Ginny put tea and biscuits on the table. Harry had invited Hermione around for a mid-week meal earlier that day in the Ministry. She'd jumped at the opportunity as her other food option that night was a frozen pizza she bought over the weekend.
“Not that I’m complaining or anything, but what’s the reason for this impromptu get-together tonight?” Hermione asked.
“We have some news, and since you are unable to attend the Weasley lunch this Sunday, we thought we would tell you earlier than everyone,” Harry said.
“I’m pregnant,” Ginny jumped in excitedly.
“Oh, Ginny, that’s amazing,” Hermione said. “How long have you known?”
“I’m only eight weeks in, but you know us, we’re always too excited to keep it a secret until the first trimester has passed.”
Hermione squeezed Ginny into a tight hug and gave Harry a peck on the cheek. She was genuinely excited for them, but part of her felt desperately sad as she realised that Harry and Ginny would be having yet another child. It wasn’t their fault that she was so broody, but she failed to see how she couldn’t be, when she kept seeing her friends adding more and more babies to their families.
After a decent amount of time had passed, Hermione excused herself to go to the bathroom. She was trying her hardest to appear bubbly and cheerful about the news, but all she could think was that this was yet another baby that wouldn’t be hers. Harry and Ginny already had James and Albus, so this would be their third child.
Ginny and Harry had become serious as soon as the war had finished. They got engaged just before Ginny returned to Hogwarts for her final year. Harry would have married her as soon as she completed her education, but Ginny had held out until she turned twenty-one. They were both young, and Ginny didn’t see the need to be in such a rush. Hermione fully supported her decision. James was born not long afterwards.
Hermione washed her face and patted it dry. She checked it for telling signs that she’d just shed a few tears, but her eyes looked fine; there was no puffiness or blotchy red skin to give her away. As she walked back downstairs, she couldn’t help but overhear the conversation going on between Ginny and Harry.
“That new Auror you have at the office; he’s gorgeous,” Ginny commented.
Hermione stopped and peeked through the open doorway. It wasn’t polite to eavesdrop, but she had a gut feeling that this was about her.
Harry looked at his wife suspiciously. “I can’t say I’ve noticed, but why does it matter?”
“Don’t you think he’d be perfect for Hermione? We could invite them both around for dinner and see where it takes them,” Ginny suggested.
Harry shook his head. “When are you and Molly going to stop nagging at Hermione about this? She’ll find someone in her own time; let her be.”
Ginny sighed. “She’s not getting any younger, Harry, and she might not admit it, but she’s lonely. I thought she was going to cry when we just told her I was pregnant again. She’s not making any effort to date anyone.”
“This is Hermione, and she’s stubborn. The more you go on at her about meeting someone, the more closed off she’s going to be towards it. Besides, she’s different. Most guys don’t get that. They just think she’s bossy and a know-it-all. And a lot of them are intimidated by the prominent role she played in the war. She needs someone confident, who isn’t afraid to let her be herself. ”
Hermione agreed with Harry’s assessment - she wasn’t going to respond to constant nagging about her love life. He did know her well, but she couldn’t help feel even more depressed than before when she went to the bathroom. She also felt sad that she hadn’t fooled either of them. She didn’t resent their having another child at all. She was happy that they were so content, but she wanted to be in the same position.
This is why Hermione Granger was currently standing outside of the discreet entrance to Europe’s premier wizarding fertility clinic and dithering.
She hadn’t felt her biological clock ticking until she hit thirty. There was something about that number that was scary. She remembered being little and thinking that thirty was ancient. When she was twenty, thirty had seemed miles off. Being young and carefree, and not long out of Hogwarts with massive N.E.W.T scores, she made a list of where she’d be at thirty. Of course, her career was pretty high on the list. She predicted that she would be the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement by the time she hit thirty. That hadn’t quite come true, but it was widely known that Hermione was pretty much a shoo-in to replace the current Head. Mentally checking back through the list, she was reminded that she had placed ‘wife’ and ‘mother’ on it as well. It wasn’t as high as ‘career,’ which made Hermione feel a little better, but it was on there, nevertheless.
