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A Clandestine Reality by Tears of Ebon Grey
Chapter 19 : Meant To Be
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 35


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Author's Note: See, I'm getting better at this. Ignore the fact that I already had this chapter written and half edited. I updated in record time - for me, at least. Only the epilogue to go now...



.: Chapter Nineteen – Meant To Be :.


Sunday, June 9, 2002

1:05PM

Hermione sighed, rubbing her eyes tiredly. Court had been in session for three hours, three long and painful hours. They’d had to listen to witness after witness, each lying through their teeth, spinning a tale so sinister to turn the tables in her favour. The best performance by far was by the woman herself. She’d played the wronged party, shedding tears aplenty for the hardships she’d endured while being married to such a cold-hearted man. Hermione had to appreciate her performance though. It was constructed with excellent detail, but it wasn’t perfect and that would be her undoing. There was no truth to her story, only lies. 

Today was the day that Daphne Greengrass, formerly Malfoy, tried to take her ex-husband to the cleaners. It wasn’t going to work though, because no matter how many false witnesses she procured the facts remained the same. She had been the unfaithful party, not he. They had that and so much more in their favour. Daphne may have charmed the Wizengamot with her sad tale, but not for long. Draco had a plan, or so he said. He was content to let her spin her tale, leaning back in his leather chair with a nonchalant, bored expression. It had infuriated the woman, causing her to make her first mistake, her first slip up. Hermione realised then the brilliance of such a simple gesture and realised just how subtle a game Draco played. 

It had been awkward for the past few days but not overly so. Draco had been absolutely thrilled, floating with unrepressed joy at being Rose’s father. He couldn’t stop smiling and, for some reason, neither could she. There was still an enormous amount of guilt she felt for hurting her ex-husband by allowing Draco to publicly claim Rose as his, but it was easing. The day after Skeeter’s article appeared in the Prophet, she’d received a letter from Ron. He’d contacted a lawyer to help split their assets evenly, providing a list of the things he wished to keep and the things he didn’t. She’d been thankful for that. They had settled outside of court, not like this parade Draco’s ex-wife had insisted upon. 

It was a media circus. There were reporters from every paper and magazine, not to mention numerous countries, crowding the streets ready to pounce. Of course, Rita Skeeter was leading the procession, her green quick-quotes quill busy at work. Hermione couldn’t help but resent the woman, not only for their history but for her profiteering ways. She made her money from lying and exploiting the lives of others. In Hermione’s opinion, she was the lowest of the low. When the article came out about her and Draco and Rose being a Malfoy, the woman had managed to paint her in the worst possible light. But with Draco, she’d portrayed him as some kind of shining saint, a knight there to save the day by looking after her child despite being lied to and manipulated by the vicious ex-Mrs Weasley. It was ridiculous. 

But Rita had achieved what she had obviously set out to. The amount of hateful looks she received in the street, all disapproving and scornful, was unbelievable. People hated her. It didn’t matter that she had once been revered for all she had done, or that she remained to be Harry Potter’s best friend. They all hated her. Before finding out that Draco was Rose’s father, they had resented her choices and her lies. Now that they actually knew, knew that she had not only cheated on Ron – a war hero despite his simple desk job – but that she had cheated on him with an at-the-time Death Eater, they loathed her. 

Hermione wouldn’t deny that she felt horrible. If you were told something long enough, you started to believe it. And she had started to believe what people were saying about her. She was a horrible person, a selfish mother, a liar and a cheater. Draco was the only one that made her think otherwise. He’d gone out of his way to make her believe that she was a better person than she gave herself credit for. All she had done, she had done for her daughter, their daughter. It was true that fear had pushed her and helped cloud her sense of right and wrong, but all she had done was for Rose and he wouldn’t let her forget that. 

