"Well," Ron said, looking across the table at Harry, "it's like this, mate. We really need your help." His face split into a wide grin, and Hermione raised her hand to give her husband a pre-emptive swat, but Ron wouldn't hold it back. "You know how it is, mate: I'm not half the man I used to be!"
Harry cringed. He couldn't help it. He really, really hated that joke. He hated what Lestrange had done to Ron, hated that he'd just stood there, and let it happen.
"Oh, you did not!" Hermione scolded him. When it was just them, she didn't bother hiding the telepathy. "You were a trifle busy, as I recall, defeating a Dark Lord. Ring a bell? Priori Incantatum? Pushing every last vile bit of magic he'd ever done back down his wand and back into him? Saving the Wizarding World? Hello?"
Harry remembered all too well. He'd been seeing clearly in three-hundred and sixty degrees, the Magical Attunement Hermione had come up with seeing his whole surroundings as well as Mad-Eye Moody's magical eye ever had. The miniature sun locked between Harry's wand and Tom's, Harry forcing it back, inch by inch toward the pallid reptilian wizard. Behind him, side-by-side, Hermione and Ron holding off Riddle's army.
Bellatrix Lestrange's Severing Curse had come from Hermione's side, but Ron had seen it from the corner of his eye; Hermione's Attunement had given him hawk-like peripheral vision, just as it had made her telepathic. Ron's hand, behind him, on Hermione's shoulder, throwing her to the ground as the Curse approached, Ron trying to leap away himself, the Curse taking him off at the navel.
And then, a millisecond too late to save Ron, Neville Longbottom had reached Lestrange. It had been hard to remain friends with Neville after that. It wasn't that she didn't deserve it. It was just hard to look the man who had done what he did in the eye..
And Hermione had spun, catching Ron -- the top of Ron -- as he fell, her wand already working. The Healers at St. Mungo's still don't fully understand all the charms and spells she'd performed in the next thirty-three seconds, during which Dolohov's fireball had incinerated the lower part of Ron's body. Those same healers still argue about whether she'd have succeeded in re-joining him, were it not for that fireball. Harry remembered the almost casual flick of Hermione's wand, and grimly smiled at the thought that no-one would even consider the possibility of reassembling Dolohov.
Thirty-three seconds of spellwork, begun as the upper part of Ron fell, and bleeding was contained, bisected organs re-shaped, arteries and blood vessel joined, nerve-endings protected. Dolohov's fireball had done its work at about 12 seconds in, and Hermione was already re-planning, re-formulating, redirecting. She'd told Harry later that it had felt, in her mind, like hours, like there was no need to rush because if she did it right, she'd have all the time she needed, and if she did it wrong, then all the time in the world wouldn't be enough. Thirty-three seconds, and half-kidneys were made whole, about two-thirds of a liver re-arranged, simplified replacement glands magically grown, fifteen or so feet of large and small intestine were resected and elongated, made more efficient, and ended in a permanent banishing spell that simply eliminated waste from inside what was left of Ron's body.
And now Ron hovered at his kitchen table, the bottom of his literally truncated torso sitting in a sort of silk-lined, mock-chamois cup with a levitation charm Hermione had also created, a lovely spell that kept him at the height and angle he desired, his blue eyes looking at Harry with warmth and amusement. He reached a hand for Harry's shoulder, as Hermione lay her hand on top of Harry's.
Harry looked back and forth between his oldest friends. They needed his help. There was only one answer.
"Yes," he said.
Hermione's and Ron's smiles both widened, and their heads both shook in unison.
"No, Harry." Hermione's voice was soft, kind. "This isn't something you can agree to blindly. It's something you'll definitely have to think about."
Harry regarded them both. They were smiling, but still, so serious, so serious.
Hermione and Ron exchanged a look. This made so much sense, in the abstract, but, now that they were here, it was hard to know how to begin.
After a moment's pause, Hermione gathered a breath, and once again proved, as she had so many times, that, for all her Ravenclaw-like intelligence, the sorting hat was right to place her in Gryffindor.
"Harry," she said, very softly, "we want a baby."
Harry's grin was bright and immediate. "Oh, that's great, you two! You'll make incredible parents!" He gestured vaguely towards Ron's absent lower half. "I wouldn't have thought that was even possible," he continued, as Ron's eyes locked with Hermione's and they were suddenly both stifling giggles, "but, well, if anybody could figure out the magic to make it happen, it'd be you, Hermione."
Hermione broke eye-contact with Ron, and refused to re-establish it. This was a warm, touching moment, dammit, and she refused to ruin it by causing them both to burst into guffaws.
"So, anyway," Harry was continuing, "How can I help?"
"Here it comes," said Ron.
"Well," said Harry, "It's not like you'd ask for financial help, even if you needed it, which I know you don't, these days. You want me to try to fend off the press?"
"Honestly, Ron, I'm sorry I ever called you the thick one," said Hermione.
"So, really, how..." Harry's eyes began to widen as his voice trailed off.
"There we are," cried Ron, grinning broadly.
