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Chapter 15 : The End
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Author's Note: Well, it's official...school is back in session. This is my last year so I am swamped. I'm studying History, Physchology, Sociology and I am doing a double-major in advanced English. I won't have much of a life outside of schoolwork this year, that much is obvious. Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know that my updates may take a little longer in coming.
I hope you enjoy the chapter!
.: Chapter Fifteen – The End :.
Tuesday, May 21, 2002
Today was the day. She had agonised over this for hours, worrying whether she’d made the right decision or not. In the end she had to concede; it was the perfect solution. Not only would they have somewhere to live but it would also give Draco the chance to get to know his daughter. There was so much he had missed out on. Her first word, first steps; Hermione knew that guilt was an inevitable emotion in her situation. But this – this type of guilt, the magnitude of it…it was worse than she could have ever imagined.
She had been married to Ron for five years, five long and tiring years. He had loved her through all of them. Ron had loved her and to a degree, she him. The guilt and self-loathing she felt for what she had done to him was unmeasurable. With Draco, however, it was worse. There was no rational explanation for why she felt less remorse for Ron than she did for Draco. What she had done to each man was equally horrible, if not a little worse in her husband’s case.
Hermione wished she could do things over, go back in time and stop her younger self from making the worst mistake of her life. Terrible things happened to witches and wizards who meddled with time. This was her life now, she couldn’t change that. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
“Hermione, are you sure about this?” Alyson asked, levitating the last of her suitcases down the stairs. It had seemed wrong to ask Harry for help, especially since he was already up in arms about her change of address. He’d come over last night after Rose had gone to bed, yelling at her for what seemed like hours. In the end she’d had enough and fought back, defending her decision and rationalising it to her enraged friend. Harry hadn’t been happy but he’d eventually conceded and left, brooding as he walked out the door.
“It’s the best solution, Ally,” she said, pulling her hair back into a messy bun.
Her day had been hectic. Richard Hastings, her boss, had been reluctant to change her hours. Draco had actually suggested the change, saying that she could take Rose to school in the mornings and he could pick her up, or get Mipsy to in the afternoons. He rationalised that it would be better for her in the long if she didn’t have to wake up every morning at five. She had to agree with him, albeit reluctantly. Now, her hours were eight to five. Today however, she had decided to take the afternoon off to pack and finalise some last minute details.
“Well, what about Rose?”
Hermione sighed. “He adores her and the feeling seems to be mutual. She’s idolised him ever since he gave her that infernal dog.”
“It’s a cute dog,” her friend laughed.
“More like demonic,” she muttered, trying to ignore the fact that that ‘infernal dog’ was actually starting to grow on her.
Alyson tucked her wand into the back pocket of her jeans, leaning against the staircase banister. “Okay, but what about you? Don’t get me wrong, he seems like a really great guy... But Hermione, you have a history. Are you sure you are going to be okay living with him?”
She knew that Alyson was only trying to look out for her, but she’d already had this conversation with her mother and father. Harry had even calmed down enough to ask her the very same question before going off on another tangent. Truthfully, she didn’t know how she was going to cope with this living arrangement. It would be awkward, but hopefully they could get by. Draco deserved the chance to get to know Rose and Hermione wasn’t going to dash that dream simply because she felt uncomfortable.
“I’m not going to lie to you, Ally,” looking out the window, she saw Draco and Rose laughing as Pip rolled around on the grass. It brought a smile to her face. He’d arrived half an hour ago to keep Rose occupied while she packed. “It’s not going to be easy. There will be times where I will want to throttle him, I am sure. He is probably the most arrogant person I know…but he has good intentions and a good heart – most of the time. We can make it work, for Rose if nothing else.”
“I’m not going to judge you, Hermione. You’ve been there for me when I’ve needed you, and you’ve told me the truth even if I didn’t want to hear it. But I’m worried about this. I just don’t want to see you get hurt,” blue eyes stared at her, emphatic in expression. It warmed her heart.
“I’ll be fine. This is the right thing to do,” she smiled, hoping her expression conveyed everything she wanted to say. Her parents were in the next room, and while she loved them dearly, she didn’t want them to hear her admitting to her mistake. It was one thing to say that she had been wrong, but it was something else entirely to say that she wished herself dead for what she’d done. Hermione wanted to make things right, she felt as if it was her responsibility to do so. Her parents wouldn’t understand.
