AN: Thank you all so much for the support! It is deeply appreciated!
Also for those who celebrate it, Happy Easter!
Decorating for Christmas should not be a chore.
Hermione pulled out a strand of garland and draped it over her fireplace.
Christmas decorating should be a joyous activity, not something to be trudged through. Still, it's the 1st of December, and at some point the place needs to look festive. Perhaps a few twinkling lights will lift my spirits.
Hermione readjusted the left side of the garland until it was straight. Then she stared at her handiwork.
It may not be brilliant, but it isn't terrible either. I could live with this, for the next ten minutes anyway.
The fireplace erupted. Hermione startled.
"Yes," the voice answered. "Uh, is it okay if I drop by, or are you busy?"
Hermione backed away from the floo. "I am never too busy for you. Please, come in."
Victor materialized before her. He brushed himself off, his eyes fixed on her left arm. Hermione swallowed.
"You look well, Mum," Victor began.
She rubbed her arm. "I feel well enough."
"I am happy to hear it," he replied.
Hermione moistened her lips. "I take it Rose told you that she and your dad have resumed looking for a cure."
Victor nodded. "She also told me that your arm has been itching."
Hermione shrugged. "There's nothing to worry about. I've been under a lot of stress."
"Victor, I assure you that I am fine."
"Please don't lie to me," Victor replied.
Hermione bowed her head.
"I am a grown man." Victor put a hand on her shoulder. "I do not need you to protect me from the truth anymore."
"No," Hermione looked up at him. "I suppose you do not."
"So tell me, how is your arm?"
"It itches sometimes, but my magic feels fine."
Victor hugged her. Hermione wrapped her arms around him.
"I love you, Mum," he whispered.
"I love you too," she answered.
He released her.
"Did you only come here to ask about my arm?" Hermione began.
"No," Victor answered.
"Then why else did you come here?"
"Can a man not take some time to visit his mother?"
She grinned. "I suppose I see no problem with that."
Victor glanced down at the box of decorations.
"I decided today was as good a day as any to begin decorating," Hermione began.
Victor bent down and picked up a Santa whose head was poking out of a chimney. He pushed the head down. The item hissed before the Santa head emerged from the chimney and yelled "Ho! Ho! Ho!"
Victor laughed. "I love this Santa"
Hermione's face lit up.
"Violet was so scared of it." Victor evened out his breathing. "I think she tried to throw it away once."
"She did," Hermione answered. "Good thing we noticed it before we incinerated the trash."
"Indeed," Victor examined it again.
"Do you want to find a place for that?" Hermione asked.
"Sure," Victor smirked. "Do you think we should put it in Violet's room?"
"Only if you want her to hex you," Hermione answered.
He placed on the center of the fireplace mantel. "Do you have the tree yet?"
Hermione shook her head. "Your father and I were going to get it this weekend."
"Do you want company?" Victor asked. "I mean, I should be free all of next weekend, assuming you want me around."
"I would love nothing more than for you to join us," Hermione answered.
"Good," Victor replied. "Just floo or owl me with the details, and I'll be there."
"I will," Hermione promised. "Your dad will be pleased to have you along."
"Where is he, anyway?"
"He's in the lab brewing, but I'm sure he could take a break to see you."
"No, that's fine. I don't need to speak with him right now."
"Okay," Hermione answered.
Silence fell between them.
Victor asked in a soft voice, "Why don't you have confidence in yourself?"
"Excuse me?" Hermione asked.
"Why don't you have confidence in yourself?"
"Why would you ask me a question like that?"
"I've been thinking about Rose's paternity quite a bit recently," Victor began.
"I know you wanted to protect Rose by telling her Dad was her biological father, but why didn't you feel confident that you could help her cope with the truth?" Victor asked.
Hermione's throat went dry.
"Why did you not feel you were able to protect her from the pain of Ron Weasley being her father?" Victor asked.
Hermione's voice was barely audible. "Because I couldn't protect her before she was born. It would've been arrogant to think I could protect her now."
"Why would you say that?" Victor whispered.
