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Chapter 14 : A Helping Hand
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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,”
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