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A Clandestine Reality by Tears of Ebon Grey
Chapter 1: The Veiled Truth
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Author’s Note: Just a few quick notes before we get this story kicked off. Everything in DH happened (minus the epilogue) but there are a few alterations. When Ron came back, they decided to go back to the Order and continued their hunt for the horcruxes from there. Hermione and Ron have been a couple since the beginning of DH and not the end. The Final Battle occurred because they got wind of a scheduled attack against the school after retaking it from the Death Eaters, and because Harry had basically figured out where the rest of the horcruxes were. They went with the Order to the final battle. After Hermione and the others were inside the school, everything basically happened the same from there on.
Now this is a Draco/Hermione fic, but Hermione is married to Ron, which I promise is for the good of the story and they won’t be together for that long. Also, Hermione was eighteen when she conceived Rose.
I’d really like to hear your opinions on how I’ve done so far, so please review. This is my first try at the Draco/Hermione ship.
.: Chapter One – The Veiled Truth :.
Monday, April 15, 2002
There was method to his madness, or at least she hoped there was. It wasn’t that she didn’t have faith in him; it was simply a matter of facts outweighing interpretation. He had worked so hard over the past few months that she felt bad for doubting him. But the odds were not in his favor. His job wasn’t ideal, in fact it was far from it, but after being rejected by the Auror’s Department he hadn’t really had another option. The Department of Magical Games and Sports was good to him, but it was just a stepping stone, or so he said. She had encouraged him to take chances, to make good use of the opportunities placed before him. Hermione had played the supportive role a wife should play, but on the inside she was skeptical. It had been a toss up between supportive or realistic, and normally she would have chosen the latter of the two, but he had his heart set on going for the promotion. He wanted to give them a better life and who was she to argue with him? His intentions were noble but when it came down to the nitty gritty, he didn’t have the experience, knowledge or patience the job required.
It wasn’t as if they had money problems, both their wages were reasonable and they lived quite comfortably. But Ron wanted more and she couldn’t help but think that a large part of the why, was because her job paid more than his. She was only twenty-three but largely respected in her field, yet her husband had a simple desk job. It didn’t bother her one bit, but she thought it bothered him. He had never and would never say anything out loud, yet she knew that he was in someway ashamed of her being the primary provider. It was why he tried so hard, putting his name forward for other higher earning jobs that didn’t interest him, trying to get a promotion he knew he had no chance of getting. The whole repetitive process was exasperating, but Hermione kept her mouth shut, knowing that he had to feel like he was doing everything he could to give them a better life.
They’d been married for five years last February, yet it seemed as though ten had passed. It had been a small ceremony with only a few family and friends to bear witness. There had been no extravagant flower decorations like at Fleur and Bill’s wedding, and no grand fireworks display like George and Angelina’s. It had been small and understated, something quiet compared to victory celebrations going on all around the world. Like almost every girl she had imagined her wedding, designed it down to the very last detail. Her wedding, like so many others, hadn’t even come close to the dream. She didn’t know what it was exactly, but something hadn’t felt right. She did love him, it just hadn’t seemed the right time. They were barely out of school, their last year not even attended, yet they had been hard pressed to marry. The war was over, the name Voldemort becoming nothing more than a bad memory, and the world was on a high. She had agreed to the marriage because it had seemed the right thing to do. Everyone had wanted it. Just because she had doubts was no reason to flay their happiness, right?
An unwed mother in the wizarding world was not uncommon, but extremely frowned upon. She had wanted to wait, to be sure, but Molly had insisted and eventually she caved under the pressure. The happiness of her friends and family meant the world to her, and the prospect of a child being born after everything they’d endured was intoxicating to them. She hadn’t wanted to disappoint them, to dampen the rare joy in their eyes. Her mother had seen her hesitation as had her father. They had tried talking to her before the wedding, telling her that they’d support her in whatever she did and that if she wasn’t ready to marry Ron, they would understand. She had said she was fine, and minutes later she was Mrs Ronald Weasley. Her parents had kept quiet since then, but she was sure they saw what others didn’t.
Upon looking back, she liked to think she’d made the right decision. Ron was a loving husband, one that went out of his way to make her happy. He was a doting father and took every opportunity he could to spoil his girls. Her choice had to have been the right one...at least she hoped it was. They lived a comfortable life, yet she couldn’t help but feel as though something was missing. It was a good life, a quiet life, one where everything was set in a secure routine – perhaps that was the problem. Everything was scheduled, planned down to the tiniest of details. She wanted to shake things up but didn’t really know how. The daily routine made her feel safe, and she would readily admit that it was like a safety blanket. The problem was, her safety blanket was starting to become torn and weathered. She was bored.
Her job was her sanctuary. It was the one place where everything – though structured – was completely unpredictable. After Rose was born she had wanted to do something worthwhile, something that benefited others before herself. Ron had been completely against the idea of her working at the beginning. But she’d put her foot down and he couldn’t do anything but agree. His image of marriage was one where the husband worked and the wife stayed at home, caring for the children and the upkeep of the house. Hers was somewhat different. She couldn’t blame him for his opinions, but that didn’t mean she agreed with them. As a child he had absorbed his surroundings like a sponge, learning about life from the people around him. His mother and father’s relationship was all he knew, so she wasn’t surprised that he had the views he did. What had angered her were not his beliefs, but his expectation that she follow the same path his mother had. He knew she had dreams, aspirations, yet he asked her to push them aside. She’d stood her ground and won.
At just nineteen, she’d received a scholarship from the Ministry of Magic to study law in their new Department of Regulations. Ron hadn’t been too impressed at her choice of a career, mainly because of the long hours she had to work as a trainee. It had been what she’d wanted to do and even though they had Rose, she knew she could cope with the added stress. The job wasn’t easy, especially when she had to deal with the snobbery of senior Wizengamot members. But it had its rewards. She was now twenty-three and considered to be one of the best female lawyers in the country, which on its own was a large accomplishment.
“Mummy! Mummy!” shaking her head violently, Hermione whipped around. Was something wrong? Why was Rose yelling for her? Had she tripped over? Fallen down the last few stairs? Had something happened? Was she hurt?
“What is it, cricket?” she asked anxiously, making her way over to where the little four year-old stood, balancing on the balls of her feet. Looking her up and down quickly, scanning for any injuries, she was relieved to see that nothing was wrong. There were no scratches, no cuts, bruises or any other kind of injury. But that left the unanswered question; what was wrong?
Lifting her tiny hand, Rose pointed toward the stove, eyes wide. “Ids burning, mummy,” she said, her small voice awed.
Burning? “Rose, wha –” realization hit her as the smell of burning meat met her nostrils. “Oh, shit,” she swore under her breath, running over to the large cloud of smoke drifting up from the oven door.
Hermione heard a giggle behind her, but focused on the task at hand. Dinner was ruined and Ron would be home at any moment. She didn’t know what to do. Her work hours allowed her to be home by four in the afternoon provided she arrived at work earlier than usual, and normally Ron finished by six. He always expected his meal to be placed on the table waiting for him when he came home, and normally she had it timed perfectly. But she had let her mind wander too far and effectively ruined the meal. She’d just have to order takeout because dinner was unsalvageable. Chinese would do, he liked Chinese.
“Mummy?” when she heard a sing song voice sound behind her, Hermione had to suppress an irritated sigh. The tiny hand tapping her on the shoulder was definitely not helping either.
“Yes, Rose,” she answered, turning around to smile at her daughter.
The little girl grinned impishly. “You saids a bad word,” her hazel-brown eyes twinkled mischievously and Hermione just knew that her daughter was up to something.
“I know, cricket, mummy’s very sorry,” she said, voice repentant. Reaching forward, she stroked her daughter’s curls lovingly, marveling at how silky they felt beneath her fingers. Her daughter was definitely up to something.
“Will you gives me a lolly?” Rose asked suddenly, a mischievous but hopeful look in her eyes.
Hermione frowned. “What? Why?” she asked in confusion, eyes narrowing slightly at the little girl. “Rose, what are you up to?” her voice was suspicious.
“I won’t tell daddy if you gives me a lolly,” the little girl said, a tiny but triumphant smirk on her face. Hermione felt her stomach drop. She knew that smirk.
“Okay, sweetie,” she said, deciding to play along. Her voice shook slightly, but she didn’t think Rose noticed. “Pinkie swear you won’t tell?” Hermione asked, extending her pinkie finger toward the little girl.
Rose considered it for a moment. “I pinkie swear, mummy,” she said seriously, face somber as she hooked her finger with her mother’s.
“Now off you go, cricket,” her voice still shook, but Hermione covered it well.
Rose huffed. “My lolly?” she said, glaring up at her mother.
“You’ll get it after dinner,” Hermione said sternly. “Now go upstairs and wash your hands, your father will be home soon and he’ll want dinner,” it was true, Ron thought of nothing else but food when he got home. After he was fed, he had energy enough to entertain his girls. But before then it was pointless to try and get his attention.
“But yo –”
“You never said when you wanted your lolly, so I decided for you,” she laughed, ruffling Rose’s hair affectionately. “Off you go,” pointing toward the stairs; she couldn’t help but laugh at the look on her daughter’s face.
With a scowl on her little face, Rose flounced toward the stairs, tiny feet stamping indignantly on the wooden steps. Hermione had half a mind to berate her daughter for her little temper tantrum, but thought better of it as Rose’s blonde curls swept around the corner and out of sight. She was definitely a handful, but then she wouldn’t be Rose if she weren’t. It was hard to imagine that in just six months, her little baby would be five. Time was moving too quickly and it seemed like just yesterday she was in the hospital, screaming about castrating her husband. But when it was all over and she held a sleeping Rose in her arms for the first time, she’d felt complete and all thoughts of castration fled her mind. How could you love someone so much that you’d only just met? It was odd, but in holding her little girl she’d felt as though she were a part of her. Rose was a part of her.
It had always been a subject of discussion that Rose hadn’t inherited the famous Weasley red hair. But Hermione had explained that when she was little her hair had been blonde and that as she got older, her hair had darkened and turned brown. The problem was Rose’s hair wasn’t getting any darker, if anything it seemed to be getting lighter. She didn’t know the exact moment she knew, but at some point she just did. Ron wasn’t Rose’s father. As the years passed and Rose got older, developing a personality of her own, Hermione had become convinced that this was true. Her daughter was nothing like Ron.
Rose had these little quirks in her personality and somehow Hermione knew that she’d inherited them from her father, her real father. She was tiny for her age, but the healer’s had said that as she got older, Rose would grow to be fairly tall compared to her mother’s short 5’3. Ron had been thrilled, insisting that she got it from him. But Hermione knew the truth. Her daughter was a scary combination of both her and her biological father. Rose had an insatiable love of books and learning, yet she also loved painting and anything artistic. Hermione was hopeless when it came to art and craft, not to mention anything remotely musical. Rose however seemed to be a natural. True, she was only four, but Hermione could already tell that she had a certain flare for the arts. She knew for a fact that Rose didn’t get it from her, so she assumed she’d inherited her talent from her father. The little girl had an explosive temper, which as much as she hated to admit it, she’d inherited from her. But there were these quirks, things as simple as a facial expression or pronunciation of a word, that had Hermione convinced that Ron wasn’t her father.
It had only been one night, yet it seemed the consequences were far greater than she’d ever imagined. The Battle of Hogwarts as it was remembered had been terrifying for more reasons than one. When they’d gotten word that the Death Eaters planned to attack the school, the Order had arranged individual portkeys to strategically place each individual there. Her portkey had malfunctioned somehow and she’d overshot her landing by at least 100 meters. Looking back, she knew she’d been lucky. Her portkey had landed her almost directly in the enemy camp.
She remembered feeling cold, the dread and fear of seeing the Death Eater’s ranks preparing for battle, seeping into her bones. Hermione had heard them before she saw them, but her legs wouldn’t move. In a matter of seconds she’d been dragged roughly into a cave, a hand clamped over her mouth to keep her from screaming as the two Death Eaters she’d heard approaching, walked past. He’d saved her. She didn’t know why she did it. She’d been so overwhelmed at the time, confused but beyond thankful. It had been a moment of insanity, a moment of fear, of understanding. They were in a war, one neither of them wanted to fight in but had no choice. He had no choice; she could see it in his eyes. His fight was for his family as was hers. It was a war built on survival, and to some that was all that mattered. No words were said, but each understood. They’d sought each others comfort, their understanding, if only for a moment. And when it was all over they went their separate ways.
He fought on one side, she on another. But by the end of it all his family – no doubt seeing their side’s inevitable loss – changed their side in the middle of battle. Some said it was cowardice and to some degree she agreed, but not with him. Never with him. She understood. He had never wanted to be a part of the war, but forced to fight nonetheless. It hadn’t been his choice. No matter what anyone said, she knew he wasn’t a coward. His family, she could see, to some degree were repentant, even his father. But Harry and the others refused to see it and remained fast in their beliefs, where she kept an open mind.
It had been one night and no matter how many times she went over it in her head, she wouldn’t do anything differently. When she’d married Ron, she’d had her doubts about the paternity but pushed them to the back of her mind. They’d been in a relationship for a while and it was far more probable that he was the father. Probability apparently hadn’t been on her side. She’d thought about telling Ron the truth, but whenever he looked at his little ‘Rosie’ she couldn’t do it. He loved Rose with all his heart and she didn’t want to hurt him, not like that. She was haunted every day by her betrayal, because every time she looked at her little girl, she saw him.
“Hermione, I’m home!” quickly wiping her eyes, she sucked in a deep breath, trying to steady her pounding her heart. Ron couldn’t have the slightest inkling that she was upset because if he did, it would lead to questions and she would be forced to lie, yet again.
“I’m in the kitchen,” she yelled out, busying herself with cleaning up the mess her ruined meal made.
Hermione heard the sound of his boots hitting the floor as he kicked them off, and knew that he would be in the kitchen asking for dinner at any moment. It wasn’t that she minded cooking a meal every now and then; in fact she found it quite soothing at times. But he expected it every night and she just wasn’t that person. Nevertheless, she went about it without complaint, knowing that an argument was the last thing they needed.
“What on earth is that bloody putrid smell?” he grunted, hand reaching up to cover his nose, brow scrunched up in disgust.
She sighed. “It was dinner,” it was hard to keep the exasperation from her voice. No matter that the dinner was ruined, she had in fact put a fair bit of effort into it. “But I got a little distracted, so I was thinking we could order Chinese from the restaurant in town,” she added, turning around to look at her husband, silently asking his opinion.
Ron nodded his head absently, shrugging off his coat and laying it over a chair. “Chinese doesn’t sound so bad,” he didn’t sound too enthusiastic and she immediately wondered why. He loved Chinese, didn’t he?
Realization hit her in the form of his disgruntled sigh; the promotion. “You didn’t get it, did you?” she asked, reaching for her wand to clean up dinner quickly, so she could talk to him properly.
“No,” he said simply, a hint of dejection in his voice.
Hermione felt her heart constrict tightly, hating herself for knowing that he wouldn’t get it, but encouraging him even with that knowledge. He deserved a promotion for all the late nights he pulled, hoping to get ahead but never actually getting that far. He worked so hard, but when it came down to it, good credentials outweighed hard work any day where the Ministry was concerned.
“Maybe next time,” her voice was encouraging, soothingly calm, yet on the inside she felt only guilt for knowing that this conversation would be repeated again when there was a next time.
“Yeah, maybe next time,” he said, voice dull and void of emotion.
Hermione decided to change the subject. “How was lunch with Harry?” she asked, opening a cupboard to retrieve two coffee mugs.
There was never a time where there wasn’t a fresh batch of coffee in their house, mainly because of her. Her parents had been mortified when they realized just how ‘addicted’ she was to the drink. But it was understandable considering her work hours. She worked from seven to four on most days, though she usually ended up at work by six-thirty. Ron didn’t know how she did it, but she was always ready for work on time, with a set of instructions left on the counter for him about how to get Rose ready for school in the morning. He’d been against the idea of Rose going to school so early. But warmed up to it eventually after finding out the school was run by both Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott, their former classmates, in hopes of providing wizarding families with a means to educate their children before Hogwarts. Needless to say the school was most definitely a hit, with a large number of children between the ages of three and ten, enrolled in the program.
Ron perked up. “It was really good actually. He’s invited us over for dinner on Friday,” he said brightly, reaching out to take the offered coffee mug.
“You told him yes, obviously,” she said, taking a sip of her coffee.
“Obviously,” he snorted.
“Luna’s not cooking, is she?” Hermione asked, nose screwed up at the mere idea of the dreamy blonde cooking. She meant no offence to Luna, but the woman was not a cook.
Ron laughed. “Merlin no! I think Harry’s learned his lesson there,” he snickered. With a small smile, she laughed, knowing exactly what he was thinking of.
Luna and Harry had been married for almost three years now, and only last year Luna had tried her hand at cooking. Normally Harry was the cook of the family, leaving Luna some free time before dinner to wind down. Ever since her father died during the war, Luna had taken over the Quibbler and turned it into a fairly reputable paper, though it still had its kooky moments. After having their daughter Lily, Luna had tried to get Harry to teach her how to cook but he had refused, saying that she had enough to cope with at work and caring for Lily. Eventually she won, though the endeavor was far from successful. It was easily said that the woman didn’t belong in a kitchen, let alone near one.
“You know they’re trying for another kid, right?” Ron said suddenly, eyes resting on his coffee mug.
She knew where this was going. “No, I didn’t know,” her voice was calm and indifferent; it was quite obvious that she was annoyed.
“I’m just saying that I think it’s time Rosie had a brother, or little sister,” he knew how she felt about this, but continued to bring it up even so.
Hermione sighed. “Now is not a very good time, Ron,” it was true, her work schedule was hectic as it was, add in a baby and you’ve got a disaster just waiting to happen.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want to have another child, because she did. There was just so much to consider and she didn’t think she was ready to make any job sacrifices just yet. They were only young, with a gorgeous four year-old daughter. Time wasn’t against them, they could afford to wait. Ron however, didn’t share her sentiments. He wanted a big family, much like the one his mother and father had had, and that bothered her. He wasn’t the one who had to give birth, and while she had no objections to two, maybe three children, she had serious problems with anything from five upwards. She wasn’t ready to have another child.
“It’s never a good time, Hermione,” he snapped.
Running a hand through her already chaotic mass of curls, Hermione struggled to keep her anger in check. “I do want to have more children, Ronald,” she said calmly, taking a sip of coffee to calm her nerves. “But I’m not ready, not yet. It seems like just yesterday that we had Rose, and with my career and the mortgage on the house, I just don’t think it’s the right time,” there was a scurry of feet upstairs and she knew that Rose would be down soon. “This conversation is over for the time being, we need to have dinner and I don’t want to argue in front of Rose,” she said simply, downing the last of her coffee, wincing as the hot liquid burnt the back of her throat.
“No,” Ron hissed, standing up angrily. “Hermione, as far as I’m concerned dinner can wait, we need to talk about this,” his jaw was clenched in determination and she knew that there was no getting out of this one. It was a first for him to think of a meal second, and she couldn’t be sure if that was a good or bad thing.
Glancing worriedly at the staircase, she expected to see a bunch of blonde curls bobbing as her daughter ran down the stairs, but saw none. “I don’t want to talk about this in front of Rose,” she said, voice clipped with annoyance and concern. Rose would be down any minute now, she just knew it.
“Don’t you want Rose to have any siblings?” he asked harshly. It was obvious to her now that he was really serious about this.
“Of course I want Rose to have a brother or sister,” she cried, admonished. “I just don’t think it’s the righ –”
“You’re in the perfect position at your work and you know that if you asked to work from home, they’d let you. You are one of the best lawyers in this country, Hermione. Do you honestly think they wouldn’t go out of their way to accommodate you in anyway they could, if you were pregnant, just to keep you?” he interrupted, voice drowning out her own.
She winced at the truth in his words. If she asked, she would get. There was no real way for her to argue her point without him coming up with a rebuke that discarded whatever she said. Sure, she was the lawyer, but when it came down to it, Ron’s observations were of truth where hers, she would admit, were nothing but excuses. It was true that she wasn’t ready to have another child, but the reason as to why, wasn’t exactly what most people would expect. She was afraid. If she had another child and that child inherited the Weasley red hair, which she was sure it would, then she was doomed. The cracks would start to show and what was clear in her eyes would become clear in others. They would see the difference; they would notice how Rose’s hair seemed to get lighter each day. Questions would be asked, suspicions raised, and eventually everyone would see the world exactly as she saw it. They would see Rose as she saw her. What would happen then? What would happen when they finally realized that Ron wasn’t her father? If they found out the truth, it would be the end of everything she knew. If they found out Draco Malfoy was her father, it would be the end of everything.
Chapter 2: Complications
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Author's Note: Thank you to those of you who reviewed my last chapter, I really appreciate it. I'd really love your opinion and if you find any mistakes please tell me so I can edit them out.
.: Chapter Two – Complications :.
Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Why she’d agreed to this, she had no idea. It wasn’t as if she was against the idea completely, she just wasn’t as single-minded as he was. She knew he meant well, but the fact that he had gone behind her back and booked this appointment, angered her beyond everything else. He was so stubborn and no matter how she approached the subject, he refused to see any side but his own. She had at least tried to see it from his point of view, and even though she didn’t agree with everything he said, she at least respected him enough to try and understand. Instead he went behind her back and booked an appointment at their local Medi-Centre. Hermione had at least thought she'd convinced him to drop the subject, but apparently she hadn’t. It was blatantly obvious now that he wasn’t going to back down anytime soon. The problem was, she was also beginning to run out of excuses.
She felt a tug on her hand and realised she had stopped in front of the building. “Come on, Hermione. It won’t be that bad,” Ron reasoned, tugging her forward.
“I really don’t see the point in this,” she snapped, yanking her hand out his indignantly.
She was so angry, incensed really. He thought that a trip to their local Medi-Witch would help her become more accustomed to the idea of motherhood again. It was completely idiotic! She was perfectly fine with motherhood; she was a mother after all. Obviously he hadn’t been thinking properly because she had made it perfectly clear that having another child was not one of her top priorities at the moment. He was getting desperate, that much was obvious. But the problem wasn’t his wanting another child; it was the lack of respect he showed her by going behind her back like this. She had agreed to come because an appointment had been made and it was too late to cancel. She didn’t want to waste Healer Bronsom’s time, but Ron had made the appointment and now they were obligated to see it through.
“I thought we discussed this already,” he sighed in exasperation, running a hand through his hair agitatedly.
Hermione huffed. “No, you discussed it, not me,” the moment he showed up at her work, declaring they had an appointment to go to, booked by himself, she had refused to try and be reasonable.
“Hermione,” he whined, a pained expression on his face.
“Don’t you, Hermione me,” she snapped, crossing her arms over her chest angrily. “You went behind my back, Ronald, and booked an appointment that we didn’t need,” she hissed, walking forward to lower her voice. “I thought I’d made it perfectly clear that I didn’t want to have another child just yet, but obviously I have to spell it out for you. I’m not against the idea, Ron; I’m just not considering it at the present,” it was becoming increasingly hard not to see red.
She felt betrayed by what he had done. Her anger was paramount.
Ron looked defeated. “I know your career means a lot to you but I also know what I see when you look at Rose. She’s our daughter, Hermione, and I know that you love her more than life itself. I see what I see, and I just know that our little Rosie would love a baby brother, or even a baby sister,” he said, conviction in his voice. “Hell, I’d love it! And I know you would too. Why do you keep fighting this?” it was a question she couldn’t answer, not fully at least.
“I’m not against the idea of having another child, Ron. I’m just...” her voice shook as she tried to gain the upper balance against her emotions. “I’m just not ready,” technically it wasn’t a lie because it was true, she wasn’t ready. But the real reason she fought so hard could never be voiced, not to Ron. It would break his heart.
“But I am,”
She sighed. “And that is where our problem lies,” his eyes seemed to convey his understanding of her words where his mouth did not.
He remained silent for a while, eyes darting about evasively as he tried to look at anything but her. She knew it was hard for him, especially after she had initially seen the hurt and silent understanding in his eyes. But to relent now would do her no good. Being a mother had changed her. She wasn’t as reckless, though she had hardly been irresponsible to begin with. Her Hogwarts days and the adventures she had embarked on with the boys, were long gone. Rose was her main priority now and she couldn’t afford to do anything that would inadvertently hurt her. If she relented now, she was almost positive that the truth would be revealed and then there would be hell to pay. Her fear wasn’t for herself but for Rose, and if things did turn out the way she imagined they would, for another child as well.
“Look, how about we go inside and listen to what Healer Bronsom has to say. After that, I promise we can talk when we get home. I’m trying to see your point of view, love, but you’ve got to understand how badly I want this,” he was at the point of begging and she knew, with saddened resignation, that she had to go in with him.
“Okay,” she sighed. “Let’s just get this over with,” there was a hint of annoyance in her voice.
It was better to go sooner rather than later, right?
It was a while before the receptionist said that Healer Bronsom was ready for them, and Hermione couldn’t help but glance anxiously at her watch every few minutes or so. Her lunchbreak had started at twelve and she, like any other employee, only got one hour. It was already 12:36 and she was starting to get impatient. As they walked down the corridor, Healer Bronsom’s office came into view and Hermione felt her throat constrict painfully. It was bad enough that she and Ron had their problems but now they had to include their local healer. She hated involving other people in their problems, especially when it was none of their concern to begin with.
“Ron, I really don’t want to do this,” she whispered quietly, tugging on his arm.
“Well it’s too bloody late now,” he replied, teeth clenched as he tried to keep his voice below a whisper.
“Mr and Mrs Weasley, a pleasure as always,” Hermione gulped, fixing a smile on her face as she turned toward the healer.
“Healer Bronsom,” she said politely, detaching herself from Ron to shake the older woman’s hand.
Looking down at her clipboard, the portly woman frowned. “Come in and have a seat, I’ll be with you both in a minute,” she smiled briefly before scurrying off, a scowl on her face as she headed toward the receptionist.
Walking inside, they each took a seat. She could sense Ron looking at her but she refused to look back. It was at least ten minutes before the woman returned and Hermione had fast become more irritated than before. She had twelve minutes left of her lunchbreak.
“Now, what can I do for the two of you?” Healer Bronsom asked, adjusting her overly large spectacles so she could look at them properly.
Ron sucked in a deep breath. “Hermione and I are thinking about having another child,” narrowing her eyes at him, Hermione watched as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “But we haven’t decided yet and Hermione has a few reservations,” he finished, not daring to look at his wife.
“What kind of reservations, Mrs Weasley?” the healer asked, crossing her hands on her desk patiently.
Hermione braced herself. “The kind where my husband is concerned,” she ground out, turning to glare at the redhead beside her.
“Are you having trouble sustaining an erection, Mr Weasley?” the woman asked nonchalantly, grabbing her quill to scribble something down in his file.
Ron paled. “No!” he shouted, springing to his feet, mortified.
She couldn’t help but snicker.
“It was a simple question, Mr Weasley. There is no need to shout,” Healer Bronsom snapped, a scowl on her face. “Now Mrs Weasley, would you care to elaborate on your previous answer so we can avoid any other misunderstandings?” the woman said, pursing her lips as Ron lowered himself in his chair, still shaking in silent anger and shock.
“My husband and I are not exactly on the same page, I’m afraid. I didn’t even know he had booked this appointment until about an hour ago,” she smiled sweetly at Ron, eyes narrowed dangerously into slits.
“This is not the place to sort out your marital problems, Mr Weasley,” the older woman bristled, causing Ron to wince. Hermione smiled faintly, satisfied that she and Healer Bronsom seemed to share the same point of view.
“Of course not, Healer Bronsom,” he replied like a child scolded. “But I am here for another reason,” at this he gulped, face paling considerably. “I was wondering if you could give both my wife and I a check up?” he asked, a slight quiver in his voice.
“May I ask as to why?”
“Well,” he gulped, looking at Hermione nervously.
Hermione felt her breath hitch. “Ron, what did you do?” she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted to know. There were a thousand possibilities running through her mind, each worse than the last. But what he said next made her stomach churn and her heart clench in fear.
“You have to understand, love, I was just doing what I thought was right,” he ran a hand through his hair nervously. “I knew that you would be opposed to the idea of having another child just as your career was starting to kick off. But I honestly believe that it shouldn’t have any impact on the decision. I know that morally, you’ll think I was wrong and I do feel guilty for it, bu –”
“What did you do?” she ground out, heart beating a tattoo in her chest.
Ron looked as though he was about to be sick. “I switched your contraceptive potions,” he said hurriedly, eyes darting about the room.
Time could have stood still as his words began to sink in. He’d switched her contraceptive potions – she was fertile. Oh Merlin, she thought suddenly, eyes alight in panic. I could be pregnant. The thought left her feeling numb and she reached down to touch her stomach lightly.
“How dare you,” Hermione yelled, his voice bringing her back to reality. He’d switched her potions without her knowing. He had tried to get her pregnant knowing that if she were, it would be too late for her to object to the idea! “You purposely tried to get me pregnant without my knowledge, yet you knew that I didn’t want to have another child for at least two more years,” she screeched, not caring that they were in the company of another.
“I’m sorry,” he said weakly, wincing at the harshness of her voice.
If it was possible, her anger only increased. “You’re sorry?” she spat. “I could be pregnant and you’re bloody sorry? I find that hard to believe, after all this is what you wanted, isn’t it?” her breath was coming in short gasps, the panic, anger and realisation of what he had done, hitting her fully.
How could he have done that to her? He had blatantly defiled her trust, not to mention the fact that what he had done was more than immoral, even by some of her worst client’s standards. Maybe it was alright, acceptable even, in pureblood society. But the fact was, they didn’t live that type of lifestyle and he most certainly hadn’t been raised with the same belief system they had. In pureblood families, they believed that the male, the husband, was the decision maker on all things. His wife was nothing but a trophy, an object to show off and breed an heir to. Those beliefs were slowly beginning to wane, especially after the war. But what really got her was the fact that what Ron had done pertained to his belief that he could make a decision about their lives without taking her opinion into account. She knew he wasn’t a thing like some of the pureblood bastards she had prosecuted. But he believed that he had the right to make a decision, discounting her feelings on the subject entirely. The truth was he had no right, none whatsoever to think that he could get away with doing that.
“I just thought tha –”
“I don’t care what you thought, Ron,” her voice shook, tears of betrayal welling up in her eyes. “You had absolutely no right to do that. This is my life too and you’ve basically forced me int –”
“I didn’t force you,” he yelled, abruptly cutting her off.
“By replacing my contraceptive potions without my knowing, you have forced me into this situation,” she screamed, nails digging into the palms of her hands. “It is a betrayal of my trust and shows just how little you respect me,” she couldn’t believe it. He was her husband, yet he did this? How could he be so thoughtless? So conniving?
“But Hermi –” he started, face pale, the freckles on his face standing out like charcoal against his skin.
“I think that is quite enough,” Healer Bronsom’s voice cut through, sharp and cold. “Mrs Weasley, if you could please go behind the curtain over there and I’ll be with you in a minute,” the older woman said, standing up, back stiffened in what she could only assume was anger.
Gesturing to the examination table in the corner, the healer moved out from behind her desk, indicating she should go over there. When she turned around, Hermione frowned at the back of the woman’s head. It was obvious that she was talking covertly with Ron, asking him some questions no doubt. Straining her ears, she tried hear what they were saying but found it was useless, and decided she’d ask him about it later even if she wasn’t sure his answers would be reliable.
Gritting her teeth, Hermione silently made her way over to the examination table, sucking in a deep breath when the healer rejoined her and pulled the curtains around them abruptly, obscuring Ron from view. She still had a hard time believing that he could be so selfish and completely thoughtless when it came to her feelings on the matter. But was resigned to the fact that what had happened was unchangeable. She wanted to scream, to throw the curtains aside and strangle the life out of him, but stopped herself just short from doing so. It was almost unfathomable that he had the wits enough to swap her contraceptive potions with god knows what, without her knowing. He wasn’t as dim-witted as most people thought, but she knew for a fact that at some point she would have noticed. He didn’t have the smarts enough to deceive her for too long. It was then that she came to a shocking realisation; he’d had help.
“If you could just lie down and I’ll perform the spell to confirm whether or not you’re pregnant,” the older woman said softly, a sympathetic smile on her face, briefly cracking her hardened exterior.
Nodding absently, she laid down, heart beating erratically. What would she do if she was pregnant? She supposed it wouldn’t be so bad, but that didn’t mean she was thrilled at the prospect. If she was pregnant then she would have to just deal with it. There was nothing she could do now but wait.
Waving her wand sharply over her stomach, Healer Bronsom frowned, recasting the spell a second time. Hermione felt her breath hitch. Something was wrong.
“What is it?” she asked nervously, hazel-brown eyes wide in confusion and fear.
The healer frowned again. “You’re not pregnant,” it sounded as though she was confused, perplexed at the diagnosis, but Hermione didn’t notice.
She wasn’t pregnant. “Oh thank god,” she sighed, eyes falling closed in relief. Hermione knew she should have felt a little disappointment, guilt even for feeling happy, but all she felt was relief.
“I’m sorry but this is very perplexing,” Healer Bronsom said suddenly, causing Hermione to look up in confusion. “It’s just seemingly improbable that you aren’t pregnant,” she added, brow furrowed in frustration.
Hermione frowned. “How so?” by the look on the healer’s face, she knew that whatever it was, it wouldn’t be good.
“Your husband replaced your contraceptive potions with fertility ones,” she said quietly, a thoughtful look on her face. “He said that he’d been doing it for a month or so, which means that in that time it is almost impossible that you didn’t fall pregnant,”
Hermione felt her anger flare. He’d done what?! She had at least a dozen different thoughts barraging her mind at the same time. How could he have done that? The potions were very similar which was probably why she hadn’t picked up on it. But he didn’t have the intelligence or potion brewing capability to brew either potion. He most certainly had to of had help but the question was who helped him?
“But I fell pregnant with Rose, so obviously I can have children,” Hermione stated in confusion, swinging her legs over the examination table and lowering herself to the ground. She was confused but mostly angry.
A thoughtful look crossed the healer’s face. “But can your husband?” she asked quietly as if to herself.
Hermione felt her blood run cold. No, it wasn’t possible. He couldn’t – he had to be able to have children, he just had to. Her breath was coming in short, shallow gasps as she walked silently back to her chair, ignoring Ron’s questioning gaze. This can’t be happening, she thought numbly, her mind not really processing the possibility fully. If he couldn’t have children – she didn’t want to imagine what this might mean for their marriage, let alone for Rose.
“Mr Weasley, if you could please go over to the examination table,” Healer Bronsom said nonchalantly, her face stoic and impassive.
Ron was confused. She could see it in his eyes, his frown. He didn’t know what was going on and the healer’s cold disposition wasn’t helping to ease his worries. She knew he was looking at her, a worried expression on his face. But she refused to meet his eyes, waiting until the curtain was drawn around him until she finally let out the breath she’d been holding in. This can’t be happening, it can’t, the words replayed over and over in her mind like a tormenting mantra.
What was she going to do if the worst did happen? What would Ron say? How would he react? Oh god! What would happen with Rose? Would he reject her? Demand she shed his name? Would he want a divorce? Would he toss them out on the street? What would his family say? Molly? Arthur? Would Harry hate her? Would he choose Ron’s side over hers? She’d lose all her friends, wouldn’t she? They’d most certainly take his side over hers and everyone would hate her, she was sure of it.
Hermione was too deep in thought to realise that both Ron and the healer had returned, each retaking their seat. She was so scared, petrified really. This could be the end of everything she knew, of her life with Ron, of her friendships. She was at the mercy of fate and it was already blatantly obvious by Healer Bronsom’s expression that it wasn’t on her side.
“I’m sorry Mr Weasley but your wife is not pregnant,” the older woman said expressionlessly, her eyes narrowing only momentarily as they landed on her.
“But...” he didn’t know what to say, voice trailing off in his confusion. The disappointment in his eyes was evident to both women, and Hermione felt guilt at knowing that both their worlds were about to be shattered. It was in the healer’s eyes, her stance and the way her mouth was pursed in obvious disapproval. Merlin knows what she thought about them.
Healer Bronsom folded her hands in front of her. “Upon examination, Mr Weasley, I have come to the conclusion that you are in fact, sterile,” the words, though she knew they were coming, impacted her far worse then she anticipated.
Her heart clenched painfully as she stole a glance at her husband. He looked sick. There was a tumultuous onslaught of emotions that flickered across his eyes, each as devastatingly painful as the last. Confusion, disbelief, outrage, hurt, doubt, and finally, denial. He couldn’t believe it. He didn’t want to believe it. He chose not to believe it.
“There has to be some kind of mistake,” he shook his head disbelievingly, voice shaky and uncertain.
“I’m sorry but there is no mistake,” the healer said, expression softening a little at the distraught look on Ron’s face.
Ron shook his head. “But we have Rosie,” he stated, voice full of conviction. He truly didn’t believe her.
“Is there perhaps anyway you could be wrong?” she asked tentatively, voice choked with unshed tears.
Hermione knew that there was no way she was wrong; Healer Bronsom was one of the best in the country. But for the sake of her husband, of Ron’s sanity, she had to ask. He had always wanted a large a family, one like his mother and father had had. To think that his dream could be shattered, hacked into pieces and never allowed to see the light of day made her ache in places she didn’t know existed. He was her husband, she loved him and the fact that this had happened, to him of all people, was excruciatingly painful. He could never have children.
“No,” the other replied sternly. “I’m afraid that there is a 99.9% chance that you have been infertile since birth, Mr Weasley,” she said, directing her answer at Ron.
“99.9?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied, reaching forward to grab her quill and take note of her findings in his file while he remained silent.
Ron sniffed, steeling himself. “So, there’s .1% of a chance?” he asked, eyes thoughtful.
Healer Bronsom frowned, her hand stilling in its writing. “Yes, there is .1% of a chance,” for some reason, Hermione thought she was lying.
“Well, that explains it then” he said suddenly, shifting in his seat to look at her.
She didn’t know what to do. Her heart was beating at a near impossible rate, her mind blank. “Explains what, Ron?” she asked, voice a hoarse whisper. She was terrified.
“We have Rosie, Hermione, it’s not impossible,” she couldn’t believe her ears. “Our little girl’s a miracle and we can have another one, we just have to try,” Healer Bronsom looked as though she was about to say something but quickly changed her mind.
It was obvious to the two women in the room that he was in denial, but what was worse, he actually believed it. He was blinded by love. She could tell by the pained but hopeful, determined look in his eyes that he didn’t for a second believe Rose wasn’t his. The thought never crossed his mind. She didn’t know whether to cry, or smile happily. Her secret for the time being was safe. But not everyone would be as blind as he was, and she wasn’t sure if she could take much more of this. She wasn’t sure she could lie to him for much longer, not like this. He was her friend, her husband; she didn’t want to hurt him and to lie was to hurt.
“Hermione?” his voice caused her to jump involuntarily.
She gulped. “Yeah,” she hated herself for the weakness in her voice.
“We can try, can’t we?” his blue eyes stared at her imploring.
Hermione didn’t have the heart to say no, not now at least. “We can try,” but it would never be.
Chapter 3: Epiphany
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Chapter Image made by Ladywolf of TDA!
Author's Note: Thank you again for all the reviews. I think a few of you might like this chapter, especially since it's about our favourite blonde Slytherin :)
Again, if you find any mistakes please tell me so I can edit them out. I'm only human so I do tend to miss things.
.: Chapter Three – Epiphany :.
Friday, April 26, 2002
It wasn’t that he was completely unhappy with his life; he just wasn’t very satisfied with where it was going. As a child he’d dreamt of perhaps playing professional Quidditch for a living, but that in itself was an unattainable and foolhardy dream. It was naïve of him to think that he had any say in his life, especially when it had been planned out so meticulously for him. His father had entered the family business as had his before him, so it was only customary that he do the same. He’d never really had a chance, not when family tradition stood in the way. His career had been chosen for him as had many other aspects of his life, but there was no use in complaining now. His life was the way that it was and he’d known what to expect even as a boy. It was no secret that his father had controlled nearly every aspect of his life like a puppeteer would his puppet. But Draco could hardly hate him for it, especially after everything the man had sacrificed. He may not have hated his father but that didn’t mean he wasn’t above resenting some of the man’s more questionable decisions.
The war had taken its toll on his family in more ways than one. It would be easy to rest all the blame on his father’s shoulders considering the situations he’d gotten them into. But then that wouldn’t be entirely fair. He may have been forced to grow up before his time, but that didn’t mean Draco was past holding grudges. It hadn’t been his father who’d started this madness but his grandfather, Abraxas Malfoy. Lucius had been raised with what Draco could only describe as a psychopathic lunatic. From what his mother had told him, his grandfather had had a tendency towards violence. The man had apparently been a sadistic bastard. It was easy to understand why his father was the way he was if even half of what his mother said was true. In many ways he blamed his grandfather for their predicament. It had after all been he who’d been seduced into the dark twisted world of the dark arts, not his father. Lucius had been born into that world and he was sure that if it hadn’t of been for his mother’s calming influence, he too would have been swayed far more easily then he had.
Regardless of whether his father was to blame or not, Draco did have at least one thing he could truly hate the man for, his mother included. Daphne Greengrass was, in his opinion, the epitome of evil. If it came dressed in heels with overpriced accessories that could make even Patricia Parkinson cringe, then it was in some way connected to his wife. After the war his parents had thought it prudent he marry, giving him three years of freedom before being chained into what he could only describe as a demonic prison born from hell itself. By no means was his wife unattractive, she was just a harpy disguised as something elegant and poised.
His parents had given him a choice between Pansy Parkinson and Astoria, or Daphne Greengrass. He would have chosen Astoria had it not been for a chance meeting with a business investor whose brother happened to be madly in love with her. It wasn’t so much the man’s love for her, but the fact she in turn loved him which solidified his decision. He wouldn’t force her into a marriage when she was in love with another man. It would have been too cruel even for him. So he’d chosen Daphne instead, and quite frankly he’d thought he’d chosen the lesser of two evils, but now he wasn’t so sure. Pansy and Daphne were best friends, something which was an evil in itself, and he could never be sure what was going on in those twisted minds. Be it their latest catty scheme or something more sinister, he didn’t know and he wasn’t sure he wanted to either.
They’d been married for two years now and he could honestly say that it had been the worst two years of his life. His mother’s interest in the girl had waned considerably and his father seemed to hate her just as much as he did. But it was the lesser of two evils considering he’d probably of done himself in by now if he’d been forced to marry Parkinson instead. Daphne was a means to an end, or at least that’s what his father called it. As long as they produced a healthy pureblood heir, it didn’t matter whether he liked her or not, the continuance of the family bloodline was all that mattered.
It was becoming increasingly harder for pureblood families to reproduce an heir, which was why the need for hast was in the foremost of his parents' minds. The number of miscarriages in pureblood women had increased tenfold and his mother was more than concerned as she herself had endured three before giving birth to him. The birth rate of squibs had also increased, and though he would never openly say anything, he thought it might have something to do with the families’ intermarriages.
In the two years of their marriage they had been trying to conceive, Daphne had even gone to the extremes of taking a fertility potion. But it hadn’t done any good because no matter what they did, she simply wouldn’t fall pregnant. His father had reasoned that the sooner he got her pregnant the sooner he could focus on more important things like the family business, but he’d had no such luck. Daphne had insisted that it must have been his fault, so they went to a healer but she’d given them the all clear. Apparently there wasn’t any given reason why Daphne shouldn’t have fallen pregnant, especially if she’d been taking the fertility potions. Draco was at his wits end. His mother and father were adamant that he have a child within the next year or so, and Daphne was beginning to become more demanding of what she wanted each day. He didn’t know what to do.
With a scowl, he shrugged off his coat, chucking it at the tiny creature to his left. It was beyond him why his mother still chose to employ house elves for the upkeep of the manor, because employ was exactly what she had to do. It all came down to Hermione bloody Granger – well, it was Weasley now, wasn’t it? Ever since she’d been accepted into that new Department of Regulations at the ministry, the amount of laws that had been passed in the past few years were unimaginable. He didn’t hate her, just resented her for it. Of course she’d make something of her life, do something she actually wanted to do. She even had a kid to that idiot husband of hers, and yet here he was, unable to even conceive a child with his wife for no apparent reason. Life just had to be mocking him.
Draco sighed, rubbing his temples in an attempt to ease the headache that had been building all afternoon. “Mother!” he called out, standing in the middle of the entrance hall, tapping his foot impatiently against the marbled floor.
When he got no reply, Draco opened his mouth to yell out once more, but stopped when he felt a tug on his arm. He looked down at the little house elf, an unamused expression on his face as he waited for it to speak.
“Mipsy is sorrys young master, but the master and mistress is being in the studys and Mipsy is instructed to takes you there,” the tiny creature bumbled, its large brown eyes staring up at him feebly.
He felt a touch of disdain upon looking at the pathetic little creature but was careful not to let it show. Merlin knows why, but he actually felt sorry for the thing. It was true that Granger’s law had some fine points, yet he couldn’t help but think she hadn’t really accomplished that much by passing it. Sure the elves were treated better, paid a reasonable wage and given a uniform or a suitable set of clothing to wear. But they were still treated like shit, even if it was only verbally. He couldn’t remember this house elf in particular, she looked fairly young which meant she had to have been new. It was a pity she had to serve under his father. Though he’d never admit it, he was at least trying to see it from Granger’s point of view. The bint may have been insufferable but he’d at least come to respect her a bit over the past few years. After all, one didn’t become England’s finest female lawyer without working her arse off. He hadn’t even talked to her in five years, but for some reason he felt compelled to follow where she took her life. He liked reading about what she’d done – maybe it was because his life seemed so crappy in comparison. Draco didn’t really know and nor did he care to find out why.
“Well come on then,” he snapped at the little creature, stalking up the stairs in his impatience.
He wasn’t particularly looking forward to this, especially when he had to tell them that Daphne was yet again, not pregnant. His father would give him the whole family bloodline speech and his mother, Merlin forbid she try and tell him how to conceive a child again, especially when she went into such specifics. It was times like these that he really hated having a family library. His mother had probably read every single bloody book on child conception there was known to man. If only he could hole himself up somewhere far away from his parents, demonic wife and the whole world, he would be a happy man…or at least one that didn’t have to deal with any of this.
Upon reaching the study door, sounds of muffled voices seeping through the wood, he didn’t bother knocking and just walked inside. Draco barely spared his parents a look before making his way over to his father’s alcohol cabinet, pouring himself a generous glass of brandy. It registered in his mind that neither his mother nor father were talking, and while he had his back to them that was perfectly fine. If he could prolong the inevitable even if it was only for a minute, then he would.
“She’s not pregnant, is she?” his mother’s voice snapped, cutting through the silent room. He couldn’t help but wince; so much for delaying the inevitable.
Draco sighed, turning around to look at the sour expression on his mother’s face. “No, mother, she’s not,” it was hard to keep the irritation from his voice, but he schooled his emotions well.
Her nostrils flared. “Draco, how many times do I have to tell you the importance of conceiv –” her voice was shrill causing both he and his father to wince.
“Well it’s not my fucking fault!” he yelled, effectively cutting her off. He was really starting to get tired of having this conversation, especially when he was doing everything he bloody well could to please them.
“Language, Draco,” his father chided nonchalantly, leaning back in the leather chair behind his desk as if there was nothing wrong.
He couldn’t help but snort derisively at his father’s comment; the man was a bloody hypocrite. “Yes, father,” Draco replied sarcastically, downing the amber liquid in one go, wincing as it burned its way down his throat.
“There is no need for sarcasm,” his mother snapped haughtily, standing up from her seat opposite his father to walk toward him. “I understand your frustration, darling, but you have to at least try to understand ours,” she said more calmly, her light grey eyes softening at the expression on his face.
“I do understand, mother. There just isn’t anything I can do about it. We’ve gotten the opinions of five different healers and each say the same thing; there is no reason why Daphne isn’t pregnant. It’s not my fault and it’s not hers. Sure she may be a demonic bitch but she’s trying just as hard as I am, for her own reasons of course. We’ve even gone to the extremes of her taking a fertility potion for the past six months. We don’t know what to do next and we certainly don’t have any idea what the problem is,” he sighed, running a hand through his hair in frustration.
It was bad enough that he had to deal with the she-devil when he got home, but now he’d have his parents on his back as well. He’d never actually told them in great detail why Daphne wasn’t pregnant because it would have caused a large amount of unnecessary questions and worry. His mother would be mortified, thinking immediately that he was sterile and he really didn’t want to have the conversation about how his ‘parts’ were working perfectly fine. There was also the humiliation and shame of not being able to get ones wife pregnant. He didn’t know how his father would react, but he supposed he would find out soon enough.
“They really said that there was no reason why?” she asked, features scrunched up in confusion and contemplation.
He swallowed hard, grabbing the bottle of brandy to pour himself another glass. “Yeah, that’s pretty much what they said,” if only he could get completely sloshed and forget about the witch he had to return home to, maybe then he’d be able to escape.
