Author: Salome Weil PM
Hermione makes a crucial mistake with Ron and the consequences won't be pretty, unless Draco can rise to the occasion. But with his own demons to face, will he make the right choice? AU, Spoilers HBP, M for language and sexual reference, later violence.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Romance - Hermione G. & Draco M. - Chapters: 39 - Words: 121,850 - Reviews: 241 - Favs: 310 - Follows: 143 - Updated: 09-02-10 - Published: 02-07-10 - Status: Complete - id: 5726305
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I do not own any part of the Harry Potter franchise and make no money off this fiction; all rights belong to J.K. Rowling, Scolastic and Warner Bros.
AN: This is not a new story. If you follow me over on Granger Enchanted as well, you'll know that this story was previously exclusive to it. It was inspired by Drivelicious' story, And Two Must Love, and I borrow the major plot idea of protection for the children of Death Eaters from her, with her permission. Her story is quite good, you should check it out! Aside from that one plot point, everything else is pretty different. I am only reposting the story here because GE recently began enforcing their beta rule and until I acquire a beta there, I will be unable to update the story. So because I am impatient and annoyed, here it is. I hope you enjoy it! Again, props to Drivelicious- check her out!
It was just one word and spoken so very, very softly, but Hermione knew what it meant. She rolled over on the cot and shut her eyes tightly. Perhaps he would think she was asleep; perhaps he would just get dressed and go away without saying anything else.
Not bloody likely, though. This was Ronald she was thinking of.
There was some shifting from his side of the small mattress and she knew he was searching for his clothes. Having a hard time finding them, apparently, and no wonder- he was the most pea brained of the bunch.
"Er, Hermione, love?" came his timid voice, finally.
She ground her teeth and waited for the rest.
"I seem to have- ah, I mean, I can't find- well, would you mind helping me look for my pants…please?"
At that, she sat bolt upright. The measly bedclothes fell from her and she knew she was naked, but didn't care. She'd lost all modesty with this oaf only a few minutes before anyway; what did she care for her dignity any longer?
"Your pants? So that's it?" she practically shrieked at him. Not that she really cared whether he just left or not, but a girl had to have some pride. "Don't you have anything else to say?"
He avoided looking at her, his ears a bright red and his face quickly following suit. He blundered about for some words before coming up with the brilliant, "Er."
Hermione rolled her eyes and stood up as well. His face went an even brighter red and she sighed. "Never mind, Ronald. Clearly this meant absolutely nothing to you. Not that I expected it to," she added as an after thought.
"Hey!" he protested. "That's just not true, Hermione- you know I liked you for a really long time, it's just that with Lavender now, and all…well," he finished lamely, "you know."
Hermione huffed a bit more and stooped to gather her clothes and Ron's pants from under the increasingly miserable little cot. Ron tried not to watch her and failed in a rather desperate fashion.
"Well for Merlin's sake, stop staring at me, you oaf!" she hissed and threw on her robes as quickly as possible. "I don't want to be in this room any longer with you than you do, apparently. So get dressed and get the hell out, please."
"Hermione, don't be that way, please," he whined at her, even as he was putting on the rest of his clothes. "I really, really liked you-"
"Oh, just stop it!" she snarled before pausing in her hurried ministrations to take a deep breath. "Look, Ron," she finally managed to say in a reasonable tone of voice, "we tried something. It didn't work the way I thought it would. Let's leave it at that, alright? And no, of course I won't tell anyone. You don't have to worry about your precious bimbo of a girlfriend finding out."
For a moment, Hermione thought Ron might actually sigh with relief- that or cry, she wasn't sure which- but then he face grew hard and he frowned at her. She raised an eyebrow at him. So, he wanted to play the angry game with her? He'd never win. She was champion at the angry game.
"You know, Hermione, you seemed awfully appreciative earlier when I consented to this ploy of yours."
"Ploy? Excuse me?" she stared at him. Perhaps he had more brains than she gave him credit for. Not that it had started out as a deliberate attempt to steal him away from Lavender, but she supposed he was technically right about her motives.
"You know exactly what I mean, Hermione," he replied, shaking his head knowingly. "Lavender told me you still liked me and would try something like this. I guess I never thought I would actually fall for it."
"You idiot! You arrogant, moronic boy!" she screeched, unable to turn on her filter at this point. "I never thought that you would fall for the cheap whore! How's that for expectations?"
Ron's face went pale and he stopped his gloating. "Hermione- you know, maybe if you had come to me sooner I wouldn't be with her right now-"
Hermione was unable to contain herself any longer. She had reached the end of her rope with this git and knew- she could feel the ire boiling her marrow- that if he didn't leave soon, she would be going to Azkaban. How- oh, how on earth- did I ever like that two faced twat of a man? she bemoaned.