Things were still awkward between them. Sure, they weren’t as jittery or determined to avoid one another as they had been, but things were still tense. She still thought about that kiss and there was no doubt in her mind that he did too. Hermione was determined not to make the first move though, or to push things, force them to come about. Maybe they weren’t meant to make a go of their situation. Perhaps they were only feeling what they were because of Rose. It wasn’t impossible to comprehend that the reason they were attracted to one another now was because of their daughter. And if that was the case, then Hermione didn’t want to start something that would eventually end badly. 

Neither of them were the same person they had been back at Hogwarts. Time and experiences – mainly those from the war – had changed them. They had common ground to stand on – that was the only reason that they were getting along as well as they were. Hermione didn’t know how she felt nowadays. At times she was thrilled that Draco was becoming an excellent father, but then on the other hand she sometimes wished the opposite. It didn’t sit well with her what she had done to Ron and all the hurt she had caused him. A part of her wished that things had stayed the same. She hadn’t wanted to hurt him and it ate at her that she had. Hermione hid her grief and guilt well, keeping her mind occupied and herself busy. 

But Ron hadn’t deserved any of what she had done to him. He was a good man, a good father and a loyal friend. She couldn’t change the past and nor did she want to, despite what most would think. There were certain decisions that she would change but she would not regret the time she had spent with Draco, because without that one moment of weakness she would not have been gifted with Rose. 

“Mummy?” her daughter’s voice was hushed, pained even, as she tugged on the side of Hermione’s dress robes. 

“Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” she asked, ignoring the bustle of those around them and crouching down to look at her daughter. 

Rose was pale by nature. Like most things she had inherited her pallor from her father, but the rosy tint that generally flushed her young cheeks was gone. She looked almost translucent and her face was drawn. Hermione immediately began to panic, her hand flashing forward to check her daughter’s temperature. The loud buzzing noise, the chatter of the congregated crowd barely registered in her mind. Court was about to reconvene after breaking for a short lunch. Rose had sat quietly beside her grandparents throughout the whole ordeal, barely paying attention to what was being said about her father. They had explained to her that Draco’s ex-wife wasn’t the nicest of people and would probably make up some very nasty lies about him, so Rose had taken everything that was said with a grain of salt. 

Daphne’s lawyer had insisted that she and Rose attend the hearing. Hermione knew that their presence would garner some sympathy for Daphne and her case, but there was nothing she could do. The way the woman’s lawyer had worded the request – to the media, of all people – was done in such a way that for them not to show would hinder Draco’s case. They had to go, despite the fact that Rose had been feeling unwell all morning. It appeared that their daughter was worse than either of them had first realised. 

“Is she alright?” the silky voice she had so often heard spoken with arrogance and disdain, called from behind her with concern. Rose was running a fever. 

“No,” Hermione shook her head, picking up the little girl in her arms. “No, I don’t think she is.” 

Lucius Malfoy frowned, his eyes creased. Hermione was still uncomfortable in his presence, more so than she had been before she’d learned of Hannah’s mother. He was Draco’s father though, and Rose’s grandfather. She knew that he cared about her daughter, even if he barely tolerated her at times. Oh, he was polite and charming – Narcissa’s influence, no doubt – but Hermione could tell that he wasn’t exactly thrilled that she was his granddaughter’s mother. They got along well enough when required to, mostly for Rose and Draco. 

“I don’t feel good, mummy,” Rose groaned, scrunching her nose up and closing her eyes tightly. 

“Is something the matter?” Narcissa’s voice floated toward them as she came into view, dodging people far more gracefully than should have been humanly possible. With her she brought a small juice box for Rose, the tiny purple elephant dancing about playfully on the cover. 

“She’s running a fever,” Hermione replied, laying her hand on her daughter’s forehead again. She really was burning up. 

Narcissa frowned, hurrying forward to check on the little girl herself. “Oh my!” she exclaimed, drawing her hand away from her granddaughter’s head. “She is positively burning! Lucius, where is Draco?”

“Last I saw, he was conversing with Mr Lang about the case,” was the reply, and though his voice was calm, Hermione could see in his eyes the worry over Narcissa’s panic. “Should I call for a Healer?” he asked a little less calmly, looking at Rose with concerned eyes. 