“I don’t understand it, if there’s no reason why Daphne isn’t pregnant then how co –”
“There may be a reason,” his father cut in sombrely, eyes lowered to inspect his own glass of brandy. “But it is not one that will serve us well,”
Draco frowned in confusion. If what his father said was true and there actually was a reason why he and Daphne couldn’t conceive, then he was sure that it wouldn’t be good. Over the years he had come to expect the worst when it came to his family, not necessarily his mother and father, but his ancestors. His grandfather had been a right bastard and even though he’d never actually met him, Draco knew that the man had been deranged. If his grandfather was anything like his aunt Bellatrix, then what had his father been like and so on. It was his ancestors that worried him and what exactly it was they might have done to put him in this situation.
“Lucius?” his mother stared imploringly at his father, her eyes wide in what he assumed was fear. It was interesting that his mother seemed to have come to the same conclusion he had, but the question remained to be answered. What did they do?
“The reason, as I said before, is not one that will serve us well and I believ –”
“Honestly father, can you cut it with all the bullshit and actually tell us what this elusive reason may be?” he snapped in irritation, glancing at his mother to see her nodding her head in approval. His father barely showed any emotion at his outburst, the slight twitch of his left hand being the only indication that he was in anyway affected.
“Since you asked so eloquently,” the older man snapped in annoyance, taking a sip of his brandy before clearing his throat. “You understand that there are certain enchantments on this family, either caused by or cast by our ancestors?” he asked slowly, choosing his words with deliberate care.
“Of course,” he answered nonplussed. “Our hair is the product of great-grandfather Synan pissing off the wrong witch,”
“Such an articulate son I have,” his father mused sarcastically, the scowl on his face showing that he was far from amused. “But what you have said is true, and the same can be said for other aspects of our life,”
“Other aspects?” Draco heard his mother ask and he had to suppress the urge to look over his shoulder to see the expression she wore.
Lucius gulped. “Well, there are certain precautions taken against the men in this family,”
“Precautions?” he wasn’t sure he liked where this was going.
His father nodded. “Yes Draco, precautions,” the man looked like he was going to be physically sick. “You see, a long time ago one of our ancestors was unfortunate enough to have an affair and actually get caught. The reason he was caught was not so much his wife finding out, but the other woman’s family realising that she was with child. Of course the question rose as to who the father was, and since she wasn’t married or betrothed at the time, it became quite the scandal. When Marcellus realised that he had been named as the father by his mistress, the Malfoy name was at stake and his wife as you can imagine, was far from happy. The child in question was adopted by Marcellus and his wife, with the mother, shall we say, conveniently disappearing. Lucretia, Marcellus’ wife, couldn’t have any children, so the child was happily accepted into the family. But Lucretia saw the need to further ensure that future generations wouldn’t be posed with the same situation she was, and cast a charm on the men of the family. This spell ensured that if the Malfoy men were to stray, no child would be born from their adultery,”
“What exactly are you trying to say father?” he asked slowly, eyes narrowed in suspicion.
Lucius sighed. “What I’m trying to say is that there is a very large chance that the reason you cannot conceive a child with your wife is because – is because you already have a child out there with another woman,” his father finished in a rush, the air expelling from his lungs as he let out a deep breath.
He stood there speechless, unable to mask the utter surprise on his face at his father’s words. It was lucky that his mother didn’t find herself as voiceless as he, or else he wouldn’t have broken from the strange trance he found himself in.
“If what you are saying is true, Lucius,” the woman hissed angrily. “Then there is in fact no reason as to why the Greengrass girl isn’t pregnant. What I’ve gathered from that little story of yours, is that there is no possible way for any woman to conceive a child with a Malfoy besides his wife, if he is in fact married at the time,”
“Precisely, Cissa! That is the point I’m trying to make, there are always loopholes. While it is true that the spell ensures a Malfoy cannot conceive a child with any woman other than his wife once they marry, it does not prevent him from doing so before he is married,” Lucius spat angrily, massaging his temples in frustration. “What I am trying to say is not something that is easily explained. There is a large possibility that the reason our son and his wife are unable to conceive a child is because the spell has already been activated,” Draco could see his father was struggling to put his thoughts into words, an action that never alluded to anything good.
He frowned. “I don’t understand,” what his father was saying wasn’t that hard to grasp. But the full meaning of his words was, to put it quite plainly, impossible to comprehend.
“The spell only recognises the mother of the child, not when it was conceived or under what circumstances,” Lucius sighed, a headache evident from his pained expression. “Once a child is born, you could say that the spell kind of latches onto the woman who gave birth, recognising her and only her as the mother of the Malfoy heir’s children,” he paused, cocking his head to the side, eyes trained on his wife as she gasped, finally comprehending the full enormity of his words. “What I’m trying to say, Draco, is that the reason you and your wife are unable to conceive a child is because maybe, and just maybe, you have already conceived a child with another woman and the spell recognises her as the mother of your children and not Daphne,”
There was no way – he couldn’t have – no, it was impossible. He would know if he had a child, wouldn’t he? Draco wasn’t stupid, the first time his father hinted at such a thing he’d understood. But to comprehend it in its entirety was something else entirely. There was no way he had a child out there somewhere, he would have known. Its mother would have told him, wouldn’t she? The doubt was there, embedded deep inside his bones, but he wouldn’t believe it…he couldn’t.
“I would know if I had a child, father,” he snapped indignantly, but it was evident to all in the room that there was an uncertainty in his eyes.
His father raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes,” there was doubt in his voice. “All the women I’ve been with have been in our social circle and none of them have children,”
“Was there a-anyone else?” the expression on his mother’s face made him wince. She was mortified, aghast at the mere idea. But the thing that really cut him was the disbelieving disappointment in her voice.
“Of course no…” but there was – just one.
It was impossible of course, there was no way she would have had his child. It had been a single moment stolen over five years ago and neither had spoken about it, or to each other since. She’d landed almost directly in the enemy camp and while he may have hated her, he wasn’t about to let her die. They were enemies, but even so, he wasn’t going to standby and do nothing. He may have fought on the opposite side, but it wasn’t by choice and for some reason she seemed to understand that. His conscience had led him to save her, to drag her inside that damp cave, hand clamped over her mouth so she couldn’t scream. It was true, she had been the one to make the first move but he held no delusions about it being out of affection. They were both scared shitless, that much was obvious and for just a moment, they weren’t enemies, just two people trying to grasp at the hope of there being something more to the world then death and destruction.
There was no way it was she his father alluded to, the idea alone was preposterous. She was married to Weasley with a kid; it was ridiculous to think that it was her. But was it really that laughable? Her child, a daughter, was about four years-old, almost five. Almost five.
“No,” his voice was barely audible. “No,” he said slightly louder, eyes wide in horror.
It was impossible – she wouldn’t have – there was no possible way – the child wasn’t his, it just couldn’t be. He tried to remember what she looked like, surely she’d have red hair and then all this would just go away. She was Weasley’s kid, she had to be. There was no way Granger would lie like that, she was too much the Gryffindor. He’d seen them together one time, a couple of months ago actually. They’d been at the park and Granger was pushing the little girl on the swing and her blonde curls were whipping around her face. Blonde curls. No, it wasn’t possible. Blonde not red. Maybe someone in Granger’s family had blonde hair. That could explain it, couldn’t it?
“Draco?” he heard his mother’s voice but barely registered anything above the pounding of his heart.
He didn’t want to believe it but the evidence was all there. The child was around the right age, she had blonde hair instead of the Weasley red and Granger had nearly had a fit when she saw him that day. Why would she react like that unless she had something to hide? The child was his. He didn’t want to admit it, but she was. Sweet Merlin! He had a daughter!
“Draco, son, what is it?” he winced, swallowing the bile that had risen in his throat. His father was going to kill him.
“I...” Draco swallowed hard, blinking rapidly to try and clear the fog that had wrapped around his brain. He had a kid...with Granger. “I need a drink,”
“Was there anyone else?” his mother asked timidly, her eyes fearful of his answer.
He couldn’t get out of this, not when his reaction had spoken volumes on its own. “Yeah,” his voice was raspy, pained to match the expression on his face.
Draco heard his father sigh in resignation, his mother gasp in horror. They were definitely going to kill him when they realised who the ‘someone else’ was.
“Who?” and there was the question he had been dreading. Why did his mother have to be so god damn to the point?!
He swallowed hard; to lie would get him nowhere. His father would kill him, disown him maybe and his mother, Merlin forbid she react as badly as his father. It was better to get this over and done with. There was no point in delaying the inevitable, unless of course the inevitable was him being beaten to death by his father’s cane. That he could delay. But maybe to die wouldn’t be so bad; he wouldn’t have to face the she-devil’s wrath if he did. His wife really was vindictive, she was likely to castrate him in the most painful way possible, not that the mere idea wasn’t painful. She would go after Granger, or worse, his daughter. The word sounded strange, even in his head. He hoped to Merlin this wouldn’t start another war.
Wincing, he prepared himself for the inevitable. “Hermione Granger,” he said quietly, voice shaky as he avoided looking at either of his parents.
The silence was deafening.
Chapter 4: A Disconcerting Visit
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.: Chapter Four – A Disconcerting Visit :.
Monday, April 29, 2002
There were certain responsibilities that came with being a mother, certain obligations that were unavoidable. The majority of mothers in the wizarding world opted to stay at home, caring for the children and upkeep of the house without complaint. It was traditional if not old fashioned, but most believed that the head of the household, the husband, should take care of the financial responsibilities while the wife remained at home, cooking and cleaning till her heart's content. Most people disagreed with her decision to go to work like any other woman, mainly because of her status as a mother and wife. She tried not to let it get to her, but there was only so much a person could take. It was her life, her decision and it most certainly wasn’t any of their god damn business. But Rita Skeeter being the vulture she was just couldn’t help exploiting what she could to get ahead.
The majority of people didn’t care anymore, they’d come to accept that she wasn’t like most women in their society. She was a muggleborn and while the concepts of muggle society were still ungraspable for some, a lot of people had understood that she didn’t fully understand their customs. Rita didn’t of course. Just when the hype of the last article died down another would surface in its place. The woman made it sound as though she was shunning the wizarding community and their customs, that she was spitting on their beliefs and turning her nose up at the whole population in general. Skeeter was a bitch. She always had been. To attack her was one thing, but to bring her daughter into this was something else entirely. She was many things but a bad mother certainly wasn’t one of them.
Her job was far from easy. The hours were demanding and the cases sometimes taxing, but that in no way influenced her time spent with her daughter. Rose was her main priority no matter how much her job demanded of her. If there was a party, a play date, a school play, she was there. Her schedule was structured around Rose. She was never late at picking her up from school and from four onwards the lawyer in her was pushed to the side until her little girl went to bed. Hermione would never admit it but what Skeeter said really got to her.
The ambitious Mrs Weasley has done it yet again. Winning what most would consider an impossible case, the famous curly haired temptress has proved many senior members of the Wizengamot wrong in what can only be described as an explosive closing. The witch in question has obviously made her mark in the world of law, but one has to wonder whether her home life is just as perfect. Surely the hours spent at the office has to of taken its tole on her husband, Mr Ronald Weasley whose humble job in the Department of Magical Games and Sports allows him to spend more time at home with their four year-old daughter, Rose. One has to wonder whether that poor little girl gets to see her mother at all. Is Mrs Weasley a bad mother for spending more time at work than with her daughter? Me, myself and I certainly think so.
She wasn’t a bad mother and she knew that. It didn’t matter how many articles Skeeter wrote, Hermione knew she was a good mother. But Rose was her life and it hurt to think that that woman could make people think less of that. She by no means cared what they thought, but she cared about the effect it would have on her daughter. Skeeter was an opportunist, a vulture with a vendetta against her; there was no low she wouldn’t stoop to. And it was her responsibility as a mother to protect her daughter, to shield her from the cruel and unrelenting words of that woman.
With a scowl, Hermione crumpled up the remaining few pages of The Prophet she hadn’t read and forcefully flung it at the trashcan, ignoring the pictures’ animated squeals of protest as she did so. It was still rather early in the morning for most people but not for her. She was generally the first in the office with the majority of her co-workers arriving at around eight or nine. But she wasn’t one to complain, not when it allowed her to spend more time with her little girl in the afternoons. Ron was there in the mornings, getting her ready for school while it was she who was there in the afternoons, reading her a bedtime story, soothing her cuts and scrapes. They shared the responsibilities of parenthood equally, but Hermione couldn’t help but think that her husband seemed to think his responsibilities ended the moment he dropped her off at school. It frustrated her on most days and today was no exception, especially when Skeeter’s article was still fresh in her mind.
“By the looks of it you’ve seen the morning paper?” Hermione barely looked up to acknowledge her friend, groaning in frustration at the morning she’d had.
“It’s not just the paper, Ally,” she sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose in exasperation.
There were many words to describe Alyson Parkes, but impatient wasn’t one of them. She was never harsh or ill-tempered, and if by some chance she did snap, it was for a good reason. Alyson always listened without complaint and judgement, waiting until the very end to give her opinion; it was one of the many qualities Hermione admired about her. The woman was not only a fiercely loyal friend but an amazing godmother to Rose. Ron hadn’t particularly liked the idea of Alyson being Rose’s godmother, arguing that it should have been his sister, Ginny. But Hermione had never really gotten on very well with the vivacious and unpredictable redhead. While she would never deny that the woman was an amazing aunt to Rose, she couldn’t take the risk and have the red-haired vixen have one of her ‘moments’ and leave her hanging when she needed her the most.
Alyson was only one year older than herself but the calm, quick minded brunette had been sorted into Ravenclaw instead. The number of similarities between the two of them was uncanny, but at the same time they were largely different from one and other. Alyson had been hit hard during the war, losing all her family in one night. The number of muggle raids had been horrendous, nearly two villages being hit every night. It was at times like those that she had been grateful her parent’s were far away, living in Australia without a single memory of her to worry them.
She’d met Alyson at the Hogwarts memorial service, honouring the dead for their brave contribution to the war. It had been an emotional day, one filled with a tumultuous amount of tears and heartfelt goodbyes to loved ones lost. But at the end of the day she was grateful to have met the woman who was now her closest friend and confidant. They’d even chosen to undertake their internship at the ministry together, being fast tracked in the advanced program and gaining their credentials in two years instead of four. The hours had been longer and the work harder, but in the end it had all payed off.
“I know,” the brunette sighed, smiling sensitively down at her. “And I’m sorry to say but things aren’t going to get any better,”
Hermione frowned. “What do you mean?” It was impossible for her morning to get any worse, wasn’t it?
“I overheard Hilda giving directions in the corridor to Lucius Malfoy, directions to your work station,” even though she was considered to be one of England’s finest lawyers, she still had to share an office with two other people. But then that was the price you had to pay when working at the ministry.
“Lucius Malfoy?” she asked aghast. What the hell did he want and why was he looking for her?
Her friend nodded sympathetically, glancing down at her watch. “I’m really sorry, Hermione, but I’ve got to go. Richard put me in charge of the Mullings case and I have a meeting I was supposed to be at five minutes ago,” Alyson frowned, chewing on her lower lip as she glanced down the corridor, contemplating whether to make a dash for it or not. “I just thought I’d let you know so you can be prepared. We’re still on for lunch, right?” she asked quickly, turning around and making her way toward one of the department’s conference rooms.
“Yes, twelve o’clock at Fernardo’s,” Hermione yelled out, snorting as her friend waved her hand absently behind her back, nearly taking out one of the intern’s eyes in the process. “And thank you!” she shouted as an after thought, her mind still jumbled and slightly apprehensive at discovering this new piece of information.
Lucius Malfoy was on his way to see her; now that was a disconcerting thought if she ever had one. It was true that the man had redeemed himself since the end of the war but he was hardly an angel. Lucius Malfoy was a manipulative opportunist whose fortune and family bloodline came first. What he wanted with her, she had no idea. There was a small voice inside her, screaming that he’d found out the truth about Rose and who her real father was. But the thought, as unbearable as it may have been, was nothing more than a panic reflex. There was no way he, or any of his family, especially Draco, could know about Rose.
Quickly taking stock of the piles of paperwork stacked up on and around her desk, she concluded that her work station was a deplorable mess. Normally she had everything organised and filed away in colour co-ordinated binders. But the case she’d been working on the past few days had taken up the majority of her time. The case in question was one where a contesting party, her client, claimed ownership of a deceased’s estate. There were many complications and technical difficulties she had to deal with, but she always loved a challenge. Illegitimate children were rarely recognised or acknowledged in wizarding society which made her case just that little bit harder. She had a meeting with her client at ten-thirty and another at two with the defending party, giving her roughly an hour to clean up and organise her desk providing whatever Lucius Malfoy wanted to talk about didn’t take too long.
Grabbing the nearest pile of paperwork, she conjured a light blue binder and slowly began to sort through the dates and file them accordingly. She wasn’t going to change her work habits just to suit Lucius Malfoy and she certainly wasn’t going to drop everything the moment he arrived. He wanted to speak with her and she would listen to whatever he had to say, but that didn’t mean she would act like one his lapdogs and do whatever he asked. She still didn’t know what he wanted from her exactly; if it was legal advice then he had his own personal lawyer he could ask. It was perplexing to say the least, but she didn’t have to wait too long to find out his reasons.
“Mrs Weasley,” his silky voice greeted her but she refused to look up and acknowledge that he was there. Instead she conjured another binder, green this time, and started to file the next stack of paperwork, waiting for him to continue. “I see that time hasn’t altered your somewhat stubborn nature,” he commented idly.
“And I see that time hasn’t altered yours either,” she replied indifferently, pausing only momentarily to conjure another binder. “I must inform you Mr Malfoy, that I was made aware of your intended visit and while I am here – listening to what you have to say – I must confess that I do have a great deal of work to get done,” she said, lifting her eyes up to look at the man standing before her in an intimidating manner.
“As I can readily see,” he remarked snidely, glancing at the mounds of paperwork with disgust.
“I can assure you, Mr Malfoy, that I am a patient person and while such obvious disdain would normally be unsuccessful at pushing my buttons, I am not in the best of moods so can we please just cut to the chase. What is it that you want, exactly?” her voice was oddly calm in comparison to the uneasiness he invoked in her.
“Ah,” he tilted his head to the side, an arrogant smirk on his face. “I gather you have seen Ms Skeeter’s rather entertaining article this morning. I must say, it was a very interesting read all things considered. Surely you must have done something to warrant that woman’s unsavoury attention,”
Hermione scowled. “As entertaining as that article may have been for you, it was entirely uncalled for and based on nothing but slanderous words from a woman whose vulture like tendencies tend to sell newspapers,” she ground out, glaring furiously at the blond wizard standing beside her desk.
“Hit a nerve, I see,” he smirked, raising an eyebrow at her dark expression.
“I can assure you, I am a good mother,” Hermione snapped in irritation, feeling the need to defend herself against both Skeeter’s article and his cold, judgemental stare.
“One would hope so,” he remarked strangely.
“Why are you here, Mr Malfoy?” she asked, eyes narrowed in suspicion. His previous words sparked something inside her, a cautious, suspicious and somewhat fearful feeling. Why should he care if she was a good mother or not?
“Is that a picture of your daughter?” he queried, ignoring her earlier question as he pointed toward the framed picture of Rose on her desk with his cane. “Remarkable that she didn’t inherit your husband’s hair, is it not?” the smirk on his face held a deeper meaning.
“I-I had blonde hair when I was her age, not that it’s any of your business,” she answered, her voice cracking slightly. He couldn’t know, could he? It was impossible – there was no way.
He seemed to ignore her words, staring intently at the picture of her daughter with a strange expression on his face. It was one of her favourite pictures, captured by Luna a month ago when they all went on a picnic down at the park. Rose had been adamant, if not determined to wear her fairy Halloween costume to the park, stamping her foot as she normally did when something wasn’t going the way she wanted it to. In the end they had to relent and let her wear it or else they would’ve been late. The picture was of Rose, smiling happily at the camera, twirling around in her outfit without a care in the world. Her daughter really was a pretty little thing. Sure, she might have been biased considering she was her mother, but it was the truth. Rose would grow up to be an exceptional beauty.
“Mr Malfoy?” she asked, her voice etched in fear and annoyance. He was looking at Rose’s picture far too intently for her liking. What if he recognised something? Saw a similarity between her daughter and his son?
“My apologies, Mrs Weasley,” Lucius answered, fixing a stony expression on his face. “You were saying?” He was acting as though nothing had happened, as though he hadn’t been looking at her daughter’s picture as a grandfather would.
“Why are you here?” Hermione asked again, silently trying to calm her nerves.
“Family matters,” he replied evasively, glancing down at the picture once more.
She could feel her heartbeat increase rapidly, the harsh pounding against her chest almost painful. The fear his words invoked caused her hand to shake against the binder she was holding. If he knew the truth, if he knew about Rose, then the world as she knew it was gone. She didn’t know if he knew the truth or not, his actions certainly seemed to suggest that he knew something. But all she knew was that no matter what, she was petrified.
“Legal matters?” her voice shook a little as she removed her hand from the binder she was holding and hid it under the desk. He couldn’t see her hand shaking because if he did, then he’d know he hit a nerve and then more subtle, double-edged questions would be thrown her way.
“Of a type, yes,” he hinted at nothing, his voice devoid of any telltale sign that he knew about Rose. Normally she could read people, tell whether they were lying or not. Lucius Malfoy however, was another matter entirely.
“Is there anythi –”
“I have kept you too long from your work,” he interrupted, cutting her off. “My apologies Mrs Weasley, I bid you good day,” and with that, he was gone, cloak billowing behind him as he made his way out of the department.
Hermione sat there slack jawed, slightly perplexed and frightened about what had just happened. Lucius Malfoy had been completely civil, if not a little bit conniving as well, but civil nonetheless. But it was not that which had her frightened, it was the double meaning in his words, the subtle hints here and there which told of something only she knew. The way he looked at Rose’s photograph was intrigued, awed even. She didn’t know what to think, what to expect. Maybe he was just curious, intrigued by her daughter’s blonde locks which were evidently not red like her husband’s. But even then that was a disconcerting notion because curious for Lucius Malfoy usually meant his finding out the answer to his puzzlement no matter what.
She wasn’t a fool. He knew something, but whatever that something was remained ever elusive. The encounter, no matter how short it was had left her shaking in fear. Her hands wouldn’t still, quaking from his words. If he found out...Rose was her world, she wouldn’t let anything happen to her. Death would come first before anyone hurt her little girl. Lucius Malfoy may have been a redeemed man but he was still a pureblood elitist. How would he react if he found out he had a half-blood grandchild? She couldn’t presume to know everything but she didn’t expect his reaction – if he ever had one – to be good.
Looking at her watch, Hermione noticed that it was only ten o’clock and with single-minded speed, she quickly scribbled down a note to her client, Ms Harboard, rescheduling their meeting for eleven. She would be cutting it close for her lunch date with Alyson but her friend would understand once she explained things. All she knew was that right at this moment, she needed to see her little girl, to hold Rose close just to make sure she was safe.
After giving one of the more reliable interns instructions – thanking them for agreeing to send her letter for her – Hermione all but ran to the nearest fireplace. Her heels were clicking rhythmically against the cool marble floor, creating an unrelenting beat of haste. She didn’t care that she was drawing a great deal of unwanted attention to herself, all she cared about was making sure Rose was okay, even if it was only to reassure herself. There was just something about Lucius Malfoy’s words that unsettled her, something that would haunt her dreams for the next few days.
Everything seemed to be falling apart. The incident with Ron five days ago had been bad enough, the unexpected news breaking both their hearts. Their marriage wasn’t perfect, but she had never expected it to be. They had married because of Rose, or at least she had. Everyone always said how they knew she would be a Weasley someday, how it must have been written in the stars. Hermione didn’t believe in destiny, only choices. She had chosen to marry Ron and that was a decision she had to live with.
The spark in their relationship was gone, giving way to a comfortable routine. She didn’t think Ron noticed it, in fact she rather thought he believed that everything was fine. He had always been slightly blind to the harsh realities of the world. The fact that he couldn’t have children, but still believed that Rose was his daughter was the perfect example of that. She did love him, only her love had always been more friendly than romantic. But he’d always been good to her and wonderful with Rose, so she'd kept her mouth shut. It was only now that she was beginning to believe that maybe she’d made a mistake. A person could only lie for so long before the truth finally caught up with them.
Grabbing a handfull of floo-powder, she chucked it into the fireplace and shouted, “Little Twilight Academy!” vanishing in a sea of green flames seconds later.
The first thing she heard was a scurry of feet running toward her as she stumbled out of the fireplace, coughing from the soot. Even though she was a witch, Hermione didn’t think she’d ever be able to grow accustomed to the strange method of travel. She was quite partial to apparation with it being quick, simple and clean. But all the other methods still seemed a little less rational and didn’t appeal to her better nature.
“Oh goodness!” a voice gasped beside her, a hand reaching out to help her stand up. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine, Susan,” she smiled reassuringly at the mousy blonde, anxious to find her daughter.
“Hermione? I barely recognised you with your hair like that,” exclaimed the other woman, pulling her into a light embrace. “It’s been entirely too long. When Terry wanted to go to Greece for our honeymoon I was more than sceptical, but the place was just magnificent, a dream really. Naturally we had to extend our tri –”
“That’s really great Susan, I’m glad the two of you had such a good time,” she cut in, smiling politely. “I don’t mean to be rude because I’d love to hear more about your honeymoon. Maybe we can do a lunch one weekend? But I don’t have much time and I’d really love to see Rose, if I could?”
“Of course!” Susan replied, completely unfazed. “Your work must demand a lot of you. I don’t know where you find the time to do everything you do, especially when Hannah tells me your never late at picking little Rosie up. We’ll definitely have to do lunch sometime,” she smiled, walking toward the back door. “Rose is out by the pond painting, she’s quite the little artist you know,”
“Oh, I know,” she said quietly, thinking about the reason why her little girl had such an aptitude for the arts. Hermione had heard from a friend of friend a couple of days ago, some woman who’d dated Draco after the war. Apparently he’d been really talented at sketching and was a skilled pianist amongst other things. Rose definitely got her talent from him. “Thank you, Susan,” she added once they reached the back garden.
“Anytime,” the other woman laughed, pointing to where Rose stood with a small frown on her face as she looked at the fish swimming in the pond. Hermione sighed; her little girl was safe.
“Rose,” she called out, watching as her daughter turned around, a large blue smudge of paint on her nose.
“Mummy!” she cried happily, running toward her, blonde curls flying haphazardly in the wind.
Crouching down, she engulfed the little girl in her arms, ignoring the paintbrush clamped in between them. It didn’t matter that her blouse would be ruined, or that she might be late for her meeting. All that mattered was Rose. Pulling back, she smiled, tucking a stray curl behind her little girl’s ear.
“I love you, cricket. Always remember that,” she said softly, her voice cracking as a lone tear fell down her face.
“I loves you too, mummy,” Rose replied, lifting a hand to wipe away the offending tear on her face. “Your eyes are leaking,” she frowned in confusion.
Hermione laughed quietly, leaning forward to place a chaste kiss on the little blonde’s head. Lucius Malfoy’s visit had proved at least one thing to her today. She couldn’t live with this fear of someone finding out, of losing everything. Maybe she would lose everything but at least she’d have Rose. She couldn’t live like this anymore. It wasn’t fair to Ron, or to her. The truth always came out one way or another, and she’d rather it come from her than some unknown source. She had to tell Ron the truth.
Chapter 5: Will You Hate Me?
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Chapter Image made by Sammm of TDA!
Author's Note: Thank you, thank you and thank you again! All your wonderful reviews and words of support are greatly appreciated.
I know that a lot of people are eagerly awaiting some Draco/Hermione interaction and I promise that it won't be that far away (four chapters). But to sate your dramione needs, I promise that there will be a juicy flashback in the next chapter. I still have a few complications to throw at our dear Hermione for the time being, so please take that as my excuse for why our favourite couple aren't together just yet. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.
Oh, and I beg forgiveness for the ending. You'll love to hate it.
.: Chapter Five – Will You Hate Me? :.
Saturday, May 4, 2002
Would he hate her? He’d certainly have every reason to after the truth became known. She didn’t want it to come down to a choice between the two of them, Harry deserved better than that. But when it came down to the nitty gritty, she didn’t know if he would hate her simply for what she had done, or give her the chance to explain herself. Harry was temperamental, always jumping to conclusions before finding out the facts. Would he hate her after all was said and done? Would he even give her a chance to explain? She really didn’t know the answer to either question. Ron’s hatred she could bear simply because she deserved it, but Harry’s? His hatred was the one thing she could not bear.
Some people might think her priorities were skewed if she worried more about her friend’s reaction than her husband’s. The truth was, she already knew that things with Ron were slowly becoming irreconcilable. Hell, the man had switched her contraceptive potions with fertility ones! She was having a hard time trusting him lately, especially whenever he offered to make her a cup of coffee, or get her a glass of water. Things between them had been going down hill for a long time now, but this would be the breaking point. She didn’t think he noticed that anything was wrong, and that was why this would be such a kick in the guts for him. He would hate her by the end of the night, of that she was certain.
First she needed some reassurance and that was why she was here. Ron had gone over to the Burrow for the morning to help de-gnome the garden, and Luna was off at the Quibbler fixing some last minute printing errors. It was just Harry and her – or at least it was until the two children decided they wanted something. Rose and Lily were not too far off in the distance, dangling their legs through the bars bordering one of the park’s slides. Hermione had always lectured Rose about Lily being younger than she was. She explained that Lily was unable to take care of herself, or voice her opinions like she could. Her daughter seemed to take it to heart and saw herself as Lily’s personal protector, something Harry found highly amusing. Rose may have been young and unable to understand certain concepts, but she knew vulnerability when she saw it. Lily was like her little sister, so the four year-old protected her as such.
“You’re awfully quiet this morning,” Harry commented, reaching into his backpack to retrieve an apple.
He was always prepared. The backpack had seen better days but it served its purpose. There was never a time when Harry was without it, claiming that it was an essential for any father to survive parenthood. It was filled to the brim with everything you could possibly imagine. There were books, dolls, changes of clothing, food; you name it and it was in there. Much like her old beaded bag, it could store an endless amount of items.
“I’ve just got a lot on my mind,” she replied quietly, looking over to where Rose and Lily were running around on the grass.
“Need an ear?” he asked, taking a large bite of his apple. His eyes were trained on the two children, barely blinking in their watchful state.
“I’ve got two already, thanks,” she laughed, elbowing him in the side playfully. Even she could tell her heart wasn’t in it.
“You know what I mean,” Harry turned, pinning her with a stare, his striking green eyes surprisingly insightful.
Hermione was here to get reassurance, to find out in a roundabout way if he would stand by her. She hadn’t had the guts to tell Ron the truth last night or the night before that, or the one before that. The internal debate she’d had with herself lasting into the early hours of the morning. Today was the day; she’d convinced herself of that much. But before she became the lamb all those clichés talked about, she needed to know she’d at least have someone on her side.
“If something happened between me and Ron,” she started, licking her lips nervously. “If something happened, would you stand by me?” the words were painful but necessary. She had to know.
Harry frowned. “Of course I would. Hermione, you’re my best friend,” his eyes were sparked with curiosity. “You are both my best friends,”
“I would never make you choose,” the words came out in a rush as she turned to look at him imploringly. “You have to understand tha –”
“I already understand, Hermione, because I would never make you choose if something happened between me and Luna,” he cut in, smiling sadly but reassuringly down at her.
“What did I ever do to deserve you as a friend?” Hermione laughed sadly, biting her lower lip to keep from tearing up.
She’d worked herself up over the past few hours, trying to reign in that famous Gryffindor courage. Rose wasn’t far off in the distance and she couldn’t afford to let her little girl see her upset. There’d been too many questions asked when Rose had accidentally let it slip that she’d visited her in the middle of the day. Ron had been curious, especially when Rose mentioned that her eyes had been 'leaking'. It would have been the perfect opportunity to tell him the truth, but she just couldn’t do it. She’d lied and said that a colleague was working on a child abuse case and that she’d gotten upset. The lie had come easily – almost too easily. Her hands were shaking in anticipation because she knew that when she told Harry the truth, everything would change.
“I think I should be the one asking you that,” Harry laughed, taking another bite of his apple. “How you put up with me and Ron, I’ll never know,”
Oh, he was definitely going to hate her.
“I’m not as good a person as you make me out to be, Harry,” she could feel the tears building up but she refused to let them fall.
Everyone put her up on a pedestal. She was the perfect wife, the perfect friend. Her boss was no different, publicly praising her whenever he could. They all had this idea that she was the perfect person, flawless and without sin. She was only human and to try and live up to that ideal everyday was exhausting. Alyson was the only person who didn’t have any expectations of her, the only person who let her be her without complaint. It was hard to try and live up to everyone’s expectations, even if they didn’t realise they were setting them to begin with. Rose accepted and loved her unconditionally simply because she was her mother. But everyone else saw someone who wasn’t there. She wasn’t perfect, far from it actually.
Her friend frowned, a curious expression on his face. “Is this about Rose?” he asked her suddenly, eyes solemn with understanding.
“W-what?!” she asked in surprise, eyes wide from fear.
“I’m not blind, Hermione,” he sighed, voice laced with irritation and unease. “And I’m definitely not stupid either,” throwing his half eaten apple in the trashcan, Harry looked over to where his daughter sat happily on a nearby log, Rose playing with her hair.
“Harry I –” her heart was beating erratically, the knowledge in his piercing green eyes making her cringe.
“Let me finish, Hermione. I need to get this off my chest and I promise that I’ll give you the chance to explain after, but I need to say this,” he snapped, abruptly cutting her off. “When Ron came over to see me the other day, I just thought the two of you’d had another one of your tiffs. He seemed genuinely upset so Luna went over to the Burrow with Lily to give us some privacy. Imagine my surprise when he tells me that the two of you went to the healers earlier that day. I’ll admit that I was right pissed when he told me about the fertility potions, but when he said that the healer told him he was sterile… ” Harry paused, running a hand through his hair in agitation. “He always wanted a big family, you know? For this to happen to him – it’s cruel, too cruel,” his eyes were riddled with sadness, pain for his friend. But there was also a dark accusation in their green depths.
“Everything just clicked. It was like something went off in my head when he told me. I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to believe that you would do something like that, but all the evidence was there just staring me in the face,” his voice was pained, cutting at her like a thousand knives. “I was so mad, Hermione. If it hadn’t of been for Luna I probably would have done something I’d regret. But she calmed me down enough to understand that there may be more to this. There is more, isn’t there?” he asked, eyes pleading for an explanation, angered but hopeful.
There was more, more than he or Ron would ever understand. The fact that he had figured it out on his own only added to the sickening dance her insides squirmed in. She would admit to the fear. Harry was one of her closest and oldest friends, he was the pillar of strength she had come to rely on throughout the years. The thought of losing him, of losing his trust and friendship was enough to fuel the burning ache settled in her bones. There was a voice in the back of her mind, tormenting and hateful. It told her she’d lose him, that she’d lose everyone she held dear. Would Harry really hate her after she’d explained everything? He was giving her this opportunity, this chance. She had to take it.
“There are some things, Harry, that no matter how hard we try to understand, we never will,” she started, gnawing on her lower lip. “Life is a complicated and fickle thing. It is often the case that what we expect and what we get are two entirely different things. I never expected for this to happen, I never anticipated it. But Rose is probably the best thing that ever happened to me, and for that I cannot regret what I did,” pausing, she turned to look at her daughter from where she sat. “There is no simple answer, Harry. I’ve tried to simplify it in my head, tried to find a rational way to explain this. I don’t know what to tell you,”
The words were there, on the tip of her tongue. She knew what she wanted to tell him, but she didn’t know how to say it. Her words had to be selected with the upmost care, structured as not to anger him to the point of no return. He would be angry – part of him already was – but she couldn’t risk pushing him over the edge. She had worked herself up to this moment and she didn’t want him to turn from her before she’d had her say. She needed to tell the truth, she needed to tell someone, anyone the truth. He had to hear her out.
“How about the truth,” he suggested, leaning back against the bench. There was a bite in his words, but it was softened, sated a little by her earlier admission.
“The truth is more complicated than even I would like to admit,” Hermione muttered under her breath.
“Start from the beginning and work your way through,” he said, voice strained as he tried to swallow his anger. “I need to know why, Hermione,”
“It was one night, Harry, just one,” she stated feebly. “Hell, it wasn’t even that. It was a glimmer in time, a single moment passed by in a haze. I never planned any of it,”
“Just because you didn’t plan for it to happen doesn’t change the fact that it did. You still cheated,” his voice was harsh but contemplative.
Cheat. It was such a strong word.
“You don’t think I don’t know that?” she snapped, angry with herself more than anything else. “I’ve agonised over this for five years, never going a single day without hating myself for what happened. You don’t think I don’t know what this will do to Ron? It will kill him, Harry! Why do you think I never said anything till now? I wanted to tell him – Merlin you have no idea how much. But every time he looked at Rose…he loves her so much, I couldn’t hurt him like that,” tears were building with each word. “I thought she was Ron’s, I really did. After all, we were together, had been for a couple of months and this was just one time. Then her hair…” she couldn’t do it, she couldn’t say it.
“Her hair turned out to be blonde instead of red,” Harry finished for her, his tone softened in partial understanding.
She nodded. “Like I said, my hair was blonde when I was little and I just assumed that she’d gotten my hair instead of Ron’s, but…well her hair isn’t getting any darker. And there are these little quirks in her personality that are so much like – well, like him. I don’t know when I knew, Harry, but at some point I just did. She looks so much like him,”
It was true. Rose did look like Draco in many aspects, but at the same time she was a lot like her. She supposed that was the reason why no one had ever really thought to look closer at the little girl. As far as they were concerned, she took after her mother.
“Hermione, who exactly does she look like?” she knew from the suspicion in his voice that it wouldn’t take long for him to figure it out. He would be going over Rose’s features in his head, comparing them to people he knew. It wouldn’t take long.
“Un-complicate it,” Harry replied simply. He said it as if it was the simplest thing in the world. It wasn’t as simple as that.
“You remember how I arrived late at the final battle?” she asked, choosing her wording carefully.
“I wasn’t late, Harry, my portkey malfunctioned,” she could see the confusion in his eyes, the concentrated frown on his lips.
“I overshot my landing by a hundred metres,” it was crucial she got her wording right, now more than ever. “I landed near the enemy camp and –”
“What!?” he shot out of his seat, staring at her with fearful eyes. “You weren’t – tell me you weren’t –” his voice shook as he struggled to find the right words.
“No, Harry,” she answered soothingly, watching as his shoulders sagged in relief and he tentatively lowered himself back onto the bench they shared. “It wasn’t anything like that, I promise. When I landed, I was, well I was petrified really. I couldn’t move from the fear. If you had seen them, Harry, seen them preparing for battle – it was as though all my nightmares had come to life before me. There were scouts patrolling the perimeter – I heard them before I saw them and – well, lets just say I’m grateful he found me,”
Harry frowned. “I don’t understand,”
“He saved me, Harry. I would have died if he hadn’t dragged me into that cave. He saved me,” she didn’t know how to explain it to him, how to tell him in the right words what had transpired that night.
“Rose’s father wasn’t a Death Eater, was he?” he asked it so carefully, so painfully slow. It was a question she didn’t think she could answer.
Hermione gulped. “He had no choice, you see. He was forced into that life an –”
“No,” his voice interrupted her, quiet in disbelief. “No,” he said more vehemently, raking a hand through his hair.
“It was one night! I didn’t – we didn’t plan for it to happen, it just did,” she cried, trying to regain his far gazing eyes. “There was just so much hate around us, so much death. We – we were only trying to grasp at something more than what our lives had become. I wanted to feel something more, feel as if there was more to life than death and destruction. You have to understand, we were too young to be fighting in a war. We only wanted –”
“She has blonde hair,” Harry said quietly, thoughtfully. His words cut her off, the look in his eyes sending a shiver down her spine. “Malfoy,” it wasn’t a question but a statement.
“Harry, I –” the hate in his eyes, she wasn’t sure if it was directed at her or at the mere thought of the blond.
“No, I need – I need to process this, Hermione. You – I mean, Malfoy?” the pain in his voice, his eyes; it was unbearable. “I won’t tell Ron, that’s for you to do and Merlin knows how that’s going to turn out. I can’t understand this, Hermione. I’m trying to but I can’t. You’re my friend, but so is Ron and I don’t know what to do. I-I need some time to think this over,”
He stood up not waiting for a reply, slinging his backpack over his shoulder as he walked toward the two children, calling for Lily. She didn’t know what to think. He had taken it so badly, but then she’d expected him to. Her eyes were moist, salty droplets of regret and resignation falling down her face. He needed time, but how much time? She couldn’t lie anymore. She was going to tell Ron the truth with or without his support. She had to.
There was so much she wanted to say, so much she needed to say. The words were there, clear in her mind. But no matter how hard she tried, they remained lodged in her throat, refusing to be voiced. Her words were promised with pain, their utterance affecting more than one person’s life. She didn’t want to be the cause of so much pain, of so much heartache. Ron loved both her and Rose unconditionally, to take his little girl would destroy him. She didn’t know what to expect really. If Ron wanted a divorce then she would comply with his wishes, if he didn’t…she didn’t really know what she’d do if that happened. Their relationship would be patchy at best if they did decide to give it another go. He would always resent the fact that he could never have children and Rose would be a constant reminder of that. She didn’t want to put Rose through that, because even though she was a child, she was an exceptionally observant one. Her daughter would eventually pick up on the underlying tension and as children normally do, she would think it was her fault.
“How’d it go?” his voice, though cordial and light hearted, caused her to wince.
“It went fine,” she replied casually, walking around the kitchen table, avoiding his questioning gaze. “She wanted me to read Lucy Ladybug again, so it wasn’t too long before she dropped off,” her hands were shaking as she reached for a coffee cup, the need for something to calm her nerves paramount.
“So she’s asleep?” he asked, whispering in her ear, hands placed firmly on her hips. She didn’t know when he’d snuck up behind her, but by the tone of his voice she didn’t care and nor did she want to know why.
“Yeah, she’s asleep,” she replied hesitantly, scooting away from her husband, feeling guilty as she turned around and saw the confused expression on his face.
“Is something wrong?” his voice cut at her, the confusion and worry making her want to curl up in a ball and cry.
How was she supposed to hurt him like this? How was she supposed to tell him the daughter he loved without question, wasn’t even his?
“I…” she shook her head, trying to reign in enough courage to say the unforgivable. “I have something I need to tell –”
Tap. Tap. Tap. She looked around, half annoyed half anxious as she saw a tawny owl outside the kitchen window. Her annoyance however, vanished, when she recognised the owl. It was Harry and Luna’s. Anxiety coursed through her veins, doubling tenfold from what it was before the owl arrived. Smiling weakly at Ron, Hermione moved over to the window, unlatching it and retrieving the small scroll of parchment from the animal’s leg. It was addressed to her, written in Harry’s distinctive messy scrawl. Hastily breaking the seal, she scanned the letter’s meagre contents.
I’m still having a hard time adjusting to the idea, but Rose is still my goddaughter. Whatever happens, I’m with you, but I’m not choosing a side. You’re one of my closest friends and I can’t forget that. Consider me neutral, but I’ll be there if you need me.
She breathed a sigh of relief, happy that he had at least tried to see it from her point of view. Harry was right in saying he wouldn’t choose a side, she never expected him to. The knowledge that he would be there for her and Rose was enough to give her the strength she needed, or at least a little boost in the confidence department.
“What did Harry want?” Ron asked, breaking her silent reverie.
“Oh, he was just answering a question I asked him earlier today at the park,” she answered, hastily tucking the parchment into the back pocket of her jeans.
“Oh, okay,” he was sated by her answer, the mischievous twinkle in his eyes returning as he crept forward, pinning her to the counter.
“Ron,” she recognised all the signs. Hermione knew what he wanted, the knowledge of which made her words that little bit harder to say. The truth was hard enough on its own, but to crush him while he was making a pass at her. She had to put an end to it, all of it. “I’m not really in the mood and there is something I’ve been meaning to talk to you abou – ”
He frowned. “You’re never in the mood,” she could tell by the tone of his voice that he was both frustrated and angry, pulling away from her with an agitated sigh.
“I’m sorry,” she felt she needed to say it, even though she knew that it would not be the last time those words left her lips this night. “I have a lot on my mind and – and I need to talk to you about something,” by the look in his eyes, the confusion and frustration, she felt her resolve fade a little.
Indicating that he should sit down, she turned her back on him momentarily, grabbing the cup of coffee she’d made minutes earlier and taking a large gulp of the bitter liquid. It burned her mouth, but she didn’t care. Her hands were shaking not unlike they had been after Lucius Malfoy’s impromptu visit at the beginning of the week. She needed to calm down.
“Hermione, love, what’s this about?” his voice made her jump involuntarily, her heart jolting as she noted the concern in his voice.
“It’s…” how was she supposed to do this? Sorry, Ron, but you know Rose, your daughter? Yeah, she’s not yours. It was a pity that there wasn’t a book written on how to tell your husband he wasn’t the father of your child. It would probably come in handy right about now. “It’s about Rose,” she forced out, grimacing at the effort it took to say those few simple words.
“What do you mean? Is she okay? She isn’t sick, is she?” Ron asked, immediately rising from his seat, a panicked look on his face.
“No, she’s not sick,” his shoulders slumped in relief, but the look on his face was etched with confusion.
“Then what’s wrong?” he asked it so innocently that it broke her heart to know he really didn’t understand what was about to happen.
“I…” her eyes were brimming with unshed tears, morose with the knowledge that this was it. “I’m so sorry,” she said quietly, voice cracking.
“I’m so, so sorry. I – she’s…” the words simply wouldn’t come, lodged in her throat defiantly. Tears were falling freely now.
“Hermione, you’re starting to scare me. What’s wro –”
She had to do it. Living like this was killing her. She had to do it.
“She’s not yours. Merlin! Ron, I’m so sorry. Rose isn’t yours,”
Chapter 6: Turbulent Explanations
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Chapter Image made by Sammm of TDA!
Author's Note: And here's the confrontation you're all waiting for...but please don't kill me because of the ending. I couldn't help it, I swear!
.: Chapter Six – Turbulent Explanations :.
Saturday, May 4, 2002
He was silent, a blank, unseeing look on his face as he slowly lowered himself into a chair. It would have been better had he yelled, screamed at her about infidelity and betrayal. She could deal with his screams and hateful words, but this quiet, almost non-existent reaction – it broke her heart. Her voice had been clear despite the tears that marred her face. There was no way he hadn’t heard what she’d said. Molly often joked that he had selective hearing and chose to hear only what he wanted. He’d heard her; she had no doubt about that. He was just in shock.
“Ron?” she approached him warily, cautious of his reaction.
The look on his face, it was like he’d become devoid of any and all emotion. She wanted him to say something, to at least react. The silence was killing her. She thought that maybe once she’d said the words she would feel relieved, as though a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. That was not the case. Hermione felt a little bit of relief at knowing that she didn’t have to lie anymore, but that relief was drowned out by the overwhelming guilt she felt for hurting him the way she had. He’d always been there for her, a constant friend and pillar of strength for most of her life. But she repaid him with a broken heart and shattering lie. What type of person did that?
Taking a deep breath, Hermione knelt down in front of him. “Ron, you need to say something,” her hands were shaking, the bitter brown liquid in her coffee mug swaying precariously. “Please say something,” things weren’t turning out the way she expected them to and she felt helpless for it.
“You’re wrong,” he looked up, eyes weary with doubt. “You are wrong. Rosie is my daughter,” his voice shook with emotion, the conviction of his words causing her to wince painfully.
“She is my daughter,” he cut in, a pained expression on his face. “I was there when she said her first word, when she took her first steps. Her favourite colour is blue and she loves sneaking into our closet, trying on your clothes no matter how many times we tell her not to. She loves to paint and her favourite bedtime story is Lucy Ladybug. She hates eating her vegetables and always tries to hide them so we think she’s eaten them. Her favourite TV show is the one with that bloody giant purple dinosaur, and she loves singing along with the songs at the top of her voice.
Rose hates her hair being brushed and always tries to hide under her bed whenever she has to wear something she doesn’t want to. Her favourite outfit is that fairy costume from last year my mother made her, and she tries to con us into letting her wear it whenever she can. When she smiles you can tell exactly what she’s thinking, whether it be mischievous, playful or loving. Sometimes she laughs at something you’ve said simply because she doesn’t understand and thinks it was meant to be funny. She chews on her bottom lip just like you do when she’s concentrating on something, or worried about our reactions when she’s done something wrong…” his voice trailed off, choked and hoarse.
He had tears in his eyes and she knew that he was trying desperately to keep them at bay. Her own tears were cascading down her face relentlessly, make-up smearing as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. He loved Rose so ardently that he wouldn’t accept the truth for what it was. She felt her heart break a little more, the desperate, pleading look in his blue eyes making her gasp, another sob wracking her body.
“She is my daughter,” he said it so quietly that she barely heard him.
“I’m sorry,” she cried, the cup in her hands shattering as it fell to the ground, coffee staining the wooden floorboards.
“No,” he shook his head vehemently, the look on his face causing her to pull back.