Out loud she said, "Are you dressed, Ronald?"
He nodded at her and she gave him the most hideous smile he'd ever seen. "Good. Then get out."
"It wasn't a request, Ron. Get the hell out." He looked at her uncertainly and she summoned up her best glare before raising her wand at him. "Now."
He fled just as the hex flew from her wand. It hit the slamming door impotently and dispelled in a shower of sparks. She could hear his footsteps echoing back down the hallway as he ran away. When she finally couldn't hear him any longer, she sank to the cot again.
The sheets were mussed and there was a damp place in the center of the bed, a few spots of blood crowning it like a trophy. Hermione began to cry in spite of herself, hating Ron for it and wishing desperately that her heart didn't hurt so much just then. Not even because it was broken, which it was, but because she knew then just how much of an idiot she had been.
For the first month or two of their sixth year, Hermione had tried to keep things cordial between herself and Ron- at least when Lavender wasn't around- and she felt she'd done a pretty good job of it. It had grown increasingly difficult as the fall term had progressed, however, because Lavender had realized that Ron and Hermione were still spending a great deal of time together and she clearly disapproved. Even to the extent that she had insisted he change partners in classes like Potions and Dark Arts. It had driven Hermione crazy at first, until Ginny had begun to insinuate a few things.
Things like, oh, Ron still likes you, Hermione, I know he does- he's always looking at you when he thinks you won't notice and whenever Brown puts you down he always sticks up for you. Hermione, not having much experience with boys beyond Harry's kind words and Malfoy's wretched ones, was more than happy to believe her. But she didn't want to break the two of them up- she had a general aversion to any sort of rule breaking; and that included things like cheating and adultery, even if the other girl in question was a complete slag. So she had decided to continue to be the nearly perfect best friend and that would have to do, for now.
Until things had begun to get dangerous, that is. Then all bets were off. Although Hermione had tried very, very hard not to encourage Ron in any way beyond friendship, the looks that he'd started to give her had grown harder to ignore; and it was getting more difficult not to forgive him for being the git he'd always been. So when Katie Bell had been gravely injured during that trip to Hogsmeade earlier in the year and Ron had been right there to offer his shoulder for tears and comfort, well. It hadn't taken that much longer for Hermione to make the jump to kissing him and then allowing him to pull off her clothes. Besides, now that the battle in the Department of Mysteries had made them all outright targets for Voldemort and his Death Eaters, tensions were running high between every hot blooded teenager in the school.
It had seemed quite natural at the time, really. She'd never intended for it to happen that way; with him cheating on Lavender and in a musty back tower room filled with spare cots and other furniture. But he had looked at her so tenderly and she'd wanted to run her hands through his flamingly red hair for so long…
Just thinking about it was enough to make her burst into tears right then and there, except she was fairly certain that crying at the breakfast table would warrant some questions. She really didn't want to answer anymore questions. Really. Ginny's had been bad enough, especially when the other girl had realized she'd forgotten to cast the contraceptive spell until well after they'd had sex. So here she was, an entire month after the mistake and she was so worried about not letting anyone else find out; and, of course, whether she was pregnant or not, that she couldn't even eat, let alone make conversation. So then the not eating made her worry even more that she might be pregnant…suffice it to say, the whole thing was very awkward.
Not to mention that Ron had taken her at her word and was back to snogging the bint like nothing had happened. The thought made her a little green in the face and she realized that she probably ought to get a panel done. She wondered how Madame Pomfrey would handle such a request and smiled a little. Ginny leaned over.
"Feeling better today? I could still kill him, if you want. Well, maybe not kill him, but I could make his life a living-"
"I'm fine, Ginny, I promise," Hermione murmured in response to Ginny's heated whisper. "Thanks for being such a terrible sister, though?" she added with a grin. Ginny nodded and straightened again, this time leaning towards her boyfriend of the day, Dean. Hermione noticed Harry's eyebrows go up and then down again as he continued to butter his toast. She smiled at him. So, Harry was finally noticing Ginny, was he?
"Harry, how are things going?" she asked quietly. He put his toast down and looked up. He knew that she was referring to his private lessons with Dumbledore and the research they were doing. As yet, Ron and Hermione were the only two who knew anything about it, and it would stay that way if Harry had anything to say. He tried to answer her question with as ambiguous a response as possible.
"Well, I guess. It's hard to know what he wants from me sometimes, or where all this is going. Potions, however," he continued, "is going swimmingly, wouldn't you say?" He cast a small grin her way.
She glared at him. "Are you going to insist on using that old book?"