Alyson smiled sadly, letting out a small sigh. “If I can’t change your mind…”
“I’m a phone call away if you need me, okay?” sometimes she was extremely thankful that her friend was a muggleborn, much like herself. It made things so much simpler. Alyson hugged her. “I’ve left your divorce papers on your bed upstairs, if you want my advice, do it sooner rather than later. Pull the bandaid off quick, it’ll hurt, but it has to be done.”
Hermione nodded, pulling out of the embrace with a sniff. The last thing she needed right now was to start tearing up. She said her goodbyes to the other witch, wishing her good luck on her date. One of the older interns had mustered up the courage to ask her out – a Gryffindor – and Alyson had reluctantly accepted. They were a good match. From what Hermione could remember, he had very boyish facial features – definitely attractive.
When Alyson was safely out the door, Hermione let her shoulders slump forward. What her friend had said was true, it was better to pull the bandaid off quickly rather than draw it out unnecessarily. Ron deserved to be told the truth, to be treated with respect. He deserved someone better than her. They both needed a fresh start.
As she made her way up the stairs, heading toward her old childhood bedroom, Hermione thought back to her wedding day, their first anniversary, their third, and so on. She couldn’t deny that she had been happy. The first few years had been the best, it was only in the last year or so that she began to feel discontent. Ron had always been there for her, he’d been her best friend for years. Hermione reasoned that this was probably the reason why she had kept quiet for so long. She hadn’t wanted to hurt him.
That was inevitable now. He was heartbroken, Harry had said as much. But there was nothing she could do to ease the pain, not presently at least. She had to think about Rose and what was best for her. The nightmares had toned down but she still woke with tearful eyes. Hermione didn’t want to keep Rose from him; she didn’t want to cut him out of her life. Ron was a brilliant father, even Draco begrudgingly acknowledged that. Still, she had to do what was best for her daughter. Perhaps in time, things would calm down and she’d be comfortable enough to let him back into their lives.
When Hermione retrieved the documents from her bed, they glowed faintly for a moment. She didn’t have to look at them to know that her signature had just appeared on the bottom of the page. All that was needed now was Ron’s signature. The thought hurt more than she had anticipated. It was the end. After this, there would be nothing tying them together. Ties would be severed and she was feeling just a little nostalgic.
Closing her eyes, she pictured the front door of their house. A few uncomfortable seconds later and it was there. For a few minutes she just stood there, hardly breathing. She knew she had to go in, she knew she had to. Her feet just wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t a matter of being scared; she just really didn’t want to hurt him. Heart racing, she took in a deep, shuddery breath, squeezing her eyes shut before forcing her feet to move. And then she was in the kitchen, watching the poignant scene in front of her.
An empty bottle of Firewhiskey stood in the middle of the table, surrounded by some of her muggle collection. It broke her heart. He’d been doing more than just drinking; he’d been drowning in his sorrow, running away from the pain. Alcohol was only a quick fix, sooner or later the pain would come back. When her Uncle had died, her father had said as much after making his way through their entire liquor cabinet. She felt horrible.
Just as she was about to leave – there was no way she could hand him divorce papers if he was drunk – she saw out the corner of her eye an empty potion vial. Curious, she walked over and sniffed the uncorked bottle, immediately recognising the potion. It had been a Hangover Potion. A soft smile appeared on her face almost instantly. Harry.
“Hermione?” a choked voice came from behind her, causing her to wince involuntarily.
Closing her eyes briefly, she turned around, letting out a long breath. “Ron.”
He looked horrible…but sober, definitely sober. His hair was a scraggily mess and it looked as though he hadn’t shaved in weeks. She didn’t know what looked worse, his bedraggled state or the haunted, pained look in his eyes. There was no way she could make amends for all she had done. Hermione knew that she had ruined him, ruined every ideal, dream and hope he’d ever had. She had taken away his family, shattered his belief in life and – and destroyed his heart.
“How did we end up like this, Hermione? Everything – it went so horribly wrong. Why? How?” his downtrodden, defeated voice cut at her. This was worse than the yelling she had anticipated. It was like he was broken without repair.
