can be very beneficial…’

‘As much as I enjoy the thought of calling my aunt a Boggart, I don’t think that’s it,’ replied Harry. ‘Closure from what? Being a kid? I don’t know,’ he shrugged. ‘I guess it was just weird to hear Petunia crying down the ‘phone, and then I spoke to Dudley and he was choking up, and…’

Ron looked at Harry and thought again how awful his friend looked. He had dark circles under his eyes, and his hair was more unruly than ever. Not that Ron cared what Harry’s hair looked like – he could come in with it dyed bright pink and… well, Ron would certainly laugh, and made sure he took photographs, but he wouldn’t care. But today, Harry looked like he’d dragged himself into work, and that wasn’t like him at all.

‘I know, mate,’ Ron said, throwing Harry a sympathetic look. ‘They treated you like an unwanted House-Elf –’

‘Ron!’ interjected Hermione crossly, elbowing her boyfriend in the ribs.
‘Sorry,’ Ron sighed. ‘They treated you like shit… better, Hermione?... but they were your only family for years.’

Harry nodded.

‘Dumbledore always put a lot of faith in the blood we shared. I guess my mum did, too...’ Harry let out a groan of frustration and ran a hand jaggedly through his hair. Ron realised why Harry was looking such a state. ‘I don’t know why I’m feeling so messed up about it all. I always thought I’d be sort of secretly pleased if Uncle Vernon dropped dead, but I’m not. I’m just angry and exhausted.’

Ron and Hermione glanced at each other with concern as Harry laid his head on his arms and sighed deeply. Hermione put down the pile of parchment she’d been surreptitiously straightening and reached across the desk to touch Harry’s arm lightly.

‘Do you think it’s really a good idea to go to the funeral?’ she asked.

Harry sat up, blinking with tiredness.

‘I said I would, for Dudley if no one else. The poor guy hero-worshipped his dad for years, and he just seems so lost and confused now.’

‘Doesn’t Dudley always look lost and confused?’ said Ron, prompting a grateful laugh out of Harry.

‘He’s not all that bad,’ Harry replied. ‘Not anymore.’

Ron had met Dudley a couple of times over recent years, and had to admit that he seemed basically harmless. A bit thick, and clearly very nervous around magical people, but friendly enough - particularly once he’d found out that Hermione was Muggle-born and could explain what everyone else was talking about.

‘Well,’ said Hermione, getting to her feet. ‘Just be kind to yourself, okay?’

Ron never really knew what Hermione meant by that, but it always made him feel a little better when she said it. He looked at Harry, whose brow was still slightly furrowed.

‘We’ve got to go,’ Ron said apologetically. ‘Don’t work too late, okay?’

Harry half smiled.

‘I’ll probably just put this lot in the drawer until tomorrow,’ he said, indicating the messy desk. Harry paused as Ron got up and helped Hermione into her coat. ‘I really am so happy for you guys. I almost can’t believe it.’

‘Neither can we,’ Ron chuckled.

He threw his satchel over his shoulder and gave his half of the desk a cursory tidy, aware that Hermione was watching. Looking over the top of the oak partition, Ron saw Pauline Featherstone frowning in their direction.

‘Quick, Hermione! We’re about to get kicked out.’

‘I’ll catch up with you,’ Hermione replied quietly, casting a glance towards Harry. ‘You go on ahead.’

‘What was that about?’ Ron asked a few minutes later as Hermione hurried to catch up.

‘He wanted to apologise for Friday night. Apparently he and Ginny had a huge row when they got home.’

‘I’m not surprised,’ said Ron, pressing the shiny brass button for the elevator. ‘She looked ready to hex him there and then.’

‘Well, he said he was sorry for ruining the evening. I think he’s being very hard on himself about everything, really.’

Ron nodded as the lift arrived and he stepped in, holding the door open for Hermione.
‘That sounds like Harry.’

‘We’re fine now, I told him,’ said Hermione, pressing the button marked ”Atrium”. ‘And he and Ginny made up.'

That was always the way with her friends, Hermione reflected as she tried to ignore the sickening lurch and shudder of the lift. Harry and Ginny were both quick to flare and quick to forgive - unlike she and Ron, who somehow made any argument smoulder for days, no matter how miserable it made them both. It was just part of their relationship, she knew, but she pressed her palm to the spot where the baby was growing and willed the tiny creature to be slightly less obstinate than its parents.