Harry choked down a piece of the toast and nodded. "Why not?" he mumbled around his food. "Best thing that ever happened to me."
Hermione rolled her eyes and picked up her own toast, biting into it and chewing it slowly. It tasted okay, and she continued to eat quietly, listening to the conversations around her. When she'd finished the slice she washed it down with some pumpkin juice. Then she calmly stood up, put her own Potions book back into her bag and announced that she was off to class.
Or at least, she tried to announce it. Instead, what came out of her mouth was a stream of vomit: partially digested toast and easily recognizable pumpkin juice. She paused to thank Merlin that she'd had the good sense to spit up on the floor and not her friends, although none of them seemed particularly grateful. Ginny was up and at her side in a flash and she leaned against her friend's shoulder.
"Hermione? What's wrong?" Ginny asked. "It's not-"
"Flu," Hermione croaked out, interrupting her. "Must be the flu. Madame Pomfrey? Please?" she begged, before emptying out the glass of water she'd had that morning as well.
Ginny nodded and stood up, pulling Hermione with her. "Come on- let's go see if we can fix you. Ron," she said, turning slightly. "Come help me with her."
Lavender made some distinctly distressed whining noises and Ron grunted back at her, but he got up and walked around the table anyway. "Just don't throw up on me, alright?" he muttered, but with a small smile on his face. Hermione groaned and Ginny glared at her brother. Then the trio made their way to the hospital wing. They only stopped twice for vomit breaks and miraculously, Ron said nothing else.
While Hermione was ushered behind a screen by a concerned Madame Pomfrey, Ginny hung back near the door with her brother. Ron leaned against the wall and scuffed his shoe against the floor idly. Ginny looked over to him and frowned.
"Would you be serious?" she hissed at him.
"What?" he responded, startled. "What did I do?"
"Oh come off it, Ron! You think I don't know what's going on between you two?"
Ron's face grew red. "She told you about it? Bloody hell! She promised she wouldn't say anything-"
"She didn't have to, you brainless moron. I guessed and she filled in the rest. There wasn't anything she had to say. She's my best friend, practically. You thought your own sister wouldn't notice something funny going on? For Merlin's sake," she finished, crossing her arms and glaring at him.
He pressed his lips firmly together and scowled at her as well before dropping his eyes to the floor once again. If Hermione had already spilled her guts to his baby sister, then he figured it was best to shut up and not say his part. Ginny would never side with him and he felt like he owed Hermione that much; especially since, if the whole school didn't know by now, that meant Hermione had probably made Ginny promise to keep quiet as well. For her sake, of course.
He straightened up a bit at that thought, but still refused to look his little sister in the eye. Pride in a situation like this only went so far with Ginny.
Behind the screen, on a bed far away from the two siblings, Hermione was looking a little less pale, but no less distressed. The look of horror on Madame Pomfrey's face said everything. Hermione opened her mouth again to speak, but the nurse shook her head.
"Don't bother asking me if I'm certain, young woman," she said severely. "There isn't any point. This isn't some muggle contraption that allows for false positives." At that, big, fat tears began to roll down the younger witch's cheeks and Poppy Pomfrey allowed herself a moment of sympathy.
"Now, now. It isn't the end of the world, you know, but you are going to need to make some decisions rather quickly at this point. There's only so much of a window before things will be decided for you." She bustled about the bed and began drawing some potions and powders to her side. "For the time being, while you're in the planning stages, I will ask that you take some precautionary measures just in case. For instance, these powders will help keep you and the fetus healthy-"
"What?" Hermione interrupted her, confused. She wiped her face and gave a few loud sniffs in an attempt to pull herself together. "You mean like prenatal vitamins?"
Poppy paused and turned around. "Why, exactly like that, my dear. Just in case you decide to keep the child, although it has been many, many years since we had a documented case of pregnancy here at Hogwarts." She raised a disapproving eyebrow. "Not that it was a student who conceived previously," she added.
Hermione's tears threatened to begin afresh and she searched her pockets for a handkerchief. Finding one, she blew her nose very noisily and looked up at the nurse. "Well, it's a student now. You'd better inform me what my options are in the wizarding world, before my parents draw me out of school and I take care of things with more nasty muggle laws and contraptions," she spoke, glaring at the nurse.
Poppy harrumphed and continued to gather potions together. Turning, she presented Hermione with five bottles of varying sizes and explained what each of them was before reducing them in size and tucking them into a little pouch for the girl to take with her. Then she stood back and eyed the younger witch.
"Well, Miss Granger, your options are, as far as I know, to keep the baby or to remove it if deemed unwanted."