"One of the most harrowing things about being pregnant is that you and only you can make a decision for your child. Your child depends on you for everything. If you make one mistake" Hermione's eyes watered. "You cannot always undo it."
"I know what it's like for people to say that I have the fate of the Wizarding World in your hands. I spent my adolescence one mistake away from ruin. Really though, anyone could've done what I did," Hermione began. "Anyone could've help Harry defeat Voldemort."
"Don't say that," Victor answered. "Only you could have solved some of those riddles, or kept your cool under such stress."
"There is an entire house dedicated to students who can solve riddles. I was far from the only person remaining calm in the face of adversity. If I had failed, there were others dedicated enough to the cause who would have played my role. Perhaps some of them may have even done a better job than me."
"You need to give yourself more credit than that," Victor argued. "Harry would have been dead ten times over without you. I'm sure if he were here he would say as much."
"I am sure he would," Hermione admitted. "But I also need to give credit where it is due. Other students joined the resistance, and many of them contributed to the cause. I am not the only person who could have helped Harry defeat Voldemort."
Victor opened his mouth, but Hermione put her finger over it.
"But given that all my encounters were consensual, I was the only person who could choose a biological father for my children," she concluded.
Victor nodded. Hermione removed her finger from his lips.
"When I realized I was pregnant with Rose, I thought I had chosen a good biological father for her. I knew Ron wasn't perfect, but who is?"
"Nobody," Victor answered. "Though most people I've met are closer to perfection than Ron Weasley."
"I realize that now," Hermione replied. "At the time though, I chose to ignore his faults. I thought I was making the right choice in having a child with him."
"We know how it ended," Hermione's voice was low. "Rose wasn't even born yet, and I had already made an enormous mistake. I had put her at risk of being shamed by the Wizarding World, rejected in the muggle world, and I was completely alone."
"Dad helped you."
"Only because Rose chose him to be her father."
"Rose chose Dad?"
"H-how did she do that?" Victor asked.
Hermione's eyes glistened. "I will not go into the full story here, in large part because it is complicated and all of you children should hear it together. What you need to know is that immediately after reconnecting with your father, I felt Rose move within me. It was the first time I had ever felt a child move within me. Then there was the fact that she kicked for the first time after we said our vows. It was her way of letting your father and me know that we were a family."
"So the part about her kicking was true."
"Indeed, it was."
Victor grinned. "Thank Merlin for Rose and her great taste in fathers."
"Indeed," Hermione sighed. "I only wish that as an adult she possessed the good sense to stay away from Ronald."
"Perhaps once she meets him this obsession with self-discovery will end."
"Do you truly believe that?"
"One can only hope," Victor answered.
Hermione embraced her son. "I love you so children so much. Never forget that."
"I haven't Mum," Victor returned the embrace. "We all love you too."
"I know your father and I aren't perfect and we made more than a few mistake," Hermione replied. "We did what we felt like it was for best, even if there may have been a better way."
"Things worked out wonderfully for everyone involved," Victor replied.
"I hope you think so anyway," Hermione answered.
"I do. Now," Victor grabbed a strand of scarlet tinsel. "I have nothing planned all day. Would you like some helping reaching the high places?"
"Seeing as to how your father is not here to help me, I suppose I could use the assistance," Hermione answered.
Victor straightened the tinsel. "Do you want it on the top of the bookshelf again?"
"I do," Hermione answered.
Victor flew up and began to arrange it.
"Make sure it's straight," Hermione called. "I don't want it crooked like it was last year."
"I know Mum," Victor scoot around the tinsel. "Dad still hasn't quieted about how obnoxious it was to view crooked tinsel."
Hermione's expression lightened. "No, he has not."
"Still, the holidays wouldn't be the same without Dad complaining about something I suppose," Victor noted.
"No," Hermione answered. "The holidays would not be the same without any of you."
Victor gave her a grin. "It wouldn't be a holiday without you, Mum."
Hermione smiled and wiped a tear from her eye, hoping she had more than a few holidays left.