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Chapter 4 : A Disconcerting Visit
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Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who has left a review. I hope you enjoy this chapter.
.: 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.
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