By the time Ron and Harry had calmed the Grangers and Weasleys down, a nurse had stepped out of the ward to tell Ron they could go back in. The alarms had signaled an irregular heart rhythm on the mother, but it had righted itself in fairly short order and a check of vitals for both mother and baby indicated both remained stable.
That had been almost a week prior. Little had changed in that time, except that perhaps Ron had stopped being so angry with Harry because of the common bond they shared in worrying about Hermione and the baby. They hadn’t really talked about Harry’s disappearance, except that Harry apologized for running out the way he did. Nor had they really discussed the event leading up to it, other than Ron apologizing for the way he and Hermione had sort of ambushed Harry without finding out how he really felt about them. He and Hermione had talked about it at length after Harry left, and Ron knew she felt like the fault was more theirs than Harry’s. They had each other and should have known Harry would need time to see a relationship between the three of them as anything other than something that would mess up what they had as a couple, or worse, something they were doing for him out of pity. But enough of the tension between them was gone that once the Weasleys and Grangers went home each night, the boys could find some solace in just being together. Hermione was still unresponsive to any kind of stimulus, but the doctors still referred to her condition, and that of the baby, as stable.
The Grangers were still against the idea of moving their daughter, so Ron went along with them at first, since Harry was there constantly except when he had to be at work, and he was regularly casting diagnostic spells to make sure there was, in fact, no change for the worse.
When the change did come, it wasn’t for the better. On the morning of the sixth day, the alarms went off again, rousing Ron out of a deep sleep from his chair in the corner of the room. It was still early, and neither his parents nor the Grangers had returned from going home to sleep the evening prior. He looked around frantically for Harry and was on the verge of panic when the medical team rushed in and pushed him back into the hall, straight into Harry who was approaching the door with cups of steaming coffee in both hands and a bag of warm scones clenched between his teeth. Coffee sloshed over both of Harry’s wrists and he swore loudly.
Harry cast a discrete cooling charm over his burned wrists and listened intently as Ron explained what happened, which told Harry exactly nothing since Ron had been sleeping until the alarms sounded. Ron slumped onto a sofa in the waiting area and Harry paced, muttering to himself and swearing occasionally.
Finally he paused in front of his mate. “Ron, we’ve got to move her, just as soon as we possibly can.”
Harry was convinced that the best chance for both Hermione and the baby was to move them to St. Mungo’s and to involve a Healer who specialized in obstetrics, particularly troubled pregnancies. The problem was that persuading a Muggle hospital to transfer a comatose prenatal patient to a facility that didn’t exist as far as they were concerned would be difficult. Harry feared that dark magic might be unavoidable, surmising that at the very least, he would have to cast the Imperius curse on the Muggle hospital’s staff to facilitate a proper transfer, then follow that up with a few well-placed memory charms. Use of an Unforgiveable was still a life sentence to Azkaban, but Harry would risk his freedom if it would save Hermione’s life.
Ron was hesitant because he didn’t want to upset the Grangers, but when Hermione’s doctor came out and told them that although the baby still appeared fine, Hermione seemed to be getting weaker, Harry insisted. The Muggle doctor said Hermione’s blood pressure and heart rate were both dropping, and so far, they were unable to pinpoint any cause.
Harry made sure Ron would be okay until his parents arrived, then slipped out into the alley and sent his Patronus to Arthur to explain what had happened and ask that someone come stay with Ron as soon as they could manage. He then Apparated to the Ministry and headed directly for Kingsley Shacklebolt’s office, prepared to do something he’d sworn never to do … he was going to take advantage of being a personal friend of the Minister, and play the Harry Potter card by promising to be the Ministry’s poster boy – or whatever they needed, in exchange for a team of Obliviators to help him get Hermione out of that damned Muggle hospital. If that didn’t work, he was going back to the hospital and start casting the Imperius curse.
After Kingsley expressed his concern for Hermione and the baby, he just laughed at Harry’s theatrics. Harry was pleasantly surprised to learn that St. Mungo’s had something of a mutual aid agreement in place with Queen Charlotte’s hospital for patients needing to transition between the Muggle and magical worlds, and all he actually had to do to arrange a transfer was to see the Chief of Obstetrics at the wizarding facility.
In less than an hour, Harry was on his way back to the waiting room at St. Thomas’ to accompany Hermione whilst she was transported to Queen Charlotte’s so she could then go via Floo to St. Mungo’s. A bit complicated, but better for Harry than a dank cell in Azkaban.