Hermione swallowed hard and stared at her. "You mean…terminate it?"
The nurse nodded. "That's exactly what I mean. It isn't very common in the wizarding world, mostly because witches and wizards aren't usually in the habit of producing unplanned or unwanted children, but accidents do happen from time to time. Now, the other option to keep the child, well. That may proove more difficult for you."
"What do you mean?"
Madame Pomfrey's eyes shifted to the side and she wrung her hands nervously. "In order to keep the child you might have to leave Hogwarts. I'm not entirely sure what school policy would be in such a case, since it's never happened. But the Headmaster will need to be informed of all the circumstances in order to make a decision, as well as your particular Head of House; and, probably, the Governors will need to convene on the matter, as your presence could be deemed unhealthy by some of the parents."
Hermione frowned. "That's so unfair! And what will happen to the father? Since his part in the matter doesn't show physically, I suppose there wouldn't be any similar punishment for him, would there?" She blew her nose again and scowled.
Poppy shook her head again. "I'm only guessing at things, Miss Granger. As I said before, this situation is as unknowable to me as it is to you; but I promise, the young man responsible in the matter will be no more well received than you," she continued even as she began writing a note for Hermione to take to Dumbledore and McGonagall. The nurse signed her name to the paper with a flourish and then gave it to Hermione, pressing it into her hand with what she hoped was a comforting smile. "Of that much, Miss Granger, I can assure you."
Hermione accepted the note and her bag of potions with a resigned expression upon her face and thanked Madame Pomfrey before stepping from behind the screen and waving weakly to Ginny. Her friend waved back and moved up the aisle to greet her. Ron remained at the door.
"So?" Ginny asked quietly. Hermione shook her head and Ginny narrowed her eyes. "Oh, hell. Well, what are you going to do?"
"What choices do I have? Madame Pomfrey made it pretty clear that Hogwarts wouldn't tolerate a pregnant student," she murmured, still wiping at her nose.
Ginny frowned and tucked her friend's arm under her own. "Oh, did she? Come on, we'll see about that. Wait until my mum hears about this."
Hermione drew back. "No! Ginny, you promised not to tell anyone!"
"I promised not to tell anyone you slept with Ron, not that he got you pregnant!"
"Wha-?" came the startled response from said wizard. While they had been arguing, Ron had decided to come ask them to hurry it up, would they, or he would miss first period. Now he was standing right in front of them and had heard every word from his sister's mouth. His face was so pale the freckles stood out like measles. Ginny and Hermione stared at him, mouths hanging open, eyes wide.
He tried again. "Hermione, I- is that true? Is that what was wrong earlier? You're pregnant?"
Hermione refused to meet his eyes and Ginny seemed to speak for her. "What do you care, Ron? And don't you dare say a word to anyone about this, not even Mum. Hermione is scared sick, so just shut up until we know what's going to happen to her, okay?"
"What do you mean? Shouldn't I have some sort of say?"
Hermione looked up at him suddenly, her eyes hopeful for the first time in weeks. "Why? Do you want to have a say, Ron?"
It was his turn to drop his eyes. "I- well, it seems like I ought to…but if you'd rather handle things on your own, I'll understand." He shifted uncomfortably and Hermione needed no more answer than that. It was quite clear that Ron had only responded that way at first out of obligation or some sick sense of pride for having fathered a child. Hermione could see he didn't really want anything to do with it and she said as much.
"I see," she replied. "Um, no, I can- I can figure it out on my own. I don't think I need you anymore, Ron," she finished softly.
Ginny glared at him again and took her friend's arm once more. "You," she hissed at her brother, "will pay for this." Then she tugged on Hermione and the two girls left the wing, one dragging behind the other.
Ron watched them go, indecision very present upon his face, but after a few moments he followed them out the door and started for his first class of the day. There was no point in worrying about it; Hermione had clearly made up her mind and besides, what did he want with a child at this point in his life? He was young and poor; his family was poor- there was nothing he could give the child of his brilliant and well looked after friend that she and her family couldn't do for it already. Hanging his head dejectedly, he wandered off to the classroom and determined that although it probably wasn't the best decision he'd ever made, it was a decision at all and probably for the best. He would be no good as a father to that child.
No good at all.
Albus Dumbledore watched the most brilliant witch in Hogwarts over the tops of his half-moon spectacles. There was no twinkle present in his eyes and it was clearly making the girl nervous; not that she didn't already have reason enough to be uncomfortable. He turned his gaze upon Minerva next and the older witch stared right back at him expectantly.
"Well?" she asked. "What is this about, Albus?"
"I think," he replied slowly, "that Miss Granger ought to tell you herself."
