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Chapter 5 : Will You Hate Me?
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Chapter Image made by Sammm of TDA!
Author's Note: Thank you, thank you and thank you again! All your wonderful reviews and words of support are greatly appreciated.
I know that a lot of people are eagerly awaiting some Draco/Hermione interaction and I promise that it won't be that far away (four chapters). But to sate your dramione needs, I promise that there will be a juicy flashback in the next chapter. I still have a few complications to throw at our dear Hermione for the time being, so please take that as my excuse for why our favourite couple aren't together just yet. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.
Oh, and I beg forgiveness for the ending. You'll love to hate it.
.: Chapter Five – Will You Hate Me? :.
Saturday, May 4, 2002
Would he hate her? He’d certainly have every reason to after the truth became known. She didn’t want it to come down to a choice between the two of them, Harry deserved better than that. But when it came down to the nitty gritty, she didn’t know if he would hate her simply for what she had done, or give her the chance to explain herself. Harry was temperamental, always jumping to conclusions before finding out the facts. Would he hate her after all was said and done? Would he even give her a chance to explain? She really didn’t know the answer to either question. Ron’s hatred she could bear simply because she deserved it, but Harry’s? His hatred was the one thing she could not bear.
Some people might think her priorities were skewed if she worried more about her friend’s reaction than her husband’s. The truth was, she already knew that things with Ron were slowly becoming irreconcilable. Hell, the man had switched her contraceptive potions with fertility ones! She was having a hard time trusting him lately, especially whenever he offered to make her a cup of coffee, or get her a glass of water. Things between them had been going down hill for a long time now, but this would be the breaking point. She didn’t think he noticed that anything was wrong, and that was why this would be such a kick in the guts for him. He would hate her by the end of the night, of that she was certain.
First she needed some reassurance and that was why she was here. Ron had gone over to the Burrow for the morning to help de-gnome the garden, and Luna was off at the Quibbler fixing some last minute printing errors. It was just Harry and her – or at least it was until the two children decided they wanted something. Rose and Lily were not too far off in the distance, dangling their legs through the bars bordering one of the park’s slides. Hermione had always lectured Rose about Lily being younger than she was. She explained that Lily was unable to take care of herself, or voice her opinions like she could. Her daughter seemed to take it to heart and saw herself as Lily’s personal protector, something Harry found highly amusing. Rose may have been young and unable to understand certain concepts, but she knew vulnerability when she saw it. Lily was like her little sister, so the four year-old protected her as such.
“You’re awfully quiet this morning,” Harry commented, reaching into his backpack to retrieve an apple.
He was always prepared. The backpack had seen better days but it served its purpose. There was never a time when Harry was without it, claiming that it was an essential for any father to survive parenthood. It was filled to the brim with everything you could possibly imagine. There were books, dolls, changes of clothing, food; you name it and it was in there. Much like her old beaded bag, it could store an endless amount of items.
“I’ve just got a lot on my mind,” she replied quietly, looking over to where Rose and Lily were running around on the grass.
“Need an ear?” he asked, taking a large bite of his apple. His eyes were trained on the two children, barely blinking in their watchful state.
“I’ve got two already, thanks,” she laughed, elbowing him in the side playfully. Even she could tell her heart wasn’t in it.
“You know what I mean,” Harry turned, pinning her with a stare, his striking green eyes surprisingly insightful.
Hermione was here to get reassurance, to find out in a roundabout way if he would stand by her. She hadn’t had the guts to tell Ron the truth last night or the night before that, or the one before that. The internal debate she’d had with herself lasting into the early hours of the morning. Today was the day; she’d convinced herself of that much. But before she became the lamb all those clichés talked about, she needed to know she’d at least have someone on her side.
“If something happened between me and Ron,” she started, licking her lips nervously. “If something happened, would you stand by me?” the words were painful but necessary. She had to know.
