A/N: I know this can be a traumatic subject—so this chapter deals with infertility, pregnancy complications, etc.
Week #10's prompt: A story that features a countdown.
"Remus? Sirius? Are you home?" Hermione called out as the front door shut with a bang.
Before he even realized what he was doing, Remus stood up and had made it across the room to the door. Stress was bleeding through Hermione's voice in a way that made the hair stand up on the back of his neck and his gut clench in fear. He hurried down the stairs to find her standing in the entry way with a lost expression on her face.
"Hermione?" Remus reached out to touch her cheek tentatively.
With a muffled sob, the witch flung herself into his arms and clung to him. His arms came about her and he rubbed her back in soothing circles. Hermione clung to him even tighter and buried her face in his chest. The door to the basement opened, and Sirius hurried out wiping his grease-stained hands on a greasy rag that wasn't helping matters.
"What's happened?" Sirius asked with a worried frown.
Remus raised his eyebrows and lifted one hand from Hermione's back to wave it about to show that he hadn't a clue.
"Hermione?" Remus asked again, trying to pull back from her slightly. She allowed him separate them and hiccupped quietly. "What is it?"
"Remember…," Hermione laughed bitterly and shook her head, pressing the heels of her palms to her eyes. "Remember how I said that I couldn't… that they told me that I would never…"
"That spell damage had caused some problems," Sirius growled. His fingers tightened on the greasy rag as though he were throttling people that weren't there.
"Today was your annual," Remus realized aloud. "Did they find additional damage or something?" Nebulous horrors floated through his imagination growing large on his sudden fear. "Are you ill? Can they fix it, whatever it is?"
"I'm pregnant," Hermione whispered, looking up at Remus with wide eyes that begged for forgiveness.
"Pregnant?" Remus repeated.
A loud thud caused them both to jump in surprise and turn toward Sirius who had fainted in the front hall. Remus stared at him for a minute and then huffed in irritation.
"Every bloody time," he muttered.
"I beg your pardon?" Hermione frowned at him. Remus sighed and waved a hand at Sirius' supine form.
"He did the same damn thing when James and Lily told us about Harry," he explained.
"Oh for Merlin's sake," Hermione snapped. She pointed her wand at Sirius. "Aguamenti!"
"Are you sure you're ready for this?" Harry asked cautiously.
Incredulously, Hermione just stared at him for a moment before turning pointedly to watch his three children run screaming across the lawn after their mum. Luna waved at the two of them and then laughed at their youngest, Lily Cliodna, who was clinging to the skirts of her robes.
"It isn't that I don't think you're old enough," Harry protested. "I mean, obviously you're old enough. I mean, most everyone we went to Hogwarts with has already had children. I mean… oh bloody hell."
"No please," Hermione said sweetly with a razor-sharp smile. "Do go on."
"They weren't there when you first found out," Harry reminded her in a quiet voice. "I was the one that held you while you sobbed like your heart had been broken."
"I don't know if I'd go that far," Hermione protested.
"I would," Harry countered. He covered her hand with his and squeezed it. "I love you, you silly cow. I just… I worry that… what if something happens?"
"I don't know," Hermione whispered. One hand dropped to her stomach protectively, her fingers flexing on air.
"Nothing will happen that shouldn't," Luna announced as she drew near to them, a trail of children out behind her. She smiled at Hermione. "She'll be a lovely little witch."
"She?" Hermione echoed.
"Hmm." Luna turned to her children. "Who wants tea?"
"Are you sure you should be lifting that?" Sirius fretted.
Hermione turned to stare at him. "It's a book, Sirius."
"It's a ruddy big one," he protested. "Maybe I should carry it for you."
"Maybe you should sleep in the parlour," Hermione countered tartly.
Sirius held up his hands in a gesture of defeat. "I'm trying here, Hermione, but this is all new to me."
"It's new to me as well," she huffed at him. "You and Remus are both coming with me to the next check-up. The Healers can tell you that you're both being utterly impossible."
"Pregnant?" Ron sat back in his chair and stared at her. "Blimey."
"Do you have to say it like that?" Hermione demanded.
"Like what?" Ron asked with a frown.
"Like it's so very shocking," Hermione snapped. "It happens on a fairly regular basis, I'll have you know."
"Well, sure, but not to you," Ron pointed out. Across the table, Draco winced visibly and sighed.
"We are, of course, very happy for you," Draco said with a mild glare at his husband. He turned back to Hermione with a cool smile. "How is dear cousin Sirius taking the news?"
"He is being impossible," Hermione muttered with a roll of her eyes.
"Mother has asked me to extend an offer of assistance," Draco continued in a careful voice. He looked at the table in front of him for a moment before looking up at Hermione. "She wasn't certain how Sirius would take any contact from her."
"An offer of assistance?" Hermione repeated slowly. She watched Draco through narrowed eyes. "Is that some kind of pureblood thing?"
"Not exactly," Draco replied.
"Cor, Mum is going to go mental," Ron groaned. "She's going to want to knit little whatsit a million little baby booties."
"That's very kind of her," Hermione murmured. "But she doesn't have to—"
Ron was already shaking his head. "Too late. A million baby booties, Hermione."
Hermione threw her napkin at Ron. "You're a horrible friend."
"I know better than to stand between my Mum and a new baby," Ron retorted.
Tea had been Hermione's idea. Not at Malfoy Manor, of course. No, she and Narcissa had settled on some café in the middle of Diagon Alley that could be considered neutral territory. Hermione had dragged Luna along with her, and Narcissa had shown up with her sister, Andromeda, in tow. The four witches sat around the table in stilted silence.
"That's a… striking shade of purple, Luna," Andromeda commented with a faint air of desperation.