“It was one time,” Hermione said, standing up unsteadily.
“I never meant for it to happen,” she continued, her chest rising and falling rapidly with each harsh breath.
“I…” he stood up abruptly, the chair falling back from the sudden movement and crashing to the floor.
His shoulders were shaking, the effort to keep his anger in check causing him to grimace. She wanted to reach out to him, but he brushed passed her, silently making his way into their study. Ron closed the door before she could say anything, the action causing her knees to buckle. She was lucky the table was there, its sturdy support the only thing keeping her from collapsing. A crash came from the room, a strangled sob following moments later. Quietly lowering herself into a chair, her mind wandered back to that night, its memory far from easing her tears.
Her heart was beating erratically, the quicksilver of his eyes darkening as she struggled to find her voice. He’d saved her. Despite their turbulent history, despite the war and all that stood between them, he had saved her. She struggled to find the right words, each thank you paling in comparison to the last. Words didn’t seem to be enough, not when her life had been at stake. He had hated her and her kind for the better part of his life, yet for some unknown reason he chose to save her when he could have easily walked away. She wanted to ask him why? But a part of her already seemed to understand. They may have been on opposite sides of the war, enemies for as long as she could remember. But he had been forced into this life as had so many others. He hadn’t had the chance to say no.
The Order had done their research, investigating potential Death Eaters and their families. She knew from the files that he hadn’t wanted to be a part of this war, but the rest of the Order seemed to ignore that little bit of information. He was Lucius Malfoy’s son. That alone was a strike against his name.
He looked older now, more worn. His eyes seemed to be hollow, their normally disdainful depths filled with only guilt and remorse. He was just like her. They were too young to be fighting in a war – a pointless one at that. She felt pity for him, pity for the cold life he’d been forced to live. But she knew to pity him would only provoke his anger. Hermione didn’t know what to say to the boy – the man, who’d saved her life despite the consequences that would surely follow. He could be killed for just standing here.
She didn’t know why she did it – to say thank you, maybe. Her mind screamed at her to stop, to run away. She couldn’t. Leaning forward, Hermione gently pressed her lips against his, surprised at how soft they seemed in comparison to his hardened exterior. It was a simple, chaste kiss. This was the only way she could think to say thank you without words. A simple gesture, meant to show him that she was grateful for the risk he had taken. It was simple, but effective.
His eyes widened as she looked at him, biting her lower lip to keep from blurting out an apology. She had meant to kiss him, to say thank you without actually saying the words and she would not say sorry for that. A part of her wanted to kiss him again, to feel those surprisingly soft lips moving against her own. She wanted to kiss him, to feel something more than pain. She wanted that rush, that feeling of being alive. The guilt at wanting something she knew was taboo coursed through her veins. Ron had been nothing but faithful and loving toward her, yet she wanted another man’s touch. She was betraying him by just thinking about it.
His lips crashed down upon hers in one overpowering beat, the velvet warmth of his tongue taking advantage of her surprised gasp. Hermione knew she ought to struggle, to fight his invading warmth. But for some reason she couldn’t bring herself to push him away, her arms winding around his neck instead, drawing him closer. She didn’t know why she was kissing him back. She wasn’t in her right mind. Her hands delved into his hair, nails digging in painfully against his scalp. What they were doing was wrong, but for the life of her, she couldn't bring herself to push him away. Draco groaned against her mouth, spinning them around so she was trapped between him and the cave wall. He was so desperate, so despondent, the needy emotion emanating from him in waves.
Hermione pulled back, her chest rising and falling rapidly as she tried to regain her breath. His lips ghosted over her neck, soft and gentle in comparison to the harshness of his teeth. If she was thinking rationally about any of this, she would have pushed him away long ago. She wasn’t thinking. Her mind was too far gone for any rational thought to cross its path. His lips were a weapon all on their own. The overwhelming need for contact grew stronger as she arched her back in response to his ministrations. Her lungs hurt with the short pants of breath she was taking, but Hermione didn’t care, not when his tongue was doing such wicked things against the column of her neck.
He abruptly pulled back, eyes darkened with lust. She wanted something other than pain and fear. She needed it and so did he. His look spoke volumes; there was no turning back. There was a scalding touch of inevitably, the burning tension coiling at the apex of her thighs. She didn’t want to turn back any more than he did.
He was kissing her again, robbing her of breath and whatever sanity she had left. His hands reached up to cup her face in a firm grasp, palms burning hot against her cheeks. Her heart was pounding erratically, blood boiling from the sensations his hand was creating as it slipped underneath her top. His tongue stroked hers, fingers pinching and kneading her breasts through the material of her thinly laced bra. She couldn’t control the moan that escaped her lips, back arching at his touch.
There was a voice at the back of her mind, screaming for her to stop. She couldn’t have stopped even if she wanted to, the slow decent of his hand on her stomach causing another moan to escape her swollen lips. He was whispering something, words she couldn’t make out but understood nonetheless. The buttons on her jeans were undoing themselves, the zipper being pulled down by an invisible hand. Before she knew it her jeans were thrown carelessly to the side, her knickers following shortly after. His teeth, tongue and lips spared her no mercy as he kissed a trail down the column of her neck.
She felt her legs being nudged apart by a strong thigh, his hands dropping to her waist as he lifted her up from the ground in one swift motion. Her legs wrapped around his waist, instinct taking over as she braced her hands on his shoulders. Hermione knew it was wrong. She was betraying Ron, her family and friends by just being here and enjoying his touch. It was wrong but it felt right and that was all that mattered. In a couple of hours she could be dead. She wanted to feel alive, even if it was with him.
She threw her head back, arching as he slowly filled her with ease. Her nails dug into his shoulder, scratching at the black material. Hermione could barely think, her mind becoming foggier with each passing second. How could something so wrong feel so right? They could be found at any moment, dead within seconds. She didn’t care. Let them find her, let them drain the life from her eyes. Nothing else mattered at that moment. Pleasure was her world.
The sound of a door slamming brought her reverie to a screaming halt. Looking toward the source, she felt her insides clench painfully. Ron stood in the archway, the once closed door swinging slightly, creaking in the silence after being flung open so harshly it left a large dint in the wall. His eyes were red, swollen from the obvious tears he’d shed in his anger. She could see behind him the amount of destruction he’d created, numerous books thrown haphazardly about the room, furniture overturned with large tears in the material. It looked like a war zone.
“How could you?” he hissed, the pain and betrayal in his eyes cutting at her.
“I told you, I never meant for it to happen,” Hermione cried, standing up in her effort to make him understand. She had anticipated tears and screaming. But now that it was actually happening, she didn’t know what to do or how to make him understand.
“I love that little girl,” he yelled, pointing harshly at the stairs. “You lied to me and let me believe that she…” Ron trailed off, jaw set in a firm line.
She could see he was trying to keep the new batch of tears that had welled up in his eyes from falling. “I honestly thought she was yours, but when she started to get older I noticed the differences and realised she wasn –”
“Don’t say it,” he hissed, cutting her off.
“Ron, I – ”
“Mummy, daddy, whads wrong?” Hermione felt her whole body freeze, the sound of her little angel’s sleepy voice causing her to panic. Rose was standing halfway down the stairs, her stuffed dragon, Zili, hanging from her hand as she rubbed her eyes tiredly.
“Go back to bed, sweetheart,” she said, glancing over at Ron who wore a pained expression on his face as he stared up at the little girl.
“I heards voices,” Rose protested, taking another step down the stairs, hugging Zili to her chest.
“Rose Ira Weasley, you go back upstairs this instant,” Hermione tried not to let her voice crack, keeping it firm but soft at the same time. She didn’t want Rose to witness this.
“I don’t want to,” the little girl said stubbornly, her bottom lip beginning to quiver.
“Rosie, listen to your mother,” Ron’s voice was hoarse, weakened from the effort to keep his emotions under control. He didn’t want Rose to see him vulnerable and she could understand that. She didn’t want Rose to see her vulnerable.
“But daddy,” she whined, jutting out her bottom lip.
“Upstairs. Now,” he pronounced each word forcefully, the effort she could tell becoming too much for him. The fact that Rose had called him daddy when only seconds earlier they’d been arguing about that very fact obviously got to him.
Rose’s eyes widened and within a couple of seconds she was scurrying up the stairs. Hermione tried to keep her anger in check, but the fact that he had yelled at Rose made that almost impossible to do.
“You didn’t have to yell at her,” she snapped, turning around to glare at him. Hermione understood that he was upset, that he was angry at her. But that gave him no right to yell at Rose when she had done absolutely nothing wrong. “She’s just a little girl, it’s not like she understands,”
“Well I’m sorry for thinking I had any say in her life!” he retorted angrily. “But that’s just me, isn’t it? I guess I should apologise for thinking I was her father as well while I’m at it,” his voice held so much contempt, so much pain.
“That’s not fair and you know it,”
“Do I?” he was in front of her in a second, his body threateningly close to her own, height towering above her petite 5’3.
“Yes, Ronald, you do,” she snapped, trying to brush passed him.
Moving quickly, he blocked her path, hand latching onto her wrist to keep her from leaving. “You lied to me, letting me think that I was her father when you knew I wasn’t. How could you do that to me? How could you let me fall in love with that little girl?” he was yelling now, face contorted in anger.
“Because I thought she was yours!” she screamed back, trying to yank her arm out of his tightening grasp.
“But she isn’t!” Hermione winced at the harshness in his voice, the tears falling down her face silently.
“Let me go, Ron,” she said, voice barely above a whisper. His grip tightened painfully. “Ron, you’re hurting me! Let me go!”
He should have been home hours ago, but he knew it would make no difference. If he went home now rather than later, he would only return to an empty house. An empty house by his standards was far better than an occupied one, mainly because he didn’t have to deal with Daphne. But he wasn’t particularly in the mood to wallow in self pity on his own. It was far better and less lonely to do so in his father’s study, the man in question silently keeping him company. If he was honest with himself, he was grateful that the older man was there. His father was a complicated person. Where Draco expected one thing, Lucius supplied him with another. He hadn’t expected his father to be pleased about their current situation, and he wasn’t. But unlike the hostile reaction he’d anticipated, Draco was left with only a shocked resignation from the older man. That in no way implied that he wasn’t furious, because he was. Lucius had been shocked more than anything else.
He’d fought the urge to go over to Granger’s at least a hundred times over the past week. His father had wanted to make sure that the child was his before they took any action, and the man needed no more than a photograph to confirm it. Draco still didn’t know how he did it, but his father had managed to duplicate the photograph without Granger noticing. He didn’t know whether to thank him, or hate him for it. The amount of times he’d spent looking at that picture…
“I’m surprised your wife hasn’t flooed,” Lucius remarked quietly, his gaze drifting over to the flickering embers in the grate.
“Don’t be daft, father,” he scoffed, taking a sip of his tea and grimacing, the overly sweet flavour making him want to gag. Ever since the house elves had caught wind that there was a ‘little mistress’ in the family, their attention to detail had waned considerably. Mipsy had even taken to disappearing for long periods of time, returning with some odd titbit of information like how ‘the little mistress’ favourite colour was blue’ or that ‘she didn’t like carrots’. It was good to know their house elves had stalker potential.
“Do elaborate,” his father’s comment was nonchalant, but Draco could tell he was curious.
“Well, I’m sure she’s found some other poor sod to occupy her time,” his wife really was stupid if she thought he didn’t know.
He may have been many things, but a fool was not one of them. After all, Theodore Nott was not the most tactful of drunks, especially when he spouted off to anyone who could hear that he’d been ‘banging Malfoy’s chick’. At first it had been a matter of pride and Draco had been far from opposed to beating the crap out of him. But he’d resisted the urge, deciding that his wife’s little indiscretion could be dealt with later. Besides, it would come in useful when the divorce papers came through. There was no point in staying married to her when he didn’t have to. She would try to take him for all he was worth, but with this useful bit of information she wouldn’t get very far.
Lucius raised an eyebrow in response. “Really?” he asked, curious that his son wasn’t reacting the way he expected him to.
“Considering I contacted our family lawyer a couple of days ago, it doesn’t faze me in the slightest. Actually, it’s remarkably good timing if you think about it,” he smirked, averting his eyes to gaze at the framed picture on his father’s desk.
It was strange seeing a picture of his daughter there, especially considering her heritage. His mother had been more open to the idea of Rose – that was her name apparently – being their granddaughter than Lucius had. It had taken a day to convince him that her being a half-blood wasn’t as bad as it seemed. After that initial hurdle, he’d been fairly resigned to the fact that Rose was his granddaughter. His mother said it was because he had a chance to do right where he’d done wrong with him, and Draco partially believed that. His father was curious about the little girl more than anything else.
Just as he was about to look away, something caught his eye. “Father, where is mother?” he asked, turning sharply to look at the man opposite him.
The darngloshpere on his father’s desk was glowing, indicating that a family member was in danger. While a few people tended to view the magical sphere as a dark object, he thought it was anything but. It was true that it had been created from advanced dark magic, but the use of the sphere depended solely on the owner. There was the potential to do harm. The sphere could be used to inflict a great deal of pain on a sole family member, providing the owner was concentrating hard enough on the subject. But it could also be used for good, used to warn a person that a family member was in danger, life threatening or not. When he was a little boy he’d been down at the creek with his mother, playing on the rocks while trying to catch a dragonfly that was buzzing about his head. He’d slipped and fell into the water. His mother couldn’t swim and her wand was back at the manor. If it hadn’t of been for the darngloshpere warning his father, he probably would’ve drowned.
“I’m right here, darling. Why?” his mother answered before his father even had the chance to, poking her head around the door with a curious expression on her face.
His mother wasn’t in danger and neither was his father. As far as he could tell, he was fine, so that left the question; who was in danger? There was only one other family member it could be. Rose.
“The darnglosphere,” he pointed absently at the glowing orb which seemed to get brighter with each passing second. “It’s glowing,”
Two pairs of eyes turned toward the orb, one set fearful, the other determined.
Chapter 7: Blood
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Author's Note: I would just like to thank all of you for your continued support and I hope that this chapter doesn't disappoint.
.: Chapter Seven – Blood :.
Saturday, May 4, 2002
Blood. That’s what it all came down to. Ever since he was a child his father had pressed the importance of blood purity on him, stressing the difference between what was acceptable and what was not. His first lesson came on the day of his fifth birthday. He was just a child and didn’t understand why his mother forbade him to go down to the park, her incessant warnings falling on deaf ears. Her words had never gone unheeded since that day. How was he supposed to know they were muggle children? He had been just a boy, eager to have someone to play with on his birthday.
The second he saw his father’s face, he’d known he was in trouble. That had been the first beating. Even though he’d been an ignorant child, it hadn’t mattered. His father’s word was law and he daren’t go against that. He’d grown to hate muggles, loathe the very air they breathed simply because they were the cause of his pain. Day after day, strike after strike; he wished death on every single one of them. His father’s cane had been the blade of his nightmares, and it became his fear. The cane was his now, a reminder of what was and what would never be again. Fear was a weakness and he carried his beside him everyday.
Now there was something else to fear. He’d followed his father’s instruction and entered into Lord Voldemort’s service as a young man. The silent thrill of it all had blinded him, shuttered his eyes to what was really happening. He wasn’t blind now. And he certainly wasn’t as ignorant. Blood was everything and nothing. It was life and death. His father had always said that purity was everything and he’d believed him. But on the battlefield where all you saw was death, blood became its tangible symbol. Purebloods, half-bloods – even muggleborns; death was blood and all theirs was the same. He’d always expected their blood to look dirty, a sickening brown like the mud they were called. It was just as rich and crimson as his. Blood was blood; there was no separable difference.
The child was a Malfoy, there was no doubt about that. Her features were softer than the norm. But he supposed that had something to do with her mother’s genetics being thrown into the mix. Nevertheless, she had the distinctive blonde locks and pointed features that were all recognisable in a Malfoy. She was a half-blood, but his granddaughter nonetheless. And it was that fact and that fact alone, which had him coming to terms with the whole situation. He wasn’t entirely pleased with it, but there was nothing he could do to change the past. His son had made a mistake and now they all had to live with the consequences.
“Nothing seems to be out of the ordinary,” he heard his wife mutter behind him, her hand wrapped firmly around their son’s arm to keep him from doing anything rash.
It had taken some persuasion and a few underhanded tactics, but he’d eventually managed to acquire the right address from the Welcome Witch at the Department of Family Housing. The little cottage looked too quaint for his liking, but he supposed it held a sort of country charm. His wife was right in her assumption; nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary…yet. There was a light on in what looked to be the kitchen, but they were too far away to see anything properly. Unlike his son, Lucius understood the importance of judging a situation correctly. Their family was still considered ‘dark’, so to react to the situation before them without assessing it in its entirety could very well damage what progress they had made since the war. If there was nothing seriously wrong and they went in there hexes flying, then no good would come of it.
“That we know of,” he replied vaguely, extending his cane so Draco couldn’t pass. His son was too unpredictable, the fact that he was struggling against his mother’s restraining hand was proof enough of that. Malfoys took care of their own. But his son was acting far more protective of a child he’d never met than Lucius had anticipated.
“Could the darnglosphere have malfunctioned?” Narcissa asked, sighing irritably as their son shrugged off her hand, taking a step toward the house.
“Does it really matter, mother?”
“Yes, it does matter. There might be nothing wro –” her voice was cut off, a child’s deafening scream echoing through the still night air.
Cursing under his breath, Lucius tried to stop his son from racing into the house, wand drawn. But found that while his reflexes were good for his age, they weren’t good enough. Seeing the back of Draco's head as he raced toward the house, blond hair shining eerily in the moonlight, Lucius came to a decision. While their family’s reputation was at stake depending on how they reacted, he couldn’t very well sit back and do nothing. Draco was his son. And that little girl – Rose – was his granddaughter whether he liked it or not.
Detaching his wand from the head of his cane, he turned around sharply. “Send word to the ministry that there is trouble. I don’t care how you do it, but make sure that you do. Our son is too unpredictable at the moment. We may need as many hands as we can get to restrain him if something is seriously wrong,” his voice was harsh, but he knew Narcissa understood the severity of the situation.
Without a backwards glance, he rushed toward the house, his feet closing the distance between him and his son. He had been a fool to force his family into such a dark life. The war was over but his misdeeds still stood firm among the public. His father had condemned him to that life. But he hadn’t resisted as much as he should have. He was brought up to believe that it was an honour to serve the Dark Lord, that his quest to purge the world of muggles and mudbloods alike was both pure and noble. Voldemort had been nothing but a hypocrite, a man who was pissed off that his filthy muggle father had left both he and his mother to rot.
Lucius had made so many mistakes in his life. He’d forced Draco onto the same path his father had urged him to follow. Narcissa had objected despite her sister’s allegiances and begged him to spare Draco from that life. He had been too arrogant at the time to realise his wife was right. The shocking clarity of his mistake came long before the final battle, but he’d been in over his head and had no way out. He’d switched sides in the midst of battle only moments before it was too late, his wife making up her own mind without his knowledge. It wasn’t until the very end that he realised what Narcissa had done in order to protect their son, and he loved her all the more for it. They may have had an arranged marriage, but they’d been lucky enough to find love where most only found affection or contempt.
His son hated Daphne and he couldn’t very well blame him for it. He and Narcissa had urged him to pick the younger of the two Greengrass’, Astoria being a charming girl compared to her sister. But Draco had ignored their pleas, choosing Daphne over their other two selections. Astoria was now engaged to one their client’s brothers, and he couldn’t help but think his son had sacrificed what could have been a content life with Astoria, for a hated one with her sister. None of that mattered now. Draco had contacted their lawyer, and considering the situation he wasn’t unpleased with his son’s decision.
Daphne was a thorn in his side, spending as much of the family money as she could on pointless, insignificant little things. They certainly had enough money, but Lucius didn’t like the idea of that money dwindling because of a woman’s uncontrollable shopping tendencies. While divorce was uncommon in their world, he was glad that his son was taking the initiative to separate himself from her now rather than later.
Seeing that his son was still too far ahead of him, Lucius did the only thing he could think of. “Incarcerous,” the spell was quick and effective, its thick ropes wrapping around Draco almost instantaneously. At least this way he could cover some ground before his son did something stupid.
“Diffindo,” Draco all but growled, the ropes falling uselessly to the ground as the spell cut through them. “I’m disappointed, father. Couldn’t you come up with something more creative?” the young blond snapped, his eyes narrowed in anger.
“I can’t very well have you storming in there if –”
“You heard the scream. You know something is wrong,” his son spat, turning his back on him and stalking toward the front door without even waiting for a reply.
Lucius scowled, gripping his wand tighter in an effort to calm his rising anger. Instinct took over as he heard a childlike sob emit from behind the wooden door. Draco was gone in a second, the once closed door hanging on its hinges. He knew that if something was wrong – and by the looks of things they certainly were – then there was every chance that his son would do something stupid. Dashing forward, he barely reached the door before a loud crash resounded from within the room.
“Draco,” he called out, harsh worry in his voice.
As his eyes fully adjusted to the bright light of the room, they travelled down to the floor, widening slightly as they landed on the unconscious form of Hermione Weasley, nee Granger. Her body was lying at an odd angle, a small halo of blood framing the top of her head. She was unconscious and by the looks of things, losing more blood with each passing second. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what had happened, the nearby kitchen table making it blatantly obvious with its bloodied corner. But the question remained; how had she hit her head? Had it been by force? Or was it an accident?
“Mummy!” the childlike plea pulled him from his reverie.
Pivoting to his left, Lucius' eyes landed on the small girl struggling against Ron Weasley's grasp. Draco was a few feet away, gaining momentum with his fist as he pulled it back, aiming for the oblivious redhead’s jaw. He felt a touch of disdain at seeing his son’s fist connect with its target, the primitive muggle method grating on his last nerve. But despite the disdain, he felt a sort of smug fatherly pride, especially when the Weasley boy crumbled from the sudden impact.
The little girl was free within a second, running toward the unconscious woman on the floor, tears marring her delicate face. “Mummy, wake up,” her voice was so small, hands shaking her mother’s limp body in an effort to wake her.
It felt strange, looking at the little girl, seeing her in the flesh rather than in a framed picture. She looked so much like his son it was uncanny. But there was her mother in her as well, so no one would think to ask about her parentage. He was by no means happy that she was a half-blood, her mother being who she was only adding to his displeasure. But what was done was done. The spell had been activated and the only way to deactivate it was through death. Mother and child had to die in order for the spell to be unwoven. He’d considered it at first, the horrible knowledge of a half-blood marring the Malfoy bloodline enough to make the idea plausible. But the idea was gone within a second of it being there, his past mistakes grounding him. Narcissa had convinced him that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. New blood would help strengthen the dwindling magic in their family, help restore power. There was that, and the fact that it would help improve their plight against the ministry’s lingering accusations.
Walking forward hesitantly, he knelt down beside the girl, watching as she continued to shake her mother. “And what’s your name?” he knew her name, but he had to try and distract her, at least enough to get her to calm down.
Rose sniffed, looking up at him with wide eyes. “I’m not sup-posed to talk to strangers,” she said, voice meek.
“But I’m not a stranger,” he smiled warily at her, taking in her attire and realising that she must have been in bed before any of this had happened. “I’m a…old friend of your mother’s,” a white lie wouldn’t hurt, not when she was obviously distraught.
“Really?” her eyes brightened slightly, bottom lip a quivering remnant of her tears.
“Really,” he nodded, glancing back discreetly where his son and the red-haired idiot had been moments before, their obvious tussle moving outdoors. Good.
He felt a tug on his sleeve. “I’m Rose. Whads your name?” her innocent hazel-brown eyes stared up at him, completely trusting. He didn’t know whether to be flattered that she seemed to trust him so easily, or annoyed that her mother hadn’t taught her to be more suspicious of strangers.
“I’m Lucius,” she nodded sadly, not really hearing him.
“Why won’t she wakes up?” Rose asked, voice cracking as a sob wracked through her tiny body. “Was it somethings I did?”
He felt his heart clench painfully at the pitiful, pleading look on her face. She was so vulnerable and so young. Rose didn’t understand what was going on and she was looking up to him for the answers, a complete stranger. Well, he wasn’t necessarily a stranger, he was her grandfather. But she didn’t know that, in fact, she barely knew anything. She was only a child. How could any of them expect her to understand?
“No, Rose. You didn’t do anything wrong,” he reassured her, looking down at the unconscious woman in front of him, the pallor of her skin paling dramatically. “Can you tell me what happened to your mother?” he asked gently, cringing as he lifted up said woman’s head to inspect the damage.
“They was yelling,” she said simply, clamming up as her eyes landed on the blood surrounding her mother’s head.
There was no point in pushing the girl; it was obvious she was traumatised by the whole ordeal. What bothered him was the initial scene he and Draco had walked in on. Why had Ron Weasley, the man she knew as her father, been trying to drag her out of the room? Why had she struggled so hard? And why in the name of Merlin, hadn’t the idiot done something when it was obvious his wife’s life was in danger? Something just wasn’t adding up.
“Sweet Merlin!” Lucius turned around to look at his wife, her gasped exclamation loud enough to draw his attention. She stood stock still, hand clasped over her mouth in shock.
“Don’t just stand there woman, do something!” his voice was harsh but urgent. While he was a fairly skilled wizard, there were certain aspects of magic he was far less apt at. Narcissa had a knack for healing spells and charms, whereas he did not. If the unconscious woman stood a chance it was because of his wife – that is to say, if she managed to snap out of her stupor quick enough to make a difference.
“I…” her eyes widened as she rushed forward, kneeling down opposite him, hands moving to cup the woman’s head. “What happened?”
“Mummy hit-ed her head and now she won’t wakes up,” Rose hiccuped, answering before he himself had a chance to do so.
Narcissa’s eyes widened further, landing on the little girl beside him in awe. Her mouth opened and closed, no sound passing her lips as she continued to stare at Rose, tears building in her grey eyes. “Oh, Lucius. She’s beautiful,” her voice was barely above a whisper, but it was loud enough for him to hear.
“Cissa,” she turned to look at him, and with an inclination of his head, she knew he was agreeing. “There are, however, more pressing matters to deal with,” he indicated subtly at the unconscious woman between them, trying to be as discreet as possible, not wanting to upset the child further.
“There’s not much I can do,” she admitted quietly, glancing at Rose before continuing. “I can clean the wound and apply enough pressure to hopefully control the bleeding. But other than that…She’s lost too much blood and I’m certain that once we get her to St Mungos they’ll want to actually look at the wound to determine if there will be any permanent damage. I –”
“Is my mummy going to wake up? I promise I’ll eat my veget-tables and – and I’lls brush my teeth before bed and –” Rose was crying now, her tiny voice causing him to frown.
“She’ll wake up, Rose,” he cut in.
“Lucius –” Narcissa began to protest, obvious worry in her voice.
“She will wake up. I promise,” Lucius knew he shouldn’t have said that. But she was just a child and she needed to be reassured. His wife was obviously thinking the same thing, her worried frown making that blatantly obvious.
Rose nodded sadly, a small smile gracing her lips at his words. “They was yelling about me. Daddy was scary and m-mummy saids he was hurting her,” the little girl admitted, sniffing loudly as another batch of tears came pouring out. “I was scared,”
“You poor thing,” Narcissa said, leaning over the body to caress the little girl’s light coloured locks. “Of course you were scared,” then she frowned, eyes travelling down Rose’s arm. “Lucius, her wrists,” there was a cold edge in his wife’s voice, one he hadn’t heard since the war.
Turning his attention on the little girl, he barely registered the sound of ripping material and a muttered spell, his eyes darkening as they reached her wrists. There were large red finger marks, outlining a hand that had been clasped around her wrist. It was obvious the struggle between her and the Weasley boy had been harsher than he’d originally imagined. Those marks would become bruises by morning. And Ron Weasley would pay.
A series of loud pops brought his train of thought to a screaming halt. Within seconds there was a wand pressed painfully against his neck. Of course they would think that it was his fault. He was the infamous Lucius Malfoy, hater of all things muggle and a pureblood elitist. They were just waiting for a reason to arrest him, teetering with false patience for a reason to throw him into Azkaban where they believed he belonged. He could hear Rose crying, screaming at the top of her lungs while Narcissa tried to calm her down. It wouldn’t be long before she too felt the harsh stab of a wand pressed against her neck. They were the Malfoys. Of course the ministry would arrest them rather than believe one of their famous war hero’s was at fault.
Something was wrong. It was either that or he was paranoid. Luna had convinced him to write the letter, convinced him to give Hermione the support she would undoubtedly have given him if he were in the same situation. He didn’t know what it was exactly, but something was bothering him. There was just something about the way Hermione had constructed her words earlier that day, that concerned him. It was like she was preparing herself for a storm, a deadly and unforgivable battle where she would come out bloodied and bruised. When he’d relayed the meeting to his wife, Luna had said that it sounded as if she’d been working up the courage to tell him the truth. He’d beaten her to the post, accusing her before she could tell him in her own deliberate words. Maybe if he hadn’t rushed her, she would have been able to explain things better. So, he was waiting for a reply to a letter he’d sent over two hours ago. Hermione always replied. Something had to be wrong.
“I don’t think she’s going to reply tonight, Harry,” his wife’s voice called from the stairs. “Hermione is far too considerate to send an owl this late,”
Harry sighed. Luna was right. “I’ve just got this feeling that something is wrong,” he said, not looking up from his hands.
“Perhaps she meant to tell Ronald the truth tonight,” Luna mused from behind him, her gentle hands beginning to message the tension out of his shoulders.
“Do you really think so?” he asked, frowning in thought. Hermione had seemed desperate for his support. If she had planned on telling Ron tonight, then her earlier pleas seemed to make more sense.
“Well, it is Grimmhook season,” she said confidently, her hands stilling.
Harry had to suppress a laugh. While Luna had matured a great deal from her Hogwarts years, she still had her moments. The war had changed everyone, including his wife. Ever since the death of her father, she had become more subdued. By all means she was still the eccentric, dreamy blonde she had always been – just less so. Her comments were endearing, or at least he thought they were. If there was one thing he knew, it was that their marriage would never be boring.
“Grimmhook season?” he asked carefully, standing up from his seat at the kitchen table, turning around to look at her.
Luna nodded, smiling up at him. “They’re quite useful, you know. A lot of people don’t believe they exist – I wonder why that is?” she asked more to herself than him, a small frown on her face. “Grimmhooks have the ability to sense a lie, you know? They tend to make a person more open to honesty, which isn’t really a bad thing,”
“Of course not,” Harry agreed, smiling despite himself. She really was cute when she frowned, deep in thought.
“I think Hermione may have told Ronald, Harry,” she said, startling him with the solemn look in her large, silver-grey eyes.
“Why do you say that?” he asked, wondering what could make his wife so serious.
“The news would be heartbreaking for him,” she said, ignoring his previous question.
“Perhaps I should have said something earlier,” her hair was shining eerily in the moonlight as she paced back and forth, her eyes telling him she was somewhere else.
“What do –”
“Rose was always a happy child, wasn’t she? A little stubborn, not to mention exceptionally gifted when it came to getting her own way. Maybe I should have said something when she was born. Hermione didn’t know then. I could have told her,” she continued to ramble, not really paying attention to where she was walking.
Walk. Stop. Turn. Walk. Stop. Turn. He was getting dizzy from just watching her. “Luna!” he interjected loudly, stepping in her path. She looked up at him, surprised to see him standing there. “What are you talking about, love?”
“I should have told Hermione about Rose,” Luna said quietly. “I knew when she was born, you see. She didn’t look like Ronald, but I thought that it might have been the Inkipuffs messing with my judgement. They like to do that, you know, mess with people’s minds. Horrible little creatures,”
Harry gulped. “You knew that Rose wasn’t Ron’s daughter?” he asked, hoping to Merlin she said no.
“Well…yes,” she replied carefully, eyes searching his.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” he couldn’t be angry with her, not when she was looking at him like that. This was Luna, his wife. She had her own reasoning.
“It wasn’t my place,”
Chapter 8: Shocking Discoveries
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Chapter Image made by Sammm of TDA!
Author's Note: I'm sorry for the long wait, but I've been absolutely swamped with school work. The next chapter may take a while for me to get up, so please be patient.
This chapter is sort of a filler. You get more of an idea of what happened and it builds up to the oh so delicious next chapter. You'll understand what I mean after you read it and please, I beg you, don't kill me for the ending.
.: Chapter Eight – Shocking Discoveries :.
Saturday, May 4, 2002
It was one of those nights. If he had any say in the matter he’d be back at home, asleep like any other sane person. Instead he was rostered on for the third night in a row, patrolling the ministry’s deserted halls without incident. It was pathetic really. Maybe he should have applied for extra training, adding another two years on top of the three that was generally required to become an Auror. The Hit Wizards were always on the roll, attacking and capturing criminals everyday. Maybe he should have considered joining them rather than branching off into the Interrogation Division. He had to patrol like any other unspecialised Auror. But when someone was actually brought in, he had the licence and skill to interrogate them.
“Do you understand what I’m telling you, Zabini?” Gawain Robards asked, his voice snapping with impatience. He tried not to outwardly scowl at the man – being the Head of the Department and all – but found it extremely hard.
“Be subtle, I’ve got it,” he ground out as politely as he could. “But I would like to know why there is such a need for delicacy before I agree to anything,” Blaise added as an after thought, inwardly smirking at the tick in his superior’s jaw.
“You will be questioning a child,” the man replied carefully, nodding his head at the two Auror’s waiting nearby – one a replacement for him – before resuming their patrol.
Blaise blinked. “A child?” surely he was joking. There were certain procedures they had to follow, abstaining from questioning a child wherever they could being one of them. Children were…messy. They rarely remembered things objectively, noting their feelings rather than what happened. This was potentially problematic.
“This particular child has to be dealt with carefully, she’s already disposed of Mathews and Carter through a series of violent outbursts,” Robards explained, motioning for him to follow.
“Disposed?” He didn’t like the sound of that.
“Basically she scared the shit out of them, kicking and screaming. She scratched Mathews pretty bad when she went to give her a blanket,” his superior offered, turning a corner while conjuring a file. “This is an overview of what we can gather happened. You might want to talk to Mathews before going into the room. She might be able to give you a better insight into what not to say as she just finished interrogating the father,” Robards inclined his head abruptly and retreated into his office, leaving him alone in the corridor.
“Did someone say my name?” a tall, lean blonde came into view, hair pinned messily atop her head.
“Speak of the devil and she shall appear,” he quipped sarcastically, walking forward to join her in the lounge.
“Miss me, Zabini?” she asked sardonically, throwing him a saucy smile before plopping herself into one of the empty armchairs.
“Not a chance, Mathews,” his reply was easy, a smirk reaching his lips as he looked at her more closely. “You look like shit,” her hair was bedraggled, hastily bunched and knotted. “Were you asleep when they called you in?”
She scowled. “Of course I was bloody well asleep,” her voice rose, shrill with irritation. “It was my night off,”
Blaise whistled low and long, ignoring her glare. “Robards said you interrogated the father, care to tell me anything before I go in there?” he asked, making himself a cup of coffee in the process.
“So, he roped you into questioning the girl then?” she asked, rising from her chair to move and stand beside him.
“It looks that way,” he shrugged, adding a dollop of cream to his coffee. “Want to fill me in on what happened? I’m not particularly in the mood to read another one of Gellard’s longwinded reports,”
“Domestic dispute turned nasty,” she said nonchalantly, reaching for a coffee cup.
“Aren’t all domestic disputes nasty?” he asked, taking a sip of his hot drink before turning to look at her.
“The mother’s in hospital, unconscious but apparently stable. It’s nastier then most,” her hair bobbed to the side, strands falling loose as she shrugged her shoulders. “I talked to the husband but he seems too placid to have intentionally done anything. Besides, it’s not really in his character to do something like this,”
Blaise frowned. “Do you know him or something?”
“Ron Weasley,” she said simply, lifting her eyebrows in emphasis.
“Merlin’s Balls!” he swore under his breath, looking at her disbelievingly. “What the hell happened to make Weasel blow his top?” the question slipped out before he had time to refine his wording, the use of his friend, Draco’s, old nickname for the redhead causing his lips to curl upwards in a smirk.
“Don’t really know yet. He’s too shaken up to answer anything properly which makes me more inclined to believe that this was an accident. But Robards is pushing for a conviction considering the Malfoys were there – ”
“Malfoys!? You mean Lucius, Narcissa and Draco?” he couldn’t believe his ears. His best mate had no reason to be at Ron Weasley’s house – at least he didn’t think he did.
“Are there any other Malfoys you know of?” she retorted, light blue eyes sharp with annoyance. “Besides, Robards has his heart set on convicting them, which was why he pushed me to question Ron Weasley as quickly as he did. Apparently there was a bit of a tussle between Weasley and your friend Draco. But no one really knows why the Malfoys were there,” biting her lower lip, she stirred in the last of her chocolate concoction, deep in thought. “What form does Narcissa Malfoy’s patronus take?”
“A swan…I think,” he answered immediately, brow scrunched in confusion.
Her eyes lit up. “Here,” she shoved the coffee cup into his hand. “She might be more receptive if you have a peace offering to begin with. The poor thing’s pretty shaken up, so take it easy on her. I think that’s where Carter and I went wrong,”
“Mathew’s, where are you goi –”
“Lila,” she cut in, throwing him a quick smile. “How many times do I have to tell you? Call me Lila,” there was something behind her eyes that made him smile. She’d exited so quickly that he couldn’t help but think that she’d discovered something unexpected and quite possibly vital to the case.
Lila Mathews. She was the reason his parents had disowned him. The flirty blonde had been the first person to give him a chance after the war, easily becoming his friend. She was a half-blood and therefore an unacceptable friend according to his mother and father. When it came down to a choice, he’d chosen her over them, his inheritance vanishing along with the rest of his parents’ love. It didn’t matter now. Lila was his friend…potentially something more.
With a heavy sigh, Blaise braced himself, glancing over the file Robards had given him. It was all pretty much the same, only more longwinded than Lila’s quick brief. They’d given the child a small dose of a fatigue restoration potion, which would ensure that for the next hour or so she’d be awake enough to answer their questions. He didn’t particularly like the idea of administering such a potent potion to a child. But there was no use in arguing with his superiors over it now. The deed was done.
Using his elbow to twist the handle, Blaise opened the door, walking inside after a moment’s hesitation. The room was virtually bare, with only a table and two chairs to decorate its already bleak design. No wonder the child was scared, it was hardly a warm, cheery place. Looking around the room, he finally noticed a mop of blonde hair in one of the far corners, crouched down and almost completely hidden in the shadows. He would have to take an informal approach, especially since the child was so young.
After quietly closing the door, he made his way over to the child, uncertain of how to approach her. If she had reacted badly to Lila, then how would she react to him? In order to get what he wanted he had to gain her trust. How he accomplished that remained to be seen. He would have to wing it. Remembering Lila’s earlier advice, he tentatively lowered himself to sit on the cold cement floor, pushing the steaming cup of hot chocolate in front of him. All children liked chocolate, didn’t they?
He was careful not to make any sudden movements. It was important that the child felt comfortable with his presence and he didn’t want to speak too soon, choosing to wait for her to make the first move. After several long moments, a tiny hand reached out to take the cup of hot chocolate. Her figure was still hidden in the shadows, but he could make out a few features here and there. She was a pretty little thing.
“My name’s Rose,” her voice broke the silence without warning, and within seconds she’d shuffled forward and out of the shadows. He was immediately struck by how familiar she looked. But for the life of him, Blaise couldn’t figure out why.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Rose. My name is Blaise,” he replied politely, frowning at how small and frail she looked. “Are you cold, Rose?” she nodded. “Would you like a blanket?” he didn’t hesitate to conjure a pale blue woollen quilt, her nod of affirmation all he needed.
“Thank you,” her voice was meek with exhaustion. Accepting the blanket, she hugged it close to her chest, startling him when tears began to pool in her eyes.
Fidgeting uncomfortably, Blaise tried to figure out what to do next. He wasn’t good with tears. “Uh – Rose, don’t cry,” as soon as the words left his mouth, he inwardly cursed himself for being so stupid. Because telling her not to cry is really going to work, he thought cynically. Accompanying the tears was now a quivering bottom lip.
“Why can’t I see my mummy?” Rose asked, sniffing tearfully. “The mean man said I couldn’t see my mummy,” her hands fisted against the blanket. “Why?” for the second time that night, she startled him. There was such a stubborn, demanding look in her eyes. He was sure he’d seen that expression before.
“I’m not sure, Rose,” he answered, inwardly cursing Carter for being such an idiot. “But I promise you I’ll take you to see your mother if you can answer a few questions for me?”
“Okay,” she answered slowly, an expectant look on her face.
“Can you tell me what happened to your mother?” it was probably one of the hardest questions to ask her, but he had to start somewhere.
Nibbling on her bottom lip, Rose stared up at him sadly, her large hazel-brown eyes filled with unshed tears. “They – They was yelling,” she said carefully.
“Who was yelling?”
“Mummy and daddy,” she answered plainly, sniffing away her tears. “They was fighting about me…” her voice trailed off.
“I’m sure it wasn’t your fault,” he reassured her, reaching out tentatively to pat her arm. “Can you tell me what happened next?”
She nodded. “Mummy told me to goes up to my room…but I didn’t. I – I hid on the stairs. Daddy was very, very scary and he was yelling at mummy,” her hands were moving around animatedly as she retold the story. “Daddy said something and mummy yelled back…I think she saids “I thought she was yours” or something likes that. I don’t really know,” Rose frowned in contemplation.
She doesn’t look like a Weasley, he thought suddenly. Blonde hair, hazel-brown eyes; her features were slightly pointed and completely unlike the rounded features of her father. If he is her father? Perhaps that was what they had been fighting about, Rose’s parentage. It would certainly make sense.
“Then mummy said somethings and I thought she had an ouchie, so I went down the stairs. Mummy always kisses my ouchies better,” she said matter-of-factly, drawing his attention back to her. “Daddy saw me and mummy fell…she wouldn’t wakes up,” her bottom lip began to quiver again, and before he could say or do anything, she was crying uncontrollably.
“Ros – ”
“The nice man said she would wakes up,” she wailed. “He prom-iss-ed!”
Nice man? There was still the matter of the Malfoys. Could Draco be this ‘nice man’ she was referring to?
“The nice man?” he asked, prompting her to continue. If he could just keep her talking, then hopefully she’d let slip something that could help Draco and his family. From what he could gather, they hadn’t been in the wrong…for once.
“H-he was very, very nice. And thens there was a lady – she was nice too! He called her Sis – Sisseh – Sissa…I think,” Rose hiccuped, rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand.
She couldn’t mean Lucius, could she? The thought alone was unfathomable, but at the same time it made perfect sense…sort of. Draco certainly wouldn’t call his mother Cissa, and considering that was Lucius’ nickname for his wife, it had to have been him. Why would Lucius console a child? And why would he console a Weasley, at that? But was she really a Weasley? Rose had said her parents had been fighting about her, hadn’t she? There was also the matter of what her mother had yelled. “I thought she was yours.” He was missing something.
“This nice man, was his name by any chance Lucius?”
Her eyes lit up and she nodded her head vehemently. The puzzle was getting stranger by the minute. He knew there was something he was missing, something important. What was more, he knew that he knew what it was. Blonde hair. Pointed features. The Malfoys. Rose. Blaise shook his head – it wasn’t possible.
“Rose, were the Mal – did the nice man and his wife say anything in particular?” he looked at her carefully this time, scrutinizing every feature.
“They asked if I was okay,” her face was scrunched up in concentration as she tried to remember. “And the lady saids I was beaut-i-ful…I don’t really remembers,”
It was there, but only for a second. An expression he’d seen so many times, he wondered how he hadn’t noticed it before. Of course he didn’t want to believe it. But as he went over all the facts in his head, he had to admit that it was the perfect explanation. Rose was roughly four years-old by his guess, which meant…
“Rose, can you tell me when your birthday is, please?”
“Sep-tem-bah 1,” she replied, counting the syllables on her hand as she pronounced the word.
Shit. That would mean – if his theory was correct that was – that Draco and Granger would have had have been together…The Battle of Hogwarts. What was it his father had said? Tardiness. He’d ranted about how Lucius had never taught his son proper manners, or how to be punctual. Double shit. Draco had been late, arriving seconds before the battle was about to begin.
“Can I see my mummy now?” Rose asked suddenly, staring up at him with clouded eyes.
Blaise gulped, standing up awkwardly. “Yeah, kiddo,” she took his hand easily. “I’ll take you to see your mum. But she’s a bit tired, so you have to be careful not to wake her. Okay?”
And after I’m done doing that, I’m going to have a nice long chat with Draco.
.: 3 Days Later :.
It hurt. Her whole body felt like lead, every muscle aching with a defined stillness. Hermione didn’t understand what was going on. The last thing she remembered was falling, her little girl’s terrified scream resounding throughout the room. After that, there was nothing. She faintly remembered hearing a deep voice trying to calm Rose, but it could have been her imagination. There was just so much she didn’t understand. Ron had been so upset, but the moment she’d told him he was hurting her, he let go. He would never hurt her. It didn’t matter how angry or upset he was, Ron Weasley was not a violent man, and he would never strike another in anger. But if that was true, then why did she hurt like this? If it was true, why had Rose been screaming?
Panicked, Hermione tried to sit up, the crisp bed sheets scratching uncomfortably against her skin. There was something wrong about the feel of them, something inexplicably clinical. It faintly reminded her of…St Mugos! Blinking rapidly, Hermione tried to adjust to the sudden onslaught of bright light. Her arms ached from the effort, but she gritted her teeth against the pain and forced herself into a sitting position. She definitely wasn’t at home.
“Rose,” she called out, voice hoarse from being unused. Hermione imagined that if she ever swallowed sandpaper, this would be the sensation that followed. “Ros –”
“Hush now, dear,” a soothing voice drowned out her scratchy plea. “Yer in St Mungos. Had a nasty bump teh the head yeh did. Now, drink this up and yeh’ll be better in no time,” Hermione felt a vial being pushed against her mouth, the woman’s Irish lilt calming her initial panic.
Drinking the vial’s icy contents, she immediately felt the muscles in her arms and legs begin to relax. After a few moments, Hermione opened her eyes fully and looked around the room, searching for the woman who’d soothed her pain. She wanted to know what had happened and the easiest way to do that was to ask questions. Hopefully this woman could answer them.
“I see the potion has taken affect,” Hermione looked up to see a small darkhaired witch enter the room. At seeing her expression, the woman continued. “I jus’ had teh pop outside for a bit and talk teh one o’ the interns. I’m Healer Finnigan by the way, and I’ve been lookin’ after yeh for the past three days. It’s good teh see yeh awake, dear,” the woman smiled as she scanned over her file, moving to stand beside the bed.
Three days? Had she been out that long? Who had been taking care of Rose?
“Finnigan?” instead of asking the obvious questions, her curiosity got the better of her.
“Aye, yeh went teh school with me lil’ brother didn’ yeh?” she replied easily, plucking a blue ballpoint pen from behind her ear, making a note on her chart. “Funny lil’ things, these are. The hospital board’s makin’ us use ‘em yeh know? More efficient they say,” the woman shook her head, glancing abhorrently at the muggle pen. “But I s’pose beggars can’t be choosers,”
Smiling politely at the woman, Hermione tried to get into a more comfortable position, wincing as her head began to ache. “Do you know where my daughter is?” grimacing again, she reached up to touch the back of her head.
“The lil’ blonde lass impatiently stompin’ around outside yeh mean?” Healer Finnigan offered laughingly. “Aye, last time I saw she went teh get an ice-cream. She should be back soon though. I have teh say, she’s a cute lil’ thing if I ev’r saw one. This should help with yer head,” she said comfortingly, holding out what looked to be a very unappealing green sludge like potion.
Looking disdainfully at the potion, Hermione pinched the end of her nose and gulped down its contents. “I don’t suppose you could tell me what happened, Healer Finnigan?” she grimaced, trying not to splutter at the horrible aftertaste in her mouth. Regardless of the taste, the pain began to ease.
“Had a nasty fall yeh did. Them Aurors been sniffin’ about waitin’ for yeh teh wake up and tell ‘em what happened, but I s’pose it’s their job. Wouldn’ mind givin’ ‘em a piece o’ me mind, mind yeh,” by the scornful look on the other woman’s face, she could tell that something had upset the healer more than she was letting on. “Call me Charlie, by the way. It’s actually Charlotte, but only me m’am calls me that.”
“But why would the Aurors’ be interested in what happened, it was an accident?” she asked thoughtfully, smiling in appreciation as Charlie propped another pillow behind her back.
“Aye, but they don’ know that, do they? Been thinkin’ it was intentional an all with yer husband clammin’ up and yer little girl supplyin’ the rest o’ the story. Couldn’ be sure, but I think they’ve been waitin’ for yeh to wake up an tell ‘em yer side o’ the story before convictin’ him,” the darkhaired witch offered with a shrug of her shoulders.
