Chapter 1 : All Grown Up
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Secondly, the epilogue of DH has been the main source of information used in this story; assuming that Rose was, like Albus, starting her first year at Hogwarts in it, and this story takes place at the end of that year, she is twelve years old, like Scorpius. Hugo is seven. Another source of information was the webchat in which JK told us that Hermione worked in Wizarding Law, and that Ron had been working both in George's jokeshop and (either before or later) as an Auror.
As for Malfoy's wife, we've no information about that whatsoever, so I have taken creative liberties and you'll find out who she is in later chapters. As there is no mention of Malfoy's profession either, I have gone with an idea I really like, which you'll find out in this chapter. If, or as soon as, JK Rowling tells us the name of his wife and profession, I shall, however, be glad to change it.
Thank you for reading. Many special thanks to those who decide to review.
'Hurry up, Hugo, we're rather late.'
Hermione Granger Weasley stood impatiently by the door, Hugo's bag in her hand, waiting for her son to finish tying his shoelace. It was already ten minutes to eight and she had never been late for a playdate before.
'Will you come back here afterwards?'
Ron was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, his arms crossed, an unusually serious look on his face. Hermione did not falter as she shifted Hugo's bag in her hands.
'You know I won't. I've got half a dozen appointments this morning.'
It was easy to see how much this piece of information irritated Ron, for he let a scorn cross his face.
'I thought we could do something together. The shop doesn't open 'til three this afternoon.'
If Ron had felt irritated before, it was nothing to what Hermione felt now. Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, that was all she heard about from sunrise to sunset. How George had invented the most fantastic new product, how they had had hundreds of customers waiting in line, which new staff they had hired... It was nothing that special, Hermione thought, Ron's job didn't even bring that much money in... Hermione was the breadwinner of the family, and they both knew it. She had been the glue that stuck them together for the past fourteen years.
'You can't expect me to cancel six clients, Ron,' she answered irritably. 'These rendez-vous were made weeks ago -'
'I know, I know,' snapped Ron, 'you don't have to remind me about how popular you are, Hermione, I know everyone wants to see you.'
Hurt, Hermione turned away and looked at Hugo, trying to conceal the sudden tears in her eyes. He had no idea how much those words wounded her, how hard she worked for their family so that they could have a good life... And Ron could do nothing but criticise.
'You ready, Hugo?'
Hugo, oblivious to all that had occurred, jumped up and nodded, smiling. Ron walked over to his seven year old son and kissed him on the forehead. To Hermione, he said or did nothing, but folded his arms once more. His wife gazed at him coolly.
'So you'll pick him up at Ginny's at two?'
'Fine then. Give my best to George.'
But Hermione had already taken Hugo by the hand, walked out the door and disappeared into nothingness.
After dropping Hugo off at Ginny's house to play with Lily and half a dozen other little children, Hermione made her way to the Ministry, her mind full of bitter thoughts. Ginny was a perfect little housewife, happy to be at home and take care of the kids, arrange playdates and bake cookies. Her job was writing Quidditch articles for a magazine, which she could easily do at home. Hermione's life was, in comparison, hectic. She was one of the top attorneys at the Magical Law Enforcement, and in the past ten years, had moved from department to department - from Creature Law to Wizarding Law and now to Family Law. She enjoyed Family Law more than she had enjoyed her other work. Here, she communicated with people about normal problems, problems even Muggles had - marriage, divorce, custody. Ironically enough, it was only since she had started working in this department that her problems with Ron had arisen.
Facing difficult problems of everyday life, talking to couples who had been married for donkey's years and now wanted a divorce, suddenly made her realise how inconsequential her life with Ron had become. They talked of nothing, they lived through nothing; it was impossible for Ron to be serious, to do the dishes without producing a fake wand, even drop off the kids without losing them first. He was like a child, and Weasley's Wizard Wheezes had worsened this. She thought, when he lost Fred, that he would mature considerably; now, it was like he had to replace Fred in order to keep George happy. But Fred wasn't the man she had fallen in love with. It was too difficult talking about the death of his brother to bring this subject up without considerable pain, so Hermione left it alone; but it was becoming an unbearable life for her, and several times she had considered seperation. She kept a happy face on for Rose, who was attending her first year at Hogwarts, and Hugo, was was still too young to notice anything, but she knew it couldn't go on much longer.
'Morning Polly. Any calls?'
Polly Diggle took Hermione's coat and reached out for her notebook. As Hermione's secretary, it was her job to keep her boss satisfied, which was always a difficult task; Hermione had been in a foul mood lately.
'You got an in-house memo from the Auror Department, asking about the Wizarding Decree 336 -'
'That's not my job anymore, tell them to bother the Wizarding Law workers.'
' - your ten o' clock cancelled -'
' - and your nine o' clock is waiting in the hall.'
Hermione's brow furrowed. She could not remember her having scheduled a nine o' clock appointment, and felt relieved that she had arrived ten minutes early.
Polly opened her mouth to answer, but then suddenly Hermione's new client entered the room, a cocky smile on his face.
'Nine o' clock appointment: Draco Malfoy, old nemesis, new client.'
Hermione's jaw dropped as her old enemy sat down in front of her, clearly enjoying the fuss he was creating, and looking expectant.