“No, I’ll take her to St Mungos,” Hermione answered, shifting Rose on her hip. “Merlin, we should have listened to her this morning. She said she wasn’t feeling well…” her voice trailed off as she began to search the crowd for Draco’s familiar shock of blond hair. 

She felt horrible. Rose had told them that she’d been feeling unwell. Were they bad parents for being too distracted to notice just how unwell she was? Yes. Hermione was resolute in that belief, berating herself for not paying more attention to her daughter. Merlin! They’d just been so worried about the case – her mostly, while Draco silently panicked that he was going to stuff up – and too distracted to notice. Never again. Hermione vowed then that she would make this right, starting with finding Draco and telling him that their daughter was sick. 

Catching a glimpse of blond, she pushed through the crowd, faintly aware of the two Malfoys trailing behind her. It was too tightly packed to get through. Stamping her foot in irritation, Hermione cupped the side of her daughter’s face and held her to her chest. How was she supposed to get through? She couldn’t leave without telling him. 

“Give her to me.” 

Hermione turned around and frowned at the blond man. Lucius Malfoy simply stood there, impatiently raising an eyebrow and gesturing for her to hand over her daughter. She bit her bottom lip indecisively. It was one thing for him to be Rose’s grandfather but another entirely for her to accept his help and trust him. 

“Oh honestly –” he started incredulously, voice dripping with disdain at her reluctance. 

Hermione sighed, cutting him off. “Fine. I’ll be right back. Don’t you dare drop her,” she practically hissed, handing over her precious cargo. 

“I have held a child before, you know?” he replied scornfully. 

“Oh, so Draco was dropped on his head as a child. That explains a lot,” Hermione snipped. Narcissa covered her mouth in an attempt to hide her smile, but Hermione saw it and by the looks of things so did her husband. Lucius’ scowl deepened and she could practically see his hand twitch for his wand. One point Hermione Granger, zero Lucius Malfoy. 

Manoeuvring through the crowd without Rose on her hip was much easier and soon Hermione found herself standing next to a very tired looking Draco. He was in a deep discussion with his lawyer and Hermione heard the words Daphne and settlement. Hopefully the woman had come to her senses. 

“Draco,” she gently rested her hand on his shoulder and he turned around, surprise coating his features. He must have noticed the expression on her face, because seconds later he began to panic. 

“Hermione, what’s wrong? Did something hap –”

“Rose is running a fever,” she answered calmly, cutting him off before he could continue. “She’s with your mother and father right now, but I’m going to take her to St Mungos.”

Hermione watched in fascination as an array of emotions flickered across Draco’s face. First there was shock and disbelief. He didn’t want to believe her, he couldn’t. Then there was panic as her words began to sink in. Rose was sick. This was foreign ground for him, Hermione realised. It was only natural for him to panic. Despite previous experiences with Rose, she too was frightened. She had taken Rose to St Mungos before – a small case of the muggle chicken pox. Rose was her daughter though and worrying about her was like breathing air. It was second nature to her, so why shouldn’t it be the same for him? 

“Draco, there’s no need to worry. She has been sick before. I’m sure it’s just a virus going around,” her voice was soothing and calm, though on the inside she was a mess. There was just no use in worrying him. He had enough on his plate. 

“No need to worry?” Draco asked incredulously, running a hand over his face. “Of course I’m going to worry, Hermione. This is our daughter we’re talking about,” he broke off, taking a deep breath. “Look, I’m coming with you. Stuff the case, stuff Daphne. I don’t care! Rose is more important than any number of galleons in my bank account and –”

For what she did next, Hermione would claim temporary insanity. After all, how could she not have lost her mind? She was worried about Rose, about the court case, life in general. It would only be natural for her mental stability to take a hit after the last couple of months she’d had. But if she was insane, then why did everything seem so suddenly clear? Her time with Ron had been comfortable. Yes, she had loved him but mostly as a friend. What she had done had hurt him. There was no denying the pain she had caused, but Hermione realised then that if she hadn’t hurt him, then she would have just hurt herself. They were never going to work out.

