Once upon a time, there was an idiot named Hermione Weasley nee Granger. Odd, yes. At some point in time or another, she'd been called the most brilliant witch of her era.
That title was stripped from her the day she chose to befriend Draco Malfoy.
If Hermione had known the repercussions of her intended kindness, she would've found another pet project to satiate her therapist's request.
It was all Malfoy's fault.
Hermione would take the idiot-title. She deserved it. However, she refused to jump into hell alone. Malfoy was coming with her, and he was going to cushion her landing. Because of him, she found herself stirring awake in a place…
She internally scoffed. A place? She wasn't even on Earth. Her current settings resided on an alien domain where science and magic danced exquisitely together to an enchanting melody. Electricity thrummed contently in the face of supernatural energy, a feat Hermione struggled to comprehend. Asgard was, indeed, remarkable.
There was one con grand enough to cast a dark, thick shadow over the pros.
It wasn't Malfoy.
He wasn't there.
She hadn't seen him in, like, a year, actually.
He was still at fault, though. If he hadn't done what he did, Hermione wouldn't know the brilliant highlights and the life-ruining lowlights Asgard had to offer. Sometimes the downside of a magnificent, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was not worth encountering. Hermione, with good reason, believed herself to have made a terrible, terrible mistake with The Downside. The depravities committed would've never come to pass if she'd simply ignored Malfoy that day in the office three years prior. Hermione would not have come to Asgard but remain on Earth, shrouded behind her Muggle-Repellent barriers with her husband and perhaps the child they forked out a great deal of galleons to acquire.
Behind those safe barriers, it would've been impossible for Jane to contact her personally.
Hermione was fully awake now and perturbed at herself for thinking herself into such an alert state so early. Dawn had yet to fully brighten the room, but the drapes fluttered from the wind, parting enough for Hermione to capture the night being pestered by the day to come. She was tempted to creep out of bed and bask in the view. Both skies of day and night in Asgard were something incredible. She could see planets closer to Asgard than the moon was to Earth.
And yet…the balcony behind the drapes did not belong to her, nor the room it was attached to. With what little self-respect and class she had left, Hermione refused to greet Asgard and her morning from the balcony of someone else's room.
One of Asgard's royalty's room, to be more precise.
Hermione rubbed the backs of her fingers into her eyes, the diamonds of her soldered bands scratching below her temple. It reminded her of her indiscretions, her sins, and her foolishness before she ever came to Asgard or even knew it actually existed. Like a Band-Aid, she should've wiggled her wedding bands off her finger the moment she got served divorce papers.
Ron had accused her of infidelity.
Despite her insistence of being faithful and the countless therapy sessions, he hadn't budged from that mindset and told her they needed to see another counselor who specialized in cases such as theirs—a therapist who specified in unfaithful partners.
Hermione had moved out of the house that day, telling him what they really needed was not each other.
During her twelve year marriage to Ron, she hadn't taken another man to bed until she got owled those retched divorce decree papers eight days ago. She hadn't filled them out yet; she and Ron were still married. Oh, the irony. If she were a child, she'd accuse Ron of coercing her into committing adultery because of his determination in believing she already had.
But she was not a child. She was Hermione One-Day-To-Be Granger Again. This was not her estranged husband's fault at all.
It was Malfoy's.
Yawning, Hermione vaguely heard the man beside her sleepily mumble something or other.
"I said…" He sounded annoyed. Good. "What are you thinking so violently about? It woke me."
Stretching languidly beneath the sheets with her arms above her head, she replied, "You poor, poor little prince." Her sore limbs chastised her for moving, and her joints popped begrudgingly. She then settled onto her side, curling up to face him. She propped her head on her elbow and pouted petulantly. "Did your inconsiderate, lowly plaything stir you from your blissful unawares because she dare think?" She popped the k of the last word and grinned impishly.
"Know your place, witch."
The hairs on the back of her neck stuck up at his warning tone, but it did nothing to stifle her spontaneous, playful mood. Even if the unavoidable dispute didn't end in sex because she pushed him to his limits and he threw her out of his room, she'd still be pleased. Verbally sparring with him was a treat in itself.