"Can... I, er..." Harry's head was snapping back and forth between them. To be brutally accurate, his eyes were not, at this point, bigger around than his glasses. That mere fact, however, would prove an irrelevance in later years, when any of the three of them re-told this story.
"And, Eureka!" said Hermione.
Harry gaped silently at them for several moments, before managing to choke out, in a high, girlish voice. "You're joking!"
They looked blankly at him for several long moments.
"You're not joking." His voice, Harry was thankful to note, had reclaimed its former depth. "You wouldn't rather, er, adopt?"
Hermione shook her head. "I want a Weasley, Harry. I want to have a Weasley."
Harry's eyes widened again. "You want me to set you up with George or Charlie, you mean?"
Hermione dropped her forehead to the table, as Ron laughed at her. "Never call me thick again!"
Her voice moaned from under the cloud of bushy hair. "And he was doing so well, too."
"Well, steady on, there," cried Harry, feeling unjustly maligned. "I'm not a Weasley, am I? I mean, not in this sense, not any more than an adopted baby would be. How can I-- That-- I-- How does that help you have a Weasley?"
"Well," said Hermione, "you've heard of Surrogate Parenting?"
"Oh, Aunt Petunia watched a documentary on that once. Muggle women who can't have children pay other women to be pregnant for them. It's some complex medical thing with needles and what-all."
"Right," said Hermione. "Well, they have a similar thing in the magical world, only they use magic instead of needles to move the egg over to the surrogate's womb, and to fertilize it with the donor sperm once is there."
"And you can't do something like that because...."
Ron laughed. "Well, I haven't got any bollocks, have I? No sperm to donate."
Harry looked embarrassed. "I was assuming that Hermione had taken care of that. I mean you still have to shave and your voice hasn't--"
"No, Harry," Hermione interrupted. "The glands I gave Ron are very simple things that just send the right amounts of the right chemicals out into Ron's bloodstream. It's nothing approaching the complexity, the miracle, of how testicles produce sperm cells."
"Then..." Harry was frowning. "I still don't see how this helps you get a Weasley."
Ron grinned. "Hermione came up with a spell. She's brilliant, that one."
Hermione had sat up again. "I am quite proud of it, actually. It's a kind of transfiguration spell. It can transfigure your sperm into Ron's."
"So, you... You want me to donate, er, sperm," Harry was blushing furiously at this point. "So you can, er, transfigure it into Ron's?"
Hermione opened her mouth to speak, but Ron lay a hand on hers. "The spell doesn't exactly work that way, mate," he told Harry seriously. "The transfiguration has to come first."
Harry looked back at Hermione. "So you do the spell on me, and then I donate, the, er--"
"Not exactly, Harry." Hermione was blushing as she reached for his hand. "It, er..." She twined her fingers with Harry's and Ron's large, strong hand came down on them both, squeezing gentle re-assurance. Hermione's eyes flickered over to his, his smile gentle, confident, his gaze serene. She looked back into Harry's eyes. "It has to be done, er, naturally."
Harry looked lost. "The trans--"
Ron playfully whacked him off the back of his head. "No, ya great pillock! You're just being deliberately obtuse now!" Ron's hand squeezed theirs again, and his voice, when he continued, was very gentle. "Harry, you'd be doing me, doing us both, the greatest favour of our lives, if you'd make love with my wife, to help her -- help us -- make our baby."
Harry sat back, his arm stretched out to keep his hand with Hermione's and Ron's as he turned his head from one of his friends to the other, eyes wide, mouth working silently.
"I..." he finally managed. "I... Er..."
Ron grinned over at Hermione. "Watch this." He turned back to Harry. "Harry, will you fight four hundred Death Eaters for me, with yer cousin Dudley on your shoulders, and your wand-hand tied behind your back?"
Harry's brain-lock was broken, and he chuckled at Ron. "Why, sure, Ron, glad to help out, you call the Death Eaters, and I'll head to Little Whinging to pick up Dudley."
Hermione made a great show of huffing. "Well, it's good to know what's more appealing than I am! You sure do know how to sweet-talk a girl, Harry."
Harry leaned forward, and hit his forehead on the table with a series of soft "Clunk"s.
Hermione reached a hand to him, brushed her fingers through his hair. "It's really a good point, though, Harry. You would fight Death Eaters for us. You have done. Is this really any harder than that?"
Harry's face snapped up to look at her, eyes very wide. "Yes!"
She frowned, not angry or unhappy, but baffled by a challenging puzzle. Ron loved that look. "But, why, Harry? What are you afraid of?"
Harry withdrew from their grasp, so he could bury his face in his hands. The tiniest squeak of his voice escaped from beneath his fingers. They didn't catch all of what he said, but it started with "What if," contained "good," and seemed to end with -- although Hermione wasn't certain -- "like it?"
She smiled at him, so sweetly. "Oh, Harry." Her hand returned to his hair. "You don't have to worry about pleasing me. It's so sweet of you to be concerned, but, honestly, that's not--"
"No," Ron said firmly. Hermione glanced over, and saw the knowledge in Ron's eyes. "That's not it, love. That's not what this is about." He reached, tapped Harry's shoulder. "Harry. Harry, look at me."