‘Are you okay?’ asked Ron, noticing Hermione’s hand moving to her abdomen.

‘Fine,’ she smiled. ‘I’m looking forward to meeting the midwife - I have so many questions.’

‘Yeah, I saw your list,’ Ron murmured as the lift jolted to a halt. He reached out automatically to steady Hermione, who brushed him off.

‘I’m fine, Ron. I’m pregnant, not elderly.’

Hermione heard him sigh quietly and knew he was holding his tongue.

‘Sorry,’ she said, thinking once again of the Potters’ way of doing things.

Ron grabbed his girlfriend’s hand and squeezed it tightly whilst they walked through the Ministry’s busy entrance hall, towards the row of fireplaces marked “Departures”. Hermione would usually have pulled her hand away - it wasn’t very professional after all, and everyone knew who she and Ron were. Today, however, she felt as though he was anchoring her gently as he led her through the crowds.

Finding an empty fireplace, Ron dug in his pockets for a couple of Knuts to operate the silver and glass machine affixed to the wall above the mantel.

‘Here,’ said Hermione, pulling the coins from her purse and pushing them into a slot in the machine. She pulled a lever and two small paper sachets of Floo Powder fell into the gleaming tray beneath. There had been something of an outcry when the Floo Network Authority had installed the Insta-Floo machines, but the Ministry had been losing money every time someone helped themselves to too much powder. The final straw had been when a young clerk had absent-mindedly thrown an entire handful into the flames, causing the whole thing to explode and the clerk to find himself trapped in a cramped Muggle fireplace somewhere in Estonia.

Ron and Harry had been rather pleased when it turned out that the money made from the Insta-Floo machines meant that the canteen could now offer hot chocolate as well as tea and coffee.

“Best Minister this country’s ever seen,” Ron had grinned.

“Kingsley’s definitely got his priorities in order,” Harry had added through a mouthful of marshmallow.

Now, Hermione handed Ron one of the packets and gave him a peck on the lips.

‘See you there,’ she said, tearing her sachet open and throwing the darkly glittering powder into the fireplace. She stepped into the green flames and braced herself. ‘Lady Artemis Hospital.’

Instantly, she began to whirl through the Floo Network, a fascinating piece of magical infrastructure for which she did not particularly care. Arthur had promised to make any small adjustments they fancied if she and Ron bought a car, but she didn’t feel quite right exploiting the loophole. “Us Ministry workers need to be beyond reproach,” Hermione had told Arthur and Ron. Molly had agreed emphatically, giving her husband a severe look.

Spinning to a halt in a spacious fireplace, Hermione wondered how long she could continue using the Floo system. Of course, very large people managed it all of the time, so having a huge tummy - the thought made Hermione’s stomach flip over - wouldn’t be a problem in itself, but she didn’t want to risk getting knocked over. It was one of the questions on her list. She knew Ginny and Audrey, or even Molly, would be able to answer most of them, but Hermione couldn’t help herself- she wanted to hear it from the midwife.

‘Good afternoon!’ a cheerful voice trilled, and Hermione stepped out of the fireplace to find a woman beaming at her from behind a huge, curved desk. ‘Welcome to the Lady Artemis Hospital for Witches. Can I help you?’

Hermione stepped up to the desk.

‘I’m here to meet one of the midwives... I’m sorry, I don’t know her name; the appointment was made by my Healer.’

‘Of course,’ said the receptionist brightly. ‘What’s your name, dear?’

‘Hermione Granger. My boyfriend will be here in a minute.’

‘Lovely.’ The receptionist leafed through a ledger, running a finger along a page marked with an intricate ‘G’. ‘Let’s see... Gillespie... Gupta... Greengrass - oh, that one needs updating - ah! Granger. You’re seeing Tanya Honeymill at four o’clock; you’re early, dear.’

‘She always is,’ said Ron, stepping out of the fireplace and joining Hermione at the desk.