Slowly, Hermione reached her pointed finger to Loki's face, his eyes settling on her MUDBLOOD scar jaggedly etched into her forearm. She started at his hairline, caressing a tiny patch of skin before skimming downward between his brows. The pad of her finger slid down the bridge of his nose and landed on his lips. She tapped them a few times. He was really quite handsome. "My place, your highness, is a place you cannot see nor visit. Your kind," she hissed, as if disgusted, "is not allowed."
His eyes flashed angrily. "I could find a way."
"And what then?" Hermione traced his lips with her short, but manicured nail.
"I'd rule your kind."
"The last man who tried didn't fare well."
Loki gently held her arm and tilted it just so, her scar within his sight again. "But it was not your particular kind he cared to rule, I gather? I am not so particular, Hermione."
"No?" She arched a brow and leaned closer to him. "Being so might spare you a while. That man, for all his tyranny and genocide, had an army. He had followers who believed in his cause, who fought and died for it. I suspect you'd wish to unite all magical beings and reign over them as their primary ruler. As powerful as you are, Loki, you couldn't possibly do so for long. When your only ally is yourself, the fall is that much more simple and humiliating."
Hermione found herself on her back with her arms pinned above her head, the weight of Loki pressing her into the mattress. Wiggling or any kind of attempt to get away would only encourage him, so she didn't bother moving. It seemed like this conversation was heading towards carnal territory, but she wouldn't bet all her galleons on that. There was still time for him to kick her to the curb.
"I'd gain their trust and eventually their loyalty," he rasped, his breath tickling her face. "I'd rule over them as a benevolent god and king-"
"Very few of us have kept our ancestors' pagan traditions so…good luck."
"-by taking one as queen."
Hermione widened her eyes, the air leaving her lungs. All words—her entire thirty-four year old vocabulary—died on the tip of her tongue. Her brain nearly flat-lined, but she resuscitated it and her voice box, managing to toss out a scrap full of syllabus without appearing and sounding anything but cavalier.
"Well, I happen to know a few women—a few desperate women—who have yet to be spelled by the marriage fairy's wand. I'm sure one of them would suit you well. They don't think, so I reckon you'd sleep peacefully in the night and early morning. The only thing to disturb you would be your crumbling, stale sense of right and wrong asking you why you so carelessly left it in your mother's womb."
Expectedly, Hermione found herself leaving Loki's chambers in last night's dress. Eight guards, four on each side of the double doors, watched her leave. Two of them left their station to follow her to her designated chambers three floors below. When she reached her room, the guards stood on each side whilst she entered. Inside, she stripped off her dress and undergarments and made way into her lavatory for a bath. It was a pool-like structure built into the tiled floor. It wasn't terribly large but enough so for her to completely submerge into the foamy, scented water and swim a partial lap.
With the hot water, oils, and salts filling the bath; Hermione donned the provided robe and went back into her room to see the rising sun from her window. She sat down on the plush bay and analyzed every influential detail the new morning had on the darkened sky. Her entire life, she had never truly appreciated the scenery above her. Liking and exploring the possibility of space seemed rather unnecessary. Like divination. They were just stars to her and nothing practical was to be found in them. Even when the Norse god Thor made his grand appearance in New York City and proved there was some truth in the Yggdrasil mythology, she never put much thought into it. Now the stars were so incredibly close, she couldn't help but be hypnotized by the beauty.
After a little while, she reluctantly left the window to shut off the pipes to the bath before easing herself into the water. She paddled to the other side and back before emerging completely, allowing the nearly uncomfortable temperature of the water smart every inch of her. When she surfaced and opened her eyes, Loki stood naked at the ledge. Hermione said nothing to him at first, going over to the basket on the ledge behind her and grabbing a bar of soap. As she massaged it over the wet skin of her left arm, she said, "You know, I almost believed you when you claimed to be done with me."
He dove into tub, leaving a hole in the foam. He resurfaced a few feet away from her, his expression unreadable like always. "This morning," he began, "were you thinking of your husband?"
"I was last night," she replied, quirking her lips at the brief, irritated expression that washed over his face. He darted to her, and she put the soap back in the basket, so she could press both hands against his shoulders incase he felt the desire to drown her. Beneath her fingers, she felt him tense and then relax. She stared at the space between her spread fingers and not for the first time, regarded how pale he was in comparison to the lightly-tanned and golden-hued people of Asgard.
"I was," she said firmly, "thinking of my husband a little bit this morning."
"He's my husband. I don't need a reason." He gripped her wrists, and she felt irritation in his squeezing pressure. She smiled a small one, looking up at him through her damp lashes. "Do you need one to think of your wife?"