“But it was an accident! They can’t convict him for something he didn’t intentionally set out to do…” she exclaimed, voice trailing off. “It was my fault really,”
She was beginning to seriously question whether she’d made the right decision or not. So much had happened in the wake of her confession that she couldn’t help but wonder if it had all been worth it. Ron was Merlin knows where, being accused of a crime he didn’t commit and Rose had apparently been subjected to the whole thing. The Aurors had questioned her little girl, which meant that Rose had to have been present when they’d arrived at the scene. It was then that Hermione realised Rose hadn’t gone to bed like she’d been told to. Rose was never one to play by the rules.
“Well, yeh best be tellin’ them that when they come by,” Charlie said in a soothing voice. “We healers’ are a very nosy bunch. Hear more then we should tha’s for sure and often come teh the wron’ conclusions we do – when it comes teh gossip tha’ is,” she joked, trying to cheer her up. “I’ll jus’ go and see if I can find yer Rosie for yeh, shall I?”
“Please,” Hermione nodded, offering a small smile to her companion. “And thank you for everything you’ve done,”
“Yeh should be thankin’ the Malfoys yeh know. They saved yer life,” Charlie said casually, not noticing the horrified expression on her face. “And they’ve been ev’r so good with lil’ Rosie, ‘specially the youngest one,”
Hermione barely noticed as Charlie exited the room, a cold dread seeping into her bones. They’d saved her life…and they knew about Rose. Her night couldn’t get any worse.
“Hello, Granger,” the icy drawl caused her to wince.
Spoke too soon.
Looking up warily, her eyes landed on an oddly calm Draco Malfoy leaning against the doorframe of her room, blocking any and all escape routes. Not that I have the energy to make a run for it, she thought sourly. Hermione knew better than to judge a situation just by looking at its surface. Draco Malfoy may have looked the epitome of a calm, uninterested man. But she could tell…he was pissed.
Chapter 9: A Malfoy
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Chapter Image made by Sammm of TDA!
Author's Note: I'm sorry for the long wait but as I said before, I am swamped with school work at the moment. That and I have had a fair few family dramas over the past few months to deal with. Hopefully the wait was worth it...
.: Chapter Nine – A Malfoy :.
Tuesday, May 7, 2002
Her initial reaction was to flee, to run away and hope that all her troubles would magically disappear. In truth, Hermione knew that running away was not an option. She had hid from the reality of her lies for too long. It was time she faced up to the truth and accepted the consequences of her actions. Being a Gryffindor didn’t mean she was without fear; she had strength inside her, a source of power that enabled her to go through life meeting each struggle head on. Strength was what made her a Gryffindor, not a lack of fear. Her lies had caused nothing but pain; it was time to rectify that. The problem was she didn’t know how.
He stood there stock still, just staring. His eyes were still that cool, indiscernible grey she remembered. During their Hogwarts years she had always been able to tell what he was thinking by just looking at his eyes. While he was a master at schooling his emotions, his eyes had always been his downfall. They expressed every emotion he felt whether he wanted them to or not. It was the reason why she had been able to rile him up as easily as she had; like que cards, they’d told her what to do, or say next. Looking at him now, she could tell he was angry. Surprisingly though, he didn’t seem to be as infuriated as she’d expected him to be. But that didn’t mean he was past letting her lies go unpunished.
As if sensing her line of thought, he smirked, arrogantly taking a few steps into the room. It was then that she noticed the partially healed graze on his cheek. While there were potions to soothe pain and spells to heal physical damage, healers often let minor things such as cuts and scrapes heal on their own. He had obviously been in a fight. Charlie had said that he – along with his mother and father – had saved her life, which meant that…he’d fought with Ron. But why would he have fought with him? It didn’t make any sense. Something had to have provoked him, because unlike Ron he had control of his temper…or at least she thought he did. A lot can change in five years. Maybe he wasn’t as in control as he had been at school.
“Mummy!” her voice was drowned out as Rose came hurtling through the door.
She noticed how Malfoy quickly shifted to the side, giving Rose all the access she needed to throw herself onto the hospital bed. Hermione barely had time to brace herself before a mop of blonde curls obscured her vision. Rose clung to her, tiny arms clamped around her neck. All Hermione could do to keep from crying was remind herself repeatedly that they were not alone. She would be damned if Draco Malfoy saw her breakdown.
“And what’s all this about, cricket?” she asked, her hands gently stroking Rose’s soft curls. It was soothing, if not comforting, just holding her little girl like this.
Rose pulled back, arms still wrapped around her neck. “You’re awake,” the happy, joyful expression on the child’s face caused Hermione to smile.
“And that’s cause for celebration?” she asked laughingly, placing a chaste kiss on the little blonde’s forehead. Rose frowned, not really understanding her words. “You’re happy I’m awake?” Hermione rephrased the question, smiling when Rose nodded her head vehemently.
“I’m very, very, very, very happy you’re awake, mummy,” a joyful expression appeared on the little girl’s face. “Because now I can gives you a big hug!” for emphasis, Rose buried her head in the crook of her neck and squeezed. “They wouldn’t lets me hug you until you was awake, and now you are!” she cried happily as she pulled back.
Hermione frowned. “They wouldn’t let you hug me?”
What kind of people didn’t let a little girl hug her mother? She knew that hospitals these days were more about profit than patient care. But Hermione had at least thought they’d be sympathetic to a little four year-old girl whose mother was hospitalised. How was Rose supposed to know what was happening other than by what she was told? Rose would have been so confused, so scared...
“The potions they administered put you into a coma-like state. They wanted you to heal in your own time, which made it impossible for Rose to hug you without essentially waking you up before the healing process had finished,” Draco answered easily from across the room, his explanation quelling a little of the anger that had flared up inside her. She spared him a brief glance before turning back to Rose.
“Sweetheart, who have you been staying with all this time?” Hermione asked, gently stroking her daughter’s hair.
From what she could gather, she’d been in St Mungos for three days. In that time Rose had to have had some contact with Draco because she acted so easily around him. While Rose had an abundance of personality, when it came to meeting new people, she was exceptionally shy and introverted. That meant that she had met Draco, but what’s more, it meant that she’d liked him.
“With Nana Jean and Gampa Jeffey,” Rose answered happily, bouncing on the bed in her excitement.
Unbeknownst to the little girl, Hermione let out a small sigh of relief. She’d been worried when Charlie had said that Ron was in custody, because that left very few people Rose could have stayed with. Hermione didn’t think that the Aurors would have left Rose with Molly and Arthur because of the unknown status between her and Ron. That left both Harry and Luna, Alyson, or her parents. But it also put the Malfoys into contention since they too had a right to see Rose. She was just happy that it had been her parents to take care of the little girl and not the Malfoys. Regardless of what they may have done for her, she wasn’t prepared to face the reality of them having an equal say in her daughter’s life just yet.
“And I bet they’ve spoiled you rotten,” she laughed, playfully tickling the little girl into squealing submission. “Haven’t they?”
Rose’s only reply was a toothy grin.
“Aye, they spoiled this lil’ lass rotten, I’ll tell yeh,” Charlie’s voice sounded from the doorway. “I’m sorry to be interuptin’ but I jus’ came in teh see if yeh’d be needin’ anythin’ in the next hour or so – I finally get teh have me break, yeh see. Do wonders never cease?” the darkhaired witch asked jovially, smiling when Rose waved at her.
Hermione glanced discreetly at Draco and then back at Rose, brow creased in thought. “Actually Charlie, would you mind taking Rose for a bit. I know it’s your brea –”
“Don’ be ridiculous, dear. Of course I’ll take lil’ Rosie with me, Merlin knows I’d love the company,” Charlie cut in, silently indicating with her eyes that she understood. “Come on yeh lil’ imp, let’s go and get somethin’ teh eat,”
Rose jumped off the bed happily and ran forward, reaching out to take Charlie’s offered hand. Hermione couldn’t hear what her daughter was saying, but by her stance, she could tell that Rose was trying to con Charlie into getting what she wanted. It had always been Rose’s way to try and get what she wanted by any means necessary. When she was only three, turning four, Molly had insisted on throwing her a large birthday party. And while Rose had loved the idea of a party, she hadn’t exactly liked the idea of spending it with her cousins.
Hermione remembered Rose’s theatrical display, proclaiming she had a tummy ache and wanted to go home immediately. She’d duped both her and Ron so easily that they’d agreed to take her home, presents and birthday cake in tow. By the time they’d realised that Rose was fine, there was nothing they could do except verbally reprimand her for being so sneaky and selfish. And then came Ron’s famous speech about Gryffindor morals and how if she wasn’t careful, she’d end up in Slytherin. Despite being only four, Hermione could already tell what house her daughter was going to be in and it wasn't Gryffindor.
As the door gently clicked shut, Hermione was snapped out of her stupor. She had asked Charlie to take Rose for one reason and one reason only; she needed to talk to Draco. The conversation was inevitable. By no means was she prepared, but she knew that regardless of how ready she was, she had to sort this out tonight…or at least try to. He had every right to be angry with her, just as she had the right as Rose’s mother to decide what was best for her. From what she could tell, his family hadn’t rejected the idea of Rose being one of them. And that thought alone was disquieting to Hermione.
“It was one night,” she stated feebly, breaking the silence between them. Regardless of everything that had happened, Hermione couldn’t bring herself to look him in the eye.
“Yet here we are,” he remarked, an emphatic expression on his face.
Hermione winced. “I thought she was Ron’s,” her voice shook, quiet and barely audible.
“And how long was it exactly before you realised she wasn’t?” his reply was sharp and to the point, filled with a condescending undercurrent.
“You have no right to judge me,” her retort came out in a hissed whisper. His words sparked an anger inside her, the boiling heat causing her jaw to clench painfully.
Fiery determination forced her to look him in the eye. She would be damned if he thought that he could waltz in here and play the victim. There was no way she could have known that Rose was his daughter when she married Ron. The possibility had been there, but when weighed against all the other factors, probability had pointed to Ron being her father and not him. By the time she knew the truth too much had happened for her to just drop everything and take a risk on him. If she’d told him about Rose and he decided to turn his back on both of them, then not only would she have ruined her chance with Ron, but with him as well. She had been young and scared. Rose had needed a father and she’d known for sure that Ron would be there. Despite her conscience telling her that it was the right thing to do, there was no way she was willing to take the risk and have him turn his back on both of them.
“I think I have at least a little right, don’t you?” he hissed back, eyes flashing in anger.
“I’ll admit that maybe what I did was wrong, but I did what I thought was right at the time,” she replied with indignation, jutting her chin out defiantly.
“You know,” he started, folding his arms across his chest contemplatively. “For a Gryffindor your morals are slightly skewed,” the smirk on his face did little to hide the still prominent anger in his eyes.
“And for a Slytherin’s yours aren’t?” she snapped hotly, resisting the urge to lunge at him. If only she could wrap her fingers around his neck and squeeze…
“I’ll concede to you on that,” his voice quickly killed the violent fantasy. “But don’t think for a second that I’m going to just let this drop,”
Hermione blinked. “She’s none of your concern. I don’t expect anything from you and nor do I want for anything,” her tone was clipped and defiant.
If he thought that his money would suffice, then he was wrong. She didn’t need his money. Rose didn’t need his money. They would be perfectly fine on their own. He may have wanted to do the noble thing, or maybe he just wanted to pay her off. But whatever it was, Hermione refused to accept his charity when she was perfectly capable of providing for both her and Rose. That was until his motives became clear. If he genuinely wanted to get to know Rose and help out, then she wouldn’t deny him that. Until then…
“You’re going to have to suck it up, Granger, because I’m not going anywhere,” he snapped, stepping threateningly toward the bed, an irritated sneer on his face. “She is my concern whether you like it, or not,”
“Why do you even care?” Hermione sighed irritably.
“Because she’s my daughter,”
“And she’s been doing perfectly fine without you for the last four years,” she snapped in response. The second the words left her lips, Hermione felt guilty for saying them. A hurt expression crossed his face, but was gone within seconds of it being there. He was trying to help…she could see that now. But their past was getting in the way of any solution, or understanding they could possibly come to. “Sorry,” her eyes immediately lowered to the bed, ashamed.
“I don’t need your sympathy, Granger,” he replied quietly. She felt the bed dip as he sat down beside her.
Looking up to meet his eyes, Hermione wondered how they’d come to be here. So much had happened that at times it all seemed blurred. The lines between right and wrong were now covered in grey. Had she made the right decision in keeping Rose from him? A week ago she would have said yes, but now…now she couldn’t be so sure. It was obvious to her that he at least wanted to get to know Rose. He wouldn’t be here if he didn’t.
“Why are you here, Malfoy?” she asked tiredly.
“Because it doesn’t matter that I only found out about her thirteen days ago. She is still my daughter. By default it’s my responsibility to take care of her, or at least be a part of her life,” his answer left her stunned. He was still the same boy she had known back in school, only now he was more mature and respectful. Perhaps she had made the wrong decision. If he’d had the chance he would have given Rose everything he had to give, she could see that now.
“I…” her voice trailed off. How was she supposed to admit to her mistake? Saying sorry would not erase the years he had lost with Rose. Were there any words great enough to suffice? She didn’t think so. “Perhaps I made a mistake,” she said quietly, meeting his gaze.
“Perhaps you did,”
It was only a matter of time. She’d had her fair share of waiting, now it was time to act. If what her mother said was true, then the foundations of her marriage weren’t as stable as she’d originally thought them to be. Her situation was precarious at best. The only way to ensure her position was to give them what they wanted…in a roundabout way of course. No one need know of the little change in plan, because if everything went the way she expected it to, then she would be set for life. It was brilliant really – her plan. They wanted an heir and she’d give them one, or at least she’d let them think she did. Draco would never have to know, none of them would. As long as they thought she’d given birth to a Malfoy, she was safe; diamonds would continue to dress her neck and the gold would continue to flow. She hardly cared whether it was morally right or not, as long as the plan worked in her favour, she was happy.
While most people thought she was just a pretty face, Daphne knew better. As far as she was concerned having people underestimate her was an advantage. They wouldn’t expect her to be able to devise a plan such as this, and that was perfectly fine with her. If they didn’t suspect, she wouldn’t be caught. It was as simple as that. The Malfoys need be none the wiser – what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. As long as Theo kept his mouth shut everything would work out perfectly.
Daphne knew her marriage to Draco could be over in the blink of an eye, which was why her plan had to be implemented as soon as possible. For the time being, she would have to rely on Lucius and Narcissa when it came to Draco. His unpredictable nature had the potential to destroy her carefully constructed plan before it had even taken flight. If he was more inclined toward a divorce than working things out between them, then she would have to put her faith in her in-laws and their social vanity. Narcissa would rather die than see her son divorce a Greengrass, Daphne was sure of it. And given her husband’s unsteady relationship with his father, she was sure that Draco would rather obey his father’s command than risk his wrath.
Everything would work out perfectly, it was simply a matter of patience and a little thing called subtly. Theo would never know the child was his; she would make sure of that. After all, no one would notice if the child inherited his looks. As distantly related as they were, they both held similar physical features – only hers were more refined. Everything bar his eyes, she could explain. If the child inherited his eyes…well, a simple glamour charm would have to suffice.
“Hey Daph, you out there?” It was a pity the sleeping draught she’d slipped into his drink hadn’t lasted longer.
With a heavy sigh, Daphne extinguished her muggle cigarette. There were some things she would never attest to, but it had to be said that those muggle vermin were good for something other than sport, even if it was as trivial as an invention such as this ‘cigharet’ – or whatever they called it.
“I’ll be inside in a minute, darling,” she purred over her shoulder, quickly shuffling through her handbag. The sex wasn’t that great, but at least it was mildly satisfying. As long as she played her part, he would be none the wiser.
“Don’t take too long, luv. Can’t keep a man waiting, you know?” Theo’s gruff voice made her shudder. He really was a revolting species of man. If she wasn’t so sure of his pureblood heritage, she would have guessed that he had troll blood in him. She’d just have to hope that the child inherited her looks rather than his – if not, well, she could always blame it on her father’s side of the family. Draco would never know the difference.
Smiling triumphantly as her hand clasped around a small glass vial, Daphne quickly uncorked the small bottle and downed its contents. She felt a warmth spread throughout her body, eventually settling in her stomach. A fertility potion would ensure her plan was a success, and then, as they say, the rest is history.
“Molly, sweetheart, you have to calm down,” Arthur tried desperately to soothe his wife’s shrill cries, sighing for what seemed to be the hundredth time as his words fell on deaf ears.
“How can I calm down, Arthur, when my poor baby boy is – is being brutalised by those – those vultures!?” she cried, her shoulders shaking with each violent sob.
Arthur grimaced in response, easing himself into the seat beside her. If there was one thing he knew about his wife, it was that at times she could be uncompromisingly irrational. He wouldn’t deny that he was worried about his son, but there was very little he could do. They weren’t telling him or anyone else what was going on. It was only by chance that he had managed to find out that his son was being held in custody. No one had informed him, or his wife. As far as they had been concerned, Ron had been going about his daily routine. The fact that he hadn’t flooed should have been an indication that something was wrong, but they’d simply thought that he’d been working extra hours like he normally did.
“They’re only doing their jobs, Molly,” he sighed unconvincingly.
“Only doing their jobs!?” she asked flabbergasted, looking up at him through red rimmed eyes. “Only doing – Arthur, they have our son in custody! Our son!” her expression was incredulous as her eyes began to pool with more tears. “My poor baby…”
“We don’t know what they have arrested him for,” he stated weakly, grasping at straws in an attempt to comfort her.
“And that matters how?” the redheaded woman snapped in response.
“What would you have me say, Molly?” Arthur sighed, rubbing the back of his neck tiredly. “I don’t like this anymore than you do. But the fact that we know nothing of what has happened has to be an indication that the Ministry want to keep whatever happened quiet. I’m not even supposed to know about this, Molly. If I went storming into the Aurors’ Department demanding to see my son, then what do you think would happen? It was by pure chance that I overheard those two Aurors –”
“But – but –”
“I know, sweetheart. I’m just as torn up as you are, but we have to be realistic about this. It would do us no good to take a stand without knowing all the facts,” he cut in, reaching out to take her hand and squeeze it gently. “Ronald is a good boy, Molly. He wouldn’t have done anything untoward, I’m sure of it,” or at least he hoped he was.
His son had the quick Prewett temper; if someone had threatened his family, or said something to push his buttons in just the right way, then he wasn’t sure what his son was capable of. Molly was a testament to the fact that in extreme circumstances anyone could be capable of anything if it meant survival, or the protection of a loved one. She had killed Bellatrix Lestrange so mercilessly when the woman had threatened their only daughter, that Arthur could only love her more for the sacrifice she had made. For days after she had mourned Fred’s death, mumbling incoherently about karma and how she’d ended a life and that this was her punishment. If his wife was capable of committing something so heinous in order to protect their daughter, then their son would be capable of it too. He didn’t know what was going on, but he sure as hell would find out come morning.
“I just – I don’t understand how they could think our boy capable of committing a crime – any crime at that! He has such a sweet disposition and maybe a little of the Prewett temper. But he wouldn’t hurt a fly, Arthur! They can’t possibly think that –”
“We don’t know what they think, Molly,” his voice was sombre and uncharacteristically jaded.
The last thing they needed right now was another drama in their life. After the war they had struggled to adapt to the sudden normalcy of everything and Fred’s death had hit everybody hard. Ginny had been irreconcilable and had withdrawn into herself, pushing everyone away in her angst. George was still struggling with the loss of his twin brother, but Arthur supposed that Angelina was the one thing keeping him afloat. It was a strange relationship they had, Angelina being Fred’s ex and all. But they made it work in an almost effortless way. He was just happy that his son was smiling again.
Ginny, however, wasn’t. She would put her brave face on whenever anyone asked how she was, choosing to smile through the pain rather than admit that she was far from being alright. Harry had gone straight into the arms of Luna Lovegood, seeking her strangely worded comfort rather than Ginny’s cold, almost expressionless love. His little girl had never recovered from the loss and had since been selfdestructing, throwing herself into a world of parties, alcohol and Merlin knew what else. He couldn’t blame Harry after all he had been through; the boy had just wanted a quiet, normal life with a woman he loved. It was just unfortunate that that woman wasn’t Ginny.
“But why hasn’t Hermione flooed us!?” Molly cried hysterically, bringing his mind back to the present.
Truth be told, he was wondering the exact same thing.
“I don’t know, sweetheart,” his shoulders slumped in defeat. “I don’t know”
Chapter 10: Early Morning Discussions
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Chapter Image made by Sammm of TDA!
Author's Note: I am so sorry for the long wait. The school holidays are almost at an end and I've just realised how much work I've neglected these past two weeks. I've also started another story - two actually, though one is an original.
I won't ask you to review like crazy just because the crash erased the majority of my reviews for this story, but a review here or there wouldn't hurt! ;)
Anyway, this chapter doesn't have Draco in it but I promise that the next one will.
.: Chapter Ten – Early Morning Discussions :.
Wednesday, May 8, 2002
The house was empty, devoid of any signs of life. Hermione didn’t know what she’d expected to feel upon her return. But this cold, almost unwelcoming sensation that began to build in the pit of her stomach was startling. This had been her home – was her home – yet for some reason its once warm and welcoming décor no longer brought her comfort. Everything was exactly the same and remained unchanged. The walls were still sky blue and the stained floorboards a rustic, worn cedar. Nothing had changed, yet she felt that in someway it had. She no longer felt comfortable or welcome in her own home.
Perhaps it had something to do with Ron. Everything seemed so up in the air, so uncertain. This had been their home and now…now she wasn’t sure she wanted to stay. While she’d been certain that their relationship was over, she hadn’t even considered leaving the house. Rose had grown up knowing that this was her home, feeling secure and safe within its walls. But regardless of the memories the house held, it would continue to be a tie to the life she had led. She didn’t want to be constantly reminded of what was, of what could have still been if she hadn’t told Ron the truth. The memories would haunt her as long as she stayed.
Ron could have the house – that was if he wanted it. By the time all was said and done, perhaps he would feel the same way. Too much had happened and she was sure the memories of what seemed to be a happy life would only haunt him, mock him like they would her. She would give him a week, maybe two, and if he didn’t file for a divorce like she expected him to, then she would. Hermione didn’t want to put Rose through it all, especially since the change would be so dramatic for the little girl. But when she looked at things in the long term, this would be better for them…all of them.
It was extremely early in the morning, even for her. But she had planned it that way. St Mungos had wanted to keep her in for another day or two, but Hermione had flat out refused. She’d just wanted to go home, and now that she was here, she wanted to be anywhere but. Rose was fast asleep on her hip, wriggling every now and then uncomfortably. Her parents had dropped the little girl off close to midnight and waited with her while she gave her statement to the Aurors. They had been there for moral support and Hermione could honestly say that she wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.
“Mummy?” Hermione shifted Rose awkwardly on her hip, trying to get a better hold on her.
“Go back to sleep, cricket,” she cooed soothingly, closing the front door as quietly as she could behind her.
Rose snuggled closer, her arms wrapping around Hermione’s neck as sleep claimed her once more. It was too early in the morning for the little girl – that much was obvious. If there had been another way, she would have taken it. But Hermione wasn’t about to risk being seen by Skeeter or one of her lackeys exiting St Mungos. The woman would have come up with some outrageous story, accusing her of whatever popped into that ridiculous blonde head of hers. She didn’t want to deal with another article after everything she’d been through in the past couple of days. When the news of her divorce became public…well, there’d be plenty of articles spewing trash about her and Ron then.
As she slowly made her way up the stairs, Hermione thought back to what Draco had said. Loath as she was to admit it, she had made a mistake. He obviously cared to some degree about what happened to Rose, because if he didn’t, he probably would have let her be. Draco didn’t have to acknowledge Rose as his daughter, Hermione knew that much. But for some reason he actually wanted to. It confused her that he would risk his marriage for a daughter he barely knew. Admittedly, she knew that his wife, Daphne Greengrass, was far from being angelic. She had pranced around Hogwarts as if she owned it, expecting anyone and everyone to drop at her feet on command. But Hermione reasoned that Draco had to have married her for a reason.
“Shh, sweetheart,” Hermione whispered gently, laying Rose down on the small single bed, pulling its blue comforter up to tuck her in.
Wriggling tiredly, Rose grabbed the edge of the comforter and hugged it tight to her chest. After placing a chaste kiss on her forehead, Hermione exited the room, gently closing the door behind her. She didn’t want to imagine what it would be like when Rose woke up. Richard Hastings, her boss, had given her the rest of the week off despite her protests. Initially she’d been thankful for the time, but after thinking things over she’d come to realise that it might not be the best thing for her. In truth, she wasn’t sure she’d know what to do with the extra time. Hermione was always on the go, either working or caring for Rose. But now, for the rest of the week, she’d have enough time to let her thoughts get the better of her.
She had to get away. Her parents had offered to take her and Rose in for a couple of days, weeks even if she needed it. Perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The house would be a constant reminder of what had passed between her and Ron, and Hermione didn’t think she could deal with that at the moment. Staying with her parents seemed to be the ideal option. She would be somewhere she felt comfortable and Rose wouldn’t feel too put out at the sudden change of location. If anything, Rose would enjoy the stay, knowing that she’d be spoiled rotten by ‘Nanna Jean and Gampa Jeffey’.
Quietly walking down the stairs, Hermione resolved to call her parents later in the morning and ask them if their offer still stood. If there was one thing she was certain of at that moment, it was that she needed her mother and father. They may not have been magical like the rest of her world, but she didn’t love them any less for it. For years she had kept them in the dark about her adventures with Harry and Ron, telling them only what they wanted to hear. She’d tell them about her grades and classes, other students and her professors. But she would never tell them about the Philosophers Stone, the Chamber of Secrets and its basilisk within. Hermione had never told them any of it until after the war…and they certainly hadn’t been happy when they’d found out.
Just as she was about to enter the kitchen, Hermione froze. The blonde witch seemed completely unfazed by her reaction, generously filling an empty wine glass with merlot and sliding it across the table toward her, instead. Frowning slightly, Hermione walked over to the table and eased herself into a chair. First Lucius, then Draco and now it seemed Narcissa Malfoy wanted to talk with her. Hell had definitely frozen over – next the devil would be ice-skating a duet with Tom Riddle if things kept going the way they were.
Cautiously taking a sip of the wine, Hermione surveyed the woman opposite her. It was strange to think that this woman was Bellatrix Lestrange’s sister. From what she could see, they were polar opposites. Narcissa seemed more reserved than her late sister – not to mention sane. Hermione didn’t know what to make of her. She was exceptionally beautiful, but poignantly so. Her eyes, much like Draco’s, were the same indiscernible grey that was common in the Black family. But Narcissa’s eyes, unlike her son’s, were haunted by the past. Hermione could only imagine the horrors she had witnessed.
“Malfoy men can be quite stubborn, you know?” Narcissa mused quietly, taking a sip of wine from her glass.
What was she supposed to say to that? Yes, they’re both stubborn and stupid. Hermione doubted that would go down well.
“I don’t mean to sound rude, but do you mind telling me what you’re doing here?” she asked, trying to sound as polite as possible.
“I probably should have explained myself sooner,” the blonde witch admitted ruefully. “To put things quite plainly, I am here to save you from the underhanded scruples of both my son and husband. They are decidedly stubborn, as is their nature. Be thankful that I am here in their stead, as you would certainly have one or the other reclined on your couch refusing to leave,” taking another sip of her wine, the Malfoy matriarch gave an amused smile in her direction.
The idea of either Malfoy in her house, let alone reclining on her couch was enough to make her insides lurch. Hermione was sure that the look on her face showed as much because the other woman let out a velvety laugh. Narcissa Malfoy wasn’t at all who she expected her to be. Here was a woman who’d been raised with every pureblood ideal imaginable, yet she sat quite comfortably in the home of a muggleborn without a shred of disdain on her face.
“I don’t really understand, Mrs Malfoy,” she stated, voice filled with confusion.
“Call me Narcissa. Mrs Malfoy makes me sound too much like my mother-in-law,” the other woman answered, scrunching her nose up briefly at the thought of Lucius’ mother.
“Uh, okay…Narcissa,” Hermione said, shifting uncomfortably in her seat.
The older witch smiled. “Malfoys take care of their own, Hermione.”
“But – ”
“My son may have made a few grievous mistakes in his life…along with my husband. But do not mistake us for uncaring, dear girl, because we are. It is…unfortunate that Rose is not a pureblood,” at this Hermione bristled. “But inconsequential nonetheless,” Narcissa added quickly.
“I understand that there are a lot of grey areas in life, a lot of questionable decisions made by good people for the right reasons,” she said carefully, thinking about her own situation. “But I don’t understand why you, your husband or your son care so much about what happens to Rose. Surely this is the last thing you need right now, not to mention the last thing you actually want,” Hermione snapped in spite of her efforts to remain calm.
“Draco cares, as do my husband and I, because regardless of what we need or want, this is what we have,” the witch’s voice was calm and measured in comparison to her own.
Hermione flushed. “I just…I just don’t understand why he wants to be a part of her life,” she admitted quietly. “He can have legitime children with his wife, which solves the problem of having an heir. Why trouble himself with Rose when it will only cause a scandal?” she hadn’t had the chance to ask him that question herself as they’d been interrupted. But perhaps now she’d get the answers she craved.
“Because he can’t,” Narcissa replied softly.
“Can’t what?” she asked, confused.
“He can’t have any children with Daphne. Rose is it,”
Hermione didn’t know what to think. It felt as if her whole body had turned cold. Rose is it. Narcissa hadn’t meant that lightly, she could tell by the look on her face. Her little girl, her Rose was the Malfoy heir.
“Are – are you sure?”
Narcissa smiled sadly. “Positive,”
It certainly explained why they cared so much. Rose was their future, the one to carry on their name. Hermione felt numb from the shock. Her little girl suddenly had the world thrust upon her shoulders and she didn’t even know it. The expectations she would have to live up to – the reputation. How could any child deal with that? She wouldn’t allow it. There was no way her daughter was going to be put through anything like that.
“I don’t believe you,” she said sharply, her eyes taking on an indignant quality.
“There is a curse upon our family,” the blonde witch started, calmly taking a sip of wine. “Perhaps curse is the wrong term. Enchantment sounds much better. Yes, an enchantment was placed long ago on the men of the Malfoy line, being carried on through each generation. Rose was conceived before Draco was wed to Daphne Greengrass, which in turn is the reason for why my son cannot conceive a child with his wife. You see, this spell ensures that no child can be born to any woman other than a Malfoys’ wife. Since Rose was conceived before he married Daphne the spell is sort of…well, to put it quite plainly, the spell recognises you as the mother of his children and not her,”
Hermione swallowed hard. “So, you’re saying that he can’t have any children with her because some spell thinks that I’m…” she shook her head disbelievingly. “This is ridiculous,”
“Is it really?”
“Well, who would cast something like that?!” her voice rose with each word as panic began to set in.
“A jealous ancestor whose husband had an affair which resulted in a child being born,” Narcissa answered easily, not pausing to consider her words.
Hermione felt trapped. The walls seemed to be closing in on her, getting smaller and smaller with each passing second. Narcissa Malfoy wasn’t lying. Her face said it all; there was no denying the truth. Rose was their heir and there was nothing she could do about it. They had no choice but to acknowledge the little girl – half-blood or not – because she was all they had. It was all too much.
“There has to be a way to break it,” she said hurriedly, rising from her chair in an agitated manner.
“I’m sorry, but there isn’t,” the woman paused thoughtfully. “You look tired. Perhaps you should go upstairs and rest. The past few hours has most definitely been harrowing for you. When you are well-rested and feeling better in yourself, perhaps then we can continue this conversation,”
She wanted to scream. Was this woman for real? The last thing she wanted to do was go upstairs and pretend that her carefully constructed world wasn’t falling apart. Hermione could – to some degree – understand Narcissa’s reasoning. But her once rational mind was clouded by exhaustion and disbelief. It was hard for her to comprehend everything the woman had divulged, especially when it concerned her little angel upstairs. Rose wouldn’t be able to understand why her world was changing so dramatically. Everything she knew would change and there was no way she’d be able to understand why. She was only four years-old…
Perhaps the woman was right. The potions Charlie had given her before leaving were making her somewhat drowsy. She was also having a hard time digesting all the information she’d just been given. There was so much she had to consider now. Hermione hadn’t for a second believed that Draco, let alone his family, would find out about Rose so soon. Now that she knew why they cared as much as they did about what happened to Rose, Hermione knew that there was no way they were going to just leave. They were determined to be a part of her life now.
“I…” Hermione shook her head, running a hand over her face tiredly. “I don’t know what to make of all this,” she admitted quietly. “Perhaps you’re right. I am feeling a little drained,”
Narcissa smiled sympathetically. “There is no point in wearing yourself out. You have Rose to take care of as well as yourself. Go, get some sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up,”
Nodding wearily, Hermione made her way out of the room and up the stairs. She didn’t know whether to feel comforted or perturbed by the woman’s kindness – if it was that. Narcissa Malfoy was by marriage and birth, related to some very manipulative and baleful people. Hermione had to understand her motives before she could fully trust the woman. She could understand now why Draco cared, but she would remain cautious around his parents. Not everything could be trusted where they were concerned – at least, not until she learned more about their true intentions. And she hoped to god that they were true, because she wanted to believe that people could change.
He couldn’t sleep. There was just something irrevocably worrisome about the way the Aurors had dodged his questions. If he’d had been in a more argumentative mood, Harry was sure that he’d have had his answers by now. But Lily had been with him at the time, her large green eyes starring up at him adoringly. Even if he had wanted to argue the point further, he couldn’t. Lily was at the age where she repeated everything he said; Luna would have had a fit if he’d come home and their daughter was happily repeating some expletive that’d slipped out of his mouth. Only yesterday she’d been running around the house yelling ‘bloody’ over and over again – though it had come out more like ‘bluggey’. He was just thankful Luna hadn’t been home to hear her.
Their marriage was just like any other. There were ups and downs, not to mention a few nights spent on the couch. But Harry knew that despite everything life threw at them, they’d get through it together. He wasn’t so sure the same could be said for Hermione and Ron. When he really thought about it – their marriage – he couldn’t see them getting through this. Ron loved Rose unconditionally; she was his little ‘Rosie’, his angel. Harry couldn’t imagine what it would feel like if someone told him his little Lily wasn’t his.
They’d gotten married right after the war, and while he wanted to believe it was because they had loved each other, he couldn’t. Ron may have agreed to the marriage, or pushed for it like he had, because he loved Hermione and wanted to do the right thing by her. But looking at it now, he could see his best friend, Hermione, had only agreed to marry Ron because of Rose. He didn’t want to believe that he’d missed the poignant looks of resignation on her wedding day, but he had. Oh, she had smiled for the cameras and played her part well. It was only now that he could see the cheerless expression she’d carried.
Was he that bad a friend? He’d known her for seven years, yet he had been unable to distinguish happiness from resignation on her wedding day. Even now, he wasn’t sure he could tell the difference. Hermione had always been the smart one. At times he’d believed her an angel with the amount of shit she put up with from Ron. The redhead could be unbelievably dense at times, not to mention his morals questionable. There was no denying that his friend had a good heart and the best of intentions. But at times, Ron could think of nothing but himself and what he wanted. Harry supposed it had something to do with growing up in such a large, overbearing family.
“Harry?” Luna shifted against him, one leg wrapping around his as she snuggled closer.
“Go back to sleep, love,” he hushed gently, wrapping an arm around her petite shoulders.
“Wmbf imb if ig?,” she mumbled, burying her head into his chest.
“Sorry, but I didn’t quite catch that,” he laughed, pushing her hair over her shoulder and watching as it cascaded down her back like a blanket.
Tilting her head up, Luna smiled at him sleepily “I said; what time is it?” she yawned, stretching out like a cat.
Harry couldn’t help but smile in response to her actions. To him, she was the adorable, caring, sometimes odd and often unknowingly sexy woman he’d married. But to everyone else she was the oddball, the crazy, eccentric and not-all there woman everyone thought he’d taken pity on. It angered him to think that they – meaning the general public and press – thought that he’d only married her out of pity. She was so much more than any of them could ever imagine. Yes, he could have any woman he wanted. But the fact remained; he wanted her.
After all the years he’d spent living with the Dursleys and fighting Voldemort, all Harry had wanted was to settle down and live a comfortable, normal life. Of course life would never be normal where he was concerned, but he had come to accept that. Everyone expected him to become an Auror like his father and continue to fight Dark Wizards like he had done for most of his life. He, however, just wanted to settle down, raise a family and live a quiet life. Luna was the witch he wanted to share that life with, despite what everyone else thought.
She was completely unique. No one could ever compare to her because she was unlike anyone he had ever met. There was such depth to her personality, layers of what on the surface appeared to be folly, but in actuality was so much more. His wife had been through much in her life, yet she still managed to keep that serene, dreamlike smile on her face. Luna had the ability to see through people, see their lies and thinly veiled personalities. While her words may sound like complete nonsense - and sometimes they were – he could understand her reasoning. She talked in vague circles that made complete sense if you had the patience to sit down and sift through them to find their meaning. He had that patience.
“I love you too, Harry,” she smiled at him knowingly, tilting her head up to catch his lips in a chaste kiss.
“I’ll never be able to understand how you do that,” her large silver-grey eyes stared back at him curiously.
“Read my mind,” he offered playfully, drawing her lips back to his.
“I don’t read your mind, I just know what to look for,” she replied, lips ghosting over his in light, feathery kisses.
Luna was everything he could possibly have imagined in a wife and more. He loved her as she was, eccentricity and all. If someone had told him four years ago that he’d be happily married with a two year-old daughter to Luna Lovegood, he wouldn’t have believed them. Harry had actually believed that when he married, it would be to Ginny Weasley. However, Fred’s death had changed her and he hadn’t been prepared to wait years for her to sort herself out. He had waited, but after three months of her cold, almost transparent affection, he’d had enough. Luna had been there for him constantly. She had listened without judgement and tried to help him through the rough patch he and Ginny were having. In the end, he’d realised that she was what he needed, what he wanted, and the whole time he’d been comparing Ginny to her.
“Everything has a way of working itself out, Harry. Perhaps it is not what everyone wanted. But expectations and beliefs that a couple will come together are often what force them apart,” Luna whispered against his lips.
“You’re right,” he said thoughtfully. “Everyone expected them to get married – it was like it was preordained in everyone’s eyes…”
“And Hermione hadn’t had the heart – as strong as it is – to say no to everyone’s wishes,” she finished for him, her silver-grey eyes staring directly into his.
“I never saw it until now. I always thought she was happy, that it was what she wanted,”
Luna smiled serenely down at him, running a hand through his hair affectionately. “The mind sees what it wants to see. Do not blame yourself for her artful disguise. Hermione wanted no one to know, including you,”
“But how can I call myself her friend if I don’t even know when she’s happy, or not?” he asked earnestly. “You saw the truth, Luna, before anyone else did. How can I be her friend if I cannot see?” it was finally dawning on him what Hermione must have gone through, keeping her secret for as long as she had.
“Hermione is your best friend as is Ronald. You didn’t want to see,” she answered simply, leaning forward to brush his lips with her own. “You are a good friend, Harry. This is not your fault,”
“It feels like it is,”
“People look at me and see this strange, crazy woman. I know what people used to call me; Loony Luna Lovegood,” Harry felt his heart constrict at her words. “But they only saw what they wanted to see. Just because I’m a little different and don’t fit into the seams of their perfectly stereotypical world, they think I’m odd – crazy even. People choose to ignore what doesn’t fit into their world. No one would ever expect Hermione to do what she did. You didn’t see, Harry – and neither did anyone else – because their minds were not open to the idea. It is not your fault,”
Harry smiled amazedly at her. He didn’t know how she did it, but every time she knew the exact right thing to say. Leaning forward, he captured her lips, gently using enough pressure to roll on top of her. Her lips slanted over his as her arms reached up to curl around his neck.
“Lily’s asleep,” she sighed contently.
He pulled back, a roughish smirk on his face. “I know,”
Whatever happened, he would deal with it as best he could. But right now, he was going to show his wife just how much he loved her, and how remarkable a woman she was.
Chapter 11: Malfoy or Weasley?
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Chapter Image made by Sammm of TDA!
Author's Note: A huge thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter, they really made my day. I won't drone on anymore than necessary and I hope you enjoy the chapter.
A quick note: The Cedrella Black mentioned in passing in this chapter is not of my own creation. She actually did exist, unlike Alphard Malfoy, and married Septimus Weasley, Arthur's father. As there is also a Dorea Black and Charlus Potter married on the Black Family Tree - presumably James Potter's parents - this could mean that Harry and Ginny are actually third cousins.
.: Chapter Eleven – Malfoy or Weasley? :.
Wednesday, May 8, 2002
The house was quite charming, she supposed. It certainly wasn’t to her tastes, but it had a sort of quaint, homely appeal. Each ray of morning light brightened the entire house, giving it an airy yet cosy atmosphere. Narcissa was – much to her chagrin – impressed. Having a critical eye for design and décor, she could see that a great deal of work had been put into making the home presentable. However, her chagrin came from a more personal place. She had been raised with the revulsion of muggles and those who associated with them – blood traitors and mudbloods, to be precise. And while the majority of those beliefs had been washed away since the war, some things would never change.
Narcissa could deal with her granddaughter being a half-blood. But a Weasley on the other hand, she would always abhor. She supposed it had something do with the long standing hatred between both families, yet she could not deny that there was more to her hatred now. It killed her to think that a Weasley had raised her granddaughter, not to mention a rather untalented one at that. Ronald Weasley may have been Harry Potter’s bumbling sidekick during the war, but now he was just a man, unimportant and forgettable. He was an untalented piece of vermin who scrounged off the success of his friends and family – in her opinion, at least.
It was because of him that they had been kept from Rose for so long. Hermione had made the ultimate decision – she held no delusions about that. But if the Weasley boy hadn’t been in the picture, Narcissa was certain that they would have been a part of Rose’s life much sooner than they were now. No, she didn’t like the Weasley boy and the sooner he was out of the picture, the better. He posed a threat – one she didn’t need or want.
She knew that if things were to work out the way she had planned them to, then everything would be perfect. Narcissa was slightly old-fashioned in her beliefs and regardless of what most people might think, she actually liked Hermione. The girl was attractive in an unassuming way, had spirit and a great deal of talent; a combination that was particularly hard to find these days. New blood wasn’t a bad thing; she had come to understand that. Hermione Weasley – soon to be Granger again, she hoped – may have been a muggleborn by birth, but she was an exceptionally talented witch, and from what Narcissa could see, an amazing mother. Hopefully her son would see that too.
Rose would help push things along nicely. The little girl was an absolute angel. Her silky blonde locks and wide hazel-brown eyes, combined with her pixie-like features made her look like a wood nymph. She was absolutely gorgeous, and Narcissa was counting on her to bring the two stubborn adults together. They would have something in common now, which would put them on even ground. Narcissa hoped that that, combined with the chemistry she was sure was there, would be enough. She had never seen them together, so she didn’t know for sure. But there had to be some kind of spark between them, otherwise Rose wouldn’t have been born.
As Narcissa sat there, the book she had retrieved from the study forgotten, a loud knock resounded from the front door. Hermione had blocked the floo network earlier that morning before retiring to bed, which meant that the visitor was either unbelievably rude, or desperate to see her. Narcissa imagined that it was a combination of the two. After all, they were knocking rather loudly, if not incessantly, without even considering if Hermione and Rose were asleep.
She purposely took her time, instinct telling her that whoever it was on the other side of the door was not someone she wished to meet. Her instincts were right. To say that the look on Molly Weasley’s face was indignant was an understatement. The woman looked positively furious. Her cheeks were flushed and her nostrils flaring in true Weasley style. If it hadn’t have been for the dire situation, Narcissa would have laughed. But the fact that Molly Weasley was gaping like a goldfish, a mixture of shock and anger, on Hermione’s doorstep so soon after she had been released from hospital, wasn’t a good sign.
“And to what do I owe this displeasure?” she said coolly, a disdainful smirk reaching her lips as she looked the other woman up and down.
“W-what are you doing in my son’s house?!” Molly asked incredulously, her eyes narrowing dangerously at the sight before her.
Narcissa smiled derisively. “I am a guest, unlike others,”
Shock spread across the other woman’s face, much to her pleasure. Perhaps it was slightly childish of her, but Narcissa couldn’t pass up the chance to get one up on Molly Weasley. The redhead had been quite popular in her day. Her daughter looked remarkably like she had before the wear and tear of seven children got the better of her. Narcissa may have seen the error of her ways – or rather her husband’s – but she was not passed holding a grudge.
It was kill or be killed; Molly Weasley had done what she had to in order to survive. But regardless of her sister’s insanity, Narcissa still felt the pain of her death. She could remember a time where Bella had been just like Andromeda, carefree and innocent. The two had looked so similar…
“I don’t know what kind of game you are playing, Malfoy. But I am here to see Hermione and my granddaughter. I demand that you leave at once!” the redhead’s voice became shrill and demanding, interrupting her line of thought.
She couldn’t help but laugh. “And what makes you think that I would be inclined to do anything you say, Weasley?” the woman had the audacity to look affronted by her words. “Hermione and Rose are upstairs asleep, which on its own is quite remarkable. One has to wonder how your incessant – and it seems thoughtless – banging didn’t wake them,”
“How dare you?!”
“I am sure all the neighbours would appreciate your screeches being kept to a minimum,” Narcissa replied snidely. The house was rather secluded, with the closest neighbouring cottage five miles down the road. It made her jibe that much sweeter.
“I will ask you again; what are you doing in my son’s house?” her words were forced and any illusion of control she had vanished.
“I am here to ensure that both Hermione and my granddaughter come to no harm. You see, your son had quite a little temper tantrum, one almost befitting a toddler. He upset Rose and…well, I’m inclined to think that any association with that man and his relatives will only distress her further,” she smiled triumphantly at the expression on Molly Weasley’s face.
Narcissa knew that she probably shouldn’t have said as much as she had, but the temptation was too much. Much like her husband, she delighted in belittling any Weasley that crossed her path. It all came down to history, really. Her aunt Cedrella had married a Weasley, eloping with him in favour of her intended, Alphard Malfoy. From there the battle had raged, and shame turned into resentment and resentment into a deep seeded hatred. Lucius’ uncle had died trying to reclaim Cedrella as his, something the family had never fully recovered from.
“What are you on about? Rose is my granddaughter, which most certainly means she isn’t yours!” Molly snapped indignantly, insulted by the mere idea of Rose not being her granddaughter.
“Are you sure?” her voice was low and mocking. “She does have the Malfoy hair amongst other recognisable traits,”
“You’re delusional,” she wasn’t so sure now; Narcissa could see it in her eyes.
“I am not my sister, Weasley. I can assure you, I have a firm grasp of what is reality and what is not. I’m sure Hermione will fill you in on all the details later. But as for now, I think it is best if you leave, preferably in a quiet manner,”
Hermione sighed, running a hand over her face tiredly. She had barely slept with all the drama of the previous evening, too many thoughts running through her head. The fact that Narcissa had made such an impromptu visit only added to the stress. There was so much pressure on her now, more than she ever had before. By keeping her secret for as long as she had, Hermione realised now that she’d only made things worse for both her and Rose in the long run.
“Mummy?” Rose tugged on the sleeve of her dressing gown impatiently, an exasperated pout on her face. “I’m hungry,”
There were dark circles under her wide hazel-brown eyes, a sign that she hadn’t slept as easily as Hermione would have hoped. Her little angel was putting a brave face on, she knew that much. She also knew that after everything that had happened, it would be naïve of her to think that Rose wouldn’t be affected by all this. Moments after she had gone to bed the little girl had come hurtling into the room, tears pouring down her face. Rose had had a nightmare, one that was far more terrible and frightening for her than any ordinary dream. She was scared of being taken away…she was scared of Ron. Hermione had tried to tell her that it was an accident and that he hadn’t meant to hurt either of them. But Rose stubbornly refused to believe her, her four year-old mind acknowledging only what she had seen that night.
“Would you like blueberry or banana pancakes, cricket?” she asked, taking Rose’s hand and leading her down the stairs.
“Blueberry,” Rose answered after a few seconds, before adding a quick please.
As they entered the kitchen, Hermione saw Narcissa Malfoy closing the front door. She had almost forgotten about her – almost. It was obvious that the woman had been talking to someone, the expression on her face said as much. There was something oddly unsettling about the way things had turned out. Never in her life would she have thought that Narcissa Malfoy would be answering her front door.
“Who was it?” Narcissa jumped slightly, not expecting to see either of them standing in the archway.
Her eyes flickered to Rose before she carefully answered. “Molly Weasley,”
Hermione barely had time to register what she had said before Rose blurted out, “Your Mr Lucy’s wife,” with wide eyes and an excited smile.
She tried not to laugh, really she did. But Rose’s happy exclamation along with Narcissa’s poorly concealed laughter, made that near impossible.
“It’s Lucius, Rose, not Lucy,” Hermione fought to keep a firm, controlled expression on her face.