The receptionist gave them directions to the waiting area for the midwifes clinic, and they set off, matching butterflies swooping in their stomachs. The hospital was light and airy, with large murals painted on the long corridor walls. The paintings, like most magical art, were moving. To Hermione’s left, a twilit field rippled in an eternal breeze, as moths and birds danced over the long grass. She took a long breath as she and Ron walked towards the waiting room. This place felt calm, peaceful. St Mungo’s was always heaving with people suffering from various loud and messy maladies, and she tended to avoid it as much as she could. Hermione had, on returning to Hogwarts for her final year, briefly considered training to become a Healer, but she’d had too many nightmares about blood to truly commit to it; besides, she felt her heart drawn as always towards fighting injustice. Perhaps that was the legacy of being called ‘Mudblood’ - or maybe she would have felt like this anyway.

The waiting room at the end of the corridor was bright and airy, with plush green sofas against the walls. Hermione had to pick her way across the floor, which was covered in scattered toys pulled from a box by a determined looking toddler. His mother glanced up at Hermione and Ron and smiled benignly, before giving a slight double-take. She watched them openly as they settled onto a sofa together, Hermione fiddling with her bag and Ron looking at the various pregnancy posters on the walls with an expression of somewhat nervous curiosity. Hermione looked over and smiled at the lady; this seemed to give her the encouragement she needed to shift under the weight of her hugely pregnant belly, and lean towards Ron and Hermione.

‘I’m sorry if this seems odd,’ the lady began. ‘But are you Harry Potter’s friends?’

Ron tore his eyes away from a poster of a smiling witch cradling a baby against her bare chest, and a blush crept quickly up his neck. They were rarely recognised without Harry around, and it was just his luck to look like some sort of pervert on one of these occasions.

‘Um, yes. This is Hermione Granger, and I’m...’

‘Ron Weasley,’ the lady beamed. ‘I recognised your red hair. I went to Hogwarts with your big brother, and of course then your photo was in all the papers during the War...’

‘Oh,’ Ron replied, surreptitiously reaching for Hermione’s hand. This wasn’t really what they’d wanted out of their first appointment with the midwife, but he couldn’t be rude. Not to a woman, and especially not a pregnant one. Perhaps it was a case of self-preservation rather than politeness, but nevertheless he smiled. ‘Which brother? I have a few.’

‘Bill,’ came the eager reply. It was clear that the woman was delighted to have run into her claim to fame. ‘Of course, I was in Ravenclaw, so we didn’t really know each other very well, but I don’t mind saying that we shared a table in Potions, and...’

Hermione found herself tuning out the chatter, and watching the little boy on the floor bash a plastic wand against a jack-in-the-box. His little brow was furrowed as he concentrated on whatever game he had made up to entertain himself, and Hermione began to wonder what it would be like to be the parent of a magical child. She thought about the hours she’d spent poring over her homework at the kitchen table as her father hovered nearby, hoping to be able to help her. Stewart Granger had looked forward to studying Shakespeare with his daughter, but when that was no longer an option, he had tried his hardest to understand Arithmancy. Her mother had taken Hermione out into the countryside every night for a week, so that they could plot stars and the movements of the moon together.

Later, Hermione's parents had tried their hardest to understand why their only child would erase their memories and send them away to the other side of the world. It was an act which Hermione felt would haunt her for the rest of her life, committed at the height of a War, but painful nonetheless. She couldn’t regret her actions, for the Grangers had all been in grave danger from the moment Hermione’s name was linked to Harry’s, but she sometimes had long, drawn-out nightmares in which she was unable to find ‘Wendell and Monica’ again. In other dreams, she managed to track her parents down, but the charm could not be lifted and they would never know her as their daughter again.

By turning her wand on her parents, Hermione felt that she had betrayed their trust, and no amount of reassurance from her mum on that count could make her feel differently. She squeezed Ron’s hand and hoped that their child would never have to live through such a time, nor make such difficult decisions - or if it did, that she and Ron would be able to teach it the same courage and loyalty that they had learned from their own parents, and each other.

Hermione looked up from this endless train of thought as a short woman with caramel skin and a mass of black hair piled atop her head entered the room, smiling at her. She was wearing crisp lavender-coloured robes, and a small silver watch was pinned to her chest.

‘Miss Granger? I’m Tanya, your midwife. I’ll be with you in a minute, just make yourselves comfortable.’ She turned to the chatty lady, who hadn’t noticed the glazed look on Ron’s face. ‘Lobelia? Would you like to come on through?’

The woman gave Ron one last curious look as she hauled herself to her feet and beckoning to her son - ‘Come on, Calvin, you know mummy’s too big to lift you now,’ - followed the friendly midwife from the room.