At that, Ginny opened her mouth, but her enthusiasm to speak for her friend was quickly squelched with a stern glance from the headmaster. She bent her shoulders and began to look rather sullen. Hermione cleared her throat.
"Professor," she began, "I've been a complete idiot."
Minerva McGonagall stared at her prize student in consternation. "What on earth do you mean?"
Hermione looked back to Dumbledore for confirmation to go ahead, but he simply looked back at her impassively. She shifted in her seat some before drawing her head up and looking her house head directly in the eyes.
Ginny squeezed Hermione's hand a bit and she looked to her friend gratefully.
"Miss Granger!" Minerva exclaimed. "Is this some sort of a joke? Albus, please tell me why you've ordered me to come up here during the middle of my lessons-"
"It's no joke, Minerva," he spoke softly in his aged voice. "I'm afraid Miss Granger is, indeed pregnant. I have the note from Poppy right here, if you wish to see it," he continued, lifting a hand and offering the parchment to the older witch. She took it gingerly, as if it carried some sort of disease.
It didn't take her long to read through and she looked back up to Hermione, astonished. "Miss Granger?" she asked in a rather pinched voice. "Is this true?"
Hermione nodded rather shamefacedly, but refused to lower her stature. This was a mess, true, but there was no reason for her not to handle it with some dignity.
Minerva looked at Albus once more. "What is the precedent for this? How are we to handle it?"
He sighed and tugged on his beard a bit. "There is no precedent, I'm afraid. But I really see no reason for things to change…Miss Granger seems determined to take everything in stride and unless anyone particularly objects," he paused, casting a glance directly at McGonagall, "then don't see why she shouldn't stay here at Hogwarts. It will be safest for her, in any case."
Minerva looked from Dumbledore to Hermione and back again before pursing her lips. "But Albus," she whispered, "what about the threats from You Know Who?"
"Ah- you're quite right, my dear. I see what you mean." He glanced at Hermione once more and she tightened her own grip on Ginny's hand before letting go of it.
She tried to smile. "Ginny, I think you'd better leave now. I'll talk to you about everything later, alright? Thank you so much for helping me out." Ginny shook her head and looked at the headmaster only to find him nodding at her.
"Everything will be fine, Miss Weasley. But you should listen to Miss Granger. I'm afraid she's correct."
Ginny finally sighed and hugged Hermione before standing and leaving the office. Once they had heard the stone door swing closed, Hermione turned back to Dumbledore.
"What threats?" she asked quietly. "Does this have something to do with what you're working on with Harry this year?"
The headmaster stood up slowly and leaned over his desk. "Miss Granger, I'm very sorry that I can't tell you anything more than what Harry has said already. But yes, it is something to do with all that. As a result of my research, Voldemort has grown increasingly militant towards Mister Potter and his closest friends. He knows the end is drawing near and will try to strike at myself, Harry and anyone close to him in a myriad of ways in the coming months. I don't believe you have anything to worry about until after Christmas, but as of right now he is attempting to gather more forces in order to better divide our allies and have spies in more places who can more easily strike at us."
Hermione grew a little pale, but she continued to hold her head high. "Would it be better for me to terminate then, is that what you're implying?"
Minerva tut-tutted and made a motion towards her student, but Albus stayed her with a sweep of his hand. He watched Hermione carefully for any sign of fear or uncertainty. She didn't flinch beneath his gaze and he finally nodded.
"Ah. I see- so you've already made up your mind, then? And how will your parents react? And what of the youngest Mister Weasley?"
Hermione blanched. "How did you know, Sir?" she asked. McGonagall looked distinctly ill and stood up.
"Albus! Do you mean to tell me that boy is responsible? Why isn't he here? I'll call him right away-"
"No!" Hermione exclaimed, bolting forward in her seat. "I mean, please don't bother. Ronald made it perfectly clear that he wants nothing to do with it," she ended in a bitter tone. "Besides, if he's involved, or if people know that he's the father- well, it could put him in more danger than he's in right now, couldn't it? Especially since I'm muggleborn," she added, thoughtful. Her face betrayed her genuine concern for him and McGongall reached over and grasped her hands.
"You're so young," she murmured.
Hermione tried to smile. "And stupid, don't forget that part." She choked on the last word and finally let out the shudder of fear that had gripped her since Poppy had delivered the news.
"Oh, you poor girl. Albus, are we done for now?"
"We need to decide what is to be done- that is, who do we inform first and what do we tell them? And if we are not exposing Mister Weasley as the true father, then what do you propose to tell everyone? They must be told something if you are to stay here at school."