Harry looked up at Ron. Ron's large hand squeezed his shoulder, and his eyes looked firmly into Harry's. "It will be good, Harry, it will be fucking amazing, because that was what Hermione is, she's fucking amazing, and you won't just fucking like it, you'll fucking love it!" Ron shook him, ever so slightly. "That's... That's all part of the package, mate."
Harry drew a breath. "That's what I'm afraid of."
"Harry," Hermione said, "You'll be doing us a gigantic favor. Neither Ron nor I will be angry if you enjoy it."
"Right, mate. It's not like you're going to move the wrong way, or caress the wrong part, and Hermione's going to say, 'What are you doing, you pervert,' or something."
Harry bit his lip.
Hermione looked measuringly at him. "Harry, do you think it might make you more comfortable if Ron was there with us?"
Harry's gaze swung around to Ron. "Could you do that, Ron? I mean, could you stand to be there and w-watch me m-make love to your wife?"
"Don't be daft, Harry! Of course I couldn't!" He glowered as his smaller friend quailed, then, as Hermione smacked him again, his face split into a broad grin. "I'd have to help out, mate!"
Hermione glared at her husband.
Ron grinned back at her. "Well, I had to, didn't I? I mean, he stammered and everything!"
Hermione looked back and forth between the two men who used to be 'her boys.' Her boys. That was when it hit her. "Oh, Harry. You're not just worried about the moment, are you?" She pulled his hand back to her. "You're not worried about the sex part at all. You're worried about love."
Harry couldn't even nod. He just stared down at the table, his face a shade of red that would do any Weasley proud.
Ron frowned, honestly baffled. "Worried about love? Mate, what does that mean?"
Harry looked back up at him, eyes bleak. "Ron. I've been... I've been alone a long time. Since... Since Gin..." He was silent for a moment. It always sort of stunned him that where Voldemort and Death Eaters had failed, a 1987 Audi Quattro with a bad tie-rod end had managed quite thoroughly. Ron nodded, his own eyes darkening for a moment as Harry continued. "I love Hermione, I love both of you, so much. You're all I have now. What if I-- What if it's not enough? What if I'm with Hermione, what if I have her in my arms, what if I, I have her, and you're there with us, helping us, and cheering us on, and it feels like I think -- like I know it's going to feel? How can I go back to being... What I've been? How can I be alone after that?"
There was a long moment of silence, then, as Hermione sat back, stunned, while Ron's levitation charmed wobbled him a bit, as if absorbing the impact of Harry's words.
Harry saw them leaning back, and felt his heart crumbling inside him. They were upset. Of course they were upset, how could they not be? Why was he such a selfish git? His friends needed his help, for the most important thing in the world, and instead of just saying yes, he'd had to pull his self-pity out for a wallow, and make it impossible.
He was pushing his chair back, so he could rise, try to stutter out some lame apology for his foolish words, and leave, when Ron said, "The dining room, I think, yeah?"
Harry frowned. What the hell did that mean?
But Hermione was nodding. "Definitely. The way you hog the covers, it's the only place we can fit a bed big enough for all of us. We can put the nursery in the room we're using now." She turned to Harry. "Do you have a lease on that flat? Or can you quit at any time?"
"Wha--" Harry stared, wide-eyed at her. "What are you...?"
"Well, obviously, Harry, you can't just move in to the room we're using now. If we make the bed big enough, there won't be room to walk around it. Plus, you'll want a dresser, and closet space. I mean, if you've got a lease that can't be broken, I'm sure you can sub-let. You know, Seamus and Lavender are looking for a place."
"But... I don't..." Harry looked bewildered.
"You're definitely the thick one, mate," said Ron. "You don't have to worry about how you go back to being alone after your night of passion with my wife. You don't get to go back to being alone after effing saying that! You might be allowed to go back to pack your stuff. Maybe."
"Ron, Hermione, I can't--"
"Oh, stuff that for a lark, mate! Look at her. She's made up her mind."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that," said Hermione.
"You don't think it would be weird?"
Ron cleared his throat significantly, and, when Harry looked at him, Ron waggled his thumb and middle finger at Harry, caused both him and Hermione to blush vivid scarlet at the memory.
Harry had dropped in for a visit, and Ron had appeared from the bedroom, started to wave, blushed furiously, hovered in reverse back to the door, and stuck his hand in through the narrowest possible opening, calling Hermione's name. There was a flash of light through the partially-opened door, and Hermione had emerged in a dressing gown, holding Ron's hand, all five fingers once again, well, fingers. But Harry had remembered the transfigured hand Ron had started to wave, and had grinned cheekily at Hermione and asked, "The thumb and a finger?" And Hermione had squirmed and blushed, just as she was doing now.
Ron grinned in triumph, and told Harry, "We can handle weird, mate."
"It's no good, mate. I already told you: She's made up her mind."
"And so have I."
The baby was born with very bushy red hair, freckles, and emerald green eyes. Hermione gazed at him, in her arms as she rested in the Birthing Chair, then back and forth between his fathers. "I hadn't expected that," she told them. "I'll have to go over that spell again..."