Chapter 16 - Interesting Times
"Which of you two gentlemen is the father?" the mediwitch asked.
Harry and Ron shared an embarrassing silence then Harry stood up straight and said, "I am."
"You may attend," the healer said to Harry, then turned to Ron and said "there is a comfortable waiting room by the tea shop on this floor."
The redhead nodded and sulked away.
Someone gave the father-to-be athin lime green robe and performed a cleansing and sterilizing charm on his hands and face just before the midwitch led him into the delivery room.
"What do I do?" he asked, in abit of a panic.
"Talk to her, hold her hand. Let her know you're here for her."
"I hope she'll always know that."
The healer smiled, recognizing the father-to-be's look of utter and complete devotion.
Harry was at Hermione's side in atrice.
"I'm here, Hermione." He said soothingly as he took her hand.
"Oh Harry, I'm so, so, sorrrrrragh!" she screamed while squeezing the bones in his hand together --painfully.
He looked to his right at the healer and asked "How long?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
Luna, Neville and Padma felt as though the heart had gone out of their evening and decided to call it a night. The owner of the restaurant stopped by and asked if everything was to their liking.
"It's all wonderful, Ian."Neville assured him - our mates just had to rush off. Could we get this to take away?"
"Of course." The old proprietor said, calling their server over. "Do come again!"
Luna smiled and assured him that they'd be back, and often. As the wizard and two witches left they noticed alarge number of patrons qued up to get in.
"Popular place." Neville observed.
"Oh yes, and his other clientele enjoy his menu selections even more."
"Other clientele, Luna?" Padma asked.
"Oh yes, Ian runs the most successful sanguinaria in London."
"For his vampire customers."
Neville and Padma shared a look that said, "She's our friend and we love her, but she still has these crazy ideas sometimes."
As they turned the corner they saw a group of well dressed wizards apparently attending to a tall dark beautiful woman who dressed immodestly in a split front robe that enhanced her impossibly large breasts.
"Eyes front, Neville!" Luna said, teasingly.
"Cor, how does she stand upright with baps like those?" that wasn't Neville speaking, but Padma.
Neville and Luna stared at her. She caught their unbelieving gaze and asked, "Well, how does she? Look at em!"
"She looks like she does all right to me." Neville said, glad for the chance to ogle again. "She looks familiar somehow."
"I think she's Blaise Zabini." Luna offered, "But I'm sure she was a boy when we were at the Slug Club Yule party in my fifth year."
Neville and Padma shared another look that suggested they needed to get Luna home ere long.
Blaise positioned the troops to the front, back and sides of the restaurant, then set two to orbiting the skies above the roof. S/he pulled a small glass jar from within the walking cloak. The container seemed to radiate malice. The jar held a spark of Fiendfyre, the same daemon flame that took Crabbe the summer before. The Sons had deployed powerful runes designed to contain the fire daemons within.
"Soon, my pretty, very soon!"Blaise cooed to the ember within the enchanted jar.
"You bastard!" she screamed, "If you'd just kept your todger in your trousers I wouldn't be here!"
"I know Hermione, I should have been more careful."
"I'm never letting another man touch me as long as I live I swear to God and the Goddess!"
"Whatever you say baby."
"What the bloody hell is this baby waiting for; and engraved invitation?"
"Soon, Hermione, soon."
"Oh Harry I'm so sorry, so, so sorry. . ."
"I know my Mione, I'm sorry too."
"Shut the fuck up, Potter, I'm more sorry than you'll ever be! I took your memories, I raped your mind! Why don't you hate me? Why, oh why, why don't you?"
"I could never hate you, Hermione. I love you too much."
By now Harry was becoming accustomed to the verbal abuse, and used to having his hand healed, again, after Hermione re-dislocated the bones in it. He didn't have to be told by the understanding midwife witch and healers that mothers giving birth had abused the fathers much worse than this little mum; but had to qualify that it wasn't by much. . .