"I've never married."
"Mythology claims otherwise."
"Sigyn." He scoffed and looked away. "My betrothed died centuries ago before our vows." Coercing her to the wall of the tub, his hands moved from her wrists and up her shoulders to loosely encase her neck. His thumb dug into the hollow of her throat threateningly.
"I enjoy our banter, Hermione, but such games have unspoken rules." He decreased the space between their faces, and she felt his mouth tickle her cheek. "I've killed for less."
He was having a moment, so she refrained from mocking him by rolling her eyes. "You won't kill me."
His lips travelled up to her temple and then her ear, and he said, "I confess to deserving the unmerciful end of a battle axe, yet my brother refuses to swing it. Taking a mortal witch's life will only leave him temporarily displeased."
"And eternally his wife who knows nothing of politics or royalty. As a new, naïve queen; she only knows one thing and that is all of Asgard must abide to her whim. You may be Thor's brother, but she's blowing him." Hermione smirked and turned her face, so their noses brushed. "Suddenly that battle axe doesn't seem so abstract, does it?"
He cursed at her (she was fairly certain) in a language she didn't understand before eliminating the distance and taking possession of her mouth. An hour later, they lay in her bed, though, neither of them were sleeping. He was on his back, his arms crossed behind his head. His eyes were slit and irked, contemplating deeply over something bothersome. He could possibly be brooding, but he wasn't the type to do so with an audience.
Mimicking her actions she'd done in his chambers, she curled up on her side and propped up her head. She bit her bottom lip and then said, "You should know I'm thinking of my husband again."
"I'm debating on whether or not to tell him about this."
"Hmm. Would he not burn you at the stake?" he chimed, thinking himself witty.
"It's complicated." She sat up and folded her sheet-covered legs. She extended her hand to her vanity and summoned her comb. While she picked out the knots in her damp hair, she stared down at him thoughtfully. "My husband is divorcing me."
He tore his gaze from the ceiling and graced her with mildly surprised expression. "Why?"
"He doesn't love me anymore."
"He has a mistress," he assumed.
Hermione shook her head.
"There's got to be a reason. A man does not simply wake up and no longer love his wife." He narrowed his eyes. "Unless she's taken to bed another man."
"I never strayed," she said, "despite his accusation that I had." She flipped her hair over her other shoulder and continued her painful ministrations. "Certain events unfolded that led to him to distrust me. He was willing to work on that, but I wasn't keen on what he had in mind. We no longer live together and haven't in months."
"You've been married for how long?"
"And no children?"
Hermione set down her comb and separated pieces of her hair in preparation for a crown braid. "Oh, did I forget to mention them? I have a litter, Loki."
"You don't seem the type to breed more than necessary if at all."
Unlike Loki, Hermione didn't have hissy fit tantrums when he breeched her limits, when he broke the unspoken rules of their game. She did, however, like to tell him tidbits of her childhood as a forewarning.
"When I was sixteen and in school, I was part of a secret club. Our main goal was to not let our headmistress find out about us, but there was a traitor in our midst. She told the headmistress and as punishment, I jinxed her face." Hermione freed one hand from her hair to draw an invisible line across her face: across the nose and from cheek to cheek. "The word sneak right here in pimples. Until she dies, they will always be there."
It hadn't gone exactly like that, but Hermione's intentions were to have Loki know she could and would stoop to his level of trickery if needed.
"Sif's hair was not always so dark," Loki said.
Hermione clenched her teeth at the possibility of Loki turning her hair into another shade and texture. As dearly as she had loved her husband and his family, she never cared for ginger hair. If she were to do or say something awful enough to provoke Loki's vengeful wrath, she hoped he'd curse her tresses darker instead of lighter. Her personality was nothing but brunette.
Summoning pins from her vanity, she secured her braid and let her arms fall. She crawled over to him and caressed his collar bone. "My hair so much as changes in length before I leave Asgard, my farewell present to you will be permanently removing that glamour you wear so fetchingly."
She jumped out of bed before he could grab her and went to her armoire, pulling out a shimmering, faint peach dress and the metal plated armor meant to be worn when leaving the palace. She and Jane intended a long, leisurely stroll in the gardens that morning.