But this – this feeling of desirability and confidence, of passion and vivacity was incomparable. She had never met anyone who could make her feel so many emotions in the span of a few short seconds. When they were younger, her feelings had leaned more toward hatred than anything favourable. It is a fine line between hate and love, for both are a passion in itself. Passion – that’s what this was, this feeling. He brought out the passionate side in her, the side that had seemed long dead. 

She couldn’t claim temporary insanity then. Whatever it was that urged her forward – his words perhaps, the startling declaration that their daughter meant more to him than his money, or maybe it was just the sexual tension bursting from its confinement – Hermione knew that everything would change. Change because she kissed him. Shift because he kissed her back. Everything had changed.




So, this was what it felt like to have your heart broken? There were no words to describe such pain. It was like everything had stopped. The only thing discernable amongst the passing time and the noisy chatter was his heart beating, each slow thump more painful than the last. Aching, burning – the feeling of utter desolation was like a hot poker to his heart. Each emotion, new, repeated, was like the fresh slice of steel on skin. Invisible blood marred his entire being, each droplet the result of a fresh cut to his heart. He had foolishly thought that things would get better, and he had hoped against what the cynical voice of his inner mind had told him. Ron Weasley had hoped to move on, to find happiness.

But seeing this, watching him touch her and kiss her – the sight broke his heart, more than the divorce or losing the right to claim Rose as his ever had. It hurt more, burned more. The worst part was seeing her reaction. There was no disgust or hesitation. Hermione had been the one to kiss him, yet here Ron was expecting her to see her mistake and take off, sickened by her actions. What a fool he was. He’d come to the courthouse to see Rose, he’d even brought her a present; a pack of chocolate frogs – her favourite. 

Hermione had told him to take things slowly, to gain Rose’s trust back in time. He knew that they were going to be here today. It was splashed all over the papers. So, he’d planned to catch them alone, talk to Rose, give her the chocolate frogs and reinforce to her just how much he loved her. That wasn’t going to happen now. Rose was sick – his little girl, his pride and joy – and he couldn’t do anything to help. Hermione had handed her over to that vile man, entrusting him with their daughter…her daughter. He wanted to be sick.

How could she trust him? Had she forgotten all that he had done, all that he stood for? Ron was shaking in his anger, but he couldn’t bring himself to do anything. He wanted to but he couldn’t. Hermione was – she was someone he didn’t recognise anymore. The Hermione he knew would never entrust their daughter to a Death Eater. But maybe the Hermione he knew was all in his head, a figment of his imagination. She was what he made her out to be – in his mind, at least. Had he been so blind? Yes – yes, he had. 

Turning on his heel, Ron threw the box of chocolate frogs in the nearest bin. He couldn’t do this anymore; he couldn’t deal with this pain. Ron knew that he wasn’t strong enough. He had to leave, he had to get away. 




6:32PM

She was asleep. It had taken the healers hours to get her to settle. The fever had gotten worse shortly after Hermione had left the Ministry of Magic, and she was thankful that she had decided to take Rose to St Mungos when she did. Granted, Rose only had a mild case of the flu but Hermione couldn’t help but worry. While it was common for children around Rose’s age to catch a cold, it was still dangerous when combined with magic. It was bittersweet really. Rose’s magic had started to show. Because of the gradual build-up of magic within her body, her little girl had fallen ill. Not all children were affected by the change but there were some that were. Rose fell into the latter category. The healers had assured her that Rose would be fine, but they wanted to keep the young girl overnight just in case. 