"But, Albus," Professor McGonagall moaned, "how can we possibly guarantee her safety and that of the child, even here at school? You know as well as I do that some of our students may very well be Death Eaters already!"
"You're absolutely right, Minerva," he replied easily. "That is why we must include Severus in the discussion."
Hermione finally stood. "Snape? But, Professor Dumbledore! He hates me! I mean, I certainly trust him more than Harry does, but really-"
"Nonsense. Miss Granger," he interrupted her, silencing her with another of his stern gazes, "you have a quite a problem at the moment and I am attempting to help you with it. I'm afraid that Poppy was quite right and it is unavoidable for the Governors to hear of this and they will no doubt attempt to influence myself and the other teachers to their will. But, seeing as a number of them have rather mysterious ties to dark forces and come from uncertain backgrounds themselves, it will only help to involve Professor Snape."
Hermione sat back down and nodded. She realized, perhaps a little late, that there was no winning this one. She was completely out of her element in this situation; she had no idea what to do aside from the basics of pregnancy and what would happen to her body. It was all rather frightening, actually, and she supposed she should be grateful to Dumbledore that he was willing to put so much thought and effort into the solution; especially since she was inadvertently making herself a bigger target- in motive as well as size.
"Now, if you two ladies will excuse me, I will ask Severus to join us as soon as he's available."
He made his way from the room and they could hear him flooing the newest Dark Arts professor. During the pause, McGonagall looked over to Hermione and took her hands once more.
"We'll have to move your belongings, I suppose. I'm sure the first thing the Governors will insist on is having your quarters away from the other young witches for fear of poisoning their minds." The older witch pronounced the final word with such vitriol that Hermione looked at her in surprise.
"Aren't you upset with me, Professor?" she asked carefully.
Minerva released her hands and sat back in her seat, straightening her robes in the process. "Upset? My dear, why would I be upset with you? Perhaps I am a little disappointed in your lack of planning, but these things were bound to begin happening sooner or later. The first things to go in times of uncertainty are moral behavior and common sense; the latter of which Ronald Weasley is lacking in spades. It's utter nonsense, his being left to his own devices while you have to face these trails on your own. Hermione, I would strongly advise you to reconsider your position on his involvement."
Hermione was about to shake her head once again when the door to Dumbledore's office slid open and an inky voice announced Severus' entrance.
"And I would be forced to strongly disagree with you, Minerva. Miss Granger's perception of the situation is quite astute, I can assure you. Why, just this morning Mister Weasley entered my classroom and promptly began to lay his hands all over that repulsive girlfriend of his. If that doesn't make his disdain for her situation obvious, I don't know what does."
"So you've already been apprised of the-"
"Yes, Minerva," came Dumbledore's gravelly voice. "I informed him of the basics in my summons, although not of the father's identity. Severus, it is vital we keep his true identity a secret."
Snape raised an eyebrow and looked to Hermione. "Please, it won't be nearly as difficult for the rest of the student body to guess as it was for me. What other oaf has our resident know-it-all been mooning over for the last three years? How in Merlin's name do you propose to keep it a secret, let alone keep her safe from rumors and the local bullies?"
Hermione flushed and glared at him, but kept her mouth shut. Now was not the time to annoy Snape. Clearly, Dumbledore believed they would need his help to come up with a satisfactory solution…she just wasn't entirely certain she wanted to hear the man's ideas yet. Whatever they were, they would be necessary, but probably not pleasant. For anyone.
Snape smirked and looked back to the headmaster, who was speaking again. "Minerva, I know you won't approve, but I hope you can see that this is the only way we can keep Miss Granger with us and safe at the same time. Severus, we must keep the baby's paternity a secret in order for the story to hold."
"You mean you're going to tell a lie," Hermione interpreted, her brow furrowed. "How is that going to help?"
"Yes, strictly speaking, it will be lying. But just a small fib, really. The kind that happens all the time when a young woman finds herself in a difficult situation." Albus sat down behind his desk and began to draw up some parchment and turn it into paperwork. "Now, we will need these forms to be signed by the appropriate parties when the time comes, but this one can go to Poppy right away." He paused and looked over his spectacles at Severus. "That is, they can go once I have a name from you."
Snape paled in an imperceptible manner and glanced furtively at Minerva and Hermione. "Albus, you can't be serious about this-"
"Severus, it is the only way!" Dumbledore finally exclaimed, losing his composure in front of Hermione for only the second time since she'd known him. The quill in his hands bent, though it didn't break. He was standing over his desk, eyes and anger turned upon her former Potions professor fully.
"You know as well as I that if we keep her here without the cover of the Death Eaters that Voldemort will attack! He will find a way- he has every other year, has he not? Despite our best precautions, the beast finds his way into our safe haven and continues to corrupt our students with threats of violence and death- how can you not aid us now, after everything else?"
