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Chapter 12 : Deceit
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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.
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