The transfers were slow and tedious, but once Hermione arrived at the magical hospital, Harry and his colleagues spent the next several hours assessing and treating the witch’s condition. Hermione’s broken wrist was easily healed, as were the broken ribs that the Muggle doctors had told Harry and Ron about later on the first night Hermione was in the hospital. They’d said the ribs would be best left alone to heal on their own, which proved challenging for Harry since it would have taken just a few waves of his wand to mend them. The real problem was going to be how to identify and address the cause of Hermione’s prolonged unconsciousness and general weakening, not to mention the drops in her blood pressure and heart rate.
When Harry finally came out of the examining room to talk to Ron and both sets of parents, he looked to Ron as if he’d aged ten years since that morning. Ron wrapped Harry in a hug and the two men clung to each other for several long moments before breaking apart so Harry could deliver the expected bad news.
“Something – we really don’t know what – appears to have damaged the baby’s magical core,” Harry began, focusing all his attention on Ron. “While that is never a good thing, if this were something that had occurred after the baby was born, the worst case scenario would be a child that had diminished magical ability or perhaps was even a Squib. In Hermione’s case, she is essentially the baby’s life support. Muggle babies get their nutrition from their mother through the umbilical cord. While that is still true for a magical baby, there is more to it. If the baby’s magic is diminished, it can begin to siphon off the mother’s magic to sustain its own.”
Harry paused to wipe a stray tear from his cheek and glance at the Weasleys and the Grangers, before settling his gaze back on his best friend. He was just about to speak when Ron interrupted him.
“So, are you saying the baby is going to turn Hermione into a Squib?”
Harry shook his head. “I wish it were that simple, mate. There might be a chance, if Hermione were at the end of her pregnancy, but this is only just over mid-way through the second trimester. At the rate the baby is draining Hermione of her magical energy, there is a strong probability she won’t survive the rest of her pregnancy.”
Harry paused as his voice broke, but he choked down a sob and continued. “We can take the baby by Cesarean Section – it’s a Muggle procedure, which, by wizarding standards will likely seem a bit barbaric, but it’s perfectly safe for Hermione thanks to the enhancements magic will offer us. There is a chance the baby might survive outside the womb, but it’s a very slim chance, even with the benefits of magic. If we take the baby, Hermione should survive, but we can’t say whether her magic will recover fully. It may always be somewhat diminished.”
Ron sat down hard on the coffee table he was nearest to, mouth open as if he wanted to speak, but no sound would come out. There was a loud sob, but Harry wasn’t sure if it came from Molly or Mrs. Granger. After that, stunned silence rang in the room for what seemed like an eternity.
When Ron finally spoke, the sound was hollow and unfamiliar. “So, you’re telling me that I have to choose between the life of my child and the life of my wife.”
Harry had never felt more wrecked in his entire life. His tears fell unrestrained as he wrapped his arms around Ron and they clung to one another for the second time in a matter of minutes.
It wasn’t easy, but Arthur and Molly finally convinced Ron to go home with Harry for a proper night’s sleep. He hadn’t left Hermione’s side since the whole ordeal began, except when the medical staff forced him out or when he’d walk out to the waiting area just long enough to update her parents or whoever from his family was there at the time. Arthur and Molly promised to remain at the hospital through the night, along with the Grangers, and assured their son they would send a message if there was any news at all.
Ron sat numbly at the little table in Harry’s kitchen and blankly stared at the wall while Harry threw together a fry-up for their dinner. A million jumbled thoughts churned in his head, each clamoring for attention. Hermione would tell him to forget about her and do what was best for their baby. The Grangers would tell him to save their daughter. His own parents would tell him to do what was in his heart because he was the one who would have to live with both the joys and the regrets that either choice was likely to bring. Ron didn’t know how it would be possible to even make a choice given the options he was offered. He wished it had been him stepping off that curb in London so no one would be faced with making difficult choices. He wished Harry had just stayed with them.
Ron looked up when Harry sat a plate in front of him. The food smelled delicious, but for once Ron had little appetite for it. Harry looked as sad as Ron felt, so Ron picked up his fork and shoveled food into his mouth so he wouldn’t have to talk. He didn’t know what to say.