Harry frowned. “Of course I would. Hermione, you’re my best friend,” his eyes were sparked with curiosity. “You are both my best friends,”
“I would never make you choose,” the words came out in a rush as she turned to look at him imploringly. “You have to understand tha –”
“I already understand, Hermione, because I would never make you choose if something happened between me and Luna,” he cut in, smiling sadly but reassuringly down at her.
“What did I ever do to deserve you as a friend?” Hermione laughed sadly, biting her lower lip to keep from tearing up.
She’d worked herself up over the past few hours, trying to reign in that famous Gryffindor courage. Rose wasn’t far off in the distance and she couldn’t afford to let her little girl see her upset. There’d been too many questions asked when Rose had accidentally let it slip that she’d visited her in the middle of the day. Ron had been curious, especially when Rose mentioned that her eyes had been 'leaking'. It would have been the perfect opportunity to tell him the truth, but she just couldn’t do it. She’d lied and said that a colleague was working on a child abuse case and that she’d gotten upset. The lie had come easily – almost too easily. Her hands were shaking in anticipation because she knew that when she told Harry the truth, everything would change.
“I think I should be the one asking you that,” Harry laughed, taking another bite of his apple. “How you put up with me and Ron, I’ll never know,”
Oh, he was definitely going to hate her.
“I’m not as good a person as you make me out to be, Harry,” she could feel the tears building up but she refused to let them fall.
Everyone put her up on a pedestal. She was the perfect wife, the perfect friend. Her boss was no different, publicly praising her whenever he could. They all had this idea that she was the perfect person, flawless and without sin. She was only human and to try and live up to that ideal everyday was exhausting. Alyson was the only person who didn’t have any expectations of her, the only person who let her be her without complaint. It was hard to try and live up to everyone’s expectations, even if they didn’t realise they were setting them to begin with. Rose accepted and loved her unconditionally simply because she was her mother. But everyone else saw someone who wasn’t there. She wasn’t perfect, far from it actually.
Her friend frowned, a curious expression on his face. “Is this about Rose?” he asked her suddenly, eyes solemn with understanding.
“W-what?!” she asked in surprise, eyes wide from fear.
“I’m not blind, Hermione,” he sighed, voice laced with irritation and unease. “And I’m definitely not stupid either,” throwing his half eaten apple in the trashcan, Harry looked over to where his daughter sat happily on a nearby log, Rose playing with her hair.
“Harry I –” her heart was beating erratically, the knowledge in his piercing green eyes making her cringe.
“Let me finish, Hermione. I need to get this off my chest and I promise that I’ll give you the chance to explain after, but I need to say this,” he snapped, abruptly cutting her off. “When Ron came over to see me the other day, I just thought the two of you’d had another one of your tiffs. He seemed genuinely upset so Luna went over to the Burrow with Lily to give us some privacy. Imagine my surprise when he tells me that the two of you went to the healers earlier that day. I’ll admit that I was right pissed when he told me about the fertility potions, but when he said that the healer told him he was sterile… ” Harry paused, running a hand through his hair in agitation. “He always wanted a big family, you know? For this to happen to him – it’s cruel, too cruel,” his eyes were riddled with sadness, pain for his friend. But there was also a dark accusation in their green depths.
“Everything just clicked. It was like something went off in my head when he told me. I didn’t want to believe it. I didn’t want to believe that you would do something like that, but all the evidence was there just staring me in the face,” his voice was pained, cutting at her like a thousand knives. “I was so mad, Hermione. If it hadn’t of been for Luna I probably would have done something I’d regret. But she calmed me down enough to understand that there may be more to this. There is more, isn’t there?” he asked, eyes pleading for an explanation, angered but hopeful.