Dressed, she stood in front of her vanity and sighed in annoyance at Loki who had yet to budge from her bed. Glaring at him through the mirror, she lightly donned her face in powder and mascara before making finishing touches to her hair. She examined her hairline pensively and then waved a hand over her forehead, short strands breaking free from her braid to curve down to her eyebrows.
Hermione said nothing when leaving her room, greeting her appointed guards and escorts with a polite nod. They chauffeured her to the dining room and waited outside the kitchen where she visited for a few moments to snatch a peach from a fruit basket. She was then escorted to the gardens where she saw her cousin reading a book on a stone bench outside the entrance.
Jane caught Hermione's eye and closed her book, getting to her feet.
"You're late," Jane said, smiling tiredly, her cheeks flushed pink from the warmth of the early morning sun and the child growing inside her.
"Is everything all right?"
Jane looked at the guards and kindly told them to wait outside of the garden. When one protested, she scowled at him adorably. It was hardly threatening, but Jane's serious face resembled a child's who being given an extra serving of vegetables at dinner and no dessert.
Entering the garden, Jane linked their arms and rested her head on Hermione's shoulder. Her eyes fluttered shut for a long moment as they circled the fountain.
"You would like to tell me something," Hermione assumed.
Jane lifted her head with a sharp sigh and nodded. "I want you to stay."
She shook her head, her eyes filling with unshed tears. "I don't have anyone besides Thor, Hermione. I love him. I love him so much, but it's impossible for him to share the burden of being a stranger, practically a different species, on a foreign planet. He's visited Earth before, but our home is here. And Earth? They love him. The people here don't feel that way about me. Sif tries for the sake of Thor, but I'm sure she'd push me off the Asbru Bridge if given the opportunity."
"Jane," Hermione tried again. This time she sighed, long and troubled. "Jane, you know I can't stay."
"Stay. At least until the baby's born."
Hermione stared at Jane skeptically. Six months? She imagined staying with her cousin until she delivered the next heir of Asgard, only to be asked again to remain right where she was.
"What if I came back when the baby was born?" Hermione offered, hesitant. "I could help you with the baby for a month."
Now Jane appeared skeptical, and Hermione scoffed. "Despite popular belief, I do know how to cater to a child. I have a load of nieces and nephews." Hermione's throat tightened at the thought of them, imagining leaving Earth to live out her days on Asgard to play best friend and Lady in Waiting to her cousin. She'd be, literally, worlds away from them for thirty days. It would already be so difficult being divorced from Ron.
"Could you just…stay for a year? One year is all I ask."
"I'm about to get divorced."
Jane bit her bottom lips and directed her focus on her feet, the pink in her cheeks deepening. "I know," she said softly.
"I have to be in London to do that."
Jane nodded, solemn, looking as if she regretted ever starting off their shared morning as she had.
The next while, neither of them spoke and both were too conflicted to appreciate the dew covered petals of the flowers nor their pungent fragrance. Hermione mulled over Jane's request, not liking the possibility of being away from Earth for so long. What bothered her more was leaving Jane in her neediest hour. Her cousin did need a second ally, Thor being number one. Although, being a king most likely meant there was little time in actually being a husband.
The two women eventually stopped and took shade underneath the tree, having entered the center of the garden, their fronts facing one another while their eyes rested on the Iðunn tree. Hermione looked away when hearing the faintest hissing sound. She moved her gaze upward and saw a snake draped on the branch above she and her cousin
"I don't know how long the divorce will take," Hermione said, tearing away from the snake and breaking the silence. "I have no desire to drag it out, and I'm not entirely sure what all Ron wants. I can only allow him so much. When it's finalized, though…" God, what was she doing? "I'll come back for one year. If I do that, I have to leave today."
Her cousin reached for her, interlacing their fingers as if Hermione was going to disappear into thin air that very moment. She said nothing for a moment and then let go, replying, "Okay," in a voice barely above a whisper.
They briskly left the gardens, and Hermione went to her chambers and saw Loki standing in front of her window, looking out over the palace grounds.
"I saw a snake in the gardens this morning," Hermione said, closing the door behind her and starting towards her armoire. "A peculiar beast. It merely minded its own when Jane and I rested under the tree branch it was draped over."
Loki turned to face her, and she noticed a glass bottle and a single goblet on the small table beside him.
"You're leaving," he said.
"I'm coming back."