Snape didn't cower beneath the older man's gaze, but his face did soften and he cast another look at her. Then he spoke in what would have been a riddle to anyone except Hermione.
"You're certain he needs her?" By which he meant Harry, of course. His beady brown eyes shifted back to Dumbeldore's tired face and he waited patiently for the answer.
Albus finally nodded and sat back down. "There was never the question he didn't. What you really want to know is why you should risk yourself to save the unborn innocent."
Snape stood as well and began pacing. "That's not it- Albus, what of the name I give you? What will happen to him? I'm not even sure someone suitable exists at the moment!"
"Yes, you do," Dumbledore responded evenly. Severus looked up at him.
"So you had him in mind all along."
"He is the best candidate. With the task he's been given, he stands the best chance of negating any possible future actions with this simple one. I can assure you; the protection of a muggleborn witch's child will erase a multitude of sins after the war is over." He looked over to Hermione and smiled reassuringly. She was trying to follow the conversation, but had no idea who they could be talking about, or why.
"Of course, many precautions must be taken. Miss Granger will have to take private lessons from you, as Harry did, if she is to withstand questioning. Additionally, we will need to speak to both Mister and Miss Weasley about their secrecy."
"Are you not even going to give the boy a choice?" Severus practically snarled at the headmaster, who didn't bat an eyelash.
"He will have a choice, but I believe I know what his answer will be. With his current family situation and the stress he clearly feels at serving the Dark Lord, what other choice does he have? The boy wants out; he just may not be certain of it yet. Let us give him a reason to be so."
Snape walked up to Dumbledore's desk and leaned over it. "Albus, are they to know all our secrets, then? What has Miss Granger done to deserve these confidences beyond get herself so imprudently knocked up?" he hissed.
At that, Minerva stood as well and looked very much as though she would've liked to stamp her foot. "How dare you speak of her that way! Albus, will you do something about this man's language? Miss Granger is sitting right here! It isn't as though she lost her hearing along with her good sense," she added with a nod of her head.
Hermione sighed and sank lower into her chair. She knew she deserved all the inadvertent barbs from her house head, but really- was it going to be this bad when the entire school knew? Or would it be worse? Snape must've seen the trepidation on her face, for he turned and leered.
"Oh, it will be much, much worse, my dear Gryffindor." Then he turned back to Dumbledore, mumbled a few more words- most likely of complaint- and left. Minerva sat down again.
"Now, Albus, you had better tell us exactly what this plan is before the substitute father arrives," she spoke.
"I will," he nodded, "as soon as Miss Weasley comes back in." At his words, the door opened yet again and Ginny came around to sit by Hermione once more. Hermione took her hand and gave it a squeeze.
"Thank you for joining us again, Miss Weasley. I'm sure you're curious as to what all this is about. There is a law," he began, "created by Lord Voldemort himself. It does not exist within the Ministry; only within the confines of his Death Eaters. What this particular magical rule, if you will, secures is the safety of any child of a Death Eater. The rule is itself fuzzy on what constitutes the child of a Death Eater, and thus common usage holds that any child claimed by a Death Eater is to be safe from harm by the hand of Voldemort or any of his followers." He paused and glanced about the trio, as if waiting for questions. When none came, he continued. "It was, of course, originally intended to promote the birth of pureblood children, but Voldemort does not indulge in bendable rules. So even though you are muggleborn, Miss Granger, he will- and we grant that there is always a small chance he may change his mind- but he will keep his rules, even for the very thing he detests."
Hermione's mind began to make the appropriate connections and she held Ginny's hand more tightly. "Wait- so you mean- some of the students at Hogwarts have already taken the Dark Mark?"
"I'm afraid so, Miss Granger. However, its effects are not irreversible, as you heard me telling Professor Snape. Now, I need only two things more from you for now."
She nodded and he smiled grimly. "I'm glad to see you so ready to take responsibility. It will make the coming months that much easier for you- if they are easy at all. You must- and no, Minerva, don't protest. This is necessary. But you and everyone who knows the true identity of the child, that is, the true father, must make an Unbreakable Vow."
Ginny jumped in her seat. "Can't you just erase my memory? Mum will kill me if she finds out I made an Unbreakable!"
"Professor, isn't that illegal for witches our age or something?" Hermione asked, wrinkling her brow in concern for her friend. She wouldn't have any problem making the vow, personally, but she didn't expect everyone to have to suffer for her sake.
"The mind is a tricky thing, Miss Weasley. Sometimes it betrays us when we least expect it," Minerva said quietly. "You're right, Albus, I don't like it one bit, but I understand why it's necessary. Shouldn't young Mister Weasley be here as well, then?"