There was more, more than he or Ron would ever understand. The fact that he had figured it out on his own only added to the sickening dance her insides squirmed in. She would admit to the fear. Harry was one of her closest and oldest friends, he was the pillar of strength she had come to rely on throughout the years. The thought of losing him, of losing his trust and friendship was enough to fuel the burning ache settled in her bones. There was a voice in the back of her mind, tormenting and hateful. It told her she’d lose him, that she’d lose everyone she held dear. Would Harry really hate her after she’d explained everything? He was giving her this opportunity, this chance. She had to take it.
“There are some things, Harry, that no matter how hard we try to understand, we never will,” she started, gnawing on her lower lip. “Life is a complicated and fickle thing. It is often the case that what we expect and what we get are two entirely different things. I never expected for this to happen, I never anticipated it. But Rose is probably the best thing that ever happened to me, and for that I cannot regret what I did,” pausing, she turned to look at her daughter from where she sat. “There is no simple answer, Harry. I’ve tried to simplify it in my head, tried to find a rational way to explain this. I don’t know what to tell you,”
The words were there, on the tip of her tongue. She knew what she wanted to tell him, but she didn’t know how to say it. Her words had to be selected with the upmost care, structured as not to anger him to the point of no return. He would be angry – part of him already was – but she couldn’t risk pushing him over the edge. She had worked herself up to this moment and she didn’t want him to turn from her before she’d had her say. She needed to tell the truth, she needed to tell someone, anyone the truth. He had to hear her out.
“How about the truth,” he suggested, leaning back against the bench. There was a bite in his words, but it was softened, sated a little by her earlier admission.
“The truth is more complicated than even I would like to admit,” Hermione muttered under her breath.
“Start from the beginning and work your way through,” he said, voice strained as he tried to swallow his anger. “I need to know why, Hermione,”
“It was one night, Harry, just one,” she stated feebly. “Hell, it wasn’t even that. It was a glimmer in time, a single moment passed by in a haze. I never planned any of it,”
“Just because you didn’t plan for it to happen doesn’t change the fact that it did. You still cheated,” his voice was harsh but contemplative.
Cheat. It was such a strong word.
“You don’t think I don’t know that?” she snapped, angry with herself more than anything else. “I’ve agonised over this for five years, never going a single day without hating myself for what happened. You don’t think I don’t know what this will do to Ron? It will kill him, Harry! Why do you think I never said anything till now? I wanted to tell him – Merlin you have no idea how much. But every time he looked at Rose…he loves her so much, I couldn’t hurt him like that,” tears were building with each word. “I thought she was Ron’s, I really did. After all, we were together, had been for a couple of months and this was just one time. Then her hair…” she couldn’t do it, she couldn’t say it.
“Her hair turned out to be blonde instead of red,” Harry finished for her, his tone softened in partial understanding.
She nodded. “Like I said, my hair was blonde when I was little and I just assumed that she’d gotten my hair instead of Ron’s, but…well her hair isn’t getting any darker. And there are these little quirks in her personality that are so much like – well, like him. I don’t know when I knew, Harry, but at some point I just did. She looks so much like him,”
It was true. Rose did look like Draco in many aspects, but at the same time she was a lot like her. She supposed that was the reason why no one had ever really thought to look closer at the little girl. As far as they were concerned, she took after her mother.
“Hermione, who exactly does she look like?” she knew from the suspicion in his voice that it wouldn’t take long for him to figure it out. He would be going over Rose’s features in his head, comparing them to people he knew. It wouldn’t take long.
“Un-complicate it,” Harry replied simply. He said it as if it was the simplest thing in the world. It wasn’t as simple as that.
“You remember how I arrived late at the final battle?” she asked, choosing her wording carefully.
“I wasn’t late, Harry, my portkey malfunctioned,” she could see the confusion in his eyes, the concentrated frown on his lips.
“I overshot my landing by a hundred metres,” it was crucial she got her wording right, now more than ever. “I landed near the enemy camp and –”
“What!?” he shot out of his seat, staring at her with fearful eyes. “You weren’t – tell me you weren’t –” his voice shook as he struggled to find the right words.