“I honestly don’t know,” she answered quietly, moving to sit at the kitchen table, banishing the empty bottles to the sink with a flick of her wand. It wasn’t as if she was ignorant, there was a cause for all of their problems. Her.
He looked torn between anger and grief-stricken defeat. The latter won out and he slumped into the seat opposite her, eyes pleading. “We were happy, weren’t we?”
“Yes,” her answer was immediate. “Yes, Ron, we were.”
“But it wasn’t enough,” it was a statement, not a question.
“No – no, it wasn’t,” Hermione replied honestly, her heart breaking at the expression on his face.
Ron ran a hand through his hair, looking away from her. “I tried calling by your parents house but –”
“They wouldn’t let you in, I know,” she cut in sombrely, wanting to do nothing more than reach across the table and console the man in front of her. In reality, she knew that wasn’t really an option. The best they could do considering the circumstances was talk.
“You told them not to,” another statement, more an accusation.
Hermione sighed, answering honestly. “I did.”
“Why?” his voice was slowly changing from defeated to angry, accusatory. Maybe there would be yelling…
“It’s selfish of me, I know, but I wasn’t ready to face you,” the excuse, though true, sounded pathetic even to her. She was a Gryffindor and this was her explanation? Maybe the sorting hat had been right; maybe she was more suited to Ravenclaw. But she had read Hogwarts a History and had been determined to be in what she considered to be the best house.
“And you are now?” Ron asked, blue eyes piercing through her.
“I have to be,” she bit her lower lip, heart aching. “Ron, Rose and I are moving.”
His expression changed. “Back home?” he looked pitifully hopeful. Her heart broke just a little bit more.
“No…we aren’t moving back home, Ron. I didn’t want to do this, not to you, not after everything you’ve done for use over the years,” slowly she extracted the divorce papers from her back pocket and set them on the table.
“I want a divorce,” she cut in, closing her eyes briefly. Silence enveloped them and after several tense moments she continued, averting her eyes from his piercing blue. “I had Alyson write up the papers, all you have to do is touch them and it’ll all be over. A court date will be set to determine who gets what and –”
“You want a divorce?” his eyes were unseeing.
“Yes,” her answer was wary.
Suddenly, his expression changed. He was no longer surprised or upset…he was angry, furious even. “Does this have anything to do with him?”
She felt her heart jump into her throat. He knew. Regardless, she had to ask. “You know about Draco?”
It was horrible, the look on his face. She hated to imagine the different ways he could have found out. Harry was a possibility, but she liked to believe that her friend had kept her confidence. They’d agreed that it would be best if she told him. Perhaps Harry had changed his mind. Then again, he was more likely to follow what they’d already agreed upon. Molly may have figured things out after her argument with Narcissa, the latter of which had confessed to her of her misdeed. That was the most likely possibility.
“Yes,” Ron snapped. “I know about Malfoy,” he pronounced the last word with such spite, such hatred that she flinched, her body pushing into the back of her chair.
“I’m sorry,” the apology came of its own accord, slipping passed her lips before she could really think about her words. It was the wrong thing to say. Ron immediately bristled.
“Sorry isn’t good enough,” his retort was harsh and made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
Looking down at her hands, Hermione pondered her options. It wouldn’t do her any good to get into an argument with him now. Besides, she really wasn’t in the mood to fight with him. Instinct told her to defend herself, to tell him the whole story. She couldn’t. Instead, she simply breathed deeply and tried to control her emotions. Hermione was sick of feeling helpless, weak. Her emotions always gave her away, she was ruled by them. Not today. She couldn’t afford to lose control today.
“No, I don’t suppose it is,” she agreed with him softly, forcing herself to look him in the eye. “This hasn’t got anything to do with – a divorce is the right thing to do, Ron. We both need a fresh start,” her rationalisation sounded weak even to her own ears, but it was the truth.
Ron stared at her for a long moment. “And I suppose yours includes him,” the accusation hurt, but she suspected it hurt him more.
“He is very good with Rose and –”
“I don’t care if he’s fucking Mary Poppins, he isn’t going near my daughter!” he roared, standing up abruptly.