Ron let out a low sigh and shook his head slightly.

‘Honestly, some people will just talk to you, no matter where you are.’

‘As long as they don’t do it when I’m in labour, I don’t mind,’ said Hermione with a rueful smile. ‘You have my full permission to hex anyone who tries it.’

‘If it helps,’ the blonde woman in the corner said quietly, ‘I had no idea who you were.’

She looked over at Ron and Hermione for the first time. She was a young woman, and extremely beautiful, with clear blue eyes and her slender arms resting serenely below the perfect swell of her bump. However, a slight sneer had crept across her features, rendering them somewhat unpleasant.

‘Of course, one can guess at you being a Weasley,’ she gestured gently towards Ron, ‘but there are so many of you, aren’t there? I was at Hogwarts at around the same time as you, but wouldn’t have known you if that woman hadn’t said something.’ She smiled at Hermione, white teeth flashing. ‘I wouldn’t worry too much about autographs in the delivery room, sweetie.’

Ron was frowning, but Hermione squeezed his fingers again.

‘Thank you, I won’t worry. When is your baby due?’ she asked pleasantly.

The woman stared at Hermione for a moment, clearly unsure whether she had truly conveyed her unaccountable hostility. Hermione smiled at her, and the woman’s alabaster cheeks began to redden.

‘The beginning of November' she muttered, before turning away sharply.

Hermione glanced at Ron, mischief dancing in her eyes, and he smirked slightly. There was a moment of silence, before another lavender-robed midwife entered the room, smiling benignly at the blonde woman.

‘Mrs Malfoy? I’m ready for you now - sorry for the delay.’

Next to Hermione, Ron’s head snapped up and, open-mouthed, he watched the blonde woman follow the midwife from the room. The instant she was gone, he turned to Hermione.

‘Did you hear that?! ‘Malfoy’! As in, Draco?’

‘How many Malfoys can there be?’ breathed Hermione. ‘She must be his wife.’

Ron’s face was full of glee and shock.

‘I can’t believe someone would marry that git!’

Hermione recalled Mrs Malfoy’s reaction to her joke about being recognised.

‘I don’t know,’ she said thoughtfully. ‘They seem pretty well-matched, if you ask me.’

‘Still... I can’t imagine Malfoy as a dad, can you?’

‘Maybe he’s changed,’ Hermione shrugged.

‘Maybe he’ll be just like his own slimy father.’

Hermione looked at the distaste on Ron’s face. ‘And maybe it doesn’t matter. We’re here for us, Ron.’

‘Sorry. You’re right; this about Ron Junior. Or little Ronette.’

Hermione laughed. ‘You’d better not be serious about those names, because I really don’t want to use both of today’s vetoes at once.’

Just then, Tanya stuck her head around the door.

‘Hi, Hermione. Would you both follow me?’

Hermione felt a flutter of excitement in her chest, and she and Ron followed the little woman out of the waiting room.

If Tanya Honeymill had recognised her new clients, she hadn’t let on at all. Instead, she’d asked all about them both, showing a good deal of interest in Ron’s job as an Auror, and double-checking that she’d pronounced Hermione’s name correctly. She went through Hermione’s medical history, allowing a bright purple quill to take notes as they talked.

‘So,’ said Tanya as she passed Ron and Hermione a cup of tea each. ‘As I need to get a full idea of your magical, as well as medical, history, I’m afraid that I do have to ask a few slightly sensitive questions in this first meeting...’

Hermione glanced around the midwife’s office, which was as bright and airy as the rest of the Lady Artemis Hospital. She and Ron were settled comfortably on another deep green sofa, and the walls were painted with dozens of gently fluttering butterflies. It felt like a safe place, which was no doubt the intended effect.

‘That’s okay,’ said Hermione. ‘Go ahead.’

Tanya smiled, and interlaced her fingers over her knee.

‘Okay. Firstly, have you ever brewed or taken restricted potions, such as Veritaserum or the Draught of Living Death?’

Hermione’s eyes widened.

‘I... I’ve brewed and used Polyjuice Potion a few times - is that bad for the baby?’

Tanya shook her head.

‘Not necessarily. Was each transformation complete and without complications?’

Hermione’s mind raced as she answered.

‘N-No... the first time I tried it, it went wrong. I put a cat hair in by mistake.’