Hermione found this list a few weeks after she turned thirty when she moved to a bigger place. She realised then that she wanted a child, whether or not she had a stable partner, but she didn’t want to go out and hook up with any guy in order to get pregnant. She’d rather it was done officially in a sterile laboratory where the father could not come along and claim visiting rights afterwards. Hermione wanted to be a mum, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted to be a wife.
So that is what led to her standing outside the clinic in Switzerland, wringing her hands and debating whether to go through with it. She had already nearly left several times. She wasn’t sure that she could go through with this. The nerves were making her nauseous and she hadn’t felt this anxious since the war. It was such a huge decision, but she felt that it was necessary. She paced before the entrance as she continued to debate with herself over whether or not to go in. The sensible side of her was suggesting she go home, put her feet up and have a nice cup of tea. This isn’t you, it nagged at her. The more reckless side pointed out how tired she was of being left behind. She had a successful career and a great circle of friends, but that was it. She was the only one who didn’t have a significant partner. Her reckless side won out.
Hermione took a deep breath and pushed the door open. The lobby was precisely how she pictured it would be. The chocolate brown leather sofas looked expensive and comfortable whilst the cream walls had original artwork hanging on them. There was a pin board next to the reception desk that had pictures of babies along with thank you cards. This gave the room a homier feel. This reassured her somewhat. The photographs of babies gurgling away gave her a warm feeling. It made her think she was making the right decision.
Hermione let the receptionist know she was there, then sat and sipped the cup of tea that was brought over to her. She flicked through the various available newspapers and magazines and tried not to laugh too much about how utterly ordinary this waiting process was. It was almost as if she was at the dentist for a regular tooth check rather than to discuss artificial insemination with a doctor.
She was called through to see her consultant, Dr. Nicola Hedges. Artificial insemination had developed in the Muggle world, and magic had made only a few changes to the process. The Healers who wanted to specialise in this area had to undertake a Muggle medical degree. Hermione wiped her sweaty palms on her skirt before offering her hand for Dr. Hedges to shake.
“Ms. Granger, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Dr. Hedges said before ushering her to seat on the other side of her desk. Hermione made the usual greetings and sat down.
“Now, a lot of what we are going to discuss today is technical, but I want to run you through the various medical options that are open to you,” Dr. Hedges started. “There are several ways to impregnate you artificially. The first, and mostly widely used procedure, is Intracervical Insemination. This replicates the natural way that semen is ejaculated by the penis during intercourse and this is the option that I would recommend for you,” Dr. Hedges explained.
Hermione couldn’t help it, but she wanted to giggle; the anxiety of the whole process getting to her. This was all being explained to her in such a matter-of-fact way, and all she could think of was how Ron would just stare open-mouthed at the doctor if he were there. She cleared her throat and looked down at her notepad. She had a pressing question on this, one that had been worrying her since she read up on the process. “Sorry to interrupt, Dr. Hedges, but I had heard that timing was critical with this particular procedure. In one of the books I read, it suggested that there is only a twelve-hour window of opportunity for me to get pregnant.”
“Well, it is a little bit more complicated than that, but if we can pin-point your optimum time of fertility, then of course, the chances of you getting pregnant increase.”
“Is this something you do? I’ve seen those home ovulation kits.”
“Yes, we will be doing tests to map your menstrual cycle.”
Hermione nodded again and flicked a page in her notebook. Dr. Hedges went through three other methods of artificial insemination, but since all of those had more specific stipulations and restrictions, Hermione decided to take Dr. Hedges’ recommendation.
Once the technicalities were out of the way, Dr. Hedges led Hermione through to a small sitting room. This was the bit that she had been dreading the most. Talking through the actual process was fine. It was clinical and pretty detached from what was really happening, but choosing a sperm donor was going to be hard.
“This is the room where we keep all the information on our sperm donors. As you can see, we try to make this as comfortable an experience as possible for you. Have you given much thought to the criteria you are looking for in a sperm donor?”
“Yes, I know what I’m looking for,” she replied. She had her list, and she had come into this with her eyes wide open. She wasn’t looking for the superficial things like height, eye colour, and hair colour. She was more interested in IQ test scores and careers. She wanted the very best for her potential child, and that meant matching her intellect with someone on a similar scale.
“We do offer a selection of Muggle donors as well. They, of course, are all successful in some form or another.”