After a long silence in which the only sounds were forks scraping against china, the gurgles of someone taking a drink and the clunk of a goblet being sat back down on the table, Harry finally spoke. “I know the odds are not in our favor, and I know we would find our answer a lot faster with Hermione doing the research, but we are going to find a way to make this work, Ron. You can’t make the choice you’ve been asked to make any more than I could.”
Ron nodded and forced half a smile, just to show Harry that he appreciated the effort to cheer him, but really he only had one choice. He couldn’t lose Hermione.
After dinner, Harry set the dishes washing in the sink and turned on the Muggle telly thinking the sound would fill what would otherwise be awkward silence. About an hour later, the boys went to bed – Harry in his room and Ron in the guest room across the hall.
It was past midnight when Harry heard the unmistakable sound of sobbing coming from that direction. He hesitated over whether or not to intervene – sometimes a bloke just needed to get something out of his system without his friends catching him at it and adding embarrassment to whatever else was bothering him. But this was a pretty serious something and Harry had been on the verge of tears most of the night himself, so he thought maybe it would be okay. Either he’d cheer Ron up a bit or they’d cry together. He didn’t even bother to dress when he crawled out of bed, padding across the hall in just his pants.
Ron looked up when Harry knocked softly at his door, even though it was still half open. No words passed, but Harry crossed quickly to the bed and sank down beside his friend. He let Ron fall into his open arms as his own tears began to fall once again, and he stroked Ron’s bare back in what he hoped was a soothing way. Not having been raised in a nurturing household, Harry figured he was pretty rubbish at this sort of thing, but it made him feel better to feel the steady rhythm of Ron’s breathing under his fingertips and Ron made no move to stop him.
Harry didn’t really know how long they cried, or when they laid down, but a wandless Tempus told him it was almost 3:00 am when he realized they had stretched out in Ron’s bed and were spooned together with Harry’s arm wrapped snugly around his best friend who’d just begun to snore. He couldn’t believe it was even possible to feel like the very foundation of his world had shattered, but yet feel so much like he was where he belonged at the same time. He tucked his nose into the ginger hair at the back of Ron’s neck and breathed deeply, realizing with an overwhelming sense of longing how much Ron smelled like home to him, and he took comfort in feeling his friend’s steady heartbeat under the palm of his hand.
Ron woke nearly four hours later feeling pleasantly rested for the first time in over a week and reached down to adjust his morning wood as he pressed back against the warm body wrapped so temptingly behind him. He let out a soft moan when he felt the press of Harry’s erection dig into his thigh, then an anguished groan when reality came crashing back to him.
The sound woke Harry, who tightened his grip on his friend while lifting up on his elbow to plant a soft kiss on Ron’s neck and whisper that Hermione and the baby would be fine, he was sure of it. Ron rolled in Harry’s arms and stared up into his emerald eyes, so full of love and longing without his glasses to hide them.
For what seemed like a small eternity, no one moved. They just held each other’s gaze as if there were a silent conversation unfolding between them, then someone moved – a mere twitch of a muscle forward – and they were kissing. Their lips touched, and parted. Harry rolled on top of Ron and his tongue swept into Ron’s hungry mouth. Ron moaned and thrust his hips up against Harry’s groin while shoving his hands beneath the waistband of Harry’s pants to get to his bare skin.
Harry groaned and thrust back, whimpering into Ron’s mouth as their cocks slid together with only the fabric of two pairs of boxers separating them. With some effort, he pulled back from the kiss just long enough to whisper the words to Banish the remaining fabric that separated them, then went back to kissing one of the two most important people in his life.
Their kisses became erratic, almost desperate, as they rutted together. Ron squeezed Harry’s cheeks and hissed at the delicious slide of flesh on flesh as he rolled them over, pinning Harry to the bed. He pushed up on one arm, making Harry lean up to follow Ron’s mouth with his own as the kiss broke, but when Ron reached between their sweaty stomachs to wrap his hand around both of their lengths, Harry fell back against the mattress and began to rock into Ron’s grip in earnest.
Ron thrust against Harry and jerked their pricks roughly until he could feel his own balls tighten and he hoped that Harry was close. When he didn’t think he could last another second, he abruptly let go and fell onto Harry, locking their mouths together as he continued to hump with abandon, letting out an almost pained wail as he spurted copious amounts of hot fluid that matted their pubic hair together because there was nowhere else it could go with them pressed so tightly together. Harry followed him over the edge mere seconds later, swearing and calling out Ron’s name and holding onto him for dear life.