Rose frowned. “But he has long hair like Auntie Moon,”
That did her in. She couldn’t have kept a straight face even if she wanted to. Rose had always called Luna, Auntie Moon, despite however many times they had told her not to. Harry found it hilarious and Luna didn’t seem to mind at all. But Hermione had always hoped that Rose would get Luna’s name right one day, if not just to know that she had gotten it correct. However, the very fact that Rose had compared Luna and Lucius together because of the length of their hair…
“I always told him that he needed a haircut,” Narcissa commented lightly, an affectionate smile on her face as she looked at Rose. It was then that Hermione came to a decision.
“Would you like to stay for breakfast?” she asked politely, letting go of Rose’s hand and making her way over to the stove.
“We’re having blueberry pancakes!” Rose added happily, running forward to where Narcissa was standing. “Please stay, I’ll show you Zili if you do,”
“Zili?” the older woman knelt down to tuck a stray curl behind Rose’s ear.
“Well, in that case, I guess I had better stay,”
Hermione smiled despite herself. She would give the Malfoys a chance, if only for Rose and the fact that her little girl seemed to have already captured their hearts.
Her life had changed so drastically over the past three weeks that Hermione barely recognised the person staring back at her. She looked the same; unmanageable mop of hair, dull hazel-brown eyes and a slim but far from athletic figure. While she may have looked the same, she certainly didn’t feel it. Everything had happened in such quick succession that it felt too surreal, almost as if she were living in a dream. To everyone else, she was a fiercely intelligent and loyal woman who they thought could take on the world. It had all happened too fast for her to comprehend. In a matter of weeks, her world had been turned upside down and now the future was clouded with uncertainty.
A part of her knew that she had done the right thing. It would have been unfair on all of them if she’d just let things continue as if nothing was wrong. Still, a part of her wished that she hadn’t said anything. Ron would have remained blissfully unaware and she would have continued on as always. Of course, that wouldn’t have been the case. Draco and his family had known about Rose despite her precarious situation with Ron. She would have had to have been naïve to think that the truth wouldn’t have come out sooner or later.
After sitting Rose down at the table with a small plate of pancakes, Hermione had discreetly talked to Narcissa about what she and Lucius expected from her. It had surprised her to realise that the woman held no expectations other than the hope that she would give them the chance to get to know their granddaughter. War changed people, she knew that from experience. If Lucius and Narcissa were open to the idea of having a half-blood grandchild, then who was she to pass judgement on them. They had changed, not exponentially but enough to ensure that the change was for the better. She didn’t trust them enough to leave Rose alone with them, but Hermione had a feeling that in time, provided they did nothing to dissuade her, that that trust would grow.
“Pippi Longstockings is coming into your town!”
Hermione smiled at the sound of Rose’s off-key voice, singing happily without any conscious thought of anything but the movie she was watching. She could just picture her sitting in the middle of the floor with her legs crossed, all the throw pillows built up like a fortress around her while she hugged Zili to her chest, eyes wide with childish excitement because she knew the song. It was hard for Rose to understand the situation they were currently in, but she took everything as it came with a smile. Narcissa adored her already – that much was obvious. But Hermione couldn’t help but wonder what Lucius would be like with her. From what the older woman had let slip, he was quite besotted with the little girl already.
“Rose, sweetheart, it’s time for your bath,” quickly drying her hands on a towel, Hermione waved her wand, watching as steam rose from the dishes she had just washed. Some things were better done the muggle way, but knowing Rose the way she did, Hermione knew that she wouldn’t have the time to dry them as well.
There was a scurry of feet, followed shortly after by a childish giggle from the next room. Hermione sighed; it was time to play ‘Where’s Rose?’ Normally she didn’t mind indulging in the little girl’s playful antics. A smile was a smile, and she loved the way her daughter’s face would light up whenever she was in the midst of playing one of her games. She would walk around the room pretending not to know where her little imp was hiding. It was when she found her and tickled her into submission, or playfully carried her up the stairs toward the bath that Rose’s smile would appear.
Her muscles ached and the throbbing pain in her head was getting worse by the minute. She knew that she had to take the potion Charlie had given her soon. But first, she was going to make her little girl smile and after that was done, and only after, she would worry about herself. Just as she was about to walk into the other room, a loud knock sounded from the front door.
Instinctively, she grabbed for her wand on the kitchen bench. She was slightly puzzled to be receiving a visitor at this time of night, especially when the majority of her friends and family knew that she would be putting Rose to bed within the next hour or so. Perhaps that was the cause of her nerves. There was no denying that she was somewhat rattled from the incident with Ron a couple of days ago, but that had hardly been his fault. It had been hers really. She knew Ron probably better than anyone and yet she had told him with even less tact then he had in his entire being. The pressure had just been too much. If she’d had more time to think things through, she probably would have taken a different approach.
As she opened the front door, Hermione tried not to let her surprise show. At first, he simply stared at her, smirking at the expression on her face. She had never been very good at schooling her emotions. Despite the uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach, she lowered her wand, narrowing her eyes when the smirk on his face grew. He shifted to the side slightly, her attention immediately being drawn to the large box under his arm and bag slung over his shoulder. Without warning, he pushed past her and walked into the house, his expression showing impatience.
“What in Circe’s name do you think you are doing?” she hissed under her breath, shutting the front door behind her. It angered her that he thought he could waltz into her house unannounced, not to mention unwelcomed. Narcissa had been fine – she could deal with her – but him? After their last conversation had been interrupted, she had thought that she wouldn’t see him again, at least not for a few days. Her curiosity was the only thing keeping him on his feet and not unconscious on the floor as the result of a very painful hex.
“I came here to see my daughter,” he stated arrogantly as if daring her to contradict him.
Hermione gritted her teeth. “I didn’t say you cou –”
“I don’t care what you say, or don’t say, Granger. I’m here to see her,” it took all her strength not to scream at him, lunge for his neck and hope to Merlin her hands were strong enough to snap it. She could understand, to a degree, what he must be feeling. He’d never had the chance to get to know Rose, and she was to blame for that. Still, his holier-than-thou attitude never failed to get a rise out of her.
“She’s about to have her bath, so you can come back later,” crossing her arms over her chest, she raised her chin defiantly at him.
He seemed to consider her words briefly, but after a moment dismissed them and walked further into the room. It bothered her that he seemed to think that his opinion mattered more than hers did. If he thought that it was alright for him to barge in unannounced, then it was alright. But Merlin forbid she think any differently! Just as Hermione was about to tell him to get out, he carefully set the box he had been holding on the ground, sparking her curiosity. What was in that box that made him handle it so delicately?
After he was done arranging a silver and green bow he’d conjured on the box, Draco turned around and began pulling out shrunken items from the bag he had been carrying. Hermione watched transfixed as he enlarged each item, realisation dawning on her. First came a child’s broomstick with a light blue trimming around the edge. She could faintly see the name Rose engraved on the side. Second, a silver snitch fluttered about the room. It had obviously been charmed somehow as it flew much slower than the norm. And lastly, much to her surprise, a deep azure cauldron was enlarged, tiny vials of smoky substances lined up beside it.
To see the child’s cauldron sitting in the middle of her kitchen surprised Hermione more than she would have liked to admit. She had seen them in the store windows whenever she went shopping in Diagon Alley, but never dreamed that she would have enough money to buy Rose one. They were the latest craze – child wise – and were extremely expensive. The tiny vials of bright pinks, blues and yellows if mixed in the right sequence could create coloured smoke dragons and rabbits, horses and eagles – there was an endless amount of possibilities. Not only was it entertaining for the children, but it was also educational. There were instructions that had to be followed if you wanted to create a certain creature. Sure, they were simple steps like pink vial first, then blue, then green and stir once. But it gave the child a sort of fun head start on potions. What surprised her was that it was a toy for six year-olds and up.
“I thought that since she was your kid, she would be uncommonly smart for her age,” he must have seen her staring at the toy in wonder, and a smug smirk appeared on his face shortly after. If only he hadn’t smirked, then she might have taken that as a complement.
“What are all these for?”
“They’re presents,” he answered noncommittally.
“They’re too expensive,” Hermione said after a few tense moments. “Take them back,”
He was in front of her in a second, the cool grey of his eyes darkened in anger. She gasped in surprise, her wand clattering to the floor. Words would not come; she was too taken by surprise to regain her senses, his eyes cementing her into place. Memories of that night flashed before her eyes, causing an involuntary shudder to pass through her body. He was so close; she could smell the citrus of his shampoo.
“I missed four birthdays because of you, so I think I have a right to buy her however many bloody expensive presents I want to,” his voice hissed against her ear, making goose bumps rise on her skin. Her breathing was laboured and he pulled back to look her in the eye, his lips turned down in an angry scowl. His lips were so soft…Merlin help her, but she couldn’t stop thinking about that night, about what his lips could do, what reactions they could provoke!
Hermione let out a shaky breath when he turned away, kneeling down to look at the little girl who’d come into the room in search of her mother only to find the toys he had enlarged earlier. Focusing all her energy on remaining calm, she turned to look at Rose who was jumping up and down in excitement. And Draco…she couldn’t help but think that she was imagining the tender look in his eyes, especially when only moments ago he'd looked about ready to murder her.
“And they’re all for you,” he said, affectionately tapping the little girl on the nose. She felt a pang of something hit her in the chest when Rose threw her arms around his neck and hugged him. Guilt – oh, it wasn’t definitely guilt.
“Rose, what do you say?” her voice cracked slightly.
“Thank you!” bouncing up and down, she pulled back and stared with wide excited eyes at the broomstick hovering beside her. “Look mum, a broom! I got a broom!” Hermione couldn’t help but wince, quickly covering it with a forced smile.
“Why don’t you look and see what’s in the box,” Draco prompted, reluctantly letting go of the little girl as she hurried over to where it was.
Rose carefully lifted the lid, squealing happily much to Hermione’s chagrin. It wasn’t so much that she wasn’t happy that Draco had gone to all this effort; her emotions were just mixed on the matter. On one hand, she appreciated the effort, on the other she felt slightly angry, feeling like he was trying to buy Rose’s love. Of course, she knew that that wasn’t the case, his expressions proved as much. But old habits and all...well, they continued to cloud her mind with suspicion.
Blinking, Hermione focused more intently on what she was seeing. A puppy. He’d gotten her a bloody puppy! She was stuck between gaping at him incredulously and marching over to him and hitting him up the backside of his head.
“You got her a puppy!? Are you insane?” she cried in disbelief, a horrified expression on her face. How was she supposed to take care of a puppy?
Draco shrugged. “I heard kids like dogs and the breeder said she’d be alright with Rose, so I bought her,”
Because it’s as easy as that, she thought sourly.
“Oh, mummy, please can I keep her? Please?” Rose begged, hugging the golden retriever pup to her chest, positively smitten with the animal already. It was hard enough already, but with Draco kneeling behind Rose, an amused but triumphant smile on his face, it was almost impossible to say no. She could see the resemblance between them so clearly now that they were side by side, that it shook her to the core.
“Alright,” she said carefully, ignoring Rose’s excited squeal. “But I think it is time that Mr Malfoy left. After all, you have yet to have your bath and bedtime is in half an hour,” it killed her to say it, especially when both her daughter and his face fell. But if she didn’t get Rose to bed at the normal time, she’d be a little monster in the morning.
“Okay. Thank you very, very, very much for my presents. I love them,” her daughter beamed at Draco, giving him a hug and kiss on the cheek before skipping out of the room, the puppy tumbling after her. “You and me are gonna be best frie…” Rose’s voice trailed off as she moved out of ear shot.
An awkward silence filled the room, one she endeavoured to break. “Thank you, Malfoy,” she said quietly, smiling in a tentative manner. “Merlin help me, but she loved the presents – even that damn broom,”
He nodded, looking to where Rose had disappeared before walking toward the door. Hermione could have sworn that she heard him mumble something about taking baby steps before he left, but she couldn’t be sure. What she was sure of, however, was that the whole situation had just gotten two times more complicated.
Chapter 12: Deceit
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Chapter Image made by arushi of TDA!
Author's Note: I am SO sorry for the long wait. If I could have posted sooner I would have, but I was away on holidays. A few people have asked how long I think this story will be - and I honestly can't remember if I have said before now or not - so I am happy to tell you that it will be roughly 22 chapters in length, including an epilogue.
I also wanted to apologise to those of you who have been getting frustrated with the story being "updated" without any new chapters actually being posted. That is just me being a perfectionist and editing out any mistakes I may find while combing through previous chapters. I don't have a beta, so my writing isn't error free.
Hope you enjoy the chapter!
.: Chapter Twelve – Deceit :.
Thursday, May 9, 2002
Her baby was coming home. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought or said, he was coming home and that was all that mattered. He hadn’t said a word to Arthur about what had happened, or to anyone else for that matter. Originally, she had thought that he would confide in Harry. Luna, however, had mentioned to her that he hadn’t said a word to either of them. The girl was holding something back though, she was sure of it. Molly didn’t know what it was exactly, but knew instinctively that it had something to do with Hermione.
In an ideal world her daughter-in-law would be here with her, helping her cook Ron’s welcome home luncheon. Then again, in an ideal world Harry would be married to her daughter and not that slip of a girl, Luna. It wasn’t that she disliked the girl. Molly supposed that she held an endearing sort of charm, as odd as it was. Still, she would have rather Harry married her Ginny. She had still held hopes for the two of them even after Harry had wed, but the birth of Lily had soon squashed them into all but nothing. Now she was resigned to the fact that Luna and Harry were, and would remain to be, a couple. Lily was her honorary granddaughter, just like Harry was her son. She would take what she could get.
Hermione, however, puzzled her. The girl was exceptionally stubborn and almost impossible to reason with, but Molly had always thought of her as a daughter despite her many shortcomings. She still couldn’t understand the girl’s need to work, Ron could provide for both her and Rose. Perhaps it had something to do with her upbringing, being a Muggleborn and all. Regardless of what it was, Molly didn’t like it. Rose deserved to be taken care of properly. How was Hermione supposed to do that while she was at work?
The other thing that bothered her about Hermione was Narcissa Malfoy. What type of reasoning must she have to let an ex-Death Eater’s wife into her home? It was common knowledge that her daughter-in-law was amongst the brightest witches Hogwarts had ever produced, but that said nothing about her common sense. Knowledge was one thing, common sense another. Obviously the girl had to be talked to. First, she chose to work over staying at home with her daughter. Second, she refused to have anymore children until a set time was up. There was also the fact that she invited the wrong sort into her home, endangering both herself and her daughter. Oh, Molly was definitely going to talk to her.
It pained her to admit that Narcissa Malfoy’s words had affected her. The very idea of Rose not being her granddaughter was ridiculous. Regardless of that, she had spent most of the day shuffling through old and new photographs of the little girl and examining her features. Rose’s hair had always bothered her, but she’d accepted Hermione’s word as the truth. She still did. Her granddaughter simply took after her mother and not Ronald. That was all there was to it, nothing more and nothing less. Hermione’s father Jeffery had sandy-blond hair for Merlin’s sake! The woman had simply meant to ruffle her feathers, she was sure of it.
“Sweetheart, calm down,” Arthur’s comforting arms wrapped around her waist from behind. “Harry and Luna said that everything is fine and that they’ll be over soon. They’re just signing some last minute paperwork,”
Molly sighed, waving her wand at a pile of unpeeled potatoes. She knew Arthur had wanted to go with Harry to bring Ron home. He had stayed behind because of her, knowing that she would be a wreck the moment he stepped out the door. They hadn’t always been this in tune with each other's emotions. There had been a time shortly after Bill was born when she’d momentarily regretted her decision to elope with him. Their families hadn’t approved, least of all her brothers and his mother. It hadn’t mattered though; she still married him regardless of their concerns.
“I know, I know,” she sighed, levitating the potatoes to a large pot of boiling water with her wand. “He’s still my baby, Arthur. I am allowed to worry,”
“He’s twenty-three, Molly,” her husband chuckled, affectionately placing a chaste kiss on her cheek.
“Doesn’t mean a thing,” with a wave of her wand, the oven door opened and she levitated the roast she’d prepared earlier onto the table. “He’s still my baby boy and I’m allowed to worry and fuss over him as much as I like,”
“Of course, dear,” he laughed quietly, walking toward the adjoining room after hearing a high pitched childlike giggle.
“Arthur, don’t forge –”
“To make sure that Victoire doesn’t get near the fireplace, yes I know,” he finished for her, smiling warmly.
“And don’t let Fred near Dominique or Molly?” the smile on his face showed patience and understanding. “Love, I already know,”
“Oh, fine then. Off with you!” she laughed, shooing him out of the kitchen. It always amazed her how he could know what she was going to say even before she said it. Then again, she did tend to remind him constantly of certain things. He was probably the most patient man she knew; her nagging was habitual.
To Molly, family was everything. She loved her children and grandchildren, honorary or not, with all her heart. All she wanted was their happiness…and a few more grandbabies given time. Bill was happy with Fleur, George with Angelina and Percy with Audrey. Hell, even Charlie was happy with his bloody dragons! Ginny and Ron, however…things hadn’t turned out as well for her two youngest children. She liked to think that Ron was happy with Hermione, but something had obviously happened between the two of them. It wasn’t like Hermione to block the floo network and it certainly wasn’t like Ron to withdraw into himself. Something had happened and Molly would be damned if she didn’t find out what it was.
At first, she had thought that it was their difference of opinion where children were concerned. Her Ron wanted a large family, but Hermione obviously didn’t. Originally it had been her idea. If the question of children were taken away, along with the choice of when to have them, then perhaps things would work themselves out. She had brewed the potions in her spare time and given them to Ron, telling him what to do so Hermione wouldn’t notice the change. So far she hadn’t heard any news on the baby front, which meant that the fertility potions hadn’t worked. It was odd; she knew that she’d brewed them correctly.
“Mum,” her daughter’s voice brought her mind back to reality. Ginny was leaning casually against the doorframe, her short cropped hair dancing around her chin as she shook her head. “He’s here,”
Smiling brightly, Molly patted her daughter on the cheek, waving her wand frantically to clean up the kitchen. Her little girl had changed a lot since the war, more so than the others. As any mother would be, she was concerned. There were the parties and endless string of men. She supposed her daughter’s career didn’t really help either. The Holyhead Harpies were one of the best teams in the league and the only all female squad. Molly couldn’t say she wasn’t proud of her, because she was. It was the lifestyle that bothered her more than anything else. No matter, she was dating Neville Longbottom now, hopefully the boy could get her to settle down and start thinking about a family.
Her tears were already building in anticipation as she hurried into the adjoining room, Ginny following demurely. The dam burst within seconds of him walking through the front door. “Oh, Ron!” she cried, rushing forward to envelop her son in a bone crushing hug.
“Mum,” he gasped, patting her awkwardly on the shoulder. “I kind of need to breathe,” a collection of laughs followed this statement and she quickly let go, wiping away her tears.
“Are you alright, dear?” Molly asked worriedly, scanning his entire body with critical eyes. “How are you feeling? You look so pale. They didn’t mistreat you, did they? What about food? You’re so skinny. They did feed you, didn’t they? If they didn’t you ca –”
“Molly, leave the poor boy alone. He’s only just got back,” her husband laughed softly, walking forward to wrap a comforting arm around his son’s shoulders. “Now, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind a game of chess. What do you say, son? Think you can beat me?”
Ron smiled weakly at his father, turning around to scan all the smiling faces in front of him. Suddenly, his expression fell. “Mum, where’s Hermione?” there was something in his voice that sounded torn between hurt and anger; she wasn’t sure she liked it.
“Well, dear, I tried to contact her to tell her about the party, but the floo network was blocked,” she said comfortingly, glancing at Arthur momentarily, conveying her silent worry to him. “I’m sure there’s nothing to be worried about,”
“Why didn’t you apparate over there?” he asked, shrugging off Arthur’s arm. Something had definitely happened between the two of them, she could tell by the expression on his face. She was sure that whatever it was, it had something to do with the reason he had been held in custody by the Aurors for the past couple of days.
“If Hermione blocked the floo network, Ronald, then surely she would have put up anti-apparation wards as well,” Luna remarked lightly, picking Lily up and balancing her on her hip.
“What would you know, loony?” Molly heard her daughter mutter quietly. It didn’t surprise her really, Ginny had always been one to hold a grudge and this was no different. In the young redhead’s eyes, Luna was the reason she had lost Harry and not her sudden attitude makeover.
“I happen to agree with my wife,” she looked over to Harry, surprised by the sudden change in his demeanour. He had obviously heard Ginny’s comment, because he was staring stonily at the redhead, arm wrapped protectively around his wife’s waist.
“Mum, why didn’t you apparate over there?” Ron persisted, ignoring the glaring contest between his sister and best friend.
Sighing, Molly closed her eyes briefly. “To be honest with you darling, I wasn’t sure I’d be welcome over there,” she answered honestly. “At least not after what Narcissa Malfoy sai –”
“Malfoy?” her son’s face paled dramatically, his eyes widening in horror. He turned to look at Harry. “Malfoy?” it seemed the wheels of his mind were turning rapidly as an onslaught of different emotions flickered through his eyes.
“Ron…” there was a warning in the other man’s voice. Before any of them had the chance to stop him, Ron had turned and fled out the door, an angry scowl on his face. “Shit!” Harry took off after him, wand in hand.
She didn’t understand what was happening. Why had he seemed so upset? So…angry? In truth, a part of her understood exactly what was going on. There was just too much truth in the Malfoy matriarch’s words. Rose had blonde hair. Not a sandy-blond like Hermione’s father, but a light, rich platinum blonde. Her features were even slightly pointed, not at all like Hermione’s. Ron knew. Harry knew. Luna knew. And now so did she.
Lily giggled happily from her mother’s arms, clapping her hands. “Shit! Shit! Shit!” her childlike glee was the only sound to be heard in the room.
At any other time she would have laughed at the little girl’s antics. Not today. It seemed as though a veil had been lifted from her eyes. She knew the truth, could see it as clear as day for the first time in years. Rose wasn’t her granddaughter; she was Narcissa Malfoy’s…
“Mummy, why do we have to go to Nana and Gampa’s house?” Rose whined for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.
Instinctively, Hermione knew that the little girl was only being difficult because she could be. She loved going to stay at her grandparents’ house because she knew that they would spoil her rotten. The only reason she was complaining now was because she had to miss a day of school, which she loved. And there was also the fact that Hermione’s father was allergic to dogs. Rose, however, refused to leave Pip behind – that’s what she’d called the blasted animal. Pip, after Pippi Longstockings. All it had done last night was chase its tail, yapping the entire time, and suddenly decide to camp out on her bed until it needed to relieve its bladder…on one of her pillows. If Hermione didn’t know any better she could have sworn that Draco had purposely bought Rose a demon dog just to mess with her.
“Rose, I’ve told you before that you can bring Pip,” letting out an irritated sigh, Hermione folded another one of the little girl’s dresses and packed it into the open suitcase. “We just have to keep her in the garden and away from Grandpa,”
“But what if she gets cold!?” Rose protested, hugging the puppy closer, a defiant pout on her lips. “Gampa can sleep outside, can’t he?” she asked with a frown.
Hermione sighed again, pinching the bridge of her nose. “It’s May, sweetheart. Pip won’t be cold, I promise. Nana has already bought a nice, comfy doggy bed for her to sleep on,” the four year-old looked unconvinced. “Look, Rose, we’re going and that is final. Now go downstairs and pick what toys and books you want to bring with us, I don’t know how long we’ll be staying with your grandparents,”
The little blonde made a noise of protest, her face scrunching up. “Fine,” she flounced out of the room, Pip nipping at her heels playfully.
Fighting the urge to go after her, Hermione folded another dress, forcefully throwing it into the suitcase with a growl. She loved Rose, there was no denying that. But by Merlin did that little girl test her patience! Sometimes it was like having a mini Draco Malfoy stomping around, only in her four year-old daughter’s body.
At feeling a tug on her sleeve, she fought back another irritated sigh and prepared herself for Rose’s wide, curious hazel-brown eyes. What she saw, however, was not her daughter. The creature jumped when she let out a shriek of surprise and shrunk back, its overly large ears drooping not unlike a puppy’s when scolded.
“Mipsy is sorrys, miss!” the house elf cried, wringing her hands on the pale blue dress she wore. “Mipsy didn’t means to scare you, Mipsy swears! I is awfully sorry –”
“You meant no harm,” Hermione interjected after regaining her bearings. The little elf began to protest, but she held up her hand. “Please, Mipsy – is that your name?” there was a nod of affirmation. “As I said, you meant no harm. I have to ask you, however, why you’re here and who sent you?”
The little creature seemed to be well looked after and in good health, which made Hermione believe that this had nothing to do with work. She also seemed to be here on purpose because she had stated that she hadn’t meant to scare her. That and there was an intricately embroidered M in the corner of her dress. It could stand for Mispy…or Malfoy; Hermione betted on the latter.
“Mistress sent me,” the elf walked over to the bed, scrutinizing the suitcase and its contents critically. With a snap of her bony fingers the clothing began to rearrange itself, leaving what clothes Hermione had yet to pack levitating and folding magically. Her packing wasn’t that bad…
“Narcissa Malfoy?” she asked, frowning at the tiny creature. Mipsy nodded, transferring more clothing into the suitcase. “But why?”
Hermione wouldn’t deny that the woman had been more than affable with her and Rose, but this – this bothered her. It wasn’t so much that she had sent a house elf to her home, it was more the reasons behind the action that perturbed her. She had sent an owl to both Harry and the Malfoy matriarch earlier that morning, informing them of her plans to stay with her parents for a couple of days, if not weeks. Telling Harry was mandatory, not only was he her friend but he was Rose’s godfather. There were no stipulations, she had to tell him. Narcissa Malfoy, however, was another matter entirely. It had been common courtesy more than anything else, which pressed her to tell the woman of her plans. Now she had a house elf in her home repacking all of Rose’s clothes.
“I is for the little mistress,” Mipsy stated proudly. “Her personal house elf I is,” the creature beamed at her, moving about the room while levitating items here and there into the suitcase.
Little mistress? Personal house elf? Realisation dawned on her when the creature looked adoringly at a picture of Rose and Lily on the bedside table.
“Rose is only four years-old, Mipsy. I am sorry if this upsets you, but she is too young to have a personal house elf. Tell Narcissa that I apprecia –”
“Oh no, miss!” the elf cried. “You misunderstand Mipsy. I is for you too,” Hermione gaped at the creature. “Mistress said you would be difficult, but Mipsy doesn’t mind. I is here to protect the little mistress and yous from the bad man if he comes by. The young master was very specific as was my mistress,” it nodded its head decidedly, fingers snapping at the levitating clothes.
Bad man? Well, that had to be Ron, loathe as she was to admit it. The young master was obviously Draco, because she doubted Mispy could mistake Lucius Malfoy for being young no matter how well he had aged. She honestly didn’t know whether to be offended or grateful. They clearly cared what happened to her and Rose. Still, she didn’t like the idea of a house elf at her beck and call, not after she had fought so hard to improve their rights. It would feel hypocritical if she were to suddenly have Mipsy working for her, or caring for Rose. Regardless of how she felt, Hermione could tell that this elf was going to be stubborn, if not uncompromisingly irrational.
“We don’t need to be protected from Ron, Mipsy. He wouldn’t hurt Rose,” she didn’t know why, but Hermione felt the need to defend her husband…soon to be ex, she supposed.
The elf stared at her. “He is to be mad, young master said, when he finds out the truth of who the little mistress’ father is,”
What could she say to that? Yes, Ron would be furious when he found out who Rose’s biological father was. It was to be expected considering their history. She didn’t want to think that Ron would be past reasoning with, but knew that he would be. After everything that had happened, she imagined that this would be the last straw, the breaking point. Draco must have had amazing forethought as she would have never considered this. He continued to surprise her.
“Alright, Mipsy,” Hermione sighed resignedly. “I need you to gather all of my clothes and Rose’s, if you can. Toys and personal items, I will deal with for the time being. My parents are expecting us within the hour so plea –”
“Mipsy won’t fail you miss, I is promising you that!” the elf squeaked excitedly, taking off toward her bedroom. Hermione didn’t want to think about how she knew where her room was.
Ron was coming home today, Harry had told her that much. He had also offered to sign the paperwork at the ministry so she wouldn’t have to. Sometimes she wondered what she had ever done to deserve him as a friend. She had lied and slept with the enemy, birthing Rose and passing her off as Ron’s. Even after all that, he remained her friend.
“Mummy! Mummy!” Rose came hurtling into the room, eyes wide. “There’s a gemmlin in your bedroom,” she whispered under her breath, looking over her shoulder furtively.
Laughing softly, Hermione knelt down in front of the little girl. “Cricket, that isn’t a gremlin, it’s a house elf. Remember Uncle Harry’s stories, the ones with Dobby in them?” the blonde nodded. “Well, that’s Mipsy and she’s like Dobby. Mipsy is here to help us pack for Nana and Grandpa’s. She’s going to be staying with us for a while, so why don’t you go and say hello,” she patted the little girl on her back and urged her forward. “Remember to be nice,”
Just as she was about to turn around there was a large bang, the sound reverberating around the house. Rose’s frightened scream came next. Hurrying into the hallway, Hermione scooped Rose up into her arms and tucked the little girl’s head into her shoulder. The banging continued, its origin unknown. It was with startling clarity that Hermione realised someone was trying to get past her anti-apparation wards.
“Mummy, make it stop,” cried the little girl, her hands fisting in the material of her mother’s cloak.
“Shh,” she hushed the little girl, looking around anxiously. The anti-apparation wards were set up against Ron and the rest of his family. Hermione had figured that after what Narcissa had mentioned of her earlier ‘discussion’ with the Weasley matriarch, that it would be best to take the precaution. She didn’t want to imagine what it would be like if Molly figured out the truth in her words.
“Miss, what do you want Mipsy to do!?” the elf stood in the doorway of her bedroom, wringing its hands with worry. Hermione felt a tug of affection for the small creature.
“Can you check the wards to see who’s trying to apparate in?” she asked, cradling Rose’s head to her chest as the little girl cried. “I don’t think I would be able to concentrate with Rose,” rocking from side to side, she tried to calm the child.
Mipsy was quiet for a moment, a look of deep concentration on her elvan face. Hermione knew that she was concentrating on the task she had set her. “It is being the bad man, miss!” she cried after a few tense minutes, her eyes widening fearfully. “What does you wish me to do?!”
Ron. It was Ron. Hermione didn’t know what to do. “I…” she licked her lips nervously, catching the bottom one between her teeth. What was she supposed to do? There was no way she was ready to face him so soon after what had happened. No, she wouldn’t face him; she couldn’t, not with Rose here. “Take Rose to my parents’ house along with our belongings…tell them – tell them that there was a change of plans and that I’ll explain everything to them when I get there,”
The elf nodded, levitating two packed suitcases into the hallway and taking Rose by the hand carefully. Her little girl was sniffing, hands pressed over her ears against the noise with tears streaking down her face. Hermione wanted to do nothing more than go with her, but she had yet to pack her files from work and she refused to leave without them. After all, if the information in some of them were to be leaked it could cause serious problems for her at work.
“Pip! Mummy, where’s Pip?” Rose cried, struggling to break free from Mipsy’s hold. “I won’t leave without Pip!” that blasted dog caused more trouble than it was worth.
“I’ll find her, cricket, don’t worry,” she replied soothingly, already making her way toward the staircase. The wards wouldn’t hold for much longer. “Go with Mipsy, I’ll find her,”
There was no reply except for the crack of apparation. Now that she was certain Rose was gone, Hermione finally let her tears fall and the panic show on her face. It wasn’t that she was frightened of Ron, or the potential danger she was in. His reaction was what frightened her. She didn’t think she would be able to stand the look on his face, the hatred, the pain and suffering. No, she was certain she wouldn’t be able to stand it.
Running down the stairs, she quickly made her way into the study, grabbing all her files in hurry and stuffing them into her beaded bag. It was a memento of sorts, a reminder of what should have been her seventh year at Hogwarts. She had always kept it close, just in case she had to leave and had very little time to pack. The beads shimmered in the light, causing her heart to jolt painfully. There were too many reminders, too many things that should have been left in the past. Ron had left them…just like she was leaving him now.
Shaking her head, Hermione looked around the room, looking and listening for any sign of Pip. Rose would never forgive her if she left the puppy behind. Just as she was about to give up hope, there was a distinctive whining noise coming from underneath the sofa. The loud banging – Ron’s continued attempts to break through the wards – appeared to not only upset Rose, but the puppy as well.
“Pip, come here, girl,” Hermione cooed impatiently, kneeling down to look under the sofa. Pip was there alright, backed up into the far corner, near the wall. This wouldn’t be easy. “Come here, come on,” she beckoned for the puppy to come forward. “That’s it girl, just a few more steps,” the golden retriever paused, dancing from paw to paw.
With a frustrated growl, Hermione launched herself at the dog and grabbed it around the scruff of its neck. The puppy squirmed against her as she lifted it up, tucking it under her arm. It was with a jolt that she realised the banging had stopped. As she turned around, Hermione made a few quick movements with her wand, shrinking and transferring Draco’s belated birthday gifts for Rose into her beaded bag. Ron had either given up, or he had broken through. She didn’t have much time, if any at all.
“Hermione,” his voice shook from behind her, in anger or pain, she didn’t know.
She wasn’t prepared to do this. There was no way she was strong enough to face him, not yet. He had the right to be mad at her, the right to hate her for the rest of his life as he probably would. She just wasn’t ready…
With a half turn, tears leaking from her eyes, she was gone. The world could call her a coward for all she cared, she just wasn’t ready.
Chapter 13: Opening Up
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Chapter Image made by arushi of TDA!
Author's Note: I am so sorry for the long wait. My muse was on vacation, but she's back now so it is full steam ahead.
I also have a new one-shot up (validation took a while, sorry), so please check that out if you have time. It is a fairly unusual pairing (Cedric/Hermione), but I like what I've done with it.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter. There is more Draco/Hermione interaction from here on in. Also, I apologise ahead of time for any mistakes in this chapter. I wasn't in the best of moods when I edited it, or wrote it for that matter.
.: Chapter Thirteen – Opening Up :.
Saturday, May 18, 2002
It had been just over one week, ten days, to be exact. Ten days since he had last seen that impish little grin. She was positively gorgeous, everything he could have ever hoped for and more. He had never really let himself hope, not with Daphne. Of course, he would have loved any child that might have been conceived between them if it weren’t for that convenient – or inconvenient, depending on which way you looked at it – spell on his family. The child would have been his and that would have been enough. Rose was his and she was certainly more than enough.
He ached to see her again, even if it was just to see her smile. However much he may have ached, he wasn’t going to push his luck with her mother. Granger was only trying to protect their daughter; he knew that much by just looking at the adoration in her eyes. It pained him to admit that of all the things she had done in her life, this was the one thing that outshone all the others, the one thing that she was exceptional, if not a natural at. Hermione Granger was a natural mother. And it only pained him because he had not been there to be the father that he could have, should have been.
A part of him would always resent her for what she did, but he understood. He understood. His mother had made him see it from her perspective, from the perspective of someone who could sympathise with Hermione Granger’s situation. And he could see it, the reasons why she made the decisions she had. He would be the first to admit that back then he was hardly a reliable person, the mark on his arm proved as much. Stupid mistake after stupid mistake; he’d almost ruined his entire life, including that of his family’s. Draco could see how she could come to the conclusions she had. Ronald Weasley equalled reliability, whereas he…
“For a muggle, her mother is quite charming, a little placid but definitely amiable enough,” his mother took a delicate sip of her tea, recounting the events of her visit later yesterday evening. “Rose was absolutely thrilled to see me, of course. She asked for you as well…” at this she trailed off, glancing awkwardly about the room at nothing in particular. “Darling, I really think you ought –”
“Don’t start, mother,” he sighed, pushing his teacup away harshly.
Couldn’t she understand that he wasn’t ready? After Rose had hugged him, after she had kissed him on the cheek and skipped off without a care in the world, he’d suddenly been terrified. What if Granger was right? Was he good enough to be that little angel’s father? Could he be patient enough, loving enough to give her everything she needed and more? He really hoped he could, because he wanted to be her father. There was just this panic, this fear that he would fuck everything up. Rose was his daughter and however strange that may have still sounded in his head, he really wanted to do the right thing by her.
“Hermione is coping fairly well, all things considered. I cannot believe what that woman wrote about her in the Daily Prophet this morning. Such vile, slanderous words…” the scowl on her face matched his own. “Of course, I have no doubt who her sources are. The fact that they have started mentioning Harry Potter in all of this, not to mention disparaging his wife only proves that that Weasley girl is the leak, not to mention her mother. You would think that she would have at least a little decency. I’m only thankful that your identity hasn’t been discovered as of yet,” she continued, the scowl on her face deepening.
“Why, mother? Afraid of damaging the family name?” he snapped half-heartedly, not really meaning it. “I’m sorry to disappoint,”
“Don’t be so melodramatic, Draco,” Narcissa sighed, laying her cup on the table. “I only meant that I am thankful for the chance you have – yet are squandering – to get to know your daughter without the disruption of the press getting in the way. Hermione has managed to keep them at bay despite what that Skeeter woman has written…and yet you do nothing,” her brow furrowed slightly, but for the most she kept a neutral expression.
“What would you have me do?” he asked, clenching his jaw.
“I would have you go over there, darling, and stop hiding simply because you are uncertain, or afraid of not being good enough for that gorgeous little girl,” she smiled that smile, the one that always told him mother-knows-best. “You only have one chance to get to know her, so use it. Hermione is far more open to me now that she knows me and knows that I only want what is best for her daughter. Get to know Rose and her mother while you can, because darling, I can assure you that when the press find out you’re her father, and believe me, they will, you’re chance will be gone,”
Trust his mother to be the voice of reason. What she said made sense, even if it did bother him that she seemed to know him better than he knew himself. Well, she had always been unnervingly perceptive…and blunt, not to mention rational and understanding. She told it as it was, not sugar-coating her words with false promises and sweet lies. He could easily see how his father had fallen in love with her, as she was probably the only woman game enough to stand up to him.
“Well,” Draco sighed, scratching the back of his neck. “I guess I had better get my arse into gear then,” he attempted a weak grin, his stomach twisting in both anticipation and fear.
It was a rare occurrence, a glitch in his system. To be afraid was not foreign to him; only to be afraid of something so simple and unthreatening made his control waver. He had always chosen the easy path in life and this – being a father to an incredible little creature, one he was afraid he wasn’t good enough for – well, to be perfectly honest, it frightened the shit out of him. This would be neither easy nor effortless, but he was positive that it would be rewarding.
His father had raised him to hold family in the highest regard, as had his mother taught him to do whatever was necessary to ensure their safety. Many people misinterpreted being a Slytherin as being nothing short of evil. It was their ignorance that caused the blackened cloud to hover over his old house. To be a Slytherin meant so much more than the one dimensional stereotype the world had cast upon them. Self preservation, pride in both family name and house, ambition, determination, a quick and cunning mind; the list could go on forever.
Draco was no fool. He knew that when the press found out that he was Rose’s father, their eye would turn to him as would their scrutiny. It was nothing more than instinct which had him pausing, instinct to survive, to self preserve. He was a coward and he knew it. Sometimes he wished he could have the strength to do what Granger did everyday. She held her head up high, despite the media and the whole magical community in general turning their noses up at her. Their judgemental and stoic stares angered him beyond anything else. Granger – Hermione was an amazing mother to his daughter, his flesh and blood. They had no right to judge her for a moment of weakness they had both shared five years ago.
“Do you thi –” his words were abruptly cut off, the shrill festering voice he had hoped to never hear again making him wince.
“Draco! Oh Draco, I have the most wonderful news!” the tall leggy brunette came rushing through the door, barely stopping to acknowledge his mother. Daphne. How could he have forgotten about Daphne? “It is absolutely wonderful, brilliant, magnifi –”
“Do stop babbling, girl,” snapped his mother, what little patience she had for the woman keeping her facial expression controlled.
He would have laughed out loud if not for the situation at hand. The look on Daphne’s face…well, it was priceless! Normally his mother kept her cool around his exceptionally annoying wife, even when she pulled something as ridiculous as buying a dozen or so peacocks simply because she felt like it. He also would have laughed hadn’t Daphne decided to drape herself across him, perched on his lap with a blithering smile on her face. Disinfectant was a definite must.
Ignoring her mother-in-law, the brunette turned to face him, her arms wrapping around his neck in what felt like a vice grip. “Draco, I’m pregnant!” she smiled brilliantly and he could see the false cheer in her eyes. “We’re going to have a baby, isn’t that wonderful?”
Wonderful for who? He thought sourly, reaching up to unlock her arms and remove them from his neck. There was no way she was pregnant, at least not by him. His mother gasped and he could just picture the expression on her face. Daphne’s smile began to falter when he gave no response. Was she stupid? Did she honestly believe that he would fall for something as ridiculous as this? But it wasn’t ridiculous, not really. She didn’t know about Rose or the spell. If there had been no enchantment then maybe her plan might have worked.
He wasn’t fooled for a second, not by her long silken brown hair or dark indigo eyes, nor her heart-shaped face and perfectly symmetrical features. She was exceptionally beautiful and used that to her advantage. Daphne counted on people underestimating her, but he wasn’t as gullible as some. Perhaps she wasn’t as smart or as rational as Hermione, neither patient nor understanding like her sister, Astoria. But Daphne was beautiful and she was most certainly cunning. He knew not to underestimate her.
Gilbert Lang, their family lawyer, had contacted him earlier that morning. The Wizengamot had approved his divorce papers and the second he gave them to Daphne, he would be free of her. He didn’t need her consent, or co-operation for the dissolution. All he had to do was make sure she touched the papers. Divorce was generally frowned upon within the magical community and it was usually impossible to get the Wizengamot to approve immediate marriage dissolutions. Only under special circumstances did they allow such things. Given that Daphne was screwing around behind his back and the fact that he had an illegitimate daughter, one he had every intention of acknowledging, they had been hard-pressed to find a reason not to grant his request.
All she had to do was touch the papers and it would be over. He would be free. Her magical signature was all that was needed. Of course, there would be a court case determining who got what, but essentially their marriage would be over. Draco was almost giddy with excitement by the mere prospect of it.
“Daphne,” he forced a smile on his face, reaching behind him to pick up the papers he had conveniently stowed under his chair. “That’s wonderful news,” bloody brilliant more like it, considering it wasn’t his. “Here, I’ve got something for you,” and the envelop was passed, all she had to do was open it up and pull out the papers.
Lifting her off his lap, Draco quickly got up, winked at his mother and strode across the room, ignoring his soon to be ex-wife’s curious stare. He was drunk with anticipation and couldn’t help but make a jibe at her before he left the room. “Give my congratulations and good luck to Nott, Merlin knows he’s going to need it if he has to deal with you,”
Horror spread across her face and he couldn’t help but smirk. She had touched the papers. He was free and she knew that he knew that the child wasn’t his, not to mention the fact that he knew whose it actually was. Oh, revenge was sweet. Her outraged shriek was the last thing he heard before apparating away, the image of Hermione’s parents’ house at the forefront of his mind. Loathe as he was to admit it, his mother was right. He had a limited amount of time to get to know Rose…and Hermione, before the press became involved – more than they already were, at least. Of one thing he was absolutely certain, he would be damned if he fucked this up.
“I win!” Rose cried happily, her tiny hand slamming onto the pile of cards. She smiled brilliantly and Hermione didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t a pair. They were playing snap – the muggle version – and it was disappointingly not a very good distraction.
It had been nine days since she’d taken refuge here at her parents’ house. They didn’t seem to mind too much, but her mother was constantly throwing her disapproving looks wherever she could. She had told them the truth and as expected, it hadn’t gone down too well. Her mother was scandalized and her father…she had wanted to crawl under a rock and die from the look he gave her. But they had put aside their disapproval and let her stay.
Life had been hard enough without the press being involved, but someone had tipped them off and Hermione was fairly certain that she knew who. If things couldn’t have gotten more complicated then the stares she received at work, not to mention the hushed whispers of her co-workers made everything that much worse. They never voiced their opinions, but Hermione could see it clearly in their eyes. She didn’t know whether to resent their petty beliefs or be thankful that they were keeping quiet.
Harry was furious. He had openly told Rita Skeeter to mind her own business. The next day there had been an article in the Prophet saying that he was the number one candidate for fatherhood, and that their illustrious history proved that he was most likely Rose’s father. Of course the articles were ridiculous, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t hurt. She refused, however, to let them get to her. There was enough to worry about with a howler arriving every morning from Molly Weasley, along with all the rest of her hate mail. It was almost impossible to keep Rose from hearing them, but she tried.
Her soon to be ex-mother-in-law had called her for everything. She couldn’t say that she didn’t deserve it. Ron was constantly trying to contact her, whether it be through the floo network, or arriving on her parents’ doorstep in the middle of the night. At first she had been frightened, but after some time she had resigned herself to the fact that he was just plain stubborn. Hermione tried to understand his persistence. Perhaps he just wanted to speak with her, and if that was the case, wasn’t it the least she could do? But she was being the cowardly lion and letting her father send him on his way every time.
He hadn’t sent her divorce papers yet, and that did bother her. There was no way they could come back from this. She didn’t know whether he was just being stubborn, or if by some chance he truly didn’t want to divorce her. It didn’t matter; Alyson was already drawing up the papers. If he wouldn’t serve her, than she would him.
Hermione sighed; everything was so screwed up. There was a time when she had truly been happy – she longed to see that day again. Rose was still having nightmares, but they had toned down to what they were. Harry was still sulking over the fact that Malfoy was her father. Her parents’ were as disapproving as ever and to make matters worse, she actually looked forward to Narcissa Malfoy’s visits. The woman was surprisingly good company, even if she had sent a house-elf to be both her and Rose’s personal shadow.
“Sweetheart,” her mother’s voice made her look up. “There is someone here to see you,”
“I didn’t hear the doorbell,” Hermione frowned, not missing the pointed look she was receiving.
“It did sound, Hermione, you were just in your own little world,” the words weren’t meant to be sharp, but they had an edge to them. Jean Granger sighed. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. It’s just – look, I think you should just talk to him yourself,”
“If it’s R-O –”
“It’s not,” Jean cut in, looking at Rose for a moment. The little girl was playing with the deck of cards by herself, knowing that they were talking about something she wouldn’t understand. “Let’s just say it’s a person who bares an uncanny resemblance to someone I know,” her mother tilted her head in Rose’s direction and Hermione immediately understood what she was trying to say.
She had been waiting for this visit for what felt like an eternity. It wasn’t that she was looking forward to seeing him – that would be near impossible considering his arrogant personality – but she was thankful that he had chosen to visit on a day that the press had decided to leave her be. There were a few things that she wished to discuss with him, but she had refused to be the one to seek him out. The fact that he had waited this long in between visits astounded her. He had seemed so eager to get to know Rose, yet after that night, she hadn’t heard a whisper from him.
“Rose, sweetheart, would you mind going upstairs to your room for a bit?” she asked anxiously, ruffling the girl’s already chaotic mass of curls with her hand.
Her daughter frowned, patting her faithful companion – the puppy that lived to make her life hell – on the head. “Why?”
Hermione was stumped. What was she supposed to say? If she told Rose that Draco was here, she knew that the little girl would refuse to leave. Ever since he had given her those belated birthday presents, Rose had, much to Hermione’s chagrin, idolized him as one would a God. At times she found it endearing, but for the most it bothered her. She barely knew him and yet Rose seemed to trust him completely, seeing him as one would a favourite Uncle. If only she knew…
“Mummy has to talk to someone, you know, grown-up to grown-up,” Rose looked about ready to ask who so Hermione quickly interjected. “And you know how boring grown-up conversations are! They just drone on and on and on…” silently she thanked the Gods that her daughter was like almost every other child her age. Rose’s eyes widened and she nodded her head, standing to leave the room. She pulled Pip along behind her as she made her way up the stairs, Jean Granger following behind to make sure her granddaughter didn’t decide to eavesdrop like she normally did.
A few tense minutes later and he emerged from the hallway, looking entirely out of place and uncomfortable in the foreign surroundings. She had decided to be civil, if not friendly toward him; he deserved that much. After everything she had put him through, the least she could do was try to pursue a friendship, or at least an understanding with him, if not to ease the ripping guilt inside, then for Rose.
He shifted uneasily, waiting for her to break the silence. She obliged with a sigh. “I’m surprised it’s taken you this long, Malfoy,”
“That makes two of us,” he replied, muttering under his breath.
To her, he seemed remarkably uneasy, anxious even. It didn’t really make much sense. Even when he’d confronted her back at the hospital, he’d had a controlled, calm sort of air about him. But now, now he appeared genuinely unsettled, and that in turn perturbed her. She wanted to know what it was that had him appearing thus. Furthermore, she wanted to help in whatever way she could.
“It’s been over a week,” Hermione stated calmly, tangling her fingers through her hair in frustration, trying to comb out the knots. “I would have thought that you would have come by before now. I don’t – I don’t pretend to understand anything you’re going through, or what you’re thinking,” the expression on his face remained nonchalant. “But I do know what I saw, Malfoy, and I am sorry. I shouldn’t have kept her from you, but please believe that I truly thought I was doing the right thing by her,” all the words she had wanted to say since the last time they’d met came rushing back.