"He's on his way here now. I asked Professor Snape to send him up from the class. We won't meet with his substitute yet- I need to speak to him privately and you need some time to sleep on your decision, Miss Granger."
"But I already told you- I've made up my mind!" she cried, frustrated at the wait. "Can't we just get on with it?"
"Hermione," McGonagall surprised her by using her first name, "please don't be rash. He's right, you do need to think some more; but more than that, your friends must be informed of their responsibilities in this situation as well and allowed to think them over."
"But if Hermione's decision remains the same, I'll still have to go through with it," Ginny responded.
Dumbledore nodded and Ginny eyed him warily before turning to her friend. "It's fine, Hermione," she murmured. "I agree with them- even if I know that I would do this, without question- I need to prepare myself. We can't all be as mature as you," she added, smiling mischievously. Hermione let out a small laugh and nodded.
"Okay, I see what you mean. I can wait another day."
Her ascent was punctuated by a timid knock upon the outer door and Hermione couldn't help but stiffen again. That had to be Ron. Ginny watched the blood drain from her friend's face and gave her hands an extra squeeze.
Ron's shoulders were hunched as he walked into the small gathering and took a seat. His ears were bright red and his hands shook as he took them out of his pockets.
"Professor," he muttered in acknowledgement of McGonagall and the Headmaster. Dumbledore watched his shamed behavior and said nothing for a few moments. When he finally spoke, his voice was stern.
"Mister Weasley, I understand you are partly responsible for the situation Miss Granger is in."
"Yes, Sir," Ron mumbled.
"She wants to remain at Hogwarts and does not wish to terminate the pregnancy; do you understand?"
Ron didn't mumble this time, but nodded miserably.
"In order for us- Hogwarts- to guarantee a safe and healthy delivery of her baby, we cannot allow the true identity of the father to be known. Are you prepared to relinquish all custody rights to the child and never let it be known that you are the true father?"
At that, Ron looked up and directly at Hermione. There was a question in his eyes that she wished she could have answered truthfully, but she knew that what was happening was for the best. So instead of jumping up and throwing herself into his arms, demanding that he marry her and make her an honest woman and be a father to this mistake of a child, she just…sat there. It was the hardest thing she'd ever had to do. To stare at him blankly in return, not signaling how much she wished none of this was happening.
She spoke to him quietly. "It's for the best, Ron. I don't mind, really."
He seemed to relax into his seat then, as if in relief. He smiled at her- gratefully? Hermione felt her heart beat erratically. Wow. The wanker really didn't want any part of it, did he? Well, fine. Two could play that game.
Ron looked back to Dumbledore. "Yeah, I can do that," he answered, his voice clear and unwavering.
"Thank you for your help, Mister Weasley- in order to fulfill your promise, we will require an Unbreakable Vow of you. Do you understand?"
Rather than look green, as Ginny had upon hearing the news, Ron almost brightened perceptibly. Hermione could tell that the thought of him making an Unbreakable Vow before his elder brothers seemed to thrill him. Dumbledore merely eyed him and then continued.
"Now, I am giving you all the rest of the day and this evening to consider your final decisions and what they will mean before we meet again. I will expect you all in my office early tomorrow morning. Until then, please keep your wits and thoughts about you!"
The three students stood up uncertainly- was the wretched conference truly over for now? What were they supposed to do with themselves the rest of the day?
Professor McGonagall leaned over to her two female pupils and smiled gently at them. "You both may take the rest of the day off. I'll see to your sick passes." Ginny and Hermione thanked her and smiled gratefully before taking their leave and heading out the door. Before Ron could follow them, however, Minerva lay a hand on his shoulder.
"You, on the other hand, I wish to see in my office immediately." Then she patted said shoulder particularly hard and swept from the headmaster's office, the red haired wizard trailing behind her.
Dumbledore watched them all go and sat down again to await Snape's reappearance and consider the proposed course of action. Was he doing the right thing? Should he consider a memory charm instead of a Vow? It was so difficult to know, sometimes, what was best. Especially where one's students were concerned.
Especially when one's students were not behaving like students and instead like miniature adults, with half the brains. He paused to consider that. Yes, teenagers actually held many qualities in common with Death Eaters, didn't they? The thought brought a smile to his face and he felt himself beginning to laugh.
How funny everything was, just when it was all going wrong.
AN: There will be rapid updates after this, I think. Again, this is not a new story; it was previously available only on Granger Enchanted, but with their new enforcing of their beta rule, and my impatience, I am moving it here until I acquire said beta over there.