"Ah." He nodded gingerly, a strange grin on his face. He came up behind her and caressed the skin below her shoulder. "But not to me."
Hermione pulled out her overnight satchel and placed it at the edge of the bed. Loki then clasped her wrist and tugged her towards the table.
"Chilled tea," he said, gesturing to the bottle. He let go of her and poured some into the goblet, offering it to her.
"I wasn't born yesterday."
"It'll calm your stomach for the journey to Earth."
"Or eats it before I get there."
He chuckled, amused, and petted a loose tendril that had escaped her braid. "If I were to burn the last bridge between my brother and me, I would not resort to poisoning you. Your death would be magnificent. Breathtaking. Worthy of an audience to appreciate such an act of art." His fingers snaked to the shorter hairs at the base of her skull and yanked. He leaned way down and ran his nose along the side of her neck. Her pulse jumped even though she wasn't really afraid, and she knew he wasn't going to kill her—by poison or something more imaginative.
He was strong, though. Much stronger than her. If he were careless or peeved enough, he could hurt her. He had yet to leave a mark on her she hadn't appreciated in the moment, but harming a woman seemed within the realm of possibility with him. Not because he thought them weak and needed to be dominated and punished for disobeying 'their superior' but because he saw that woman in particular as an opponent, an enemy on the battleground.
Hermione knew then he wouldn't hurt her. She and Loki were not equal. Morally, she ran circles around him. Verbally, they shared the winning prize. Every other way, he was, indeed, superior.
He was not her enemy, and they were not at war.
Loki scraped the tip of his nose to her earlobe and then jawline, inhaling deeply before kissing her. Her eyes closed only to open again two seconds later when feeling his desperation. It was similar to how she came into work that one morning over a year ago, and Malfoy sat her down in her chair and professed his love for her. She had heard the desperation and genuineness in his words and saw the true despair when she refused him.
Loki's desperation was more raw and demanding and arrogant. Like he knew she wouldn't deny him.
He wanted her to drink whatever was in that goblet.
He pulled away from her and guided the hand to the goblet he was still holding and coaxed the rim to her mouth. Her eyes stared into his. Perhaps she was a little afraid now.
"What is it going to do to me?" she asked quietly. His other hand was no longer tugging at her hair but massaging the base of her skull. The goblet touched her lips and a cold, flavored liquid trickled onto her tongue. Loki encouraged her to take two swallows and then took the goblet away. She put two fingers to her mouth and swallowed for a third time, ensuring to capture the sweet taste of apples.
He brushed a kiss over her cheek. "I look forward to your next visit, my dearest Hermione."
Loki disappeared as did the goblet in her hand. The bottle, too, vanished. It was as if he'd never been there to begin with.
Her hands shook as she returned to packing up her toiletries and makeup. When she placed her makeup bag into her modestly-sized duffle, realization crashed upon her like an rockslide meeting an anthill. Her heart plummeted into her stomach, and she rushed into the lavatory. She transfigured a bottle of bath oil into a cup and hastily poured some bath salt into it followed by conjuring some water. Tears blurred her vision as the wretched combination assaulted her tongue. She forced herself to swallow and then sprinted to the chamber pot, vomiting.
She expected Loki to reappear, taunt her on the silly attempt of purging the potion he gave her.
Potions could not be purged, for they were magically enhanced brews meant to immediate results.
Hermione gagged over the pot, stripping her stomach—not of the tea—but of the saltwater. She sensed a presence at the lavatory's entry and saw Jane, surprised and concerned.
"Oh, my God, are you all right?" She shuffled over to Hermione's side, crouching beside her and rubbing her back.
"I suddenly became ill," Hermione replied, tears streaming down her cheeks. She spit into the pot and back-crawled away from it, avoiding eye contact with her cousin.
"I'll take you to the healers."
Shaking her head, Hermione waved at Jane dismissively. "I'm all right." The healers would undoubtedly detect the substance Loki gave her and be forced to tell Thor and by lunch, Hermione would have to admit to the sickening, clandestine affair she was having.
Jane would not be pleased; she only tolerated Loki for the sake of Thor. Hermione's cousin was not a hateful person, but she undeniably loathed Loki.
"You're not fine. You're puking," Jane said patronizingly.
"I promise I'm fine." Hermione forced herself to look sheepish. "I stole some grapes from the vineyard. I thought they were ripe, and I ate too many when I got back here to my room."
