“For Merlin’s sake, Harry. I can’t go.”
Harry Potter’s wife was standing in front of him, arms crossed, face flushed. Her bushy brown hair was looking rather bushier than usual, as if someone had been wiring tiny electrical currents through it without her consent. Harry stared around the bedroom. It looked as if Gilderoy Lockhart’s cage full of pixies had been at work emptying the contents of their closet onto every available surface. He gulped.
“Hermione…” he began.
Hermione flopped into an overstuffed armchair which was currently draped with formal robes and buried her face in her hands.
Harry took a deep breath. Ron had told him it might be like this.
“Not Hermione,” Harry had said.
“Oh, just wait.” Ron had grinned at him broadly as two tiny red-haired children attempted to climb up his legs. “We both know Hermione’s as practical as they come, but I’m tellin’ you, as soon as the hormones are on the loose, you’d best hide out for nine months or you won’t know what hit you. ‘Oi, off the table, Henry! That cauldron is not a bathtub!”
It had been no surprise to anyone when Ron married Rosie O’Reilly, a sweet, firey Hufflepuff two years below them at Hogwarts, with red hair and a temper that matched Ron’s to perfection. It was equally unsurprising that Ron and Rosie already had three children under the age of five — Henry, and twins Molly and Megan. Harry found himself wishing he’d listened to Ron’s advice a bit more closely that day at the Burrow. He’d been a bit distracted, however. He’d just found out the night before —
“Harry, are you listening to me?”
“I’m sorry, Hermione, I don’t understand what the trouble is — ”
Hermione’s eyes were flashing with anger. “The trouble? The trouble is ME.”
“Just remember one thing,” Ron had said. “Your wife is sort of — under a spell, so to speak. Your job, no matter what the circumstances…”
Harry crossed the room and knelt by Hermione’s side. He smoothed aside a stray lock of wild brown hair and kissed her cheek softly.
“Tell me what’s the matter.”
Hermione’s anger melted instantly. She reached for Harry, who gathered her into his arms, bewildered, and stroked her hair as she sobbed into his shoulder.
“I’ve tried on all my dress robes,” she murmured, her voice muffled in his sweater. “I’ve tried them all, and… nothing fits.”
Harry hid a smile in the depths of Hermione’s wild hair. Hermione G. Potter, famous Professor of Transfiguration, chairwoman of the Research and Development of Medical Charms Department at the Ministry of Magic, guest lecturer at Hogwarts, and honorary Doctor of Magical and Muggle Maladies at St.Mungo’s, seemed to have forgotten one important symptom of her own pregnancy.
“Hermione,” Harry said gently, trying to conceal the amusement in his voice, “you’re having a baby.”
“I know!” Hermione broke away from him, exasperated. “I just — didn’t expect to outgrow things so SOON.”
Harry hadn’t expected it either. Hermione had been plagued with nausea for weeks, but it had recently subsided, much to Harry’s relief. He hadn’t liked watching Hermione turn pale at the sight of Sunday dinner. Thankfully, her appetite had returned with a vengeance, and Harry now often spent his evenings in the kitchen, his sleeves rolled up, listening to Quidditch matches on the Wizard’s Wireless as he prepared supper with the occasional aid of his wand. Harry was no house elf, but he was a more-than-competent cook, thanks to years of drudgery at the Dursleys’. He’d hated cooking on Privet Drive, but somehow it seemed different these days, now that his wife seemed so grateful that he knew how to fry bacon.
His wife. Harry smiled again.
“You’re laughing at me, aren’t you? You think it’s funny!”
Hermione had gone from meek to furious again almost instantaneously. Harry shook himself. “No, no, I was just thinking — ”
Hermione looked at him expectantly. Even with her hair flying in forty-seven directions, her eyes red-rimmed with tears, and her small form wrapped in a fuzzy blue bathrobe, Hermione could look every bit as intimidating as the day she slapped Draco Malfoy across the face in their third year at Hogwarts.
It was one of the things Harry loved about her.
“Just thinking what?” Hermione said shortly. She stood and began to pace the room again, picking up dress robes from the floor and discarding them onto a growing pile on the armchair.
In one swift movement Harry straightened and swept Hermione into his arms, silencing her protests with a sound kiss. Hermione’s knees buckled. Harry felt her melt against him, felt her sink into the kiss as his heart thumped in response. It never failed. Kissing Hermione always made him feel as if he was flying on a broomstick for the first time.
“Oh,” Hermione whispered finally as they broke apart.
Harry kissed the tip of her nose and grinned.
“I was thinking I wanted to do that,” he chided softly.
“You’re not being serious,” Hermione protested, but her face was breaking into a smile.
“I’m dead serious.” Harry brushed his lips against hers again, and Hermione’s arms reached up to twine around his neck. He swept her off the floor, caught her eye, and pretended to stagger under her weight. Hermione dissolved into giggles.
“Will you stop,” she laughed as Harry set her down carefully on the bed and bent to kiss her once more. “The party’s in two hours and I haven’t even done my hair.”
“All right then,” said Harry. He turned to study the room, trying his best to look stern while assessing a sea of women’s dress robes. He picked up a few discarded garments from the back of the armchair and held them out to Hermione. “Let’s see the robes on you. I’m sure they’re not as bad as you say, and even if they don’t fit, I’m sure we can fix them.”