She’d had a lot of time to think things through, to mull over her decisions and try to observe them objectively. Hermione knew that she had messed with too many peoples lives, ruined any happiness they may have had because of her one little lie. It had started out so small, simply with her refusing to acknowledge the possibility that Rose might be Draco’s daughter. Throughout her pregnancy she had been in denial, she could see that now. One lie was all it took to ruin a life and hers had been monumental. From small to astronomical – all it had taken to seal her fate was a few seconds. The moment she’d resolved to keep the secret about her and Draco to herself, she had sealed her fate and his too.
“I’ve had to deal with so much over the past few weeks and I feel like I could break at any moment. The only thing keeping me together is that little girl,” she didn’t know why she was opening up to him like this, making herself vulnerable. The pressure was just too much and she needed to get it off her chest. Perhaps if she opened up to him, they could try to get past all of this and at least try to be friends. “Everyone I know has virtually turned against me, with the small exception of Harry, Luna and Alyson, of course. I guess I kind of deserve this, don’t I?”
“No,” he shook his head, expression softening. “Granger, you don’t deserve this,”
“But I do!” Hermione cried. “I do deserve this! I lied to Ron and my whole family, including my friends, for years. I didn’t even tell you about Rose… Merlin, what kind of person am I?” this was it, what she’d been fighting against all week. This was her breaking point and she was definitely breaking.
“I don’t know how you do it,” his admission made her look up at him, confusion in her eyes. “You’ve withstood enough criticism to last you a lifetime, Granger, and yet you’ve managed to endure it all. Your friends, Skeeter, the public…me; how is it that you’re so –so –”
“Gutless?” she offered, a bitter edge to her voice.
“I was going to say strong, but I suppose gutless works too,” Draco remarked smoothly, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards at her small laugh.
Is he trying to comfort me? She thought bewilderedly, not really caring about the answer.
Hermione cleared her throat, wiping away the few tears that had escaped. “I’m sorry about all that, I just – I’ve been under so much stress lately what with Skeeter and the Weasleys,” he nodded his head in understanding and she wondered if he wasn’t a polyjuiced impostor. “Even my co-workers and Rose’s school teachers have been giving me the look. I haven’t really had the chance to get any of that off my chest, so I’m sorry for laying it all on you,”
“And here I just came by to see if you and Rose would like to go to the park for lunch,” he laughed sarcastically, but she could see the humour in his eyes.
“I’m sure she’d love that,” she started hesitantly.
Hermione took a deep breath. “No buts. Draco, I would like nothing more than to go to the park with you and Rose. I admit that I have my faults as do you, but I hope that we can perhaps come to some sort of agreement. I know it might be a bit much to ask, but I’d really like it if we could try to be friends. There are so few people who understand what we went through, or are even willing to try. The only people I have right now are Luna, Alyson – who is a co-worker and Rose’s godmother, by the way – and Harry. Of course, there is your mother too; she has been a godsend. But other than that –”
“What about your parents?” the startled look on his face was slowly waning into curiosity and understanding.
“They are tolerating me,” she answered with a shuddery breath. “Yes, they love me and Rose, but – but they’re too disappointed in me right now to really understand. They’ve allowed me to stay here as long as I need, but even I can tell that they are struggling with this situation and how to act. I think they just prefer to pretend that nothing has changed,” there was a long pause in the conversation, his expression thoughtful.
“Well, you can add Blaise Zabini to your list as he’s pretty much the only one on mine bar my parents,” Draco offered with a shrug. “He was the Auror that took care of Rose and her living arrangements while you were out of it. She left quite an impression on him,” he laughed at some memory. “I had to listen to two hours worth of ranting before he would even let me explain that I didn’t know about her. Here he thought that it had just slipped my mind,” she realised that he was offering this small insight, this admission to help even the ground they stood on.
“I didn’t know that, I just thought –”
“Look, it’s in the past. Short of kicking my arse, my mother has pretty much done everything in her power to make me understand that I can’t let this opportunity pass me by,” his rueful smile made her heart ache. Of course, he was having just as much trouble as her adjusting to the situation. She could see now why it had taken him this long to make the visit. There was one thing still bothering her, however.
“What does your wife have to say about all of this?” to her surprise, he grinned broadly.
“You mean my ex-wife, don’t you?” he laughed at her expression. Surely he hadn’t divorced his wife because of all this. Already the guilt was beginning to bubble in her chest.
“Oh – well – um…I’m so sorry –” she stuttered around her apology, but to her annoyance and again, surprise, he laughed.
“Gra – Hermione, I can assure you, I’m not upset in the slightest. In fact, this is all rather invigorating to me,” his hair fell into his eyes as he leaned back, pressing his body against the side of her father’s favourite armchair.
How can he not be even the slightest bit upset by all of this? She thought with a frown, her brow scrunching together. He just got divorced, doesn’t he care?
As if sensing her questions, he waved his hand about dismissively and said. “Let’s just say that there were irreconcilable differences – mainly her screwing around behind my back and purposely falling pregnant to Theodore Nott, while trying to pass the kid off as mine,” Draco grinned at her and Hermione realised that she probably looked like an idiot, gaping at him the way she was. “As I said, I’m not upset. I never wanted to marry her anyway, it was either that or Pansy Parkinson,” she screwed her nose up at the thought of the obnoxious Slytherin. “You see my reasoning,”
“That I do,” laughed Hermione, liking the fact that they were getting along quite well. “I never thought I’d live to see the day where I agreed with you on anything,”
He chuckled. “Touché,”
“I also never thought I’d see the day where you would readily say my first name without being tortured or threatened,” she was smiling despite her comment.
“Well, you said my name first,” Draco countered.
“Touché,” Hermione laughed quietly, using his own wording against him in a mocking manner. After a few silent moments, she decided that she hadn’t really answered the question he had come to ask, not definitively. “If you give me a couple of minutes, Rose and I’ll be ready for that lunch in the park you promised,”
He grinned and nodded. It was remarkable that they’d had an entire conversation without yelling at each other. Hermione supposed that it was because they’d had enough time to come to terms with the fact that they would be a part of each other’s lives no matter what, now that he knew about Rose. She planned to get along with him and by the looks of things, he with her. There was still a long way to go, but it was a start and hopefully the beginning of a friendship between them.
Chapter 14: A Helping Hand
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Chapter Image made by arushi of TDA!
Author’s Note: I know that it has been a while since I last updated, but I am not going to apologise for something that was out of my control. Sometimes life gets in the way, however in this case it was death which was the cause for my lack of an update. An immediate family member passed away early on in the New Year and there was a lot to be done, funeral wise and other.
On another note, I am working on three fanfictions at the moment – this one included – and an original which is slowly turning into a novel. Please be patient as it may take a while for me to update, but know that I am writing as much as I possibly can.
After this update, there are eight chapters left. I do know how this is going to end, so you don’t have to worry about this story being abandoned. I will complete it.
.: Chapter Fourteen – A Helping Hand :.
Saturday, May 18, 2002
How had it all gone so wrong? One moment they were sitting at the dinner table, laughing at some ridiculous joke he’d heard at work, and then she was gone. Things had seemed so perfect, so effortless. He had to have been blind not to see. Perhaps he hadn’t wanted to. Why would he, when everything was turning out exactly as he had dreamed? He’d had everything he’d ever wanted – Hermione and a child who’d loved him without pause. That was just a fanciful dream now.
Hermione had been his everything. They’d argued more than any other couple he knew, but that had just been their way. At Hogwarts everyone had joked about them bickering like an old married couple. It was just what they did. Had he been so blind to think that all those fights were just an endearing quirk in their relationship? Yes, he had. He had thought that everything was perfect, that they were who they were, faults and all. The problem with that was his inability to actually see the person in front of him. With Hermione he had seen everything he’d imagined her to be and not who she really was. She'd been an ideal, a dream that was far from compatible with who they were.
Where she had wanted a career, he’d desired her to be a housewife like his mother. She wanted to wait to have more children. He didn’t. Hermione was successful, he was not. They were complete opposites, yet he had managed to ignore every sign that pointed toward their incompatibility from the start. There were numerous times he had felt inadequate standing next to her. He with the simple desk job, compared to a woman who had taken the legal system by storm and changed their world bit by bit. Ron had always envied her that.
Whatever she did, she was successful. The world parted in the wake of her achievements, like it was bowing down to her ideals of a better, equal and rewarding humanity. Where she had the vision and determination to see her plans through, he did not. It was funny how the world appeared to him now. The loving wife he had adored and the little angel he’d called daughter were now disappearing before his eyes, swallowed whole by the ever-consuming cloud that hung above him. Life was not worth living without them.
Rose had been his little girl, his mischievous little wood nymph. How could he love someone so much, so much that it physically hurt? Every time he thought of her, of her smile, her eyes, even those goddamn blonde curls, his heart broke just a little bit more. Why couldn’t she have had red curls instead of blonde? Red, the colour of his hair and not that bastard’s. How could Hermione have done this to him? What had he done to deserve this? Was this some kind of sick, twisted joke? Could it be a dream? He hoped to Merlin, prayed to every muggle God he knew of, that it was. But every morning when he woke up, it was to the same reality he had left the night before.
Ron wanted to hate her, hate her with every fibre of his being. He couldn’t. Despite everything, he couldn’t hate her the way he should have, the way she deserved to be hated. He still loved her. After everything she had done, he still loved her. No one seemed to understand that. His mother had gone on a rampage, slurring Hermione’s name by giving – of all people – Rita Skeeter her scoop. Ginny had joined in on the fun, even going as far as to bring Harry into the mix. That had been his breaking point, the moment she drew Harry into the firing line. The only person who had given him his space, let him breathe without having to worry about pitying stares, was his best friend.
Ron knew that his sister could be petty, but she had taken her revenge too far. Harry had done nothing but be supportive, even giving him updates on how Hermione and Rose were settling in at her parents’ house. She refused to see him, refused to talk or even listen to what he had to say. He couldn’t even see Rose; that was one thing he did hate her for.
Despite what everyone had first thought, he would never hurt his wife or daughter intentionally. He had just been so mad, so laden with grief that he hadn't thought. Hermione had fallen, slipped when he’d let her arm go as though he had burned her. She’d slipped and hit her head. There was nothing he could do, try as he might. He remembered reaching for her, trying to catch her, but she’d slipped through his fingers. Then Rose had come hurtling down the stairs screaming at the top of her lungs, crying for her mother. It had broken his heart seeing her fearful face staring back up at him.
All he had tried to do was get her out of there. She’d struggled so hard to get to Hermione, that he hadn’t recognised his own strength in trying to restrain her. The only thing that was running through his mind was that he had to get her out of there, stop her from seeing Hermione like that. Ironically, it was the Malfoys who came to the rescue. They had taken so much from his family, belittled and tortured them. He would never stop hating them for that, especially now that they had taken the two most precious things in his life from him.
Rose wasn’t his. Hermione was no longer his. Nothing belonged to him anymore. All he had left were broken memories that haunted him at every turn. He wanted to drown, to hold his breath and never come up for air.
“Mate, you have to stop doing this,” Harry’s voice came from the doorway, patient with worry. He barely paid him any mind, choosing instead to lift the half-empty bottle to his lips. Firewhiskey worked wonders.
After a few moments of silence, Ron lifted his head from the kitchen table where he had let it rest. “It’s the only thing that helps,” he muttered quietly, taking another swig from the bottle.
“Drowning your pain with drink isn’t helping, Ron,” his friend all but whispered, coming to sit beside him. “You’re avoiding the truth,”
“It’s better this way,”
“The truth hurts; I know that better than anyone else,” Harry sighed, taking the bottle out of his hands. He felt vulnerable without it, without his pain reliever. How was he supposed to cope now? “You don’t think I don’t feel betrayed by this?” continued his friend, voice loaded with barely restrained emotion.
Ron sniffed, blinking back tears. He would not cry, not in front of Harry. His friend would think he was a pansy. Regardless, the words he’d kept bottled up began to spill out and he felt naked, vulnerable and exposed because of them. “I thought we were happy. I just – I don’t understand how she could do this, Harry,”
“What she did was unforgivable. It didn’t just hurt you, Ron, it hurt everyone,” the words cut at him despite their good intentions. “Hermione made a mistake. People make mistakes. Hers was just bigger than most,”
In spite of everything a small flame of anger flared up inside him. “You’re defending her?” he accused, the mix of alcohol and his overwhelming grief clouding his judgement.
“I’m not defending what she did,” Harry answered calmly, a sad look in his eyes.
“But you are defending her,” he persisted.
“She’s still my friend, Ron. Too much has happened for me to just turn my back on her now,” his friend sighed, running a hand through his already messy hair. “Yes, she made the worst mistake of her life. Now she has to deal with the consequences,” the look on his face showed that he was having trouble remaining diplomatic. “I don’t condone what she’s done, especially not to you. But Ron, mate, don’t make me choose a side, because I can’t…I won’t,” Harry’s eyes were beseeching.
He couldn’t do this to Harry, force him to choose between the two of them. It wasn’t fair. Hermione was just as much Harry’s best friend as he was. They each brought something to the table, and he couldn’t make his friend choose which of them he valued more. If only the situation were less complicated, maybe then this wouldn’t be so hard.
“If it had been anyone but him…” Ron felt his anger flare once more, but this time he quelled it. There was no use in being angry; it would only increase the pain. As it was, he could barely breathe. Why had she chosen him?
“I know what you mean,” replied Harry, an edge to his voice. At least he understood.
“Of all the people…” his voice trailed off as he struggled to find the right words. “Why’d she choose him?” there was a hitch in his voice, a choke of emotion on the last word.
“I don’t think she consciously chose him, Ron. It just happened,”
“Something like that doesn’t just happen, Harry,” he scoffed bitterly, wishing he had his pain reliever, his bottle of Ogden’s Firewhiskey. Why did he have to start talking about something that ate him up inside? It would do no good.
“I know a little of the circumstances. From what I can tell, it did just happen,” it was his friend’s insistence that won him over.
Ron wanted to believe him, to believe that Hermione had just made a mistake. That was not enough, however, not when it was compared to everything else. Harry wouldn’t lie to him, not like she had. She’d led him to believe for years that Rose was his daughter, that she loved him. How could he have been so blind? He might have been able to forgive her if it weren’t for Malfoy. What she’d done, it was the ultimate betrayal.
It had been a surprisingly wonderful day. Hermione had never thought that in between all the awkward pauses and strained conversation that she’d actually enjoy herself. Stranger still, it seemed that Draco had enjoyed himself also. She had initially been worried about the outing, but Draco had adapted to the strange muggle setting fairly quickly. He had thought that they were going to a magical park, not a muggle one. It had been quite amusing to see the expression on his face when Rose had told him as much. Draco hadn’t denied her though; he’d simply nodded his head and pretended not to look scared out of his wits.
He was good like that. She had never seen Rose so happy. It was wrong of her to compare the two, but Ron had never even attempted to go on the seesaw or merry-go-round with her. Draco would not deny her anything, no matter how terrified he was, and Rose had learned that early on, using it to her advantage. Still, she had never seen the little girl look so alive. Hermione knew that in reality, she had seen her daughter look like this before. It had just been so long since she’d seen that calibre of happiness in her. Her smile was so brilliant and it was all because of Draco.
Never in a million years would she have thought that he could be so – so unguarded and genuine. He may have been terrified when Rose had gone on the swing set, kicking her legs to pick up speed and soar higher and higher. Hell, the look on his face had been exactly the same as Ron’s when he’d first seen the muggle contraption. But Hermione knew that as long as Rose kept smiling, he wouldn’t intervene. It was a hard lesson to learn, watching the two of them interact. She had been so wrong about him, about everything.
These past five hours – they’d been a real eye-opener. There was no way she could go back and change things, not without using a time turner and even then that wasn’t an option. She wondered what life would have been like had she told him about Rose. The war had just ended and the world was slowly recovering from Voldemort’s wrath. Would they have stood a chance? Hermione didn’t know what they would have done. It would’ve been a struggle though, she knew that much. Life was never easy and this wouldn’t have been any different.
She wished she could go back and change things. There was so much she would have done differently. For starters, she wouldn’t have let Molly push her into the marriage with Ron. That was one of her biggest mistakes; she should have listened to her instincts, to her parents. Her mistakes had been many, but there was nothing she could do about that now. Hermione knew that the time for self-pity was over. How many days had she spent crying? Tears were no longer an option. A pity party would do her no good, not when she had to take care of Rose.
“So,” Draco started awkwardly, shifting a sleeping Rose in his arms. The little girl had worn herself out, chasing Pip – who was currently dragging Hermione forward on her lead – and playing with Draco on the playground equipment. “Are you planning on staying with your parents long?”
They had avoided the tougher subjects, but this was a potentially dicey question. It could lead to other questions, ones that neither wanted to face answering. Still, Hermione reasoned that they had to have this conversation sooner or later. “I really don’t know. It’s been over a week now and already I’m starting to feel a little suffocated. I have no other option though. Other than getting a small flat for Rose and I to live in, this is the best I can do. Nothing is really feasible at the moment, not with the way things are,”
Honesty, she gathered, was the best policy. She had told enough lies to last her a lifetime, so she was going to be as honest as she possibly could. It wasn’t in anyway redeeming what she had done, but it was a change for the better. If she stood any chance at forming some kind of friendship or understanding with Draco, honesty would play a large part in that. He had to be able to trust her and vice versa – for Rose.
“I kind of understand how you feel. Merlin, I’ve been divorced for less than a day and already I’m dreading the prospect of moving back in with my parents! Sure, I love them and all, but –”
“They can get a bit much?” she finished for him and he grinned in response, nodding his head.
“My mother, she means well,” he started, shifting Rose again who had curled her arms around his neck and her tiny legs halfway around his waist. “But she can be a bit too much at times. It’s all or nothing with her. She’s either smothering with her affection, or down right murderous in her anger. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an in between. Most of the time she can be diplomatic, but…,” he trailed off, laughing under his breath. “She’ll probably try to do me in with her prized elfin crystal for telling you this,”
“You’re probably right,” Hermione agreed with a laugh, remembering Narcissa’s impeccable manners and deceivingly docile personality – in public.
“Can I ask you something?” Draco questioned, giving Hermione the impression that she wouldn’t like what he had to ask. Regardless, she nodded. “Have you – do you know what’s going to happen with – with Weasley?”
The look on his face was unreadable, but his eyes – his eyes showed nothing but worry and…vulnerability? It was with a start that Hermione realised that he was worried, afraid even, that Ron would have enough say in Rose’s life to keep her from him. He held Rose closer to him as if she would disappear, be taken from him at any moment. Hermione knew without a doubt that he would fight for her. If it came down to a legal battle, he would fight to the death. But so would Ron.
After today, Hermione knew that she couldn’t consciously keep Rose from Draco. He was her father, even if the little girl didn’t know that. Draco was her father and he cared – no, he loved her. Who wouldn’t love her? The moment she had laid her eyes on Rose as a baby, she had loved her fiercely and knew that she would do anything to protect her. Why would Draco be any different? She was just as much his daughter as she was hers. Kind recognised kind; perhaps that was why Rose had taken to Draco so quickly. Maybe on some unconscious level, she knew that he was to be a large part of her life.
“I honestly don’t know, Draco. I – I’ve asked Rose’s godmother to draw up divorce papers for me,” she admitted quietly, looking fondly at her daughter for a moment. “He won’t be happy about that, but hopefully he’ll still care enough to grant me the divorce,” if she knew Ron as well as she thought she did, Hermione figured that he would fight this – initially, at least.
“I opted for an immediate marriage dissolution,” he offered offhandedly.
Hermione smiled despite herself. “Yes, I figured that would be more your style,” Draco simply shrugged, a rueful smile on his face. “Alyson is drawing up the same for me, though. So I guess I can’t judge you for that,” her admission was met with a long silence.
She hadn’t wanted to divorce Ron, at least not this way. But Alyson was acting as her lawyer and Hermione realised that considering her situation, this was probably the best and safest route she could take. There was no doubt in her mind that Wizengamot would approve her divorce, if not with contempt and disgust for her and her actions. It had to be done, however.
“Rose has been having nightmares,” she said absently, not really knowing why she was telling him this.
“Hmm,” biting nervously on her lower lip, she stopped walking. They’d been slowly making their way back to her parents’ house, but every delay was a welcome one. “About Ron, about him taking her away from me,”
“He really scared her, didn’t he?” there was silent fury in his eyes, bubbling violently.
“It’s not like he meant to,” she argued weakly, trying to dissipate his anger with a pleading expression. “Ron was never very tactful,”
“No, I don’t suppose Weasel was,” he snapped, voice clipped and challenging.
Hermione sighed. “Let’s not start this, okay. I don’t want to fight and you know I will. If you keep making snide remarks, no matter how deserved they may seem, you know I will retaliate. I don’t want to fight with you Draco, so please – ”
“What?” she asked, surprised by his quick submission.
“I said, okay,” Draco rolled his eyes, talking as one would to a small child. “I get it, you know? Despite everything, you’ll always think of him as your friend because too much has happened for you not to. I get it. It’s like that with me and Blaise,”
A little stunned, Hermione quietly replied. “Thank you,”
He really was a different person. It wasn’t like he’d done a complete one-eighty, but he had changed. Age and experience, she gathered, played a large part in that. Back at Hogwarts, he practically had everything handed to him on a silver platter. His sixth year had to have been the turning point, when he began to finally see the flaws in his beliefs. Hermione admired the man he had become. Not only was he reliable, but he was caring, understanding, reasonable and even honest on occasion. Sure, he was still snarky and arrogant, but he had changed and for the better.
“You know, if you were looking for somewhere to live, you could always move into one of my family’s country estates,” he turned to look at her, a somewhat thoughtful expression on his face. “Our ancestral family home – the manor – is in Wiltshire, but we have a country estate in Lincolnshire that isn’t too ostentatious. In fact, I rather think Rose might like it there. Daphne redecorated the manor in Durham, so she is definitely getting that in the divorce settlement. Merlin that woman had bad taste -”
“Draco, it’s a really great offer, but there is no way I can possibly accept,” Hermione felt that she had to cut him off before he got too hopeful. She could see it in his eyes. He wanted her and Rose to live there. The mere idea of it seemed to excite him.
If she was being honest with herself, the idea of living in Lincolnshire greatly appealed to her also. Not only did it have a rather picturesque landscape, but the history – she would die just to be able to explore the county’s various historical towns. Hell, it was the birthplace of Isaac Newton! Hermione knew that she would be in absolute bliss living there.
“Hermione, think about it. Rose would love it there,” she almost laughed out loud at the look on his face. He had the sad puppy dog eyes, the ones that despite colour were identical to her daughter’s. Rose used that expression on her all the time; she’d obviously inherited it from him.
It really was a great offer and Rose would love it there. Still, she would feel indebted to him somehow and she didn’t want that. Hermione knew that he was trying to do the right thing. He wanted to feel like he was doing something more, contributing to Rose’s life in a more stable and significant way. Draco wanted to provide for her, to take care of her. She wanted to say yes, she really did. But it was just too much.
“I can give her my love and my heart, Hermione. Merlin, she already has it! But I need to feel like I’m doing something more,” he cut her off, confirming her beliefs. “She already has Weasley as her father –”
“You are just as much her father as he is,” the words held no doubt, no reservations; she meant them. They both looked at Rose, seeing her sound asleep and breathing evenly in his arms.
“It’s not like she knows that,” Draco argued quietly. “And I’m not about to shatter every belief she has by telling her that I’m her father and Ronald bloody Weasley isn’t,”
Hermione sighed, hoping that she wouldn’t regret this later on. “Alright, Draco,” he looked at her, slightly hopeful. “Here’s what we’re going to do. Rose and I will move into the estate at Lincolnshire. However, I refuse to stay there without at least paying some kind of rent. And before you argue with me, that is non-negotiable. Also, I think that maybe you should move in with us. I have no doubt that it will be awkward at first, but this way you will at least have a better chance at getting to know Rose properly,”
He looked at her for a long moment, his eyes lighting up. After a second or two, a genuine smile spread across his face. “You won’t regret this, Hermione. I promise you that,”
“I sincerely hope not,”
Chapter 15: The End
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Chapter Image made by jetaway of TDA!
Author's Note: Well, it's official...school is back in session. This is my last year so I am swamped. I'm studying History, Physchology, Sociology and I am doing a double-major in advanced English. I won't have much of a life outside of schoolwork this year, that much is obvious. Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that my updates may take a little longer in coming.
I hope you enjoy the chapter!
.: Chapter Fifteen – The End :.
Tuesday, May 21, 2002
Today was the day. She had agonised over this for hours, worrying whether she’d made the right decision or not. In the end she had to concede; it was the perfect solution. Not only would they have somewhere to live but it would also give Draco the chance to get to know his daughter. There was so much he had missed out on. Her first word, first steps; Hermione knew that guilt was an inevitable emotion in her situation. But this – this type of guilt, the magnitude of it…it was worse than she could have ever imagined.
She had been married to Ron for five years, five long and tiring years. He had loved her through all of them. Ron had loved her and to a degree, she him. The guilt and self-loathing she felt for what she had done to him was unmeasurable. With Draco, however, it was worse. There was no rational explanation for why she felt less remorse for Ron than she did for Draco. What she had done to each man was equally horrible, if not a little worse in her husband’s case.
Hermione wished she could do things over, go back in time and stop her younger self from making the worst mistake of her life. Terrible things happened to witches and wizards who meddled with time. This was her life now, she couldn’t change that. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
“Hermione, are you sure about this?” Alyson asked, levitating the last of her suitcases down the stairs. It had seemed wrong to ask Harry for help, especially since he was already up in arms about her change of address. He’d come over last night after Rose had gone to bed, yelling at her for what seemed like hours. In the end she’d had enough and fought back, defending her decision and rationalising it to her enraged friend. Harry hadn’t been happy but he’d eventually conceded and left, brooding as he walked out the door.
“It’s the best solution, Ally,” she said, pulling her hair back into a messy bun.
Her day had been hectic. Richard Hastings, her boss, had been reluctant to change her hours. Draco had actually suggested the change, saying that she could take Rose to school in the mornings and he could pick her up, or get Mipsy to in the afternoons. He rationalised that it would be better for her in the long if she didn’t have to wake up every morning at five. She had to agree with him, albeit reluctantly. Now, her hours were eight to five. Today however, she had decided to take the afternoon off to pack and finalise some last minute details.
“Well, what about Rose?”
Hermione sighed. “He adores her and the feeling seems to be mutual. She’s idolised him ever since he gave her that infernal dog.”
“It’s a cute dog,” her friend laughed.
“More like demonic,” she muttered, trying to ignore the fact that that ‘infernal dog’ was actually starting to grow on her.
Alyson tucked her wand into the back pocket of her jeans, leaning against the staircase banister. “Okay, but what about you? Don’t get me wrong, he seems like a really great guy... But Hermione, you have a history. Are you sure you are going to be okay living with him?”
She knew that Alyson was only trying to look out for her, but she’d already had this conversation with her mother and father. Harry had even calmed down enough to ask her the very same question before going off on another tangent. Truthfully, she didn’t know how she was going to cope with this living arrangement. It would be awkward, but hopefully they could get by. Draco deserved the chance to get to know Rose and Hermione wasn’t going to dash that dream simply because she felt uncomfortable.
“I’m not going to lie to you, Ally,” looking out the window, she saw Draco and Rose laughing as Pip rolled around on the grass. It brought a smile to her face. He’d arrived half an hour ago to keep Rose occupied while she packed. “It’s not going to be easy. There will be times where I will want to throttle him, I am sure. He is probably the most arrogant person I know…but he has good intentions and a good heart – most of the time. We can make it work, for Rose if nothing else.”
“I’m not going to judge you, Hermione. You’ve been there for me when I’ve needed you, and you’ve told me the truth even if I didn’t want to hear it. But I’m worried about this. I just don’t want to see you get hurt,” blue eyes stared at her, emphatic in expression. It warmed her heart.
“I’ll be fine. This is the right thing to do,” she smiled, hoping her expression conveyed everything she wanted to say. Her parents were in the next room, and while she loved them dearly, she didn’t want them to hear her admitting to her mistake. It was one thing to say that she had been wrong, but it was something else entirely to say that she wished herself dead for what she’d done. Hermione wanted to make things right, she felt as if it was her responsibility to do so. Her parents wouldn’t understand.
Alyson smiled sadly, letting out a small sigh. “If I can’t change your mind…”
“I’m a phone call away if you need me, okay?” sometimes she was extremely thankful that her friend was a muggleborn, much like herself. It made things so much simpler. Alyson hugged her. “I’ve left your divorce papers on your bed upstairs, if you want my advice, do it sooner rather than later. Pull the bandaid off quick, it’ll hurt, but it has to be done.”
Hermione nodded, pulling out of the embrace with a sniff. The last thing she needed right now was to start tearing up. She said her goodbyes to the other witch, wishing her good luck on her date. One of the older interns had mustered up the courage to ask her out – a Gryffindor – and Alyson had reluctantly accepted. They were a good match. From what Hermione could remember, he had very boyish facial features – definitely attractive.
When Alyson was safely out the door, Hermione let her shoulders slump forward. What her friend had said was true, it was better to pull the bandaid off quickly rather than draw it out unnecessarily. Ron deserved to be told the truth, to be treated with respect. He deserved someone better than her. They both needed a fresh start.
As she made her way up the stairs, heading toward her old childhood bedroom, Hermione thought back to her wedding day, their first anniversary, their third, and so on. She couldn’t deny that she had been happy. The first few years had been the best, it was only in the last year or so that she began to feel discontent. Ron had always been there for her, he’d been her best friend for years. Hermione reasoned that this was probably the reason why she had kept quiet for so long. She hadn’t wanted to hurt him.
That was inevitable now. He was heartbroken, Harry had said as much. But there was nothing she could do to ease the pain, not presently at least. She had to think about Rose and what was best for her. The nightmares had toned down but she still woke with tearful eyes. Hermione didn’t want to keep Rose from him; she didn’t want to cut him out of her life. Ron was a brilliant father, even Draco begrudgingly acknowledged that. Still, she had to do what was best for her daughter. Perhaps in time, things would calm down and she’d be comfortable enough to let him back into their lives.
When Hermione retrieved the documents from her bed, they glowed faintly for a moment. She didn’t have to look at them to know that her signature had just appeared on the bottom of the page. All that was needed now was Ron’s signature. The thought hurt more than she had anticipated. It was the end. After this, there would be nothing tying them together. Ties would be severed and she was feeling just a little nostalgic.
Closing her eyes, she pictured the front door of their house. A few uncomfortable seconds later and it was there. For a few minutes she just stood there, hardly breathing. She knew she had to go in, she knew she had to. Her feet just wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t a matter of being scared; she just really didn’t want to hurt him. Heart racing, she took in a deep, shuddery breath, squeezing her eyes shut before forcing her feet to move. And then she was in the kitchen, watching the poignant scene in front of her.
An empty bottle of Firewhiskey stood in the middle of the table, surrounded by some of her muggle collection. It broke her heart. He’d been doing more than just drinking; he’d been drowning in his sorrow, running away from the pain. Alcohol was only a quick fix, sooner or later the pain would come back. When her Uncle had died, her father had said as much after making his way through their entire liquor cabinet. She felt horrible.
Just as she was about to leave – there was no way she could hand him divorce papers if he was drunk – she saw out the corner of her eye an empty potion vial. Curious, she walked over and sniffed the uncorked bottle, immediately recognising the potion. It had been a Hangover Potion. A soft smile appeared on her face almost instantly. Harry.
“Hermione?” a choked voice came from behind her, causing her to wince involuntarily.
Closing her eyes briefly, she turned around, letting out a long breath. “Ron.”
He looked horrible…but sober, definitely sober. His hair was a scraggily mess and it looked as though he hadn’t shaved in weeks. She didn’t know what looked worse, his bedraggled state or the haunted, pained look in his eyes. There was no way she could make amends for all she had done. Hermione knew that she had ruined him, ruined every ideal, dream and hope he’d ever had. She had taken away his family, shattered his belief in life and – and destroyed his heart.
“How did we end up like this, Hermione? Everything – it went so horribly wrong. Why? How?” his downtrodden, defeated voice cut at her. This was worse than the yelling she had anticipated. It was like he was broken without repair.
“I honestly don’t know,” she answered quietly, moving to sit at the kitchen table, banishing the empty bottles to the sink with a flick of her wand. It wasn’t as if she was ignorant, there was a cause for all of their problems. Her.
He looked torn between anger and grief-stricken defeat. The latter won out and he slumped into the seat opposite her, eyes pleading. “We were happy, weren’t we?”
“Yes,” her answer was immediate. “Yes, Ron, we were.”
“But it wasn’t enough,” it was a statement, not a question.
“No – no, it wasn’t,” Hermione replied honestly, her heart breaking at the expression on his face.
Ron ran a hand through his hair, looking away from her. “I tried calling by your parents house but –”
“They wouldn’t let you in, I know,” she cut in sombrely, wanting to do nothing more than reach across the table and console the man in front of her. In reality, she knew that wasn’t really an option. The best they could do considering the circumstances was talk.
“You told them not to,” another statement, more an accusation.
Hermione sighed, answering honestly. “I did.”
“Why?” his voice was slowly changing from defeated to angry, accusatory. Maybe there would be yelling…
“It’s selfish of me, I know, but I wasn’t ready to face you,” the excuse, though true, sounded pathetic even to her. She was a Gryffindor and this was her explanation? Maybe the sorting hat had been right; maybe she was more suited to Ravenclaw. But she had read Hogwarts a History and had been determined to be in what she considered to be the best house.
“And you are now?” Ron asked, blue eyes piercing through her.
“I have to be,” she bit her lower lip, heart aching. “Ron, Rose and I are moving.”
His expression changed. “Back home?” he looked pitifully hopeful. Her heart broke just a little bit more.
“No…we aren’t moving back home, Ron. I didn’t want to do this, not to you, not after everything you’ve done for use over the years,” slowly she extracted the divorce papers from her back pocket and set them on the table.
“I want a divorce,” she cut in, closing her eyes briefly. Silence enveloped them and after several tense moments she continued, averting her eyes from his piercing blue. “I had Alyson write up the papers, all you have to do is touch them and it’ll all be over. A court date will be set to determine who gets what and –”
“You want a divorce?” his eyes were unseeing.
“Yes,” her answer was wary.
Suddenly, his expression changed. He was no longer surprised or upset…he was angry, furious even. “Does this have anything to do with him?”
She felt her heart jump into her throat. He knew. Regardless, she had to ask. “You know about Draco?”
It was horrible, the look on his face. She hated to imagine the different ways he could have found out. Harry was a possibility, but she liked to believe that her friend had kept her confidence. They’d agreed that it would be best if she told him. Perhaps Harry had changed his mind. Then again, he was more likely to follow what they’d already agreed upon. Molly may have figured things out after her argument with Narcissa, the latter of which had confessed to her of her misdeed. That was the most likely possibility.
“Yes,” Ron snapped. “I know about Malfoy,” he pronounced the last word with such spite, such hatred that she flinched, her body pushing into the back of her chair.
“I’m sorry,” the apology came of its own accord, slipping passed her lips before she could really think about her words. It was the wrong thing to say. Ron immediately bristled.
“Sorry isn’t good enough,” his retort was harsh and made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
Looking down at her hands, Hermione pondered her options. It wouldn’t do her any good to get into an argument with him now. Besides, she really wasn’t in the mood to fight with him. Instinct told her to defend herself, to tell him the whole story. She couldn’t. Instead, she simply breathed deeply and tried to control her emotions. Hermione was sick of feeling helpless, weak. Her emotions always gave her away, she was ruled by them. Not today. She couldn’t afford to lose control today.
“No, I don’t suppose it is,” she agreed with him softly, forcing herself to look him in the eye. “This hasn’t got anything to do with – a divorce is the right thing to do, Ron. We both need a fresh start,” her rationalisation sounded weak even to her own ears, but it was the truth.
Ron stared at her for a long moment. “And I suppose yours includes him,” the accusation hurt, but she suspected it hurt him more.
“He is very good with Rose and –”
“I don’t care if he’s fucking Mary Poppins, he isn’t going near my daughter!” he roared, standing up abruptly.
She winced as his chair clattered to the floor, trying to ignore the swell of fear rising in her chest. Rose loved muggle movies, specifically the older ones she herself used to watch as a child. Jean, her mother, had introduced them to her. Ron had always been in charge of “movie time.” Hermione guessed that this was the reason his reference to the fictional character stood out more than the rest of his threat. It was a reminder of the past.
“He never knew about her, Ron,” she whispered quietly, looking up at him with unseeing eyes. His expression changed from rage, to confusion and then understanding. “I – I never told him. I honestly, truly thought that she was yours when I married you. After everything I have done – to him, to you – I can’t deny him the chance to get to know her. It’s the least I can do.”
“And what about me?” his voice had changed, grown sadder, more aware. He understood, or at least she hoped he did. There were so many emotions flickering across his face, the most startling fear. She knew what he feared. Ron thought he was being replaced.
“You will always be her father. I won’t let her forget that,” her words held such conviction that he seemed startled, as if he was expecting something else entirely.
“But you won’t let me see her, either” another statement. There was hope in his expression, but for the most, resignation.
“No,” she answered honestly.
Hermione sighed, running a hand over her face. “She’s just a child, Ron. All this instability isn’t good for her.”
“I’m unstable?” he asked, offended by her words.
“No,” she was quick to answer. “At least I don’t think you are. Things need to settle down first, she needs to come to grips with all the changes in her life right now. Rose may appear to be fine, but we both know how confused and scared she is. I don’t want to upset her more than is necessary.”
“I upset her?” his eyes widened, filled with horror at the prospect.
Her heart ached at the look in his eyes. She didn’t want to hurt him anymore than she already had, but she had to be honest with him. “To a degree…yes. What happened that night was an accident, we both know that. I’ve tried to explain that to her, but she just won’t listen. She only recognises what she saw…”
He was quiet for a very long time, staring with glassy eyes out the window. She didn’t want to interrupt his thoughts, so she waited. Eventually, he turned back to her, expression solemn. “How long till I can see her again?”
“I don’t know,” she bit her lip, brow creasing. “If it was up to me – tomorrow. But it isn’t up to me, it’s up to her when she’s ready. I don’t want to push her, Ron. She’s been through too much. Give her some time to adjust, write her a letter - start small and hope that it’s enough.”
“I really screwed this up,” Ron muttered under his breath. Immediately she leaned forward, ready to argue that he was anything but at fault. His next words, however, took her off guard. “Does she like him?”
“Ron –” this wasn’t the time and she was sure that he wouldn’t like her answer.
“Does she like him?” he persisted, his voice taking on a hard edge.
“Yes, she does,” her words were slow and precise. “He’s really good with her, Ron, and I know for a fact that he won’t hurt her,” she felt that she needed to convince him, to gain his approval – that in itself was impossible. He would never approve of Draco.
“He’s a Malfoy,” his voice was defeated, angry, but defeated.
“So is she,” Hermione watched as his face became pained, haunted.
“She’ll always be a Weasley to me,” the words were so soft she barely heard them. It really broke her heart to see him like this. Reaching forward, Ron touched his fingertips to the divorce papers she had all but forgotten. He looked at her, a sad smile appearing on his face. “Give her a kiss from me, okay?”
Her voice died in her throat as the papers glowed underneath his fingers. It was over. They were over. She was single, divorced. “I will, I promise,” Hermione forced the words out of her mouth, swallowing hard.
Standing up, a watery smile on her lips, she walked around the table into the adjoining room, using her wand to pack up the rest of her and Rose’s belongings. All the items flew into her beaded bag, whooshing passed in a blur. Her eyes were watering, but she refused to fall apart.
When she was done, Hermione walked back into the kitchen. Ron hadn’t moved from his spot, standing beside the table. “For what it’s worth, I did love you – I always will,” she laid her hand gently on his shoulder, staring into his blue eyes tenderly. Too much had happened for her not to love him. He was still her best friend.
Ron nodded, hand lifting to cup her cheek softly. “You’ll never understand just how much I love you, Hermione,” he whispered quietly, leaning forward to place a last, lingering kiss on her lips.
She struggled not to cry and pulled back, lifting her hand to stroke the side of his face. “You take care of yourself, okay?”
“I will,” it was then that he let go of her and walked away. One of them had to end it, leave, or neither of them would.
Closing her eyes, she took three deep and uneven breaths. Then she apparated away, leaving behind all that she had ever known.
His day had been uneventful and…blissfully wonderful. Miracles never ceased; he hadn’t had a day off in, well, months. Blaise was euphoric. All day he’d lazed about his apartment, ignoring the state of disarray it was in. To him, this was a form of heaven, a plane of idle existence where he didn’t have to worry about work, or his parents. He could just pretend that nothing existed outside the half empty take-out boxes and his comfy leather recliner. Heaven was bliss.
Not even his friend’s dramatic life could bother him today. If Draco wanted to live with Granger and his kid, then that was fine by him. Who was he to judge? Besides, Rose was worth it, worth whatever discomfort his friend would have to endure while living with her mother. Then again, anything was better than Daphne. He was just happy that Draco was finally free of the banshee. Daphne had been a pain in everyone’s arse.
A knock on the door startled him, causing his body to jolt in response. Blaise frowned, his eyebrows pulling together. He wasn’t expecting anyone, at least no one that he knew of. Grudgingly, he forced himself out of his chair to open the door. However, he wasn’t prepared for what was on the other side.
Leaning casually against the banister, a wide, flirtatious smile on her face was a goddess. Or at least that’s what he thought. Her long hair fell in waves down her back, covering what little skin was showing from the plain white singlet she wore. He had never seen her like this, never seen her hair unpinned or loose, and he most certainly had never seen her in those jeans. They should be made illegal! The way they hugged her hips...
“Lila,” he croaked, his eyes raking down her frame in disbelief. There she stood, calm and triumphant in the wake of his reaction.
Smirking, the blonde witch waited for him to continue. Blaise was rarely at a loss for words, but this – well, for this he was at a loss. They were friends, but she’d never been to his apartment. He wasn’t even sure she knew the address. Obviously, she had. It was then that he saw the bottle of wine in her hand and the large pizza box balancing on the banister beside her.
At the questioning look in his eyes, Lila smiled, walking inside to lay her belongings on his kitchen table. After a moment, she turned around to acknowledge his still bewildered expression, and present him with an answer. “I was tired of waiting,” she answered simply.
“Waiting for what?” he asked, closing the door of his apartment behind him. Her answer intrigued him.
Lila smiled coyly. “I wasn’t going to wait forever, Blaise. Either you ask me out, or you don’t. I’ve been dropping hints for weeks now, but – well, you don’t seem to notice. So, I thought if he isn’t going to ask me, I’ll ask him. But then that leaves me open to rejection and you know I don’t take rejection well. See, I’ve brought the date to you. Now, you can’t say no.”
Blaise stared at her, dumfounded. He’d – he’d just thought that she was playing around, being her normal vivacious self! Lila was just flirty by nature; it was one of the many qualities he loved about her. But if he’d known…if he had known he would have said something. She probably thought him a brainless oaf who didn’t know the difference between a smile and a smile. Obviously he didn’t, or else she wouldn’t be here patience worn out from waiting too long.
“I guess I’ll go then,” her smile faltered, a hurt look exchanged in its place.
“No!" he yelled, dashing forward to stop her, not that she moved. Lila was too startled by his reaction.
She stared up at him, her eyes wide with a glimmer of hope. “No?” she asked carefully, inching forward.
“No,” Blaise nodded his head, trying to remain calm. Her hand gently skimmed across the skin of his right arm. “Don’t go.”
Lila smiled, her fingers tugging playfully at his shirt collar. “You don’t want me to go,” she stated, grinning happily.
“No, I don’t,” he uttered, consumed by the look in her eyes. It was still hard to imagine that this woman, this goddess, wanted him.
Leaning forward, Lila wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling herself flush against him. Blaise’s breath hitched. Her lips were so soft, moving gently, a sweet caress of want, against his. It was like their bodies were talking to one another in a primitive language understood only by the need for contact. He was so wrapped up in her lips, her arms, in her, that he almost forgot to breathe. Reluctantly, he had to pull away, a dazed smile on his lips.
“How about we skip dinner?” Lila suggested with a grin, panting slightly.
Oh, dinner could definitely wait.
Chapter 16: Your Own Fault
[Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]
Chapter Image made by jetaway of TDA!
Author's Note: I know it has been a long while, but I am seriously swamped with school work. I got accepted into this writer's workshop, so that is occupying the majority of my time. I know that a lot of you thought that the last chapter was in fact the last chapter, but it wasn't. The chapter title referred to the end of Hermione and Ron's relationship, not the end of the story.
The next chapter, unfortunately, will be a long while in coming. I haven't even sat down to attempt writing it yet, but I will try not to break the three month mark. Sorry, but that's life.
.: Chapter Sixteen – Your Own Fault :.
Friday, May 24, 2002
Astoria liked to think that she was a fairly patient person. She had sat back on numerous occasions and let her sister take the centre stage, become the star of the show, the bell of the ball. Even on her tenth birthday it had been Daphne’s day, not hers. Her father always made an effort to include her, but the truth was that Daphne was their favourite, their firstborn, the one they loved the most. She was a mistake, Daphne was not. It was just the way the world was – her world.
Six days ago that had all changed. She was no longer the second daughter, the quiet, almost unseen presence that always lingered in the background. Oh no, six days ago she became the favourite daughter. Astoria had never thought it a possibility, until now. It had always been the Daphne show, and in some respects it still was. But now, now she was the favourite and not her sister.
At first, she had been simply euphoric. For years she had tried to be the daughter that Daphne was, the one that they wanted. In the end she had given up, settling for their transparent affection instead of the dearly wanted adoration she craved. She had been drowning in her desire for them to see her, to see the woman that she had become. But Daphne had always been there to get in her way.
Yet despite it all, she didn’t resent her sister. Not now. Daphne had dug her own grave, now she had to lay in it, deal with the consequences. Astoria still couldn’t believe what her sister had done. It was unforgivable.
“Would it kill you to at least pretend to be listening to me? My life is in a complete shambles and all you can do is flip that bloody magazine as if nothing is wro…” Astoria rolled her eyes and suppressed a sigh, tuning out her irate sister.
Granted, her sister deserved some sort of sympathy for her situation – Theodore Nott was certainly no catch. Still, Daphne had brought this on herself and despite the fact that she was her sister, Astoria found it hard to muster up any empathy for her. She just couldn’t believe that she could do that to Draco, be so conniving and down right immoral. Then again, that was the core of her character. Daphne was as conniving as they came, it was the reason her parents had preferred her up until six days ago.
Her plan had backfired, however. Thank Merlin for that. If she had succeeded, Astoria was certain that her parents would have only praised her all the more for it. They were just as bad as she was. Sometimes, Astoria couldn’t help but wonder if her mother hadn’t had some affair of which she was the result. She wasn’t like any of her family, so she had to wonder.
“Astoria, will you listen to me!?” screeched her sister, eyes wild with both indignation and rage.
“What do you want me to say, Daphne? Poor you?” she shot back scathingly, surprising both herself and her sister with the amount of venom in her voice. Taking a deep breath, Astoria continued calmly. “You cheated on him AND fell pregnant with another man’s baby. Did you honestly expect Draco to react any differently?”
The other witch blinked in shock. What had she expected? Draco was her friend, and while blood may take precedence, she wasn’t about to condone her sister’s actions. Because of her lack of judgement, Daphne was now pregnant with Nott’s child and divorced from a man who – who was everything she could have ever wanted. Draco had done so much for her. He had paved the way for Michael, giving up what would have been a very comfortable life with her. She knew that, even if her family didn’t.
Michael was her everything. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for him and vice versa. She owed Draco so much – too much for her to ever pay him back – and despite her sister’s precarious situation, she wasn’t going to blame him. He had done what he had to do, she understood that. His happiness meant a lot to her, and if that happiness didn’t involve her sister, then so be it. The court date was set for the ninth of June, sixteen days away. It would be interesting to see what her sister got from the settlement.
“He had the divorce papers drawn up before he found out I was pregnant, so there has to be another explanation,” Daphne argued, turning her head to scowl out the window.
Astoria sighed. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe he knew about Theo?”
Closing her eyes, Astoria repressed another sigh. Daphne could be so dense at times despite her rather sly intelligence. How could she not have considered that Draco knew? It was widely known that Nott couldn’t hold his drink. Draco had probably found out about her torrid affair even before her failed scheme had come into play. He’d likely been biding his time.
“Regardless of what has happened, Daphne, you’re my sister and I love you. But you have to accept that your marriage to Draco wasn’t exactly a happy one. Knowing Draco and the kind of man that he is, I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew about Theo from the beginning. He was probably waiting for the opportune moment to strike.”
“You’ve screwed up, Daphne, and now you have to deal with the consequences. You’re pregnant and regardless of what you may want, mother and father are going to make sure this marriage happens. As your little sister, I sympathise with your situation. But as another woman, I can’t help but feel that you’ve brought this on yourself,” Astoria knew that she was being harsh, uncommonly so, but there was no other way.