She winced as his chair clattered to the floor, trying to ignore the swell of fear rising in her chest. Rose loved muggle movies, specifically the older ones she herself used to watch as a child. Jean, her mother, had introduced them to her. Ron had always been in charge of “movie time.” Hermione guessed that this was the reason his reference to the fictional character stood out more than the rest of his threat. It was a reminder of the past.
“He never knew about her, Ron,” she whispered quietly, looking up at him with unseeing eyes. His expression changed from rage, to confusion and then understanding. “I – I never told him. I honestly, truly thought that she was yours when I married you. After everything I have done – to him, to you – I can’t deny him the chance to get to know her. It’s the least I can do.”
“And what about me?” his voice had changed, grown sadder, more aware. He understood, or at least she hoped he did. There were so many emotions flickering across his face, the most startling fear. She knew what he feared. Ron thought he was being replaced.
“You will always be her father. I won’t let her forget that,” her words held such conviction that he seemed startled, as if he was expecting something else entirely.
“But you won’t let me see her, either” another statement. There was hope in his expression, but for the most, resignation.
“No,” she answered honestly.
Hermione sighed, running a hand over her face. “She’s just a child, Ron. All this instability isn’t good for her.”
“I’m unstable?” he asked, offended by her words.
“No,” she was quick to answer. “At least I don’t think you are. Things need to settle down first, she needs to come to grips with all the changes in her life right now. Rose may appear to be fine, but we both know how confused and scared she is. I don’t want to upset her more than is necessary.”
“I upset her?” his eyes widened, filled with horror at the prospect.
Her heart ached at the look in his eyes. She didn’t want to hurt him anymore than she already had, but she had to be honest with him. “To a degree…yes. What happened that night was an accident, we both know that. I’ve tried to explain that to her, but she just won’t listen. She only recognises what she saw…”
He was quiet for a very long time, staring with glassy eyes out the window. She didn’t want to interrupt his thoughts, so she waited. Eventually, he turned back to her, expression solemn. “How long till I can see her again?”
“I don’t know,” she bit her lip, brow creasing. “If it was up to me – tomorrow. But it isn’t up to me, it’s up to her when she’s ready. I don’t want to push her, Ron. She’s been through too much. Give her some time to adjust, write her a letter - start small and hope that it’s enough.”
“I really screwed this up,” Ron muttered under his breath. Immediately she leaned forward, ready to argue that he was anything but at fault. His next words, however, took her off guard. “Does she like him?”
“Ron –” this wasn’t the time and she was sure that he wouldn’t like her answer.
“Does she like him?” he persisted, his voice taking on a hard edge.
“Yes, she does,” her words were slow and precise. “He’s really good with her, Ron, and I know for a fact that he won’t hurt her,” she felt that she needed to convince him, to gain his approval – that in itself was impossible. He would never approve of Draco.
“He’s a Malfoy,” his voice was defeated, angry, but defeated.
“So is she,” Hermione watched as his face became pained, haunted.
“She’ll always be a Weasley to me,” the words were so soft she barely heard them. It really broke her heart to see him like this. Reaching forward, Ron touched his fingertips to the divorce papers she had all but forgotten. He looked at her, a sad smile appearing on his face. “Give her a kiss from me, okay?”
Her voice died in her throat as the papers glowed underneath his fingers. It was over. They were over. She was single, divorced. “I will, I promise,” Hermione forced the words out of her mouth, swallowing hard.
Standing up, a watery smile on her lips, she walked around the table into the adjoining room, using her wand to pack up the rest of her and Rose’s belongings. All the items flew into her beaded bag, whooshing passed in a blur. Her eyes were watering, but she refused to fall apart.
When she was done, Hermione walked back into the kitchen. Ron hadn’t moved from his spot, standing beside the table. “For what it’s worth, I did love you – I always will,” she laid her hand gently on his shoulder, staring into his blue eyes tenderly. Too much had happened for her not to love him. He was still her best friend.
Ron nodded, hand lifting to cup her cheek softly. “You’ll never understand just how much I love you, Hermione,” he whispered quietly, leaning forward to place a last, lingering kiss on her lips.
She struggled not to cry and pulled back, lifting her hand to stroke the side of his face. “You take care of yourself, okay?”