“No, Harry,” she answered soothingly, watching as his shoulders sagged in relief and he tentatively lowered himself back onto the bench they shared. “It wasn’t anything like that, I promise. When I landed, I was, well I was petrified really. I couldn’t move from the fear. If you had seen them, Harry, seen them preparing for battle – it was as though all my nightmares had come to life before me. There were scouts patrolling the perimeter – I heard them before I saw them and – well, lets just say I’m grateful he found me,”
Harry frowned. “I don’t understand,”
“He saved me, Harry. I would have died if he hadn’t dragged me into that cave. He saved me,” she didn’t know how to explain it to him, how to tell him in the right words what had transpired that night.
“Rose’s father wasn’t a Death Eater, was he?” he asked it so carefully, so painfully slow. It was a question she didn’t think she could answer.
Hermione gulped. “He had no choice, you see. He was forced into that life an –”
“No,” his voice interrupted her, quiet in disbelief. “No,” he said more vehemently, raking a hand through his hair.
“It was one night! I didn’t – we didn’t plan for it to happen, it just did,” she cried, trying to regain his far gazing eyes. “There was just so much hate around us, so much death. We – we were only trying to grasp at something more than what our lives had become. I wanted to feel something more, feel as if there was more to life than death and destruction. You have to understand, we were too young to be fighting in a war. We only wanted –”
“She has blonde hair,” Harry said quietly, thoughtfully. His words cut her off, the look in his eyes sending a shiver down her spine. “Malfoy,” it wasn’t a question but a statement.
“Harry, I –” the hate in his eyes, she wasn’t sure if it was directed at her or at the mere thought of the blond.
“No, I need – I need to process this, Hermione. You – I mean, Malfoy?” the pain in his voice, his eyes; it was unbearable. “I won’t tell Ron, that’s for you to do and Merlin knows how that’s going to turn out. I can’t understand this, Hermione. I’m trying to but I can’t. You’re my friend, but so is Ron and I don’t know what to do. I-I need some time to think this over,”
He stood up not waiting for a reply, slinging his backpack over his shoulder as he walked toward the two children, calling for Lily. She didn’t know what to think. He had taken it so badly, but then she’d expected him to. Her eyes were moist, salty droplets of regret and resignation falling down her face. He needed time, but how much time? She couldn’t lie anymore. She was going to tell Ron the truth with or without his support. She had to.
There was so much she wanted to say, so much she needed to say. The words were there, clear in her mind. But no matter how hard she tried, they remained lodged in her throat, refusing to be voiced. Her words were promised with pain, their utterance affecting more than one person’s life. She didn’t want to be the cause of so much pain, of so much heartache. Ron loved both her and Rose unconditionally, to take his little girl would destroy him. She didn’t know what to expect really. If Ron wanted a divorce then she would comply with his wishes, if he didn’t…she didn’t really know what she’d do if that happened. Their relationship would be patchy at best if they did decide to give it another go. He would always resent the fact that he could never have children and Rose would be a constant reminder of that. She didn’t want to put Rose through that, because even though she was a child, she was an exceptionally observant one. Her daughter would eventually pick up on the underlying tension and as children normally do, she would think it was her fault.
“How’d it go?” his voice, though cordial and light hearted, caused her to wince.
“It went fine,” she replied casually, walking around the kitchen table, avoiding his questioning gaze. “She wanted me to read Lucy Ladybug again, so it wasn’t too long before she dropped off,” her hands were shaking as she reached for a coffee cup, the need for something to calm her nerves paramount.
“So she’s asleep?” he asked, whispering in her ear, hands placed firmly on her hips. She didn’t know when he’d snuck up behind her, but by the tone of his voice she didn’t care and nor did she want to know why.
“Yeah, she’s asleep,” she replied hesitantly, scooting away from her husband, feeling guilty as she turned around and saw the confused expression on his face.
“Is something wrong?” his voice cut at her, the confusion and worry making her want to curl up in a ball and cry.