The moment their parents had been informed of the divorce and pregnancy, her father had hit the drink and her mother had started planning the wedding. Daphne had begged them, pleaded with everything in her, but Deidra Greengrass would have none of it. Despite the circumstances, their mother had refused to relent. Daphne was to wed Theodore Nott within the next three months before her pregnancy began to show. It wouldn’t make any difference. Everyone would know why Draco had divorced her by the end of their court case.
“How dare you!” Daphne screeched, flicking her silken brown hair haughtily over her shoulder. “I did nothing to deserv –”
“Draco is a good man. I respect him for what he has done,” at this the brunette across from her started to protest. Astoria ignored her and continued. “The sacrifices he has made – you can’t possibly know the extent of them. Did you know that his parents wanted him to wed me? And he was going to choose me, Daphne. He just wasn’t as heartless as some of the other privileged bastards in this world. He knew about Michael and –”
At this, Daphne bristled. “That’s preposterous! You and Michael only –”
“No, Daph,” Astoria smiled sadly at her sister. She hated having to be so cruel, but Daphne had to understand that she couldn’t simply get everything she wanted. The world didn’t work that way. “Michael and I have been together for years, it just took some time and courage to convince our father that we were a suitable match.”
Daphne was quiet for a very long time, something that was remarkable on its own. Astoria fought the urge to comfort her sister, to hold her and tell her that she was sorry. It was in her nature to be forgiving – sometimes she was too forgiving. But Daphne needed to hear this, no matter how harsh it was. Her sister needed to learn a lesson, despite the one that she would be living soon.
“You’ve brought this on yourself, so don’t try and blame someone else for your misdeeds,” she inwardly cringed at the hurt look in her sister’s eyes. It didn’t last long. A second later and the old Daphne was back, impetuous and petty as ever. The haughty, indignant look in those indigo eyes told Astoria all she needed to know. Her sister would never change.
Living with Hermione had been…interesting, to say the least. There had been moments where the upstairs bedroom window had looked appealing – not that he was suicidal or anything. Hermione was just being Hermione. She had a surprisingly great personality and this tinkling bell-like laugh. Yet, for all her great personality traits, she had a murderous temper that could put his father’s to shame. He honestly didn’t know how she did it. One moment she was the nice, even likable, Hermione that he enjoyed spending time with – something both of them were still trying to comprehend – and then she was like the devil incarnate. How was he supposed to know how hyperactive the kid got after she ate liquorice wands?
Rose seemed to have settled in quite nicely. He’d been just as worried about the move as her mother was, but it seemed as if their worries had been for naught. The little girl had taken to life on the estate like a fish to water. It seemed as if she had inherited his taste for the expensive, something he secretly revelled in. She was so much like her mother though. Rose was inquisitive and loving, not to mention too trusting. But at the same time she was temperamental, stubborn and impossible to reason with once she had her mind set. Draco supposed it didn’t help that she’d inherited his less notable qualities either. When she grew up, he had no doubts that she would be an absolute heartbreaker and a Slytherin one at that.
There were no words to describe how proud he was of that fact. Even though he’d had no part in raising her – up til this point – she’d taken after him. His little girl – and she was his – had taken after him. It was like walking on water.
“Dray-co?” the angelic voice that called to him caused his heart to flutter uncharacteristically.
He’d never really imagined himself as a father, even though he and Daphne had been trying for years. But now that he was one, he was eternally grateful for the opportunity. Hermione could have turned him away, kept Rose from him – the fact that she hadn’t meant so much to him. Sure, they had their moments reminiscent of Hogwarts, but they had been getting along fairly well all things considered. She was intelligent and funny, caring and loving, a great mother. Hermione Granger was actually likable. He actually liked her. Funny old world, wasn’t it?
“Dray-co?” Rose persisted impatiently, a pout playing on her lips. He couldn’t help but smile.
“Yes, Rose,” he answered, looking down at his daughter’s pyjama clad body. She had her tiny arms wrapped furiously around her midsection, a frown on her face.
“Do I have to go to bed?” her eyes bugged out, lashes fluttering. Where on earth had she learned to do that? If he had any doubts before – and he didn’t – they were long gone now. She was definitely going to be a Slytherin.
“Your mother will kill me if you don’t,” her answering frown, so serious, made his smile widen.
Sometimes he still couldn’t believe his luck. After all the world had thrown at him and for all his mistakes, he’d been given this second chance. He was by no means unhappy with the opportunity, but sometimes he couldn’t help but question whether he deserved it or not. For everything he had done and for everything he had not, Draco just couldn’t help but feel that way. Regardless, he had this opportunity and he wasn’t going to waste it by wallowing in self-pity for things that were in the past.
“We don’t have to tell mummy,” Rose continued in her pursuit, a sly smile forming on her lips. He struggled not to laugh. She was so much like him it was starting to get scary.
“What don’t you have to tell me?” Hermione’s voice sounded from the doorway, catching both father and daughter by surprise. She had a knowing smile on her face.
Rose’s eyes widened. “Nothing,” she scrambled toward her bed, hopping onto the mattress with a bounce. “Dray-co was going to read Lucy Ladybug, weren’t you Dray-co?” her eyes were piercing as she snuggled under the large pale blue comforter.
“It appears so,” he answered easily, fighting a smile as he turned toward Hermione’s prone figure in the doorway. Rose never let anyone, not even Ron Weasley, read Lucy Ladybug to her other than her mother. If he was being honest with himself, he was slightly worried about said mother’s reaction. Maybe this was strictly a mother-daughter activity that he had no right to partake in. He didn’t want to overstep his boundaries.
Hermione smiled slightly and his shoulders began to relax. “Well, don’t let me stop you. I’ll just go downstairs and put the kettle on. Two sugars and milk, right?”
“Right,” he nodded, watching with gratitude as she crossed the room to kiss their daughter goodnight. Whether she consciously knew it or not, she was letting him into their life. They were living together, yes, but any set of strangers could live together. She was letting him into the more detailed part of their life, allowing him the chance to get to know his daughter properly. He was indebted to her for that.
Looking back at his daughter, he saw her tiny frame, seeming so much smaller than usual in contrast to the large double bed, snuggled under the covers. Her face was expectant and she pointed to where her favourite picture book sat, perched on the edge of a desk next to her armoire. He went over to retrieve the book and sat down on the edge of the bed, looking at the cover nervously. What if he wasn’t any good at reading bedtime stories?
Living with Draco had been…unnervingly easy. He had his moments – mainly in the morning – where he seemed to be the old Draco again. But she had quickly learned that he was not a morning person, unlike herself. It was strange – living with him and seeing that he actually was human. A lot of people regarded his family as though they were living stones, cold and austere. It was impossible to picture them without their perfection. What would people say if they saw Draco in the morning, reminiscent of a caveman, hair in disarray, with a single syllable vocabulary? Even his sneer of old made an appearance when he hadn’t had his morning cup of tea and then glass of pumpkin juice. Sometimes she even had to wait until after he had eaten to get a civil response from him.
At least Rose hadn’t inherited that trait from her father. If she had, Hermione didn’t think that she would be able to deal with two monsters in the morning. One was certainly enough. And yet, however horrible he may have been, in a silly childish way, he made up for it as the day wore on. They had only been living together for three days, but it felt a lot longer. She had called in sick at work – something she almost never did – and decided that getting settled was more important for both her and Rose.
Her little girl had taken to her new surroundings quite quickly. She loved it here – Draco had been right about that. Rose adored the estate, especially the stables out back. Horses were a big bonus in Rose’s eyes. Hermione had thought that she would never stop squealing when she’d found out. Even Draco had been surprised by their daughter’s reaction, demanding riding lessons immediately. He hadn’t been able to say no.
If the horses weren’t enough, then Narcissa’s lavish redecoration of what was to be Rose’s bedroom certainly was. The walls were pearl white, with light blue swirls that moved gently, like ripples breaking the surface, across the centre, separating the wall in two. A large double bed sat firmly to the left of the room, making way for an intricately carved desk, armoire and divan to the right. Sets of bookcases lined the wall to one side, engraved with the same twisting rose design that was common throughout the room. Then there was the walk-in-wardrobe for when she was older, but was already bursting with clothes that Hermione didn’t recognise.
Narcissa had gone a little overboard but it was the thought that counted. Rose loved it and that was all that really mattered. Even her room had been redecorated, quite tastefully for that matter. Hermione had to admit that she loved the design. It was a combination of white, silver and gold. She had been shocked, however, to find out that she had been given the master bedroom and not Draco. He hadn’t made any comment about it, so she’d decided not to bring it up. What did it really matter?
Everything was so light and bright and airy. It was not at all what she had expected. Then again, she hadn’t known what to expect. The fact that she liked living here was astounding. She had at least expected to feel awkward and out of place, but not once had she even felt a glimmer of that. And Draco, she could see the effort he was making to make her feel comfortable. He didn’t have to do that. They could have easily ignored each other and just concentrated on Rose – that would have been the easier thing to do. But he made the effort, so she returned the gesture and did the same.
She could see that he was trying and that meant a lot to her. Things could have been much more difficult if he hadn’t decided to give her a chance. What she had done was unforgivable, but he was giving her the chance to redeem herself. There was no way she was going to waste that. She was sick of being a masochist – sure this was harder, but in the long run it would be better for all of them, Draco included.
“What are you looking at?” his voice made her jump, startling her back into reality. Hermione realised that she had been staring absently out the window and blushed, ducking her head to hide the red stain.
“Nothing in particular,” she answered, busying herself with making the coffee and tea she had set out to in the first place. Hopefully the blush on her cheeks would rescind by the time she was done. “Tell me, did you enjoy the bedtime story?” her question had the desired effect and soon distracted him, buying her time.
“Honestly? It was…amazing – watching her fall asleep, that is. And I didn’t do too bad with the voices, either. Have to practice, though. She gave me a B-, which isn’t all that bad considering it was my first time,” he had a genuine smile on his face when she turned around, one that she couldn’t help but return.
“A B- isn’t too bad,” she agreed, handing him his cup of tea. “For a Lucy Ladybug virgin, that is. Still, you’ve got some practice if you want to catch up to me. I’m an A+ by the way, just so you know.”
Draco laughed. “Of course you would get an A+. Truthfully now, did you ever get anything less than an Outstanding while we were at school?”
“Yes,” she answered with a wince. “An Exceeds Expectations in Defence.”
This made him laugh again. “Because that’s so horrible,” his smile eventually began to wane and she noticed the change in his eyes. “Another question – more serious this time – and please answer honestly. How are you?”
His question caught her buy surprise. She knew what he was taking about, though. After she had given the divorce papers to Ron, she’d arrived back at her parents’ house in tears. Rose hadn’t seen her – thankfully – but he had. Draco had avoided asking her outright what had happened, but she knew he was curious.
“I’m fine,” he looked unconvinced. “Okay, maybe I’m not fine, but I am coping. It’s not like I’m a mess or anything. Divorcing Ron was the right thing to do and I can’t forget that. Sure, it hurts but the pain isn’t crippling. Draco, believe me, if I was falling apart at the seams, you would know. I’m a terrible actress,” she answered honestly, moving forward to sit beside him at the kitchen counter.
“I do believe you – I mean, you are a terrible actress,” at this, she slapped his shoulder playfully, earning a grin in response. “But I can’t help but wonder if you aren’t playing this down or not. Seriously though, are you okay? Personally, I don’t understand Weasel’s appeal but –”
“Draco, I’m not going to burst into tears if that’s what you’re worried about,” this seemed to placate him, so she continued, taking advantage of his silence to change the subject. “Now it’s your turn. I’m curious, so answer me this; why did you pick Daphne over Pansy? I know that Parkinson is a nightmare, but when you think about it, so is Daphne. I suppose looks played a part in the decision making process, didn’t they?”
He smiled derisively. “You’re quite good at changing the subject, aren’t you? Never mind. You are right about looks playing a part, though. But mostly it was about what I could stand and what I could live with. Astoria would have been the ideal choice – and I would have chosen her – but she was already seeing someone else. It’s not like her parents knew, so I had to focus my attention on Daphne instead of her. When you think about it, you can’t honestly tell me that Pansy is the lesser of two evils. Considering what I had to work with, Daphne was the best choice.”
Hermione was shocked. She had thought that he’d only ever had the choice between the two women. The fact that he’d had the option of choosing Astoria Greengrass as well, but didn’t because of her happiness rather than his, said a lot about his character. He was more thoughtful than people, herself included, gave him credit for.
“Shocked you, didn’t I?” Draco asked with a smug grin, chuckling as he took a sip of his tea.
“Yeah, you did” she admitted ruefully, taking a sip of her own coffee. “You shock and surprise me everyday.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing,” he raised an eyebrow in question.
“It’s not,” Hermione was quick to reassure him. “I guess I’m just a little annoyed with myself. I don’t think I’ve ever misjudged someone as badly as I have you. The same goes for what I did to Ron. A part of me feels absolutely wretched for doing this – divorcing him, I mean. He has been – forgive me for saying this – but he has been Rose’s father for as long as I can remember. He’s just always been there. It feels wrong to shut him out of her life.”
“Of course it does,” his agreement made her look up in surprise. He just smiled and waited for her to continue, knowing that she had more to say.
“But then…then there’s this part of me that can’t help but feel grateful for the way things have turned out. Maybe a clean break is what we need…I just – I honestly don’t know what to do. Whichever way I turn, someone gets hurt,” she said, gnawing on her lower lip anxiously as she waited for his response.
“Well, I think that you’re doing the best that you can, considering the circumstances,” he replied after a few moments of silence. “I think we all are.”
“My best just doesn’t feel good enough,” she admitted quietly, looking down at the kitchen tabletop.
After several long moments, she felt his hand under her chin. The shock that went through her at his touch, even though he was just pulling her gaze back up to his, was startling. It was like electricity. He seemed just as startled as she was when their eyes met, grey to brown.
Draco swallowed hard. “Look at it this way – I know you don’t want to shut Weasley out of her life because of everything he’s done for both you and her over the years. But, at the same time you don’t want to push Rose, which is completely understandable. Your best is just going to have to suffice. There is no more you can do,” his words were measured but completely sincere.
“Thank you – for saying that, I mean. You didn’t have to, but you did and I’m grateful for that.”
“Anytime,” he answered, smiling despite the sombre topic.
Hermione didn’t know why but she couldn’t bring herself to look away, to be the one to break their locked gaze. She was sure that her face showed every flicker of emotion she wished it wouldn’t. He’d been so good to them these past three days. Draco had done everything he possibly could to make them feel comfortable, to make Rose happy, to make her feel wanted. Rose was the one that he had wanted to live with him, not her. She was the daughter that he’d never had the chance to love. By all rights, she shouldn’t feel wanted here. Hermione knew that she should feel like an intruder marching on their parade, but she didn’t.
He made her feel wanted, made her feel as though her presence wasn’t a burden but an unexpected pleasure. His eyes held hers, just staring. There was uncertainty, even a faint trace of fear in them. Hermione was positive that what she saw in his grey was reflected in her hazel-brown. She was afraid, afraid of this strange tugging sensation, at the growing appeal of his lips. It was wrong; she wasn’t supposed to feel this attraction.
Attraction. Oh God! She was attracted to him. Like the pull of a magnet calling her, drawing her in, like a siren call in a turbulent storm, he called to her. It seemed that the feeling was mutual. She couldn’t be sure who moved first but the feel of his lips, smooth and warm, soon enveloped her. There was nothing to match this, nothing as exquisite as the feel of his lips on hers. If she could, she would gladly drown in him, drown from the overwhelming sensations that he was evoking.
Her memory hadn’t done him justice. She could already feel the anticipation coiling in her stomach. How long had it been? It didn’t matter, she didn’t care. Coherency was beginning to leave her, leave her like it had before. She was drunk. No, she was blind. Everything that was him had her seeing stars. Too bad they had to breathe.
He broke the kiss first, leaving her gasping for breath as he continued on a trail down her neck. Unconsciously, she tilted her head to the side to accommodate him. She was gasping, panting in eager anticipation and breathlessness. Each gentle caress against her neck, each playful nip, only added fuel to her fire. Without thought or reason, her hands delved into his hair, tugging, pulling his mouth back up to hers.
Time seemed to pass by in a passionate, frenzied haze. It mattered little. An eternity of his lips sounded like heaven. Ron had never been this…
It took all of her self-control to pull away, to move and separate them. Distance was good. Her mind was working frantically to reassemble itself, to bring thought and reason back and not just this glimmer that she had now. He was breathing heavily, like her, and his eyes seemed to widen, a mirror of her own. What had they just done?
“I –” Hermione tried to find something to say, but even now unwanted desire was burning in her veins, clouding her senses. She had to get away.
Running as fast as she could, Hermione whirled herself away and out of the kitchen, taking three steps at a time up the stairs when she reached them. All she could think about was him, the kiss, the memories that were now whirring around in her head. She didn’t want to think, to remember. Remembering was bad.
When she was safely in her room, door locked and warded behind her, did she finally let out the whimper of despair she’d fought to keep in. She had only been divorced three days. Three days. And of all the people she could have kissed, it had to be him.
Merlin! What had she done?
Chapter 17: Daddy Who?
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Chapter Image made by jetaway of TDA!
Author's Note: Somehow I found the time to write this, don't ask me how I managed it because even now I have no idea. Because of school and everything that is happening in my life right now, I have had to do some major thinking on this story. Originally, there were supposed to five chapters left after this. However, due to editing on my part there will only be three; two after this and an epilogue.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter and hopefully the next one should be up within the month.
.: Chapter Seventeen – Daddy Who? :.
Friday, May 31, 2002
Draco let out a heavy sigh, visibly slouching in his chair. Why did he have to kiss her? Of all the stupid things he could have done, this was the worst. Things were now tense between them, awkward even. If he entered a room and Rose was not there, she would leave almost immediately. She was avoiding him like the plague. He could hardly blame her though. What had happened was a mistake. Even now, he could barely remember who had moved first. It was a spur of the moment action on both their parts. And yet, despite how wrong it seemed now, he couldn’t help but remember how right it had felt.
It was amazing how much trouble one little kiss could cause. Her lips, the supple curve of her body, even that unruly mop of hair – he couldn’t get her out of his head! She was there nearly every waking moment of the day, taunting him. That one kiss had brought back everything. The damp cave, the arch of her back, hips moving, keening cries. He was going insane from just remembering. And when she was there, standing in this reality with her doe eyes, wide and inviting, he could barely form a coherent thought.
He wanted her, wanted those soft pliant lips to be his. Merlin, she was driving him crazy! And yet, for everything she did, Hermione had no idea exactly what she was doing to him. That was part of her appeal. She didn’t know how her actions affected him, didn’t know that she was capable of seduction. Oh, she was. Seduction or no seduction, he had an itch that couldn’t be scratched. Draco wanted her, but knew he couldn’t have her.
The last week had been torturous. Work had been a momentary distraction, until his father had sent him home for stuffing up the books. There was something to be said for working with his father. Lucius had always been easily irritated, but as a boss he wasn’t half bad. Draco shuddered at just remembering the amount of paperwork his father went through in a single day. He wasn’t looking forward to the day where he would have to take over the family business. It wasn’t easy work.
What really got to him wasn’t the fact that his father had sent him home like some spoilt child, scolding and all. Okay, so maybe that had got to him a little bit, but that was beside the point. It was Lucius’ smirk, that all-knowing glint in his eye that really got to Draco. He didn’t like it. The last time he’d seen that particular look, his father had caught him with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak. How was he, an eight year-old boy, supposed to know that there were anti-theft charms on his father’s broom? As eight year-olds, he and Blaise had thought that they were being rather smart, sneaking around behind Lucius’ back and all.
The point was, Lucius had found them dangling by their ankles with his broom glowing bright red. He hadn’t seemed surprised though, like he’d known what they were up to. And that was what was bothering him now, because his father seemed to know exactly what was distracting him. If his father knew, then so did his mother and that was a serious problem. She meant well…most of the time. Draco just really didn’t want to deal with her interfering on top of everything else. It was hard enough trying to keep his feelings from Hermione.
Feelings. Draco shuddered. He shouldn’t have feelings for her. Hermione was his complete opposite. They had absolutely nothing in common, except for Rose. That didn’t stop his eyes from wandering down her figure though, did it? It was like they had a bloody mind of their own lately. Only yesterday she’d caught him staring, rather blatantly, at her chest. He hadn’t even known he was doing it until she’d squeaked and turned beet red, leaving the room in hurry. It had been mortifying.
Her slate wasn’t as squeaky clean as she made it out to be, though. Oh no, he’d caught her staring. She was much less obvious about it than he was, but he’d noticed. He was rather smug about that fact, actually. It meant that it wasn’t just him. Hermione was having just as much trouble as he was. Thank Merlin. There was something inexplicably comforting about knowing that. He wasn’t alone.
A loud bang, the sound of a door slamming shut in the kitchen, brought him back to reality. He looked at his watch – an infernal, but rather useful muggle contraption that Hermione insisted he wear – and realised that no one was due home anytime soon. That meant that something was wrong. Before he even knew what he was doing, Draco was running toward the kitchen, picking up his pace when a choked sob reached his ears. Crying. Someone was crying. Was it Hermione? No, it was too quiet, too…childlike. Rose.
The moment he burst through the door, he was struck by the look on Hermione’s face. She was furious. Her hair was pulled back into a no-nonsense bun, though a few stray curls had escaped, framing her face attractively. There was a fury in her eyes, the kind he knew not to cross. Annoyance dripped from her every exaggerated movement, as she threw her briefcase onto the kitchen counter. He hadn’t seen her like this in years.
A sob broke through his inspection and he immediately turned toward the sound. Rose was leaning heavily against the door, her eyes red-rimmed. Something roared inside of him at the sight of her, his daughter, looking so fragile and broken. She was his little girl, and so help him Merlin, whoever had caused this would pay, even if it was her mother.
At that exact moment, two things happened. One, Rose noticed him and immediately threw herself toward his outstretched arms. And two, Hermione let out a strange shriek of both surprise and irritation. It figures that she would be startled; he wasn’t even supposed to be home. Then again, neither was she. Draco turned to look up at the woman, while simultaneously rubbing soothing circles up and down Rose’s back. He raised an eyebrow in question, silently demanding an explanation with his eyes.
Hermione sighed, running a hand over her face and settling it over her mouth. She looked both exhausted and furious at the same time. “I was in court.”
“And?” he pressed.
“And the school flooed, telling me that I had to come and pick up my daughter immediately,” Hermione let out an exasperated sigh, closing her eyes. “I thought that something was wrong. One of our interns had to interrupt the proceedings to tell me…” her voice trailed off, a derisive laugh falling from her lips.
“Hermione, what happened?” Draco asked through gritted teeth.
“According to them, Rose was misbehaving. Though, I’d only found that out after I’d gotten there. I asked them why they felt the need to contact me, while I was in court, and demand that I come and pick up my daughter. You know what they said, Draco?” at this, her eyes took on a pained expression. “They said like mother like daughter. Apparently, all I’m good for is lying on my back and spreading my legs,” she gritted her teeth, fists balling. “And they insinuated that Rose was the same, that she would grow up to be…”
Hermione trailed off, her voice thick. Her eyes shone with unshed tears, never looking away. Everything she had to say was explained. He didn’t need to hear anymore, not after what she’d said. If the pure, unadulterated pain in her eyes was anything to go by, she was in an unbearable amount of agony. The beast inside him roared. Rose was crying in his arms, obviously upset because her mother was. He just thanked Merlin that she was too young to really understand what was going on.
His eyes never left the hazel-brown staring back at him. So much was conveyed without words. He wouldn’t stand for them hurting like this. Someone would pay. There was just one more thing he had to clarify before anything happened. Tearing his gaze away from Hermione, Draco looked down at the little girl in his arms. It was amazing how quickly his old, vindictive self crept up on him. Already, he was picking his poison, his method of torture. Maybe his father would like to join him. That would certainly be a sight to see. Nobody messed with his family.
“Rose, sweetheart, can you tell me what happened?” his question was met with a sniff and a nod.
“Miss – Miss Hannah said I was being naughty and that I was lying and that I had to tells the truth,” Rose answered, her lower lip trembling as she looked between the two adults.
“And why did she say that, cricket?” Hermione ventured, her voice breaking.
The little girl looked at her mother for a long moment, before turning to him. “Miss Hannah said that we all looked like our mummies and daddies, but I told her that she was wrong. I said that I looked like you, my Dray-co.”
A stunned silence filled the room. Draco couldn’t believe it and by the horrified expression on Hermione’s face, neither could she. What Rose had said – it was so innocent, a child’s simple observation. And yet it was the truth, even if she didn’t understand the full enormity of what her words implied. If it weren’t for the fact that this – this Miss Hannah had said what she had to Hermione and to Rose, then he would have been floating on a cloud of bliss. Rose looked like him. He was her Dray-co.
Biting the inside of his cheek, Draco wiped away the tears on his little angel’s face with the pad of his thumb. “You didn’t do anything wrong, sweetheart. You told the truth and your mother and I aren’t mad at you for that. Now, I think that Pip is in the next room. Why don’t you go and play with her for a bit? Mummy and I need to talk.”
Rose nodded her head, blonde curls bouncing as she quietly walked into the next room. Draco remained where he was, kneeling on the floor. The anger was burning, scorching the blood in his veins. He didn’t know who this Miss Hannah thought she was, treating a child the way she had, treating his child the way she had. As far as he was concerned, she wouldn’t be in a job for much longer. She wouldn’t have a job, period.
With a flick of her wrist, Hermione gently closed the door Rose had left through. She made a strangled noise in the back of her throat, a cross between an outraged cry and a broken sob. No tears would fall, though. Draco was thankful for that. He didn’t think he would be able to stay in control, to keep a level head, if they were to fall.
“Who, exactly, is this Miss Hannah?” he asked in a low voice, standing up abruptly.
“She went to school with us,” Hermione replied in an apathetic tone. Draco couldn’t resist smirking. He knew that tone. She was past reasoning with now. Her mind was set. Hermione Granger meant business. But then, so did he.
“What house was she in?” his question was met with a fiery scowl. Well, that answered one question. This Hannah wasn’t any Slytherin. That meant that she was either a Hufflepuff, a Gryffindor, or a Ravenclaw. It also meant that Hermione had considered her a friend, or at least someone who wouldn’t stoop so low as to treat Rose the way she had. He wondered…
“Little Twilight Academy is owned and run by Susan Bones, now Boot, and Hannah Abbott,” she looked at him for several moments, no doubt analysing his expression. “Both ex-Hufflepuffs.”
Hufflepuff. Well, he’d be damned. Something occurred to him though, something that he hadn’t thought of or anticipated. Abbott. He knew that name, and for all the wrong reasons. Geraldine Abbott, murdered January 7, 1997, by Death Eaters unknown. Draco knew, though. Oh, he knew exactly who had committed the crime and it seemed that Hannah did as well, or she at least suspected. Trust his father to make the situation worse, even unknowingly.
“Draco?” Hermione had come to stand in front of him, her brow creased in worry.
“I’m fine. I just – I was just thinking,” yeah, thinking that his father was a murderer who got off without even a prison sentence. “Was this Hannah Abbott the one who said those things to you?” he asked, trying to concentrate on the present.
Hermione bit her lip and nodded. “When she said it, I couldn’t believe that – well, I’ve known Hannah for a very long time and I’ve never known her to be so vicious and vindictive.”
“What Rose said got to her,” Draco supplied, laying his hand on her shoulder awkwardly. She flinched, but didn’t move away. This was the closest they had been since… No! He wouldn’t think about that, not now.
“Why do you say that?” she asked, looking him in the eye.
“We fought in a war, Hermione. People died. Hannah’s mother died and it wasn’t from natural causes,” his voice came out in a low whisper.
“Oh,” her face showed recognition that he wished it wouldn’t. “Who?”
Draco swallowed hard. He wouldn’t lie to her. “My father.”
“Oh,” there were several beats of silence, her eyes sliding toward the closed door. Rose.
“He would never hurt her, Hermione. He’s not the same man he was back then, you know that,” he entreated, feeling his stomach clench painfully. What if this changed everything? Would Hermione keep Rose from him, from his parents? She’d have every right to.
“I know, Draco,” she said in a hushed whisper. “At least, I think I do.”
Running a hand over his face, Draco moved to lean against the kitchen bench. Everything was so screwed up. His whole life was a complete and total mess. He’d made his fair share of mistakes in the past, but then so had everyone else. That was just the way of the world. Draco had just never thought that so many of his father’s, so many of his mistakes could come back at him all at once. It was like entering an alternate universe where the world was out to get him.
“I still don’t understand how – how Hannah could know that Rose meant you?” Hermione whispered, thankfully steering the subject away from his father.
“How many Dracos do you know?” he asked with a tight smile.
“Now, what we need to do – or rather decide – is how we’re going to retaliate,” Draco started, moving to stand in front of her, his expression serious. It was slightly problematic that this woman co-owned the school, but he was sure that given some time and money he could have her out of a job. That was only fitting, right? No one messed with his girls…er, girl, daughter to be exact. Not girls, just girl. Right?
“Retaliate?” Hermione’s voice began to rise. “What do you mean retaliate? Draco, there is nothing we can do.”
“Of course there is something we can do. Hermione, I’m not just going to take this lying down. Rose is my daughter as well and I won’t stand for her being treated like that. On second thought, I won’t stand for either of you being treated like that,” he argued, his voice taking on a dangerous edge.
Hermione looked at him for a long moment, her eyes wide with shock. “I don’t understand,” she stated quietly, awkwardly, and he was positive that it was the latter part of his argument that had her confused.
“Hermione, you’re Rose’s mother,” he laid his hands atop her shoulders. “You’re the mother of my child, my flesh and blood. I won’t stand for you being hurt like this.”
Merlin, he sounded like such a pansy! This was why he hated feelings. Not only did he sound like a right idiot, but he’d voluntarily left himself open for rejection. Vulnerability was not one of his strong suits. Sure, maybe he did have some feelings for Hermione. She was the mother of his child, so it was only natural that he felt something for her. If that feeling happened to be say…lust, then maybe what he was feeling wasn’t so natural. But he wasn’t lusting after her. That would be just ridiculous. He wanted her on some level, but that didn’t mean anything. It was his pants talking and nothing more.
Okay, so maybe he was in denial. Could you really blame him, though? He didn’t want to want her. It would make everything that much more complicated if he were to act on what he was feeling. Draco wouldn’t deny that there was this part of him that wanted nothing more than to be with Hermione. They would finally be a family, all three of them; him, Rose and Hermione. He knew that would never happen. It was a foolish dream. Draco knew how to be realistic.
“You are a good man, Draco Malfoy. Even if you don’t believe it yourself,” her soft, watery smile made his heart stutter and soar. She thought he was a good man? Maybe she was delusional. He was far from being a good man, maybe slightly redeemed, but not good.
“Will you let me handle this, then?” he asked.
She looked at him for a long moment. “I will,” Draco couldn’t help but smirk in triumph. “But not without certain concessions.”
“Concessions?” immediately his shoulders began to sag. Of course, she had concessions.
“You will not put Hannah out of a job.”
“No,” she argued, cutting off his protest. “And don’t start sulking like some spoilt brat. This is real life, Draco, people have to survive, make money. I’m not going to begrudge Hannah for what she said. Yes, it hurt. But Draco, I can’t just take out my revenge on everyone who has hurt me. Do you know how many people that would be? Look, I get it. Really, I do. You’re Rose’s father and you want to – I don’t know, you want to stand up for your little girl. Protect her, I think?” Hermione’s eyes were searching.
“Yeah,” he nodded in assent.
“And I’m not going to stop you from doing that, because you have every right to. Rose is my daughter, but she is yours as well. Just, please, please, promise me that you won’t go too far? I understand that after you do this, the press will find out that you’re her father. But Draco, I don’t care about that. Just promise me that Hannah will have a job after this and that her business won’t be affected, because believe it or not, I don’t wish her any ill?”
How could this woman, this remarkable woman who had been wronged by so many, still be so compassionate? He didn’t understand. But by Merlin, did he want to! To be able to pick her brain, to understand exactly what she was thinking, contemplating, planning – he just wanted to understand. She was an enigma, one he was completely and totally puzzled by. After everything she had been put through and was still enduring, she managed to have more compassion, more understanding, kindness and forgiveness in her little pinkie than he had in his entire being. Draco was feeling severely inadequate.
“Draco?” she pressed, looking at him with mild concern.
“Yeah,” he answered, nodding his head. “Okay. I promise.”
His answer was met with a small smile. “Thank you.”
“I can’t promise that I’ll hold my temper,” Draco cautioned, his eyes hardening as he thought about what he wanted to do to this Hannah Abbott.
Fucking concessions, he thought with a bitter smile.
“That’s fine,” Hermione replied with a shrug of her shoulders. “I think, given the situation, I wouldn’t be able to either.”
Draco fingered his wand, twirling it around thoughtfully. Surely one tiny little hex wouldn’t hurt, would it? Unfortunately, in Hermione’s books it would. He really didn’t want to get on her bad side. It was such a shame though. There was this new spell he’d been meaning to try out…
“You’re an amazing person, Hermione Granger. Do you know that?” he stopped twirling his wand and looked at the woman opposite him seriously. “This woman hurt you, insulted our daughter and still, still you’re worrying about how she’ll make a living,” his voice held a slight edge to it, but Hermione understood, it seemed, that the reason for his tone wasn’t directed at her.
“I think masochistic is a better adjective than amazing. It’s more fitting,” she smiled at him coyly, laughing lightly at the end.
Draco couldn’t help but laugh also. “Touché, Granger.”
They both fell silent after a moment, each just staring at the other. Eventually, Hermione motioned for him to go. He did. Walking out the kitchen door, Draco’s grip on his wand became harder, his knuckles turning white. It was a miracle that the wood didn’t snap. Hannah Abbott had no idea who she was dealing with. Perhaps it was time to remedy that…
She didn’t understand. It didn’t make any sense. Why were they saying that? Dray-co wasn’t her daddy. Her daddy was her daddy…wasn’t he? And if he was, then why was her mummy saying that he wasn’t? Rose’s bottom lip began to quiver. She hated not understanding, not knowing things. That was why she always listened in on things she knew she shouldn’t. They wouldn’t tell her otherwise. She wasn’t stupid. Rose knew that her mummy kept things quiet, all grown-ups did. Her friend Peter at school said so.
But her mummy would never lie, not to her. At least, Rose didn’t think she would. She was her mummy. Mummies didn’t lie, did they? And what about her daddy? He’d always told her that telling the truth was the most important thing. Was he lying? Did her daddy even care? Maybe he didn’t. But then maybe he did. That might have been the reason why he’d hurt her mummy. Maybe daddy knew that mummy was lying and that was why he – why he got mad.
Rose didn’t understand. She was so confused about everything. Her mother had told her that her father hadn’t meant to hurt her, that it had been an accident, a simple misunderstanding between mummy and daddy. Had she lied? Rose didn’t think so. But still, she couldn’t ignore what she had seen. Daddy had hurt mummy. Mr Lucy hadn’t though, and neither had Grandma Sissa. Of course, she couldn’t call Grandma Sissa, Grandma Sissa. She knew that her mother wouldn’t like that.
Grandma Sissa was so much fun, though. She always snuck her sweets when her mother wasn’t looking. Rose loved her, just like she loved Mr Lucy and her Dray-co. They were all so nice to her, especially Dray-co. Could Dray-co be her daddy? Miss Hannah had said that they all looked like their mummies and daddies. She didn’t have red hair like her daddy, or blue eyes. Dray-co had blond hair and so did she. Was Dray-co her father?
Well, he certainly acted like a daddy. When she had almost fallen off Sugar – her new pony that Mr Lucy had bought for her – he had fussed over her like a daddy was supposed to. He even kissed her ouchie better. They couldn’t tell mummy how she’d hurt her leg, though. Sugar was a secret. That was what Mr Lucy and Dray-co had said. Sugar was their secret, mummy couldn’t know just yet. It wasn’t lying if her mother never asked her if she had a pony. She was good at keeping secrets.
Biting her lip, Rose thought harder. Dray-co always tucked her in at night; he even read Lucy Ladybug to her. He said he loved her, and he did buy her things, pretty things, fun things, like a broom and a toy cauldron to play with. Maybe he was her daddy. Dray-co loved her and that was what mattered, wasn’t it? Her mummy always said that love trumped everything else. Love mattered. If Dray-co loved her, then he must be her daddy.
But what about her old daddy, Ron? Did he love her? And if he did, then didn’t that mean that he was her daddy as well? Rose sniffed, blinking back tears. She didn’t understand. Who was her daddy?
“Cricket, what’s wrong?” looking up, Rose saw her mother standing in the doorway, a worried look on her face. Did she know? She would be in so much trouble if her mother found out she’d been listening when she wasn’t supposed to again.
Regardless of getting in trouble, Rose had to ask. “Is Dray-co my daddy?”
Chapter 18: The Hard Truth
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Author's Note: Yes, I know, I'm horrible and evil and just a little bit lazy. I've actually had this chapter written for a while now, but I kind of, accidently forgot about it. *runs and hides* Good news is, the story is now finished! Yes, I have finished it. There is another chapter after this and then an epilogue, but I do have to edit both so please bear that in mind.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy and thank you for being so patient.
.: Chapter Eighteen – The Hard Truth :.
Friday, May 31, 2002
Words escaped her. It felt as though time had stood still, stalling for that one singular moment. As the seconds ticked by, she could have sworn that an entire day had passed. In her mind, she could see that day, branching off, continuing on from this very moment. She could see so clearly, so vividly what would happen the moment she reacted, the moment she opened her mouth to reply. Rose would hate her. Her little girl, her daughter, would hate her.
Rose would hate her for lying, for fabricating the ties that bound her. Her little angel would hate her for all the pain and confusion she had caused, for all the scars and torment she had inflicted. Hermione couldn’t lie to her daughter, not after the day – no, the week she’d had. Every waking moment of every day, she had tried to busy herself with work and other things to occupy her mind. No matter how hard she tried, no matter how long she persisted, Hermione couldn’t forget.
It plagued her, haunted her, drew her in until all she wanted was for it to repeat over and over and over again. His lips were their own ghostly demon, and like the caress of silk against her skin, she wanted more. She didn’t want to remember and had tried to scour her mind in hopes of forgetting. Scouring or no scouring, she couldn’t forget. He was embedded in her memory, toxic and unforgettable. How could one kiss cause so much trouble?
A brush of his lips and it was like her resolve, her defensive barriers crumbled in defeat. He’d brought everything back and now she was haunted, haunted by the memory of that night, of their tangled limbs. Now, it was all she saw. Everywhere she went, everything she did no matter how mundane, reminded her of that night. His flexing muscles, her keening cries; she couldn’t get it out of her mind. But neither could he, apparently.
Oh, she’d seen him staring. It wasn’t that hard to catch him in the act. Draco was surprisingly abysmal when it came to subtly, which in itself was surprising considering how much of a Slytherin he was, even now after all this time. Hermione couldn’t deny that it was somewhat flattering. The way he looked at her sometimes….
Her resolve to keep what they had between them platonic was shaky at best. It helped that she still felt an enormous amount of guilt for kissing him only three days after her divorce. That alone kept her shaky, brittle resolve from breaking. If only she had more self-control, more discipline to see her decision through. She did have that self-control, or at least she had up until today.
Seeing him react that way, seeing his instinct to protect their daughter; it shattered every decision she had made in the last week. The fire in his eyes, the cool mask of fury on his face made her quiver, not in fear but in understanding…in want. He’d been so furious about Hannah, she’d expected him to be but – but what he’d said about her, how furious he’d been about how she had been treated, surprised her and got to her all at the same time. Draco cared, even if he wouldn’t admit it, about her. He cared about her and how she was treated.
That was when her resolve crumbled. What would happen would happen, regardless of how hard she fought. There was no point in fighting a lost battle – at least, it seemed lost. They both wanted each other; they wanted what they both knew they shouldn’t and at one point, couldn’t have. If she was selfish enough – and she knew that she was – Hermione could have him. All it would take was one word, a simple yes and he would pounce like a predator on his prey. She was the prey.
It didn’t matter. She wasn’t going to say anything, she was just going to let the chips fall where they may. If things progressed beyond what they had now, then she would let it progress in its own time. Hermione wasn’t going to force it, push the issue like she had with Ron. By chance, if something did happen, it would happen of its own accord.
“Mummy?” Rose’s voice brought her back to reality. It took a second for the fear to return. There was a question yet to be answered. Could she answer it without turning her own daughter against her? Hermione didn’t know.
“Cricket, why – why would you ask that?” she knelt down, looking her daughter in the eye. Determination was written all over her angel’s face. Rose wouldn’t back down. She wanted an answer. “Were you listening in on our conversation?” Hermione asked, voice shaking.
“Maybe,” Rose replied, having the decency to look at least a little sheepish.
“And what did you hear?” her voice broke at the end, quivering. She wasn’t ready for this, for this conversation, for any of it. Rose wasn’t supposed to know, not yet. They were supposed to tell her together. It had been all planned out.
“You said lots of things,” the answer was evasive and made her nerves fray a little more.
“Like?” she pressed, her eyes taking on a wild, desperate look.
Rose stared at her, her bottom lip quivering. “You said Dray-co was my father. You said I was his daughter.”
Hermione’s heart broke in that single second. Rose was so confused; it was obvious by the pure, unguarded look on her little face. She was upset and confused. What kind of mother was she to cause this heartbreaking expression on her daughter’s tiny, angelic face? A bad mother, that’s what she was. There was no other explanation. She, Hermione Granger, was a bad mother.
“I did, didn’t I?” Hermione leant forward to caress her daughter’s cheek, tucking a stray curl behind her ear.
Rose nodded, eyes wide and innocent and questioning.
“Is Dray-co my daddy?” the question, or rather the voice delivering it, was meek, hesitant. Rose was scared of the answer.
Hermione swallowed hard, blinking back tears. She wouldn’t lie. “Yes – yes he is, cricket.”
There was no visible reaction, no perceptible change in Rose’s stance or expression. Hermione was petrified. The truth was out. A few people knew – the Weasleys, the Potters, Alyson, her parents, Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy – but now so did Rose, and by the end of the day, so would the world. By Draco going to Rose’s school, by showing up and letting loose his wrath on those who had hurt his daughter, the whole world would know that he was her father. They would know that she, Hermione Jean Granger, a muggleborn and war hero, had slept, at the time, with a Death Eater.
It didn’t matter that Draco was a reformed man; they would think only of the past, of their history and make it into some sordid page one story. Merlin, Skeeter would have a field day with this. She’d paint some torrid picture – Harry Potter’s best friend, war hero or spy? Rita would twist everything to make her look as bad as she possibly could. By the end of one of her articles, they would be thinking, speculating whether or not she’d betrayed Harry during the war, passed on information to Voldemort. But none of that mattered, not one single line or twisted lie mattered. Rose mattered. Her reaction mattered. Nothing else did, just her.
“Rose, please honey, you have to say something,” she begged, her hands twitching.
“Do I have to call him daddy?” Rose asked, biting her lower lip.
“Only if you want to,” Hermione replied instantly, pulling the little girl into a hug. She felt relieved but ashamed at the same time. Rose knew the truth and she accepted it. But Hermione had to ask, just to be sure. “Sweetheart, I want you to tell me the truth now. How do you feel about Draco being your father?”
Surprisingly, Rose smiled. “I love Dray-co.”
Hermione couldn’t help but smile in return. That was all she needed to know. Rose loved Draco, which meant that she would – if she hadn’t already – accept him and his new role as her father. Their daughter had a compassionate heart and a loving soul. When she went to Hogwarts she would be a Slytherin, Hermione had no doubt about that. And yet, she would be the compassionate, kind-hearted Slytherin. Rose would be a conundrum to her House.
Hermione could see, quite clearly, her daughter’s time at Hogwarts already. Rose was such a mixture, such a magnificent blend of both her and Draco that the teachers, her professors, wouldn’t know what to do with her. She would challenge them all with her very existence. The child of a Gryffindor and a Slytherin; it just didn’t happen. Rose was perhaps the first child born to both houses.
“If Dray-co is my daddy, then is my other daddy…not my daddy?” the question caught Hermione off guard.
“Cricket…” Hermione paused, licking her lips nervously. What was she supposed to say to that? “Sweetheart, Ron will always love you. To him, you are his daughter, a Weasley not a Malfoy. He will always love you.”
Rose frowned, her brow scrunching. “But he’s not my daddy, is he? Dray-co is.”
Letting out a small sigh, Hermione pulled Rose into another hug, gently stroking the top of her blonde curls. How was she going to explain this? Rose wasn’t stupid. She was a very perceptive child and picked up on things that others didn’t. They wouldn’t be in this situation, at least not yet, if that weren’t the case. Hermione surmised that she would have to be as honest as she could possibly be with the little girl.
“Rose,” she started, looking into her daughter’s eyes. “I made a mistake a long time ago. I’m not proud of what I did, but I don’t regret it either. You see, mummy was in love with your father, Ron. But mummy made a mistake, a big mistake with very, very large consequences. I…I started to have feelings for Draco and I acted on those feelings when I shouldn’t have.”
She wasn’t lying, per say. At the time, Hermione did have feelings for Draco. Of course, her feelings were mostly of lust, but she wasn’t going to explain that to her four year-old daughter. It was better to let her think that she’d fallen in love with Draco. When Rose was older, then she would explain properly what had happened.
“When I found out that I was pregnant with you, I was so happy. Oh cricket, you have no idea how much I loved you in that single second. But sweetheart, mummy didn’t know that Draco was your daddy. I thought that Ron was, so I never told Draco about you,” Hermione continued, thinking out her words carefully.
“But how do you know that Dray-co is my daddy? If you didn’t then, then how do you know now?” Rose interrupted, frowning.
“Because you look so much like him, silly,” she answered with a gentle smile. “You have my curls but Draco’s blond hair, not to mention that you have his cheekbones, nose, lips and cheeky little grin.”
Rose smiled brilliantly. “I do, don’t I?”
“Yes, you most certainly do,” Hermione agreed, stroking Rose’s cheek affectionately. She sounded so proud to look like Draco, her father, that Hermione couldn’t help but smile and laugh a little. “Draco loves you so very, very much, cricket. He is your father, but he will be happy simply to have your love if you choose to have Ron as your father instead of him. No one is pressuring you to make a choice, sweetheart. We all love you, all three of us and we will do whatever you wish, even change your name to Malfoy if that is what you want.”
“Change my name?” Rose frowned, her voice raising an octave. “But I like my name! I like being called Rose! Why –”
“Sweetheart, calm down,” Hermione interrupted, trying to soothe the child. “Mummy meant your last name, not your first.”
“My last name?” the little girl tilted her head to the side, her features uncomprehending.
“Instead of Rose Ira Weasley, you would be Rose Ira Malfoy, like Draco,” she answered, uncomfortable with the path their conversation had taken.
In all honesty, she had barely even thought about changing Rose’s last name to Malfoy. Hermione had always assumed that she would change their daughter’s name to Granger, like her. Things were different now. The name Malfoy was a definite possibility, in fact she was sure that Draco and his family would insist upon the name.
“Can I think about it?” her daughter asked, lips pursed. Hermione couldn’t help but laugh at the expression on her little face. The blonde looked as though she was trying to figure out a cure for cancer. She was so serious it was comical.
“Of course you can, cricket,” she laughed, kissing the top of her daughter’s curls affectionately.
Rose smiled, her demeanour changing. “Will you read to me until Dray-co comes back from telling Miss Hannah off?” she asked innocently, moving to jump on the plush blue loveseat to their left.
Hermione stared for a long moment. Inwardly, she groaned. Rose knew that Draco had gone to tell her teacher off. No wonder the little imp was suddenly looking so smug. She knew that Draco had gone there for her because she had been unfairly treated, though Hermione was thankful that Rose didn’t know the whole of it. At least she wasn’t asking anymore difficult questions.
“Mummy, what kind of mistake did you make with Dray-co?”
This time, she actually groaned. Trust her to have such an inquisitive daughter. This was payback for all the times she had asked, as a child, the questions that had made her parents cringe.
Draco was seething. Concessions. He shuddered. Of course, being the Gryffindor she was, Hermione had to go and make bloody concessions. Now that he was out of their house and had made a little side trip, his fury was back full force. How the hell was he supposed to make this woman understand that he meant business, if he couldn’t legitimately threaten her? Well, he’d found a way around that easily enough. Hermione had made the concessions for him, not his father or his mother. Oh, they had been furious. He had never seen his father look so livid, or his mother so vindictive – adopting an expression that was eerily reminiscent of his Aunt Bella – before. That was the reason for his aggravated temper; retelling what had happened was bad enough, now he had to face the woman.
“Excuse me, sir,” a soft, willowy sounding voice called from behind him. “Are you waiting for your wife, or are you here to pick up your child? I don’t believe we have actually met before. I’m Misty, one of the caretakers here for the younger children,” upon turning around, Draco was met with the soft smile of a petite brunette.
He considered her carefully. “Misty, is it?” Draco smiled, turning on his charm.
“Yes, Misty Waters,” she blushed a pretty shade of red. “My mother had a bit of an odd sense of humour.”