In actuality, it had been remarkable to watch. While Hermione hated the fact that her daughter was unwell, she was overly thrilled by the cause – a paradox if there ever was one. Rose had gotten progressively worse once they’d reached St Mungos and could barely keep from crying. It had hurt to see her little girl so and if she could have, Hermione would have done anything in her power to take the pain away. After an hour though, Rose had started to calm down and it was then that her magic had appeared. Hermione couldn’t help but smile at the memory. A particularly unfriendly Medi-Witch had tried to draw some of her blood for tests. Rose would have none of it though. She’d cried and tried to pull away from the woman, but the Medi-Witch would not relent. Her little girl had actually sent her flying halfway across the room, crashing into the wall. Hermione couldn’t help but be proud. 

Draco had stepped in then. After her horribly embarrassing display – kissing him and then running, again – she had convinced his parents to make him stay. She wouldn’t be responsible for him losing half his fortune. Remarkably, they had succeeded – Lucius had, at least. Narcissa had followed her to St Mungos, a formidable tornado that had most of the staff quavering in fear. Her company had kept Hermione sane, so she couldn’t complain. Draco’s company however had the complete opposite effect. It had been driving her insane. She’d kissed him in front of everyone, the media, his friends and family. And it wasn’t like he hadn’t kissed her back, because he did. Oh, how he did…

“How is she doing?” his voice caused her to jump. Of course, he would speak to her now. It didn’t matter that all afternoon he had ignored her.

“Fine,” she replied shortly, not turning to face the blond man as he sat down beside her. Hermione wouldn’t lie, his ignoring her had hurt. She felt rejected. 

“I figured you might be hungry so I grabbed a sandwich from the cafeteria. I hope ham and cheese is alright?” he offered, placing the packaged roll on the bed in front of her.

Hermione turned to him and smiled slightly, mumbling a soft thank you. It wasn’t much of a peace offering but it was still something. She ate in silence, noting that he’d grabbed something for himself as he began to dig into his own meal. They both focused on watching the little girl in the hospital bed. Rose was curled into a foetal position, breathing evenly despite the constant beep of the magical monitor. She looked so small. 

“I’m sorry,” his voice broke the silence.

“Whatever for?” Hermione asked, evading the subject for fear of embarrassment. He obviously didn’t want her in that way, despite what his reaction had been to her sudden attack on his lips earlier. 

“I never meant to ignore you.”

“Are you sure about that?” she probed, not able to keep the hurt from her voice. 

“Hermione, I was angry. You employed the wiles of my father – my very manipulative father, I might add – to keep me from being with my daughter. You knew that I wanted to come with you,” the accusation in his voice was unmistakable, but Hermione knew that he was only being honest with her. 

Hermione shifted in her seat and turned to face him. “Draco, if you had left with me you would be considerably poorer than you are now. There is no doubt in my mind that you would still have enough money to buy a couple of countries if the fancy took you, but I couldn’t let her win. She didn’t deserve to win, Draco, and you know that she would have if you’d left. Forgive me for looking out for you but I couldn’t stand by and watch you lose half your fortune for the sake of an hour.”

He stared at her, comprehension dawning on his face. His smile caught her by surprise. “Ever the Gryffindor, aren’t you?” 

“I couldn’t let her win, Draco,” she replied, licking her lips nervously. He had shifted closer. 

“And she didn’t,” he lifted a hand to tuck a stray curl behind her ear. Hermione felt her heart flutter at the small action. “Hermione…”

“Yes,” her breathing was laboured, the anticipation of the moment becoming almost too much for her. 

“You kissed me,” Draco traced the side of her face with the back of his hand, a gentle caress that made her head spin. 

“You kissed me back,” she countered in a breathy voice. 

“If we do this, if we try to make it as a couple –”

“We take it slow,” Hermione finished for him, reaching up to stall his fingers, the tracing digits that were running along her jaw. 

“We take it slow,” he agreed, his eyes taking on an ardour that left her breathless. 

Leaning forward, he gently kissed the top of her forehead, moving down to her cheek, her nose, her jaw and then finally her lips. Hermione let herself get lost in the moment, the sensations. Everything had changed but she couldn’t find it in herself to care. This was where she was meant to be.


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