How was she supposed to hurt him like this? How was she supposed to tell him the daughter he loved without question, wasn’t even his?
“I…” she shook her head, trying to reign in enough courage to say the unforgivable. “I have something I need to tell –”
Tap. Tap. Tap. She looked around, half annoyed half anxious as she saw a tawny owl outside the kitchen window. Her annoyance however, vanished, when she recognised the owl. It was Harry and Luna’s. Anxiety coursed through her veins, doubling tenfold from what it was before the owl arrived. Smiling weakly at Ron, Hermione moved over to the window, unlatching it and retrieving the small scroll of parchment from the animal’s leg. It was addressed to her, written in Harry’s distinctive messy scrawl. Hastily breaking the seal, she scanned the letter’s meagre contents.
I’m still having a hard time adjusting to the idea, but Rose is still my goddaughter. Whatever happens, I’m with you, but I’m not choosing a side. You’re one of my closest friends and I can’t forget that. Consider me neutral, but I’ll be there if you need me.
She breathed a sigh of relief, happy that he had at least tried to see it from her point of view. Harry was right in saying he wouldn’t choose a side, she never expected him to. The knowledge that he would be there for her and Rose was enough to give her the strength she needed, or at least a little boost in the confidence department.
“What did Harry want?” Ron asked, breaking her silent reverie.
“Oh, he was just answering a question I asked him earlier today at the park,” she answered, hastily tucking the parchment into the back pocket of her jeans.
“Oh, okay,” he was sated by her answer, the mischievous twinkle in his eyes returning as he crept forward, pinning her to the counter.
“Ron,” she recognised all the signs. Hermione knew what he wanted, the knowledge of which made her words that little bit harder to say. The truth was hard enough on its own, but to crush him while he was making a pass at her. She had to put an end to it, all of it. “I’m not really in the mood and there is something I’ve been meaning to talk to you abou – ”
He frowned. “You’re never in the mood,” she could tell by the tone of his voice that he was both frustrated and angry, pulling away from her with an agitated sigh.
“I’m sorry,” she felt she needed to say it, even though she knew that it would not be the last time those words left her lips this night. “I have a lot on my mind and – and I need to talk to you about something,” by the look in his eyes, the confusion and frustration, she felt her resolve fade a little.
Indicating that he should sit down, she turned her back on him momentarily, grabbing the cup of coffee she’d made minutes earlier and taking a large gulp of the bitter liquid. It burned her mouth, but she didn’t care. Her hands were shaking not unlike they had been after Lucius Malfoy’s impromptu visit at the beginning of the week. She needed to calm down.
“Hermione, love, what’s this about?” his voice made her jump involuntarily, her heart jolting as she noted the concern in his voice.
“It’s…” how was she supposed to do this? Sorry, Ron, but you know Rose, your daughter? Yeah, she’s not yours. It was a pity that there wasn’t a book written on how to tell your husband he wasn’t the father of your child. It would probably come in handy right about now. “It’s about Rose,” she forced out, grimacing at the effort it took to say those few simple words.
“What do you mean? Is she okay? She isn’t sick, is she?” Ron asked, immediately rising from his seat, a panicked look on his face.
“No, she’s not sick,” his shoulders slumped in relief, but the look on his face was etched with confusion.
“Then what’s wrong?” he asked it so innocently that it broke her heart to know he really didn’t understand what was about to happen.
“I…” her eyes were brimming with unshed tears, morose with the knowledge that this was it. “I’m so sorry,” she said quietly, voice cracking.
“I’m so, so sorry. I – she’s…” the words simply wouldn’t come, lodged in her throat defiantly. Tears were falling freely now.
“Hermione, you’re starting to scare me. What’s wro –”
She had to do it. Living like this was killing her. She had to do it.
“She’s not yours. Merlin! Ron, I’m so sorry. Rose isn’t yours,”
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