“Evidently,” he laughed politely, inwardly thanking Hermione for not naming their daughter something ridiculous. “Tell me, Misty, would you happen to know where I can find Hannah Abbott?”
“Oh, you’re looking for Miss Abbott,” Misty said, her eyes taking on a curious expression. “Well, last I saw, she was out back with the children, though she might be in her office now. What was it that you had to talk to her about? I might be able to help.”
Draco smiled charmingly. “It was about my daughter, actually, and her mother.”
“You speak as though you are not married. Did you and your wife divorce?” the pretty brunette inquired, not knowing that she had just stepped over the line. Draco had actually liked her and her rather quiet, trilling voice. She had seemed nice enough, until now.
Assuming little chit, he thought in irritation. He could see the interest in her eyes now, taking him and his expensive robes in carefully.
“I am divorced, though not to the mother of my child. Actually, you might know my daughter. Rose Weasley?” the woman let out a little gasp. “Yes, I thought you might. Obviously she’s not a Weasley though, but what can I say? Hermione and I… Well, we were young, impressionable, in the middle of a war – did I mention that we were on opposite sides? No. Oh, how rude of me. Draco Malfoy at your service,” he bowed mockingly, smirking at the expression on the woman’s face. Too right she should look terrified.
“Malfoy?” Misty squeaked, looking about ready to make a run for it.
Not so interested now, are you? Draco thought bitterly.
“Yes, Malfoy,” his tone was condescending. “You see, I’m here for a very particular reason, Misty. Miss Abbott happened to insult my daughter, quite atrociously I might add. And – well it upset her mother, not to mention myself and I don’t like being upset, Misty. What’s more, I don’t like seeing those I care about hurt,” his voice had turned to steel.
“I’m sure she didn’t mean –”
“Actually, I think she did. You know, I am a lot like my father in many ways. See, I can hold a grudge. Oh, and I can be very, very ruthless when I want to be. You could say that it runs in my blood – ruthlessness, that is; my father, my mother, my Aunt Bellatrix. Do I need to go on?” she shook her head no. “I thought not.”
Misty stood in front of him, quivering in a very delightful way. She was afraid of him. No one had reacted to him like this in years, but then he hadn’t been this furious in years. It was amazing how invigorating this all was – being feared, having power enough to inflict the emotion. However invigorating it may have felt, Draco was realistic enough not to drown in the sensation. He had a daughter to think about and her mother to take care of. This Draco of old was only out for a temporary visit.
“I’ll just go and get Hannah for you,” the young woman murmured, stumbling as she went.
“Yes, you do that,” he said, amused by her escape, because that was exactly what it was, an escape. Her feet couldn’t move fast enough.
After Misty’s departure, Draco became aware of numerous sets of eyes trained on him. Some were curious and some were fearful, but the majority were stunned. By his count, there were three mothers and two staff members, all looking directly at him. They’d heard exactly what he’d said. Rose Weasley was his daughter. Draco Malfoy had slept with Hermione Granger, before he’d changed sides. Oh, he could hear the gossip now.
One of the mothers, simpering as she walked, made her way toward him. It didn’t matter that she wore a wedding band on her left hand or that she was there to pick up her child, because it was quite evident from her expression that she had only one thing on her mind. Draco scowled; money, money and more money. He knew that his designer robes and cultured demeanour drew them in like moths to a flame. It was sickening. Here was a woman, married with a child, on her way, with what he assumed was meant to be a seductive look on her face, to speak to him or rather proposition him. He’d seen it all before. Luck, however, seemed to be on his side as a quiet, trembling voice spoke, diverting the other woman’s attention.
“Mr Malfoy,” he didn’t have to turn around to know who it was.
“Miss Abbott,” his response was met, as he turned around, with a shudder from the woman in question.
Hannah licked her lips nervously, flattening her mousy-blonde hair with agitated, trembling hands. She was terrified and rightly so. “W-what can I do for you, Mr Malfoy?”
“Misty didn’t tell you?” he clicked his tongue, sounding amused. “Well, I suppose you can’t get good help anywhere these days.”
“Mr Malfoy, I really must insist that –”
“What? What must you insist, Abbott?” Draco hissed, all countenance of self-control gone. The woman quivered. “Do you know why I’m here?” she shook her head no. “No, I don’t suppose you do. Tell me, Abbott, what makes you think that you have any right to treat a child and her mother the way you did?”
He could see out the corner of his eye, a blonde woman with a quick-quotes quill speeding across parchment. It shouldn’t have surprised him, really. Rita Skeeter was a vulture. Of course, she’d be waiting around, skulking wherever she thought she’d catch Hermione and her scoop. She’d hit a gold mine with him, and by the gleeful expression on her face, she knew it.
“I-I don’t u-understand –” the ex-Hufflepuff began to stutter.
“Let me spell it out for you, shall I?” he cut her off, his expression deceptively calm. “Earlier today, you insulted one of the mothers here, a mother of a child you take care of nearly everyday. What’s more, you insinuated that her daughter would grow up to be something akin to a common prostitute. Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but that is what you implied, is it not?”
Gasps abounded and Skeeter’s quill picked up its pace, a flying blur on parchment. He had a plan. Skeeter’s presence was not a hindrance but a blessing. Hannah Abbott wouldn’t know what hit her come morning. Of course, a large majority of Rita’s article would include him and Hermione and their supposed stormy affair. But he was sure that Rita wouldn’t pass this up, it was too dramatic for her to ignore.
“No, I never –” Hannah began to protest, but again he cut her off.
“I must confess myself curious, Abbott. Not only did you insult this woman and her daughter, but you blatantly deny ever doing it. I thought Hufflepuffs were supposed to be loyal to their friends, not vindictive. Sure, she may have made a mistake. We all make mistakes, Abbott, and this was no different. But you – you just made the worst mistake of your life. You crossed the wrong person,” by this point, the ex-Hufflepuff had cottoned on. After all, why would Draco Malfoy concern himself with Hermione Granger and her daughter?
“I’m sorry,” she squeaked, terror dripping in every syllable.
Draco smiled darkly. “War changes people, it makes them value what they have and disregard the consequences, especially when any moment could be your last. Don’t blame her for sharing a moment of weakness, of fear and desperation, five years ago. You weren’t there; you have no right to judge her or what we did. We were about to walk onto a battlefield, knowing that at any second we could die. She didn’t know – we didn’t know what would happen after that. It’s not like we planned it. She did what she thought was right. How could I be reliable compared to him? Everything she did, everything she sacrificed, she did for that little girl. Don’t you dare judge her, Abbott, or so help me Merlin.”
Hannah stared, her eyes wide and fearful. He understood that she was upset by what Rose had implied. His father had murdered her mother, after all. But he’d be damned if she got out of this unscathed. That’s why he was laying it all out on the table. Rita Skeeter was here, soaking up every word he said. Maybe her article would have some semblance of the truth now. Hopefully, she’d get some of her facts straight.
“I really am sorry,” the mousy-blonde cried, her hands trembling worse than before.
“Hermione was nothing but a good friend to you, and how do you repay her? You insult her, insult her daughter and by default, you insult me. Rose may not be Ron Weasley’s daughter, but she sure as hell is mine.”
As expected, gasps and what he imagined to be a squeal of pure delight erupted from those around him. There was no guess as to whom the delight belonged to; Rita Skeeter was in heaven. She just got the scoop of her life.
“Do you know what Hermione said to me after she came home, our daughter crying because of Miss Hannah and what she’d said to her? Hermione bade me not to put you out of a job, because believe it or not, she’s a good person. She was worrying about you after you insinuated that she was nothing more than a common whore, and that our daughter would grow up to become one just like her mother,” he hissed, eyes narrowing.
“I never meant –”
“You meant every word you said and more. But here’s the thing, I mean what I say. You will pay for this. See, I can’t directly put you out of a job, Hannah, but I can fund the competition, and by my guess, after today, you’ll see a drop in attendance. No one wants to send their child to a place where the owner insults both parent and child alike,” at his words, the small crowd began to murmur. Draco smiled derisively at the quaking woman in front of him, before turning around, ready to make his departure. He’d said all he came to and more. Unfortunately, someone had other ideas.
“Mr Malfoy! Mr Malfoy! Is it true? Are you Rose Weasley’s father?” Skeeter was practically bouncing in her excitement.
He looked at the viper of a woman and smiled charmingly. “Yes, it’s true. Hermione and I were together for a brief moment before the final battle. Call it what you will, but we were scared and of the belief that we would both be dead come morning. While I didn’t necessarily know that Rose was my daughter up until almost two months ago, I don’t regret what we did. I love Rose and respect Hermione greatly. There is nothing that I wouldn’t do for them. Now, if you’ll excuse me,” Draco made to move out into the courtyard, but the blonde woman blocked his path.
“What does your father think of your illegitimate daughter? Your mother? Ex-wife, Daphne Greengrass?”
“My father adores Rose as does my mother. As for Daphne, I wouldn’t know or care what she thought about my daughter. Excuse me,” he snapped, pushing past the woman. It was better to give a statement, he’d learned over the years; otherwise the woman would twist his silence into her own words. Still, he was furious and irritated by her overly excited and insipid mannerisms. She made him want to gouge his own eyes out. He pitied any man who ended up with her.
Despite the calling voice behind him and the sudden burst of excited chatter, Draco closed his eyes and concentrated, wanting nothing more than to be at home and away from all the attention. Hopefully his father would have made all the proper transactions and his mother the donations by the time he got home. He didn’t want to have to worry about it later. Draco had meant what he’d said about funding the competition. That was why he had made a stop at Malfoy Manor before coming here; to fund the competition and set in place a plan. His father was more than happy to help, as was his mother.
Opening his eyes, the tug of apparation fading, Draco looked up at the sizable two storey manor he’d come to call home. It was nothing like his family’s ancestral home in Wiltshire, but it was magnificent in its own right. There was nothing ostentatious about it. It was smaller than their other properties, quant in design even. What made it perfect was the picturesque nature, the homely, warm feeling that emanated from every brick and every wooden beam overhead. This was a place of warmth; somewhere he wanted Rose to grow up, to feel loved and safe. The Lincolnshire Manor was his mother’s favourite, a piece of property inherited from an old Uncle. He loved it here almost as much as she did.
When he walked into the living room, the sight before him dissipated any and all anger in his body. Rose looked up from her position, snuggled into her mother’s side as Hermione read aloud, and smiled brilliantly at him. Hermione looked up and he immediately noticed the apprehension in her eyes, but his attention was dragged almost immediately back to his daughter. She had moved from the loveseat to stand in front of him, her brow furrowed adorably.
“You’re back,” Rose stated rather simply.
“I am,” he replied, confused.
Before he had time to react, Rose had wrapped her arms around his legs, hugging him tightly. The words she whispered made his heart stop. “I love you, daddy.”
“W-wha –” his eyes were wide and disbelieving as he stuttered, looking from Rose to Hermione. He must have heard wrong. Rose, she didn’t know…
“Our daughter has the odd habit of eavesdropping when she shouldn’t,” Hermione supplied, smiling at his expression.
“Eavesdropping?” he asked dumbly.
Hermione laughed. “Yes, eavesdropping,” she smiled, motioning toward Rose. “And she heard quite a bit, daddy,” the last word made his heart soar.
She knew. Rose knew. He wasn’t her Dray-co anymore, he was her daddy. Draco couldn’t help but smile like an idiot, grinning from ear to ear. Blinking back the tears that he knew were forming in his eyes, he crouched down and picked the little girl, his little girl up in his arms and twirled her around. He was her father and she knew it and accepted it. His heart felt about ready to burst.
Chapter 19: Meant To Be
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Author's Note: See, I'm getting better at this. Ignore the fact that I already had this chapter written and half edited. I updated in record time - for me, at least. Only the epilogue to go now...
.: Chapter Nineteen – Meant To Be :.
Sunday, June 9, 2002
Hermione sighed, rubbing her eyes tiredly. Court had been in session for three hours, three long and painful hours. They’d had to listen to witness after witness, each lying through their teeth, spinning a tale so sinister to turn the tables in her favour. The best performance by far was by the woman herself. She’d played the wronged party, shedding tears aplenty for the hardships she’d endured while being married to such a cold-hearted man. Hermione had to appreciate her performance though. It was constructed with excellent detail, but it wasn’t perfect and that would be her undoing. There was no truth to her story, only lies.
Today was the day that Daphne Greengrass, formerly Malfoy, tried to take her ex-husband to the cleaners. It wasn’t going to work though, because no matter how many false witnesses she procured the facts remained the same. She had been the unfaithful party, not he. They had that and so much more in their favour. Daphne may have charmed the Wizengamot with her sad tale, but not for long. Draco had a plan, or so he said. He was content to let her spin her tale, leaning back in his leather chair with a nonchalant, bored expression. It had infuriated the woman, causing her to make her first mistake, her first slip up. Hermione realised then the brilliance of such a simple gesture and realised just how subtle a game Draco played.
It had been awkward for the past few days but not overly so. Draco had been absolutely thrilled, floating with unrepressed joy at being Rose’s father. He couldn’t stop smiling and, for some reason, neither could she. There was still an enormous amount of guilt she felt for hurting her ex-husband by allowing Draco to publicly claim Rose as his, but it was easing. The day after Skeeter’s article appeared in the Prophet, she’d received a letter from Ron. He’d contacted a lawyer to help split their assets evenly, providing a list of the things he wished to keep and the things he didn’t. She’d been thankful for that. They had settled outside of court, not like this parade Draco’s ex-wife had insisted upon.
It was a media circus. There were reporters from every paper and magazine, not to mention numerous countries, crowding the streets ready to pounce. Of course, Rita Skeeter was leading the procession, her green quick-quotes quill busy at work. Hermione couldn’t help but resent the woman, not only for their history but for her profiteering ways. She made her money from lying and exploiting the lives of others. In Hermione’s opinion, she was the lowest of the low. When the article came out about her and Draco and Rose being a Malfoy, the woman had managed to paint her in the worst possible light. But with Draco, she’d portrayed him as some kind of shining saint, a knight there to save the day by looking after her child despite being lied to and manipulated by the vicious ex-Mrs Weasley. It was ridiculous.
But Rita had achieved what she had obviously set out to. The amount of hateful looks she received in the street, all disapproving and scornful, was unbelievable. People hated her. It didn’t matter that she had once been revered for all she had done, or that she remained to be Harry Potter’s best friend. They all hated her. Before finding out that Draco was Rose’s father, they had resented her choices and her lies. Now that they actually knew, knew that she had not only cheated on Ron – a war hero despite his simple desk job – but that she had cheated on him with an at-the-time Death Eater, they loathed her.
Hermione wouldn’t deny that she felt horrible. If you were told something long enough, you started to believe it. And she had started to believe what people were saying about her. She was a horrible person, a selfish mother, a liar and a cheater. Draco was the only one that made her think otherwise. He’d gone out of his way to make her believe that she was a better person than she gave herself credit for. All she had done, she had done for her daughter, their daughter. It was true that fear had pushed her and helped cloud her sense of right and wrong, but all she had done was for Rose and he wouldn’t let her forget that.
Things were still awkward between them. Sure, they weren’t as jittery or determined to avoid one another as they had been, but things were still tense. She still thought about that kiss and there was no doubt in her mind that he did too. Hermione was determined not to make the first move though, or to push things, force them to come about. Maybe they weren’t meant to make a go of their situation. Perhaps they were only feeling what they were because of Rose. It wasn’t impossible to comprehend that the reason they were attracted to one another now was because of their daughter. And if that was the case, then Hermione didn’t want to start something that would eventually end badly.
Neither of them were the same person they had been back at Hogwarts. Time and experiences – mainly those from the war – had changed them. They had common ground to stand on – that was the only reason that they were getting along as well as they were. Hermione didn’t know how she felt nowadays. At times she was thrilled that Draco was becoming an excellent father, but then on the other hand she sometimes wished the opposite. It didn’t sit well with her what she had done to Ron and all the hurt she had caused him. A part of her wished that things had stayed the same. She hadn’t wanted to hurt him and it ate at her that she had. Hermione hid her grief and guilt well, keeping her mind occupied and herself busy.
But Ron hadn’t deserved any of what she had done to him. He was a good man, a good father and a loyal friend. She couldn’t change the past and nor did she want to, despite what most would think. There were certain decisions that she would change but she would not regret the time she had spent with Draco, because without that one moment of weakness she would not have been gifted with Rose.
“Mummy?” her daughter’s voice was hushed, pained even, as she tugged on the side of Hermione’s dress robes.
“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” she asked, ignoring the bustle of those around them and crouching down to look at her daughter.
Rose was pale by nature. Like most things she had inherited her pallor from her father, but the rosy tint that generally flushed her young cheeks was gone. She looked almost translucent and her face was drawn. Hermione immediately began to panic, her hand flashing forward to check her daughter’s temperature. The loud buzzing noise, the chatter of the congregated crowd barely registered in her mind. Court was about to reconvene after breaking for a short lunch. Rose had sat quietly beside her grandparents throughout the whole ordeal, barely paying attention to what was being said about her father. They had explained to her that Draco’s ex-wife wasn’t the nicest of people and would probably make up some very nasty lies about him, so Rose had taken everything that was said with a grain of salt.
Daphne’s lawyer had insisted that she and Rose attend the hearing. Hermione knew that their presence would garner some sympathy for Daphne and her case, but there was nothing she could do. The way the woman’s lawyer had worded the request – to the media, of all people – was done in such a way that for them not to show would hinder Draco’s case. They had to go, despite the fact that Rose had been feeling unwell all morning. It appeared that their daughter was worse than either of them had first realised.
“Is she alright?” the silky voice she had so often heard spoken with arrogance and disdain, called from behind her with concern. Rose was running a fever.
“No,” Hermione shook her head, picking up the little girl in her arms. “No, I don’t think she is.”
Lucius Malfoy frowned, his eyes creased. Hermione was still uncomfortable in his presence, more so than she had been before she’d learned of Hannah’s mother. He was Draco’s father though, and Rose’s grandfather. She knew that he cared about her daughter, even if he barely tolerated her at times. Oh, he was polite and charming – Narcissa’s influence, no doubt – but Hermione could tell that he wasn’t exactly thrilled that she was his granddaughter’s mother. They got along well enough when required to, mostly for Rose and Draco.
“I don’t feel good, mummy,” Rose groaned, scrunching her nose up and closing her eyes tightly.
“Is something the matter?” Narcissa’s voice floated toward them as she came into view, dodging people far more gracefully than should have been humanly possible. With her she brought a small juice box for Rose, the tiny purple elephant dancing about playfully on the cover.
“She’s running a fever,” Hermione replied, laying her hand on her daughter’s forehead again. She really was burning up.
Narcissa frowned, hurrying forward to check on the little girl herself. “Oh my!” she exclaimed, drawing her hand away from her granddaughter’s head. “She is positively burning! Lucius, where is Draco?”
“Last I saw, he was conversing with Mr Lang about the case,” was the reply, and though his voice was calm, Hermione could see in his eyes the worry over Narcissa’s panic. “Should I call for a Healer?” he asked a little less calmly, looking at Rose with concerned eyes.
“No, I’ll take her to St Mungos,” Hermione answered, shifting Rose on her hip. “Merlin, we should have listened to her this morning. She said she wasn’t feeling well…” her voice trailed off as she began to search the crowd for Draco’s familiar shock of blond hair.
She felt horrible. Rose had told them that she’d been feeling unwell. Were they bad parents for being too distracted to notice just how unwell she was? Yes. Hermione was resolute in that belief, berating herself for not paying more attention to her daughter. Merlin! They’d just been so worried about the case – her mostly, while Draco silently panicked that he was going to stuff up – and too distracted to notice. Never again. Hermione vowed then that she would make this right, starting with finding Draco and telling him that their daughter was sick.
Catching a glimpse of blond, she pushed through the crowd, faintly aware of the two Malfoys trailing behind her. It was too tightly packed to get through. Stamping her foot in irritation, Hermione cupped the side of her daughter’s face and held her to her chest. How was she supposed to get through? She couldn’t leave without telling him.
“Give her to me.”
Hermione turned around and frowned at the blond man. Lucius Malfoy simply stood there, impatiently raising an eyebrow and gesturing for her to hand over her daughter. She bit her bottom lip indecisively. It was one thing for him to be Rose’s grandfather but another entirely for her to accept his help and trust him.
“Oh honestly –” he started incredulously, voice dripping with disdain at her reluctance.
Hermione sighed, cutting him off. “Fine. I’ll be right back. Don’t you dare drop her,” she practically hissed, handing over her precious cargo.
“I have held a child before, you know?” he replied scornfully.
“Oh, so Draco was dropped on his head as a child. That explains a lot,” Hermione snipped. Narcissa covered her mouth in an attempt to hide her smile, but Hermione saw it and by the looks of things so did her husband. Lucius’ scowl deepened and she could practically see his hand twitch for his wand. One point Hermione Granger, zero Lucius Malfoy.
Manoeuvring through the crowd without Rose on her hip was much easier and soon Hermione found herself standing next to a very tired looking Draco. He was in a deep discussion with his lawyer and Hermione heard the words Daphne and settlement. Hopefully the woman had come to her senses.
“Draco,” she gently rested her hand on his shoulder and he turned around, surprise coating his features. He must have noticed the expression on her face, because seconds later he began to panic.
“Hermione, what’s wrong? Did something hap –”
“Rose is running a fever,” she answered calmly, cutting him off before he could continue. “She’s with your mother and father right now, but I’m going to take her to St Mungos.”
Hermione watched in fascination as an array of emotions flickered across Draco’s face. First there was shock and disbelief. He didn’t want to believe her, he couldn’t. Then there was panic as her words began to sink in. Rose was sick. This was foreign ground for him, Hermione realised. It was only natural for him to panic. Despite previous experiences with Rose, she too was frightened. She had taken Rose to St Mungos before – a small case of the muggle chicken pox. Rose was her daughter though and worrying about her was like breathing air. It was second nature to her, so why shouldn’t it be the same for him?
“Draco, there’s no need to worry. She has been sick before. I’m sure it’s just a virus going around,” her voice was soothing and calm, though on the inside she was a mess. There was just no use in worrying him. He had enough on his plate.
“No need to worry?” Draco asked incredulously, running a hand over his face. “Of course I’m going to worry, Hermione. This is our daughter we’re talking about,” he broke off, taking a deep breath. “Look, I’m coming with you. Stuff the case, stuff Daphne. I don’t care! Rose is more important than any number of galleons in my bank account and –”
For what she did next, Hermione would claim temporary insanity. After all, how could she not have lost her mind? She was worried about Rose, about the court case, life in general. It would only be natural for her mental stability to take a hit after the last couple of months she’d had. But if she was insane, then why did everything seem so suddenly clear? Her time with Ron had been comfortable. Yes, she had loved him but mostly as a friend. What she had done had hurt him. There was no denying the pain she had caused, but Hermione realised then that if she hadn’t hurt him, then she would have just hurt herself. They were never going to work out.
But this – this feeling of desirability and confidence, of passion and vivacity was incomparable. She had never met anyone who could make her feel so many emotions in the span of a few short seconds. When they were younger, her feelings had leaned more toward hatred than anything favourable. It is a fine line between hate and love, for both are a passion in itself. Passion – that’s what this was, this feeling. He brought out the passionate side in her, the side that had seemed long dead.
She couldn’t claim temporary insanity then. Whatever it was that urged her forward – his words perhaps, the startling declaration that their daughter meant more to him than his money, or maybe it was just the sexual tension bursting from its confinement – Hermione knew that everything would change. Change because she kissed him. Shift because he kissed her back. Everything had changed.
So, this was what it felt like to have your heart broken? There were no words to describe such pain. It was like everything had stopped. The only thing discernable amongst the passing time and the noisy chatter was his heart beating, each slow thump more painful than the last. Aching, burning – the feeling of utter desolation was like a hot poker to his heart. Each emotion, new, repeated, was like the fresh slice of steel on skin. Invisible blood marred his entire being, each droplet the result of a fresh cut to his heart. He had foolishly thought that things would get better, and he had hoped against what the cynical voice of his inner mind had told him. Ron Weasley had hoped to move on, to find happiness.
But seeing this, watching him touch her and kiss her – the sight broke his heart, more than the divorce or losing the right to claim Rose as his ever had. It hurt more, burned more. The worst part was seeing her reaction. There was no disgust or hesitation. Hermione had been the one to kiss him, yet here Ron was expecting her to see her mistake and take off, sickened by her actions. What a fool he was. He’d come to the courthouse to see Rose, he’d even brought her a present; a pack of chocolate frogs – her favourite.
Hermione had told him to take things slowly, to gain Rose’s trust back in time. He knew that they were going to be here today. It was splashed all over the papers. So, he’d planned to catch them alone, talk to Rose, give her the chocolate frogs and reinforce to her just how much he loved her. That wasn’t going to happen now. Rose was sick – his little girl, his pride and joy – and he couldn’t do anything to help. Hermione had handed her over to that vile man, entrusting him with their daughter…her daughter. He wanted to be sick.
How could she trust him? Had she forgotten all that he had done, all that he stood for? Ron was shaking in his anger, but he couldn’t bring himself to do anything. He wanted to but he couldn’t. Hermione was – she was someone he didn’t recognise anymore. The Hermione he knew would never entrust their daughter to a Death Eater. But maybe the Hermione he knew was all in his head, a figment of his imagination. She was what he made her out to be – in his mind, at least. Had he been so blind? Yes – yes, he had.
Turning on his heel, Ron threw the box of chocolate frogs in the nearest bin. He couldn’t do this anymore; he couldn’t deal with this pain. Ron knew that he wasn’t strong enough. He had to leave, he had to get away.
She was asleep. It had taken the healers hours to get her to settle. The fever had gotten worse shortly after Hermione had left the Ministry of Magic, and she was thankful that she had decided to take Rose to St Mungos when she did. Granted, Rose only had a mild case of the flu but Hermione couldn’t help but worry. While it was common for children around Rose’s age to catch a cold, it was still dangerous when combined with magic. It was bittersweet really. Rose’s magic had started to show. Because of the gradual build-up of magic within her body, her little girl had fallen ill. Not all children were affected by the change but there were some that were. Rose fell into the latter category. The healers had assured her that Rose would be fine, but they wanted to keep the young girl overnight just in case.
In actuality, it had been remarkable to watch. While Hermione hated the fact that her daughter was unwell, she was overly thrilled by the cause – a paradox if there ever was one. Rose had gotten progressively worse once they’d reached St Mungos and could barely keep from crying. It had hurt to see her little girl so and if she could have, Hermione would have done anything in her power to take the pain away. After an hour though, Rose had started to calm down and it was then that her magic had appeared. Hermione couldn’t help but smile at the memory. A particularly unfriendly Medi-Witch had tried to draw some of her blood for tests. Rose would have none of it though. She’d cried and tried to pull away from the woman, but the Medi-Witch would not relent. Her little girl had actually sent her flying halfway across the room, crashing into the wall. Hermione couldn’t help but be proud.
Draco had stepped in then. After her horribly embarrassing display – kissing him and then running, again – she had convinced his parents to make him stay. She wouldn’t be responsible for him losing half his fortune. Remarkably, they had succeeded – Lucius had, at least. Narcissa had followed her to St Mungos, a formidable tornado that had most of the staff quavering in fear. Her company had kept Hermione sane, so she couldn’t complain. Draco’s company however had the complete opposite effect. It had been driving her insane. She’d kissed him in front of everyone, the media, his friends and family. And it wasn’t like he hadn’t kissed her back, because he did. Oh, how he did…
“How is she doing?” his voice caused her to jump. Of course, he would speak to her now. It didn’t matter that all afternoon he had ignored her.
“Fine,” she replied shortly, not turning to face the blond man as he sat down beside her. Hermione wouldn’t lie, his ignoring her had hurt. She felt rejected.
“I figured you might be hungry so I grabbed a sandwich from the cafeteria. I hope ham and cheese is alright?” he offered, placing the packaged roll on the bed in front of her.
Hermione turned to him and smiled slightly, mumbling a soft thank you. It wasn’t much of a peace offering but it was still something. She ate in silence, noting that he’d grabbed something for himself as he began to dig into his own meal. They both focused on watching the little girl in the hospital bed. Rose was curled into a foetal position, breathing evenly despite the constant beep of the magical monitor. She looked so small.
“I’m sorry,” his voice broke the silence.
“Whatever for?” Hermione asked, evading the subject for fear of embarrassment. He obviously didn’t want her in that way, despite what his reaction had been to her sudden attack on his lips earlier.
“I never meant to ignore you.”
“Are you sure about that?” she probed, not able to keep the hurt from her voice.
“Hermione, I was angry. You employed the wiles of my father – my very manipulative father, I might add – to keep me from being with my daughter. You knew that I wanted to come with you,” the accusation in his voice was unmistakable, but Hermione knew that he was only being honest with her.
Hermione shifted in her seat and turned to face him. “Draco, if you had left with me you would be considerably poorer than you are now. There is no doubt in my mind that you would still have enough money to buy a couple of countries if the fancy took you, but I couldn’t let her win. She didn’t deserve to win, Draco, and you know that she would have if you’d left. Forgive me for looking out for you but I couldn’t stand by and watch you lose half your fortune for the sake of an hour.”
He stared at her, comprehension dawning on his face. His smile caught her by surprise. “Ever the Gryffindor, aren’t you?”
“I couldn’t let her win, Draco,” she replied, licking her lips nervously. He had shifted closer.
“And she didn’t,” he lifted a hand to tuck a stray curl behind her ear. Hermione felt her heart flutter at the small action. “Hermione…”
“Yes,” her breathing was laboured, the anticipation of the moment becoming almost too much for her.
“You kissed me,” Draco traced the side of her face with the back of his hand, a gentle caress that made her head spin.
“You kissed me back,” she countered in a breathy voice.
“If we do this, if we try to make it as a couple –”
“We take it slow,” Hermione finished for him, reaching up to stall his fingers, the tracing digits that were running along her jaw.
“We take it slow,” he agreed, his eyes taking on an ardour that left her breathless.
Leaning forward, he gently kissed the top of her forehead, moving down to her cheek, her nose, her jaw and then finally her lips. Hermione let herself get lost in the moment, the sensations. Everything had changed but she couldn’t find it in herself to care. This was where she was meant to be.
Chapter 20: Epilogue - Thirteen Years Later
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Author's Note: I just want to apologise for the long wait. I wasn't entirely happy with what I had written for the epilogue and I decided to re-write the whole thing. I'm still not entirely happy, but this will just have to do.
I want to thank everyone who has reviewed this story and followed it. Your support has made it possible for me to finish this story. So thank you and I hope that you enjoy this last and final chapter.
.: Epilogue – Thirteen Years Later :.
Monday, September 1, 2015
“Xavier Nolan Malfoy, if you take one more step I swear to Merlin you’ll wish you had never been born!” Hermione Malfoy screeched, a chilling glare plastered across her face.
The mischievous glint in her eleven year-old son’s eye began to wane, replaced with a look of pure fear. Xavier gulped, taking in his mother’s stance. She stood with her hands on her hips, the look in her hazel-brown eyes unsoftening as she continued to stare him down. Unconsciously, the boy began to shrink back, eyes darting about for an escape. There was a snicker from the stairwell, followed by a girlish giggle. Hermione advanced forward, brandishing her wand in a way that made the young boy turn ashen white.
“It was an accident, I swear,” Xavier blurted out, stumbling over a chair behind him.
“It was an accident?” Hermione asked, her lips turning up into a derisive smirk. “You expect me to believe that turning your sister’s hair purple was an accident?”
“Uh…yes,” he answered with a weak grin, his grey eyes wide with anticipation and terror.
Hermione sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. Her son visibly relaxed at this and moved from behind the kitchen table. He was about to leave the room – after all, it was better to sneak away while his mother wasn’t paying close attention – when her voice startled him. “Don’t think for a moment that I believe you young man, and if this wasn’t your first year I would have you hanging from the banister by your shoelaces. As it is, your sister is hysterical and I haven’t the time to deal with you as well as her. We will discuss this later, I can assure you.”
Laughter bubbled from her lips as her oldest son fled the room, darting upstairs before another word could be said. Xavier was his father’s son in both temperament and appearance. The mischievous streak however seemed to be unique to her son’s personality. She had her suspicions though, the majority of which included her mother-in-law Narcissa. That woman had a wicked sense of humour, especially when she’d had one too many glasses of wine. If Xavier had inherited his penchant for mischief from anyone, it would have been his grandmother.
“Mama,” a tiny voice called from the staircase. Hermione turned to look at her small daughter patiently, knowing what question came next. “You won’t let Xavier touch my hair like Andy’s, will you? I don’t want purple hair!” the little girl cried at the end, rushing forward to hug Hermione’s waist.
“Of course not, baby girl,” she replied soothingly, stroking the little blonde’s head.
Ilana was six years-old and unlike her other siblings, she had the tendency to cling to either Draco or herself. She was a needy child, one that needed constant reassurance and attention, but Hermione loved her all the more for it. Rose had never been clingy and neither had Andrea or Xavier. With Ilana she felt needed, though at times her dependence could be a bit much.
“But Andy’s hair is purple! What if he decides to –”
“Ilana, I promise you that Xavier won’t touch your hair. After today, it’s just going to be the four of us; you, Alec and me and daddy. Xavier won’t have the chance to change your hair purple or any other colour for that matter, I promise,” Hermione cooed patiently, looking down at her blonde haired, brown-eyed daughter.
“But Alec –” Ilana started, her hazel-brown eyes wide and beseeching.
“What about Alec?” she questioned laughingly. “Sweetheart, Alec is two months old. His magic hasn’t even manifested yet.”
There was a screech from upstairs, followed shortly after by a wailing cry. Hermione sighed, kissing her young daughter on the forehead and telling her to go and play with Pip and Reggie – their two year-old English sheepdog – in the garden. Pip was old and spent the majority of her days sleeping on the back porch and Hermione knew that she was nearing the end of her life, but she hadn’t the heart to tell Rose or any of the other children. That infernal dog, which she had grown to love so much, was a part of the family. It felt wrong to tell the children what was happening, especially Ilana.
As Hermione reached the top of the stairs, a tall, curly-haired blonde stepped in her path. The girl smiled, showing off a set of brilliant white teeth. “Dad can’t get Andrea’s hair to change back. Whatever Xavier did, he did it good.”
“Yes – well, your brother always was particularly good at charms,” Hermione sighed, smiling wryly.
“He hasn’t even attended Hogwarts yet and still he can perform a charm – with dad’s wand, no doubt – that requires a third year skill level. You know he’s going to be worse than me, don’t you?” Rose laughed, pushing her hair behind her ears.
“Well, as Head Girl I expect you to keep an eye on your wayward brother for me. Merlin knows with Savine Zabini by his side the school will be in an absolute uproar. The mischief those two get up to –”
“Is unbelievable, yes I know,” her eldest laughed. “I know you think that Xavier inherited his penchant for trouble from grandma, but you have to admit that together he and Savine are like dad and Uncle Blaise all over again. Don’t think grandpa didn’t tell me all about them.”
“I have no doubt your grandfather did just that, Rose. If you asked him to buy you a giant Hippogriff as a pet, you know he would, no questions asked,” Hermione interrupted, smiling at her blushing daughter. “You have him wrapped around your little finger, Rose, don’t deny it.”
Lucius Malfoy was the biggest softy where Rose and the rest of his grandchildren were concerned. Anything they asked for, they were given without a single moments hesitation. Sometimes his easy acquiescence bothered her and sometimes it didn’t. It was enjoyable to watch him squirm afterwards, when the reality of his promise began to sink in. Only last month he had agreed to take Andrea on a trip to the Himalayas. She had read something in one of her books – a rare plant that only grew within the mountainous area – and was adamant about searching for it. What Andrea wanted, Andrea got. Like her father, she was unbelievably stubborn and demanding. At the age of ten, Hermione had thought that Rose was bad, but she had nothing on her sister.
“Mum, I know I said I’d eat breakfast with the family but…” Rose trailed off, blushing slightly.
“But?” she prompted.
“Well, Jason –”
Hermione couldn’t help but laugh. “Jason Maloney? Oh, Rose…”
“Mum, will you please be quiet,” her daughter hissed, glancing over her shoulder. “If dad hears you, Merlin knows what he’ll do. You know he doesn’t like Jason.”
“Yes, sweetheart, I know. He doesn’t like Jason, just like he didn’t like Kyle or Chris, or Tyler and Quinn. Cricket, you know what he’s like.”
“Yes, I do,” Rose nodded, her lips pulling into a thin line. “That’s why we’re not going to tell him, okay? Or grandpa Lucius, for that matter,” a piercing cry ripped through the air, causing Rose to pause and look over her shoulder. “Mum, can you please not tell them. They get so overprotective and I really, really like Jason and –”
“I won’t tell, I promise,” Hermione interrupted, smiling at her daughter’s flustered state. “Just be back before ten-thirty, sweetheart. It’s your last year and I know that your father wants to see you off at the station. We all do.”
Rose smiled brilliantly, rushing forward to envelop her in a hug and place a quick kiss on her cheek. “You’re the best, mum.”
“Oh, I know,” Hermione sighed teasingly, motioning with her hands for her daughter to go. Rose grinned again, launching herself down the stairs two at a time. “Cricket?” her daughter paused, turning back to look at her. “Happy Birthday.”
With a wide smile and wave of her hand, Rose took off out the back door. It was strange to think that seventeen years ago she’d been lying in a hospital bed, gritting her teeth through contractions. Rose’s birth had been horrendous, mostly because she’d opted to have her without the recommended pain potions. She had certainly learned her lesson there. Andrea’s birth had been another story. Draco had been so panicked. When her water broke, he wasn’t the one telling her to breathe deeply or that everything was going to be fine. She had been the one comforting him while he hyperventilated and Rose – being the assertive five year-old that she was – flooed Lucius and Narcissa. By the time they’d arrived at St Mungos, Draco was practically screaming for someone to get her a pain potion. The reality that he’d actually managed to convince three different Medi-Witches to give her a pain potion was something she found, even now, highly unamusing. She could barely remember Andrea’s birth, she’d been that doped up.
Xavier, again, had been another story. Draco had been out of town on business with his father, and Narcissa had found her one afternoon curled up on the bed screaming through the pain. Rose and Andrea had been at her mother’s house and she could barely move, let alone floo for help. Narcissa had had to floo the family’s personal Healer, and within half an hour she’d held in her arms a beautiful baby boy. Surprisingly enough, Ilana and Alec had both had rather uneventful births. Something she was extremely grateful for.
“Hermione?” Draco’s voice called for her from their daughter’s bedroom. He sounded panicked, and Hermione couldn’t help but worry.
As she walked quickly toward the door, the sound of sobbing became more pronounced. Rounding the corner, what Hermione saw tugged at her heartstrings painfully. Her second eldest lay curled on her bed in a foetal position, tears pouring from her bright, sapphire blue eyes. Draco was standing awkwardly to the side, rocking back and forth with their son in his arms, trying to soothe him and Andrea at the same time. It was obvious that the young girl was inconsolable, and Hermione felt her anger flair. Of course, Xavier had to pull something like this on a day like today. The boy was incorrigible.
“Mum?” the young girl asked shakily, her bottom lip quivering as she caught sight of her in the doorway.
Hermione smiled softly and soon Andrea was running toward her. She felt so sorry for her little girl. Andrea had always had self-confidence issues, mostly because of Petra Nott. It was surprising really, how beautiful Daphne’s daughter was. And yet, like her mother, Petra was a viper. The girl had no substance and it angered her beyond belief that Andrea could be hurt and swayed into thinking that she was inferior by such a girl. Thankfully Rose was there to keep an eye on her, for this year at least.
“Mum, look at what he did to my hair?!” the girl cried, her face red and her eyes swollen. “Dad can’t get it to change back. I can’t go to Hogwarts looking like this, mum, I just can’t!”
Hermione sighed, frowning contemplatively. “I know, sweetheart. Look, how about we dye your hair blonde temporarily until we can figure out what charm your brother used?” she asked, stroking her once blonde daughter’s hair.
Andrea sniffed, nodding her head furiously. “Do you think it will work?”
“Yes, sweetheart, I do. Why don’t you floo over to your grandparents and tell them what happened. I’m sure Grandma Cissa has just the right spell to fix all of this,” she said softly, looking pointedly at Draco for his support.
“Oh, yes,” he started, bobbing up and down to try and soothe their whimpering son. “Your mother is right, Andrea. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it myself.”
“Because your not as brilliant as mum,” their daughter quipped, smiling through her tears.
“Yes, well, there is that,” he laughed.
“Go on, sweetheart,” Hermione urged, brushing her lips against her daughter’s forehead. “We’ll meet you at the station at ten-thirty. I’m sure Grandpa Lucius and Grandma Cissa won’t mind apparating you there.”
Andrea nodded, grabbing a hat from her wardrobe and piling her bright purple hair atop her head with a clip. She yanked the hat on, and took off out the door. Hermione sighed tiredly, thinking of the many ways she would like to ring her son’s neck.
“That boy is…unbelievable,” she sighed, sitting on the edge of Andrea’s bed. “I can’t even contemplate what he will be like when he comes back from Hogwarts.”
A monster, that’s what.
Draco smiled tiredly, taking two strides toward the bed. Alec, whose soft fuzz of sweet baby hair stuck up at odd angles, was whimpering in his arms. Hermione reached across to stroke her son’s head, leaning against Draco’s side. Of its own accord, her head fell to rest on his shoulder. It wasn’t even ten o’clock and already she was exhausted.
“Well, at least Savine wasn’t here this morning. You know things would be much worse if she was,” Draco offered after some time, his free arm twining around her back. His fingers drew circles across the base of her spine. Hermione shivered at the sensation.
“Lila and Blaise have absolutely no control over that girl,” she remarked, thinking of how out of control Xavier’s best friend really was. It wasn’t so much that Lila and Blaise didn’t try, because they did. Every Friday night when they came over for dinner, she could see how worn down they were. Lila, who’d managed to maintain her beauty even after childbirth, had refused to marry Blaise. Even now, after thirteen years, she refused him. She told her that it was because she didn’t want to lose her independence and Hermione could understand that.
Despite the pledge to take their relationship slow, one month later Hermione had found herself pregnant with Andrea. She had been mortified, so much so that she had kept the pregnancy a secret. After two months and horrendous bouts of morning sickness, Draco had begun to fret. Yes, he had fretted just like he had panicked when she’d gone into labour. He truly was hopeless when it came to those types of situations. Tell him his daughter was sexually active and he turned into someone who could put Voldemort to shame. Rose’s first boyfriend, Quinn, had been terrified of him. He had actually made the boy cry. But put him in a situation where she was pregnant, in labour, or was sick, even with a common cold, and he was absolutely hopeless.
“Do you honestly believe that we have any control over Xavier?” he asked, looking down at her with a raised eyebrow.
Hermione sighed. “Fear always works. In fact, it’s the only thing that works.”
Draco laughed, brushing his lips against her forehead. The familiar action caused butterflies to flit about in her stomach, even now. They had been together for thirteen years and still he could make her stomach flip and her heart soar. Their chemistry had made it impossible for them to take it slow. Rose hadn’t been out of the hospital a week when they found themselves in his bed. Of course, she blamed him and his reaching hands. It was bad enough that she couldn’t keep her hands off of him, let alone her mouth, but Draco – Merlin, he had been relentless! Not that she could complain.
When she finally told him about Andrea, he had been insistent upon marrying her. It had started such an argument. She wasn’t about to marry him just because she was pregnant. Merlin, she had only been divorced for a couple of months! There was just no way she was ready to take that step. And of course, Draco hadn’t been able to see it that way. None of them had. Narcissa had been almost as relentless as her son, popping up randomly at all hours of the day to simply show her this remarkable flower arrangement she had seen in a window, or to mention that she had seen this beautiful antique store with a gorgeous and one of a kind faerie spun wedding dress in its window. It had gotten so bad that she had actually moved out and taken refuge at Harry and Luna’s.
“You know, I thought that I would never say this, but thank Merlin Andrea’s has those Potter brats to watch her back,” said Draco, frowning at the mere idea of James and Lucas Potter.
Hermione smiled. James and Lucas were her godsons and Harry and Luna’s twin boys. They had been born exactly one month after Andrea and the three were inseparable, much to Draco and Harry’s dismay. It was around the time that she was pregnant with Xavier – another unexpected surprise – that Harry and he had begrudgingly decided to shake hands and call a truce. Not that that lasted long, mind you. The next day Draco had come home with a split lip and Luna had complained that Harry had a black eye. Needless to say, they hadn’t exactly been friendly since then despite the fact that their children were the best of friends.
“Lucas and James aren’t that bad, Draco. They’re actually rather good for her. They bring out a far more mischievous and self-confident Andrea than we see at home,” Hermione said, defending her two godsons.
Draco snorted. “Yes, because we all know we need another troublemaker in the family.”
"Oh, stop being so cynical. It’s incredibly unattractive,” she chided, slapping him playfully on the shoulder. Her wedding ring, a simple silver band encrusted with sapphires, glinted in the light. After two years of nagging and the birth of two children, she had finally relented and agreed to marry him. It had literally been the best day of her life.
“Darling, cynicism is my forte,” Draco remarked, looking down at her with what she assumed was supposed to be a seductive look. The fact of the matter, however, was entirely different. She couldn’t help but laugh. Two seconds later and his lips crashed down on her, roughly pushing away any other thought.
Oh, how she was lost. His lips were a caressing enemy that always managed to destroy every quip or verbal attack she had on the tip of her tongue. It didn’t help that he was aware of that fact. He used their power over her far too often when they were in an argument – which was 95% of the time – and always managed to get his own way. Honestly though, how could she complain? Even if their tempers still clashed, the passion was there fuelling their every movement. She would much rather this passion than the kind of safe, predictable love she’d had with Ron.
Ron. She missed him sometimes. He had moved to America about a month after Draco and Daphne’s divorce. She’d received a letter explaining his need to move on, his hope that in the future the pain would ease and he’d be able to speak to her and Rose without feeling as though his heart was being ripped in two. At the time, she had been furious. She’d worried about Rose, who despite everything still asked occasionally about the man that had raised her for the first four years of her life. He didn’t write, not once, but come September 1st every year a present would arrive with Rose’s name attached.
Four years after his escape, Ron had returned with a new wife and two step-children. Hermione had met Eva a couple of times, but the American witch didn’t like her that much. It was understandable, really. What had surprised Hermione the most was Eva’s age. She was ten years Ron’s senior but she made him happy, and that was all that really mattered. He deserved every kind of happiness after what she had done to him. Still, sometimes she missed his laugh and asinine jokes.
Rose knew who he was. He’d started a sort of uncle-niece relationship with her. Hermione was at least grateful that he was a part of her life, even if it took him four years to get there. Draco, of course, wasn’t too happy about ‘Uncle Ron’ but he understood.
Draco’s lips continued their dance, making her as dizzy with desire as she had been when they were younger. Their power hadn’t diminished over the years. How else had he managed to goad her into five children when she had only wanted two? Then again, the majority of their children were mistakes. Blessed mistakes.
Pulling away, Draco smirked down at her, admiring his handiwork as her chest rose and fell with each breathless pant. “So, that had absolutely no affect on you whatsoever? After all, my cynicism is incredibly unattractive.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Oh shut up and kiss me you fool.”
His voice, like the rest of him, sent shivers down her spine. Their son Alec whimpered quietly between them, unhappy with their inattentiveness. Alec was a very demanding baby, much like the rest of her children. It was the Malfoy genes, of course. All the children had blonde hair, though Ilana’s surprisingly had a sandy-brownish tinge. And they all had their grandfather and grandmother – including her parents – right where they wanted them. She and Lucius still didn’t get along, but they made the effort to be civil for the children if nothing else.
“Mama!” Ilana’s shriek travelled up to Andrea’s room from downstairs.
Draco groaned, pulling away. He rested his forehead against hers, breathing deeply. His eyes remained closed, feather white eyelashes fluttering softly. “Why on earth did we have so many children?”
“Because you’re a randy bastard, that’s why,” she laughed, reaching between them to smooth out his now wrinkled shirt. Her hands trailed lower on a dangerous path. Hermione couldn’t help but grin when he jumped.
“Hey, you can’t keep your hands off of me. I hardly think I’m the randy bastard,” he argued, though the clouded desire in his eyes eclipsed whatever he was trying to prove.
“I can’t help it,” she smiled lasciviously. “You’re just so delectable. I could practically eat you.”
Draco grinned. “Oh, please do.”
Hermione laughed and leaned forward, placing a sweet but far from innocent kiss on her husband’s lips.
“Mama!” their daughter’s shriek, again, interrupted them.
With a small sigh, Hermione pulled away, placing a kiss on her son’s head and assuring her husband that they were far from finished before she made her way downstairs. She was happy. She was so happy with all her children, her friends, her husband, her career. Sometimes she couldn’t believe that everything had worked out the way that it had. Admittedly, life had its moments. Just the other month her father had been in an accident but now he was fine and everything was not perfect, but close enough. That was all she could ask for. Not perfect, but close enough.
Turning the corner, Hermione stopped and stared. Ilana was crying, clutching at her hair. Her very green hair.