“Oh, I want a wizard for a father, otherwise I probably would have done this in the Muggle world,” Hermione informed Dr. Hedges. She’d rather have the biological father be another wizard. It was silly, since it wouldn’t make any difference to the magical abilities of the child if only one parent was magical, but, though she didn’t know why, she just felt more comfortable keeping this whole process in the wizarding world.
“Okay. Well, take your time in looking through the various biographies. We don’t rush anyone during this process. You may call the receptionist should you want any tea or coffee, and when you have made your selection.”
Again, Hermione felt the urge to giggle. It was almost as if she was picking out a sofa or a kitchen, rather than the father of her child.
In the end, she went for a Healer. She thought that complemented her skill set nicely. He was also of medium height and had brown hair and brown eyes. She liked this fact. It would mean the baby was likely to be born with brown eyes and hair like her, and, for some reason, that mattered to her. Probably because she thought of this baby as wholly hers, even if that wasn’t biologically possible.
With everything completed, Hermione was back on her way to London. She booked her two appointments for next month, and she would be spending a week in Switzerland on the pretext that she was going skiing. This would give her the time to create a back-story for the holiday romance she planned on using to explain her pregnancy. She didn’t want anyone to know that she had gone through with something as drastic as artificial insemination. Her family and friends would be extremely vocal in their disapproval, and then there would be the inevitable attempts to try and set her up with other single friends. She wasn’t willing to go through the whole exhausting process, only to find that there was still no baby at the end of it.
“Are you sure you want to go through with this, Hermione?” Dr. Hedges asked. “It isn’t too late to turn back.”
“I’m sure,” she said firmly, and she really was. Actually, she was little excited. She had a tingly feeling when she thought about the future now. She had made a decision that would change everything forever, and she was looking forward to it.
“Now, you also understand that artificial insemination isn’t guaranteed to get you pregnant?” Dr. Hedges asked. Hermione nodded her head. “We use similar methods to the Muggles, but instead of using Muggle drugs to increase your chances of becoming pregnant, we use a fertility potion, which we have found to be more effective. This potion will have no detrimental effects on the foetus should you conceive. Everything has been prepared for the procedure and the insemination will take only a few minutes. However, we ask that you lie down and stay still for at least thirty minutes afterwards. This will decrease any risk of semen leakage and increase conception chances,” Dr. Hedges informed her.
Hermione wrinkled her nose up at that. She was prepared for this, but having it outlined in such a way was strange. She obviously knew that she needed semen in order to become pregnant, but it was the weirdness of it all. The semen would be a stranger’s and would be inserted using a needle. It was the complete opposite to how she had imagined herself getting pregnant before making this decision.
She really hoped she’d have a little girl, and she’d chosen the name Iris since it meant “hope” in the language of flowers. Iris was also a Greek goddess, a messenger who linked the gods to humanity. Hermione liked that. She, herself, had given up so much so that humanity would flourish, and her name was from Greek mythology as well.
She rubbed her lower stomach and kept her fingers crossed for the entire thirty minutes. She really didn’t want to have to go through this process again. She also didn’t want to have to keep inventing holiday romances to account for her weekend getaways. It made no sense for her to come from Switzerland acting as if she hadn’t met anyone, then a month or so down the line, spring that not only had she had a fling, but also she was pregnant because of it.
Poor Ginny was absolutely knackered. Having two active boys during the early stage of pregnancy, when all you wanted to do was sleep, was never easy. It didn’t help that Harry had been promoted to Head of the Auror Department and had started working long hours and on the weekend. Ginny didn’t mind. She was proud of Harry, and she also had a large family who helped out whenever they could. At the moment, James and Albus were staying with Molly, who always had at least one of her grandchildren visiting at any time, since she couldn’t bear for the Burrow to be empty.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Well, since you returned from Switzerland, you’ve had all this suppressed excitement going on,” Ginny commented.
Hermione smiled. She obviously couldn’t say what was really going on but it was time to start spreading the back-story. “I met a guy out there,” she said.
Ginny sat up a lot straighter. “Start talking,” she commanded. “Now!”
“Well his name is Thibault, and he’s French, obviously,” she said.