Ronald Weasley looked up and was shocked to see Luna and Neville standing in the archway between the tea shop and the maternity waiting room.
"Did she tell you then?" Ron asked.
"No," Luna replied dreamily,"Hermione forgot that I can see through glamours. Or maybe not. Perhaps it made her feel better to know that there was at least one girl who knew she was pregnant."
Neville was confused, "Why are you out here; shouldn't you be in there with her?"
Ron lowered his head, "Only the father can be in the delivery room."
Neville's "oh" spoke volumes. He thought to guide Luna out and gently took her elbow.
"No." Ron said heavily, "Stay."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
They all sat around the little table and Ron got a faraway look.
"I left them, y'know?"
Luna prompted him to go on.
"I got sick and tired and, and jealousand I stormed off in a green-eyed rage. I left them. Alone in a tent in the woods, for weeks! What d'you expect? Of course they done it - they were scared and all they had to depend on was each other and they nearly got it from that great dirty snake in Godrick's Hollow.
"When we got back together Harry was great. He convinced me that he and Hermione were just friends. That's all, just friends. And Hermione tried, she really did.
"She went as far as obliviating him - made him forget what they'd been to each other in that tent in the woods. It must have been eating her up from the inside to do it, but she did."
Tears were streaming down both his cheeks now. "D'you know what finally did it?"
"The baby?" Neville asked.
"Nah, I would have married her even carrying Harry's baby and all."
He paused, took a deep breath and said, "It was when she told me she loved me just as I was - but she loved me too much to leave me that way."
Luna pulled him into a gentle embrace, "That's when you knew it couldn't be you." It wasn't a question.
Ron nodded miserably.
"I love her so much it hurts, but I love her too much to put her through hell."
Blaise rolled the charmed jar to the low window just under the kitchen, sent a mild reducto and then snapped the keystone rune into place.
The ember of fiendfyre could only move within the confines of the rune stones so it melted through the glass and began to feed on the fuel it found within the wards.
Unfortunately for those inside the building: Ian, his chef, cooks and wait-staff, and all his patrons human, wizard and vampire - all were fuel for the cursed fire. The screams from within the building would become the nightmares of the embattled firefighters for as long as they lived. The smell of burning flesh permeated the whole block.
The fiendfyre burned until all the fuel was gone. No fireman's hose or wizard's aguamenti spell could quench it. The only living thing to escape the flames was a large pale bat, badly scorched, that erupted from the collapsing roof tiles and flew off into the night.
Blaise sighed mightily. "I'm going to miss that place," s/he said sadly, "it had wonderful curry."
Hermione was resting quietly after her labors. Her thick hair was matted with sweat and she smelled of perspiration and lactation. Harry thought she and his baby were the most beautiful things on the planet. Four hours of intense labor had mangled Harry's hands but the end result was a healthy baby boy, with blue eyes and an amazingly full head of very dark hair.
"I thought he'd have brown eyes, like you."
"Don't you know? All babies are born with blue eyes; his actual color will show in a few weeks. I'm hoping for green, myself."
She pulled the shoulder strap of her gown down just enough to let the baby feed. She squeaked as the healthy baby boy clamped down on her sensitive nipple, then settled back into the pillows with a beatific expression. Harry was bursting with love for them both.
"And that hair, it's all dark and curly." He said when he could finally find his voice. "He'll have a beautiful head of dark, curly hair. Like his mother."
There was an awkward silence.
"What's his name?" Harry asked.
"Well, I was thinking about calling him Daniel, after my father, but then I remembered your father's name was James. How about James Daniel?"
"How about James Daniel Potter?"
Hermione was suddenly overcome by fatigue, "let's sleep on it, shall we?"
As she slept little James yawned mightily and snuggled against her breast.
"Lucky little sprog." Harry mused. He smiled at the sleeping child and said softly, "Hello James, I'm your father.
"You know what? I'm going to be here for you, while there's breath in this body I'm going to be here for you. This I vow."
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