He had changed in appearance, but not in manners, thought Hermione, as Polly closed the door and left Malfoy and Hermione alone. He looked older and (Hermione hated to admit it) wiser, as if he had learned a great deal since his years as a Death Eater. She had last seen him almost a year ago, at the Hogwart's Express, but had not stopped to chat; Ron had been particularly venomous, demanding that Rose not talk to Scorpius, Draco's son.
'What are you doing here?' Hermione asked coolly, nervously shuffling the papers on her desk, though they were already in perfect piles.
'I thought that was obvious?' he drawled. 'Family Law. I'm getting a divorce.'
The truth hit Hermione hard in the face. She did not know why it was so difficult for her to hear it; she barely knew Malfoy, and did not know his wife at all, but it seemed to her that if proud, rich, pureblood Malfoy could be unhappy in his marriage, then anyone could, including Hermione.
'I'm sorry,' she said curtly. Malfoy raised his eyebrows.
'By all means, don't trouble yourself to sound sincere, Granger - oh no, wait, it's Weasley now, isn't it?'
He surveyed her momentarily. His thoughts were much the same as hers; that she had grown - not in height - but in wisdom and even in wit. Maternity had taken its toll with her, and she looked at ease and less shrill than he remembered her. Hermione was not the sort of girl he would call pretty, but there was something in her eyes that caught his interest, because they represented to him what he felt.
'Well,' said Hermione suddenly, 'let me give you a list of names that can grant you that divorce, shall I? Several of my colleagues -'
'Wait a minute,' said Malfoy and sat up properly. 'Can't you grant me a divorce?'
Hermione was stunned for the second time in ten minutes. It hadn't occurred to her that she would handle Malfoy's divorce; she thought it an unspoken understanding between them that they should have as little to do as possible with one another.
'Yeah, I can...' she said uncertainly, 'But my colleagues can do as good a job.'
'I don't want good,' Malfoy answered severely, 'I want the best. I want sole custody over my child.'
Taken aback, Hermione lost grip of her quill and it fell to the floor. She bended down to retrieve it and then looked up.
'You want sole custody over Scorpius?'
Malfoy's eyes narrowed.
'How do you know my son's name?'
'My daughter, Rose... They're in the same year. He's a good kid, she says.'
'Yeah, well, not all I do is bad, Granger - sorry, Weasley.'
'Why would you want sole custody over your child?'
'He's my kid, isn't he? Don't worry, I'm a Healer, I can afford it.'
This news did not surprise her; she knew that, after the War, Malfoy had longed to do an honest profession. He had claimed that he wanted to help people, after wounding so many as a Death Eater.
Hermione sighed, then bit her lip. She slowly laid her quill down and looked at Malfoy resolutely.
'Listen, Malfoy, I don't think I can do this for you. I think we've got to be honest with eachother, we're just too -'
'Damn it, Weasley, are you going to make this a sob story? I'm hiring you. That's all there is to it. I'm going to need the best attorney to get custody over Scorpius, and despite my intense dislike of you, you probably are the best in this department, so there we are. Agreed?'
Hermione stared at Malfoy for a short while, as if making her mind up about something. Then, not being able to find a valid reason for refusing his offer, she nodded. He almost gave a sigh of relief, but covered it up with a fake cough.
'First we're going to need grounds.'
'Reasons for the divorce.'
'How about a loveless marriage?'
As Malfoy said these words, Hermione couldn't help thinking about her own marriage with Ron... a loveless marriage... She grew pale at the horrible reality of it.
'You all right?'
She looked up and saw something almost like curiosity in Malfoy's eyes, but it quickly vanished as she nodded and returned to her parchment.
'Loveless won't do it. Maybe if your wife had an affair... or left you?' she asked delicately. Malfoy let out a barkish sort of laugh.
'A Mrs Malfoy, have an affair? I doubt it.'
Irritated, Hermione threw her quill back down on the desk.
'Well, you better give me a reason, I can't work with this.'
'All right, then... Can't we just say irreconcilible differences?'
'That doesn't guarantee you custody. The mother usually gets the child in the majority of these cases. Now, if you had something on your wife -'
'You do play dirty, Granger.'
Malfoy looked at her, his lips forming a cocky smile.
'You'll always be Granger to me, Granger.'
Hermione did not know why she blushed; it was not as if there was anything flirtatious in these words or even suggesting, but she did blush, and decided there and then that it would be best to conclude the meeting. She stood up.
'My ten o' clock is probably waiting.'
Malfoy got to his feet as well, no longer smiling.
'Thanks for your time,' he said.
'You can arrange another appointment with Polly,' Hermione added indifferently.
Malfoy held out his hand. As Hermione shook it, she thought she felt a bolt of electricity run up her spine - a feeling not altogether unpleasant. She quickly let go and was relieved when Malfoy had left the room. Only feeling slightly guilty, she shuffled her papers - there was no ten o' clock meeting.
A/N: Taster for next week's chapter:
Malfoy searched for a white, silk handkerchief inside his jacket and took it out. Hermione held out her hand for it, but he disregarded this, and took her hand between his. He dried the coffee gently away. He was concentrating on what he was doing so he did not see Hermione's eyes search him wonderingly, as if surprised at this soft gesture.