“Promising,” Ginny commented. “What does he look like?”
“He was tall, dark, and handsome,” Hermione said in a mock dreamy voice. “And we had a fabulous holiday fling.”
“Fling?” Ginny said in a disappointed voice.
“Oh yes, it wasn’t anything serious. But I realised it had been so long since, well, you know, and he was flirting with me with his delicious French accent, and one thing led to another...”
“So, you aren’t planning on seeing him again?” the redhead asked.
“Oh no, it was very much no strings attached. I really don’t need the complication of a long-distance relationship right now,” she blithely fibbed.
“Oh,” Ginny said distractedly. Hermione knew what was coming next. Molly and Ginny had been nagging at her for years and her friend didn’t disappoint. “Hermione, when are you going to look to settle down? Even Neville’s married.”
Hermione sighed. The most annoying thing in the wizarding world was the inherent conservatism. Marriage was very much de rigueur. It was unusual for a witch to not be in a serious relationship by the age of thirty. “Ginny, you know I have plans to be the next Dumbledore. I’m going to grow to a great age and be the best Headmistress that Hogwarts has ever had,” she teased.
Ginny just rolled her eyes. An answer like that from Hermione meant that she wasn’t prepared to enter into this conversation. Ginny couldn’t help but be worried about her though. Hermione was beginning to lock herself away in her office.
Dr. Hedges invited her into her office. “Hermione, we have good news. You’re pregnant.”
Hermione felt her eyes well up with tears. She smiled somewhat tremulously at Dr. Hedges. “Thank you so much,” she said, for once unsure of what to say. She couldn’t believe it. It had actually worked, and on the first time, too. She had spent the last month suppressing any excitement. She told herself that she wasn’t pregnant and that she would probably need several treatments before it worked.
“Now,” Dr. Hedges said. “You’ll need to contact your GP when you return home. They will then be able to give you advice and support on the next steps of your pregnancy.”
She was at a bit of a loss now. She spent so much time focusing on how she was actually going to get pregnant that she hadn’t spent any time on what would happen once she got pregnant. “Is there much difference between Muggle care and magical care?” she asked, wanting some initial basic information.
Dr. Hedges shook her head. “Not really, no. The main difference is with the pain relief you’ll be offered during labour. Obviously St. Mungo’s stocks pain potions rather than epidurals or gas. But the care during pregnancy will be very similar. You’ll be visiting a community midwife who will talk you through any concerns you may have, as well as checking the baby’s heartbeat and measuring the size of your stomach. You will obviously go to the hospital for any scans.”
Hermione nodded. So far, it all seemed very usual. She had missed out on a lot of this with Ginny, since she usually took her mother with her for these things. Not that Hermione blamed her. She would probably want Molly around to help her prepare, too. There was something reassuring about a woman who had managed to give birth seven times; once to twins.
She thanked Dr. Hedges and went on her way. She rubbed her stomach. “Hello, little Iris,” she whispered. “I can’t wait to meet you.”
Hermione decided to wait to before telling anyone she was pregnant. It was probably the hardest thing she’d ever done. She wanted to shout the news from the rooftops, because she was that excited, and it had only been a week since she found out, but she also knew the greatest chance of miscarriage happened in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy, and she wanted to get through this stage before saying anything. So far she had assuaged her desire to talk about it by buying lots of baby and pregnancy books.
She then stumbled out to the kitchen to let the owl, which was still pecking at her window non-stop, in. “Ok, calm down. Haven’t you heard that patience is a virtue?” she lectured the owl as it fluttered into the window and ruffled its feathers in annoyance at her. She removed the parchment and gave the owl some bread.
Dear Ms. Granger,
After looking through our laboratory records, we have noticed a few discrepancies with your file and would like to schedule an appointment as soon as possible with you. If you could owl me a range of dates and times that suit you, we can then arrange a meeting.
Thank you in advance for your time and co-operation.
Sebastian De Braun
Hermione read the brief letter several times before she digested its contents. Her heart was pounding as her mind quickly thought through several worst-case scenarios. All she could think was that there was a possibility of her unborn baby having some terrible genetic defect that had only just come to light through the sperm donor. She turned green for a brief minute before dashing back to the bathroom and promptly and spectacularly throwing up.