Hermione was instantly businesslike. Harry knew that problem-solving was something she loved, once she saw something as a project rather than a personal crisis. “Right,” she said, her brow furrowed. “I’m sure I’ve got a book on sewing charms somewhere in the library. Why didn’t I think of that…”
“Let’s see then,” urged Harry, presenting her with a pile of jewel-toned robes.
“Okay,” said Hermione. “But — ”
Harry raised an eyebrow.
“Not the green one.” Hermione grinned sheepishly.
“Not the green one,” Harry grinned back, removing the green robe from the pile. With a wave of his wand, the robe re-hung itself in the closet as Hermione disappeared into the bathroom with the others.
“You can change out here, y’know… Mrs. Potter,” Harry called.
“Hush, I’ll be right out.”
Harry settled himself on the edge of their large four-poster bed. In a few moments Hermione emerged from the bathroom and edged shyly into the room. Her hair was pulled back on either side of her face, still twining itself into place as she entered, spilling down her back in long brown waves. Hermione had invented many do-it-yourself hair-wrangling charms over the years, and this was one of Harry’s particular favorites. Her cheeks were rosy, and she had the simple diamond drops in her ears that Harry had given her for their first anniversary. She was wearing a set of dress robes in deep scarlet satin; swirls of the rich fabric cascading from her shoulders were swept back to reveal a long, fitted satin sheath with a low scooped neck. It was clear that the dress was not cut to contain Hermione’s newly curved figure, however, as the fabric was stretched tightly across her chest and across her gently rounded belly.
Harry’s sweater suddenly felt a tad too warm.
“Wow,” he said simply.
Hermione began to fret. “I told you. It’s hopeless, look, I look awful, I can’t even get it zipped — ”
“No!” Harry interrupted her. “Hermione. Listen to me.”
Hermione fell silent as Harry stood to look at her once more. He walked slowly around her, then stopped and ran a hand through his untidy hair.
“Never in my life,” he said slowly, “have I seen anyone look so beautiful.”
Hermione blinked. “What?”
“You’re gorgeous.” Harry grinned. “Drop-dead sexy. I’m not going to be able to keep my hands off you all night.”
Hermione was blushing furiously. “You’re just saying that!”
“I’m not.” Harry took her hand and placed it over his chest. “Feel how fast my heart’s beating. I’m sweating. Look.”
Hermione ran her hand over his chest. “Really?”
“And best of all,” Harry whispered, grasping her hands again, drawing them to her belly, his hands covering hers, “this is our baby, Hermione.”
Hermione’s eyes filled with tears. She reached up and pulled Harry into a kiss that took his breath away so sharply he thought he might pass out on the spot.
After what seemed like hours, they drew apart, Harry feeling as though he might explode with desire. He reached up to straighten his glasses, which were now wildly askew. Hermione looked up at him and patted her stomach.
“Well,” she sighed matter-of-factly, “technically, the baby is only about four inches long right now, so this is about two weeks’ worth of treacle tart and our baby, but still.”
Harry let out a long breath and chuckled. “You’re too hard on yourself, Dr.Granger.”
Hermione smiled innocently. “Mrs.Potter, you mean.”
Harry’s eyes glinted. “Now,” he said, tracing one hand along Hermione’s waist, “do we have to get you into this dress? Because I’d rather take you out of it first.”
Hermione’s brow crinkled with worry. “Harry, what if it takes ages to make it fit… ”
“Hmm.” Harry’s voice came from her shoulder, where he had begun planting kisses on her neck. “Have an idea.”
He stood back and slipped a hand in his pocket, one arm still around Hermione, and pulled out his wand, which he touched to the fabric of her robes. “Dispando,” he muttered.
“Did you make that up? I don’t think that did anything — ”
“Shh, let me see.” Harry slid his hands over the back of the dress, which was still open. Hermione let out a shuddering breath as Harry’s hands met her bare skin. “Harry — ”
“Look.” He pulled gently at the dress robe, and the fabric stretched easily in his fingers. Wiith a smooth motion, he zipped it closed; the front of the dress, no longer straining at the seams, fit easily once more. Hermione gaped.
“Standard book of spells — ” Harry grinned.
“Chaper Eighteen,” Hermione finished, smacking herself on the forehead as Harry laughed. “The Stretching Charm. Oh Harry, I’m such an idiot!”
“You’re not. You’re just a bit pregnant is all.”
“I’m so sorry.” Hermione bit her lip. “I was too busy freaking out to think about anything else.”
“I know, love. That’s what I’m here for.” Harry smiled and kissed her forehead.
“You knew how to fix it all along?” Hermione arched an eyebrow suspiciously.
“Oh no,” Harry amended, blushing. He put one hand on Hermione’s back again. “I just had to think fast so that we could, um…”
Hermione was faintly pink. She began tugging gently at Harry’s shirt to untuck it from his jeans.
“I see,” she murmured. “You must have been the smartest wizard in your year.”
“Not really. I’ve just been hanging around with her too much. Tends to rub off.”
Hermione didn’t protest as her dress robes were returned to the floor once more.