"It's Loftsday," Luna replied with a smile.
"Of course," Andromeda murmured. She shot a glance at her sister. "Narcissa?"
"I know that things are strained between Sirius and I," Narcissa said quietly. She shifted in her seat and glanced about the café before turning back to Hermione. "But your child will be the next generation of the Black family, the continuation of the line."
"Even if it's technically Remus' child?" Hermione asked with a raised eyebrow.
Narcissa's eyebrow rose and her chin rose imperiously. "Your marriage makes both Sirius and Remus the child's father no matter who his biological father is."
"It's a girl," Hermione added coolly.
Both Narcissa and Andromeda blinked in surprise.
"It's early," Andromeda said in a cautious voice.
"Hermione's aura has shifted," Luna explained. She took a sip of her tea and nibbled on a biscuit.
"Sirius says that if Luna is right, he'll make certain that she'll inherit," Hermione said calmly. She smiled at her friend. "I've known Luna for too many years to doubt her."
"A girl," Narcissa murmured with a small smile.
A quick trip to the loo in the middle of the night was becoming more and more familiar. Hermione sat on the loo and yawned sleepily. It was only a glance down, but she froze. Blood. Freshly red spots stained her knickers. Her heart ached in her chest and she felt as though she couldn't get enough air into her lungs. A ragged sob escaped her throat.
"Hermione?" Remus stumbled into the en suite rubbing at his eyes. "What's the matter?"
"I don't know," she whispered. She held her knickers out to him mutely.
"Fuck," Remus muttered. He turned back to the bedroom. "PADS! Get your arse up!" He turned back to Hermione. "It will be okay. We'll take you to St. Mungo's and they'll figure it out. It will be okay, Hermione."
Another loud sigh and Hermione shifted in her bed at St. Mungo's. Sirius watched her flip through a magazine. The night they had rushed her to the Accident and Emergency ward had been one of the most terrifying nights of his entire life.
Their girl had been so scared. Her fingers had dug into his hand, her nails breaking the skin, and he hadn't said a fucking word. All he could do was stare at the tight lines of her mouth and the fear in her eyes and pray to every god that the Healers could fix whatever it was that had made her bleed.
The Healers had ordered bed rest at St. Mungo's for the remainder of her pregnancy. Officious little interns would troop in every hour or so to run diagnostics spells to check Hermione's vitals.
"Sirius?" The frustration on his wife's face made it clear that she had called his name several times. "Where are you?"
"Thinking," he muttered. He moved over to her bed and sat down in the chair next to it. He took her hand and raised it to his lips. "I love you."
A soft smile curved Hermione's lips. "I know you do, you mangy cur."
"We'll keep you both safe, Hermione," he whispered. "I promise."
"Oh Sirius," Hermione sighed. She tugged on a lock of his hair. "I know you will."
"Well there's no way to be certain," Molly protested. Multi-coloured skeins of yarn overflowed from the basket at her feet; her needles click-clacked away as she continued to work on a pale yellow baby blanket.
"Luna seems fairly sure," Hermione said with a calm serenity that Ginny envied.
"Being cooped up at St. Mungo's must be driving you bonkers," Ginny observed with a grimace.
"It's dead boring," Hermione agreed with a sigh. Her hand fell to her swollen stomach. "But… worth it."
"Of course it is, dear," Molly said with a nod.
"It helps that Sirius and Remus wait on her hand and foot," Luna offered from her seat by Ginny.
"That sounds like fun," Ginny said with a grin.
"Sirius is always willing to sneak her in whatever she has a craving for, but Remus is always worried that it might not be safe," Luna continued. A small smile drifted over her face. "They're both very sweet."
"They worry," Hermione admitted in the quiet space of her room.
Molly nodded as she continued to knit. "They're good boys."
Hermione blinked and exchanged a look with Ginny and Luna. The thought that convicted criminal Sirius Black, and infamous werewolf Remus Lupin were good boys was laughable. As if to prove her point, Ginny snickered behind her hand.
"They've been really good about everything," Hermione murmured.
The swollen girth of Hermione's stomach was intimidating. Remus found himself staring at it, entranced, on a regular basis. Their baby was in there. A little girl if you listened to Hermione or Luna. He pressed one gentle hand to her taut skin. The familiar feel of an exuberant kick pushed against his hand. He grinned at Hermione over her belly.
"Strong kicker," he murmured.
"She's feisty," Hermione agreed with a serenity that soothed something in his soul.
There had been a time where he didn't ever expect to have any of this. In those dark days after James and Lily had been killed and he had thought that Sirius… back then, he'd assumed that he would die alone. He had never thought that he'd ever have Sirius back again. Or that together they would convince Hermione to give them a chance. Or that—despite everything against all three of them—Hermione would be pregnant with their child. Theirs. Both Sirius and Remus had requested not to see anything to do with paternity. This baby would belong to all three of them.
Underneath, Remus' hand, the taut skin of Hermione's belly rippled. She tensed, and he turned to look at her.
"What is it?" He asked worriedly.
"Call the Healers," Hermione whispered. Her hands spread over her belly. "It's time."
Ten little fingers that were so slender and fragile-looking that Sirius was afraid to stroke them with his own. Ten tiny toes that curled as the baby stretched in her mother's arms. One clenched fist waved wildly in the air as she suckled greedily, making slurping noises that filled the air. Tears slipped down Hermione's cheeks as she watched her daughter eat.
"No tears love," Sirius whispered. He rubbed her knee with gentle fingers.
"Happy tears," she countered thickly. With one crooked finger, she rubbed the baby's cheek. "She's perfect."
"Of course she is," Sirius said with an arrogant toss of his hair. "She's ours."
"She is," Hermione agreed in a soft voice.