Chapter 10 : Early Morning Discussions
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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.
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