The old memory made Hermione cringe.

Tanya made a sympathetic noise. ‘Oh, you poor thing! That must have been frightening. Did you see a Healer?’

‘It was at Hogwarts. Madam Pomfrey checked me over and said there’d be no lasting effects.’

‘Ah, Poppy’s a highly respected nurse, and I’m sure she’s seen everything at least once by now! In that case, I wouldn’t worry about it at all. It was a long time ago, and you’ve had successful Polyjuice transformations since, so that’s a good indicator that it won’t have caused any issues.’

‘Issues?’ repeated Ron. ‘What sort of issues?’

‘In some extremely rare cases - and I mean, there have only been half a dozen in the last hundred years - excessive or unsafe use of Polyjuice Potion can cause genetic defects in the fetus,’ Tanya explained. ‘But Hermione’s incident sounds relatively minor, and she did the right thing by seeking medical attention. As long as you don’t brew or drink Polyjuice Potion during the pregnancy -’

‘Definitely not,’ Hermione interrupted emphatically. ‘My body already feels like it belongs to someone else.’

‘ - then you’ll be fine. Are you in contact with any potent potions at work or at home?’

‘No, nothing like that.’

‘Excellent. Now, I know that Ron’s an Auror, but are you ever in situations where you might find yourself in contact with dark magic?’

Hermione shook her head.

‘Not since the War ended, no.’

‘And during the War?’ Tanya asked gently, and Hermione realised that the midwife knew exactly who she and Ron were. Tanya leaned forward, her eyes full of kindness. ‘I can’t make assumptions about you based on what I’ve read or heard about you, Hermione. That would be completely irresponsible, and anyway - I want to get to know you both. This is a special time in your lives. I’m aware that you, your families and friends, went through a lot of very difficult things during the War. We don’t have to talk about those things, but I do need you to talk to me about your medical and magical history, so that I can tailor your midwifery care to your needs.’

Hermione bit her lip, and watched a large blue butterfly slowly opening and closing its painted wings.

‘I spent a lot of time in close proximity to a powerful Horcrux, but it never affected me too badly,’ she said pensively. Next to Hermione, Ron stiffened as he recalled the cold beat of the locket against his chest. ‘And both Ron’s sister and her husband were... um... well, they had close contact with, um...’

‘Whatever it is, I’ve heard stranger things,’ said Tanya encouragingly.

Hermione and Ron both laughed, exchanging glances.

‘Okay,’ said Hermione. ‘Well, they both had very close contact with - in fact, may have been possessed by - fragments of Voldemort’s soul, but their son turned out normal, so I don’t suppose I need to worry about having worn a Horcrux around my neck a few years ago...’

To Tanya’s credit, she barely blinked, although her purple quill paused in surprise.

‘So, have you heard anything weirder than that?’ laughed Ron.

Tanya thought for a moment.

‘It’s not weird, so much as it is uncommon. Last year, I cared for a pregnant house-elf,’ she began.

Ron’s laughter became a choked coughing sound.

What? Do they even have... um...?’ he trailed off, turning red as Hermione nudged him sharply. ‘I mean, I never really thought of house-elves doing... that.’

‘Well neither had I,’ Tanya replied, smiling. ‘And it seems that they normally take care of their own during pregnancy, but apparently a few brave young witches have been encouraging them to integrate into magical society.’ She gave Hermione a knowing look. ‘Of course, I had to refer her to the consultant rather than lead her care myself, but they were a lovely couple. Although I’ll admit I nearly spilled my tea when they shuffled into my office together, wearing their matching pillowcases.’

Ron and Hermione burst out laughing,

‘Whilst I’m glad to hear our healthcare initiative is working,’ said Hermione, relaxing into the sofa, ‘I dofeel a bit more normal now.’

‘Good,’ beamed Tanya. ‘You are normal, although obviously this pregnancy is special.’

‘Why’s that?’

‘Because they all are.’ Tanya took a sip of tea, and gave the purple quill a prod with her wand. It began to scribble again. ‘Now, if we could quickly return to the Dark magic question...’

‘Oh. Yes, well... I was once Petrified by a basilisk, but that was years ago, when I was a child.’

Tanya nodded, and the quill scribbled still faster.

‘And, uh...’ Hermione faltered once more, and felt Ron’s hand once again enfolding hers. ‘... I was tortured once. The Cruciatus Curse.’