“I will,” it was then that he let go of her and walked away. One of them had to end it, leave, or neither of them would.
Closing her eyes, she took three deep and uneven breaths. Then she apparated away, leaving behind all that she had ever known.
His day had been uneventful and…blissfully wonderful. Miracles never ceased; he hadn’t had a day off in, well, months. Blaise was euphoric. All day he’d lazed about his apartment, ignoring the state of disarray it was in. To him, this was a form of heaven, a plane of idle existence where he didn’t have to worry about work, or his parents. He could just pretend that nothing existed outside the half empty take-out boxes and his comfy leather recliner. Heaven was bliss.
Not even his friend’s dramatic life could bother him today. If Draco wanted to live with Granger and his kid, then that was fine by him. Who was he to judge? Besides, Rose was worth it, worth whatever discomfort his friend would have to endure while living with her mother. Then again, anything was better than Daphne. He was just happy that Draco was finally free of the banshee. Daphne had been a pain in everyone’s arse.
A knock on the door startled him, causing his body to jolt in response. Blaise frowned, his eyebrows pulling together. He wasn’t expecting anyone, at least no one that he knew of. Grudgingly, he forced himself out of his chair to open the door. However, he wasn’t prepared for what was on the other side.
Leaning casually against the banister, a wide, flirtatious smile on her face was a goddess. Or at least that’s what he thought. Her long hair fell in waves down her back, covering what little skin was showing from the plain white singlet she wore. He had never seen her like this, never seen her hair unpinned or loose, and he most certainly had never seen her in those jeans. They should be made illegal! The way they hugged her hips...
“Lila,” he croaked, his eyes raking down her frame in disbelief. There she stood, calm and triumphant in the wake of his reaction.
Smirking, the blonde witch waited for him to continue. Blaise was rarely at a loss for words, but this – well, for this he was at a loss. They were friends, but she’d never been to his apartment. He wasn’t even sure she knew the address. Obviously, she had. It was then that he saw the bottle of wine in her hand and the large pizza box balancing on the banister beside her.
At the questioning look in his eyes, Lila smiled, walking inside to lay her belongings on his kitchen table. After a moment, she turned around to acknowledge his still bewildered expression, and present him with an answer. “I was tired of waiting,” she answered simply.
“Waiting for what?” he asked, closing the door of his apartment behind him. Her answer intrigued him.
Lila smiled coyly. “I wasn’t going to wait forever, Blaise. Either you ask me out, or you don’t. I’ve been dropping hints for weeks now, but – well, you don’t seem to notice. So, I thought if he isn’t going to ask me, I’ll ask him. But then that leaves me open to rejection and you know I don’t take rejection well. See, I’ve brought the date to you. Now, you can’t say no.”
Blaise stared at her, dumfounded. He’d – he’d just thought that she was playing around, being her normal vivacious self! Lila was just flirty by nature; it was one of the many qualities he loved about her. But if he’d known…if he had known he would have said something. She probably thought him a brainless oaf who didn’t know the difference between a smile and a smile. Obviously he didn’t, or else she wouldn’t be here patience worn out from waiting too long.
“I guess I’ll go then,” her smile faltered, a hurt look exchanged in its place.
“No!" he yelled, dashing forward to stop her, not that she moved. Lila was too startled by his reaction.
She stared up at him, her eyes wide with a glimmer of hope. “No?” she asked carefully, inching forward.
“No,” Blaise nodded his head, trying to remain calm. Her hand gently skimmed across the skin of his right arm. “Don’t go.”
Lila smiled, her fingers tugging playfully at his shirt collar. “You don’t want me to go,” she stated, grinning happily.
“No, I don’t,” he uttered, consumed by the look in her eyes. It was still hard to imagine that this woman, this goddess, wanted him.
Leaning forward, Lila wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling herself flush against him. Blaise’s breath hitched. Her lips were so soft, moving gently, a sweet caress of want, against his. It was like their bodies were talking to one another in a primitive language understood only by the need for contact. He was so wrapped up in her lips, her arms, in her, that he almost forgot to breathe. Reluctantly, he had to pull away, a dazed smile on his lips.
“How about we skip dinner?” Lila suggested with a grin, panting slightly.
Oh, dinner could definitely wait.
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