Reaching over, Tanya stopped the quill in its frantic scratching. She tilted her head to one side and regarded Hermione and Ron thoughtfully for a moment.

‘I’m sorry. That must have been terrible.’

Hermione could almost feel a metallic shriek of pain in her bones as her mind flew back to Malfoy Manor, and the laughter of Bellatrix Lestrange coursing through the blood seemingly turned to acid in her veins.

‘I don’t remember much of it,’ she said quietly, meeting Tanya’s gaze. ‘It was worse for Ron. He heard it all.’

His fingers tightened gently around hers.

‘Would it have any effect on the pregnancy?’ Ron asked hoarsely, his voice sticking in his throat.

‘If the curse were employed repeatedly, over a long period of time, then there might be concerns about the long-term physical health of the woman, and her body’s reaction to labour pains.'

‘It didn’t last that long,’ said Hermione. ‘And my whole body sort of ached for a few weeks afterwards, but that was a few years ago now. I’ve been fine since then.’

‘Good,’ said Tanya gently. ‘You seem very healthy, and I don’t have any concerns on that count. I do think it would be worth us having a chat about pain management during labour a little earlier in your pregnancy than I might with most other ladies, just so that you can both start considering how to make this the best experience for you as a couple, and a family. Also, considering the fact that you've encountered powerful Dark magic in your lifetime, I'd like to talk to one of our consultants and just double-check that she'd be happy for your care to be delivered by midwives only.'

Tanya smiled, setting down her mug of tea.

‘If you like, we can listen to the baby’s heartbeat in a minute - but do you have any questions for me first?’

Ron looked at Hermione, who rolled her eyes at him.

‘He’s been making fun of my list,’ she said, and Tanya laughed.

‘Oh, you’re not the only list-maker, I promise. May I see?’

Hermione retrieved her notebook from her handbag and handed it to Tanya. She worked her way through each neatly inscribed bullet-point with a seriousness and patience that made Ron feel very glad that this midwife would be caring for Hermione, whose fears and anxieties were visibly ebbing.

Having handed the notebook back to Hermione, Tanya flicked her wand towards a low bookcase next to her desk, and a small pile of brightly coloured leaflets fluttered down in front of her.

'You strike me as the sort of lady who might enjoy a little remedial reading, so as well as our usual leaflets on nutrition, potion-brewing and apparition, I've added some information on things to consider for our next meeting,' she said, placing the leaflets and her hand-written notes into a pale purple envelope and handing it to Hermione.

'A midwife who sets homework,' mused Ron. 'I can see that you two will get on really well.'

Hermione rolled her eyes and thanked Tanya.

'I'm sure we'll all get along just fine,' said the midwife. 'Before we listen to the baby's heartbeat, did you have any questions for me, Ron?'

Ron glanced at Hermione, and a blush began to rise in his cheeks.

'Uh, there was something I was wondering...' he began. Hermione noticed that he suddenly seemed to find the painted mural very interesting indeed, for he was staring intently at a red admiral butterfly some way above Tanya's desk. 'Is it still okay for me and Hermione to... You know, can we... Uh...'

He trailed off into red-faced silence, and forced himself to meet Tanya's eye. The midwife smiled.

'Don't worry, Ron,' she laughed. 'It's a very common question. Yes, it's absolutely fine for you to be intimate together, throughout the pregnancy. In fact, it's positively encouraged when it comes to starting labour.'

'I could have told you that!' snapped Hermione in embarrassment, her face now almost as crimson as Ron's.

'How do you know that?' asked Ron.

Hermione raised her eyebrows. 'I read, Ronald. You pick up a lot of useful information by reading, you know.'

Ron turned to apologise to Tanya for bickering in front of her, but before he could say anything, Hermione spoke again.

'And anyway, Ginny told me that she and Harry never stopped during her last pregnancy; 'at it like rabbits' was the phrase she used...'

As Ron spluttered and blushed deeper than ever before, Tanya and Hermione laughed so hard that a whole legion of painted butterflies took to the skies above them.

AN: Wow, this has taken a long time to update! I'm so sorry, dear reader! As you might see from my recent blog post on the forum, it's been a bit of a struggle. But I'm so glad to be back, and can't wait to get moving with the next chapter of The Blossoming.

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