"Seriously?" Jane chuckled. "Then you deserve this then, huh?"
"Well, I wouldn't go so far to say that I deserve-"
"But you're all right?"
Hermione wiped at her damp face, sniffling. "I will be."
"A carriage is waiting for you in front of the castle, but if you're not ready to go…"
"My stomach will settle by the time I reach the bridge."
The long carriage ride to Heimdall did little soothe her stomach. Before opening the bridge for her, he greeted her with a kindly nod, giving the impression that he knew not what had transpired between her and Loki. She felt both relief and disappointment.
An hour later, Hermione was back in her apartment sipping a citrusy soda drink and reviewing her divorce papers she'd left her bedroom a week before. As badly as she wanted to hide underneath her bed and sob like a child for what Loki had forced upon her, she had problems that needed tending to. Hermione prayed the problems would distract her enough to keep her mind and musings busy. Her next move with Ron was too critical, and she could not afford a mental breakdown.
Later at the ministry, she met with her attorney, and they sat down together to go over the divorce papers and roughly outlined hers and Ron's assets. When they finished, it was nearly five in the afternoon. Hermione went to see Harry, pleased to know he was still in his office and not out in the field. He smiled at her from his desk, nodding.
"Hey, Harry," she said and sat across from him in one of his visiting chair.
"Hermione," he said, setting down his quill. "Your parents said you were at a wedding. Must've been quite the celebration to have pulled you away for a week."
"I didn't realize you called them."
"For Ron…and myself. For him mostly. He sent the papers, and he expected to hear from you sooner."
Sighing, Hermione leaned back in her chair. "I'm going to drop by on him after this, I just thought I would come see you first and tell you…" she nodded slowly and absentmindedly, "I met with my lawyer. Ron and I will be divorcing, and I want you to promise me that you'll still talk to me if the Weasleys aren't feeling up to it?"
"I'm about to lose something a whole lot bigger than a house and half of what's in my Gringotts vault, Harry. I'm going to lose a family. A big one who are going to soon find out why Ron and I decided to separate in the first place. They are going to pick his side, and I expect nothing less. I need to know I'll still have you. You don't have to answer right away. I understand if you have to think about it. I've got time." She put her clasped hands on the desk and explained, "After the divorce, I'm going to leave for a bit. My cousin…she's having a baby and would like my help. I've planned to stay with her for a year."
Harry's brow wrinkled. "She doesn't know about you, does she?"
"No. It'll be an interesting challenge keeping it from her, yeah?"
Harry stared down at his lap and cleared his throat, nodding. "It might be good for you to take some time to yourself."
They left his office together and grabbed some tea to-go from the ministry cafeteria. They parted ways in the atrium, and she left for hers and Ron's house via Floo. When she arrived, she took in the dusty, unused sitting room and spelled away some of the built up grime on the sofa before sitting down. Ten minutes later, Ron arrived and twitched when seeing her.
"Sorry. I just let myself in," she said.
He paused and then shirked his blazer. "It's still your house," he said. He rolled up the cuffs of his white shirt to his elbows and asked, "Where've you been?"
"With family. With my cousin."
"Would you like something to drink?"
"I'd like you to sit, actually."
Annoyance washed over his freckled face, but he took his seat on the sofa. She faced him, pressing her lips pensively together before saying, "I loved this house, you know? I remember how excited I was when we moved in. All I could think about was the family we'd have. Please let me finish, Ron." She sighed and wrung her fingers. "I didn't cheat on you with Malfoy. Not physically and even though I swore your accusations were unfounded, they weren't. I was unfaithful in the sense that I confided in him during the most difficult point in our marriage when I should've come to you. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Ron."
Ron stared at the floor, the man lost in thought as his pointer finger and thumb rubbed at his bottom lip. A moment later, he looked at her asked, "Will you go with me to the therapy sessions with the counselor I wanted?"
Hermione closed her eyes and bowed her head. "I hired a lawyer today."
Ron stood up and raked his fingers through his hair, facing away from to stare at their wedding photograph above the mantle. He asked, "Were we too young?"
"Our age had never been the main reason of our downhills."
"I wanted kids."
"Not having them wasn't the problem, either." Hermione inhaled deeply, and she was very surprised at herself and how well she was holding together. It only stung a little when she continued, "You can still have them, Ron. You'll meet someone else."
"I...I've been having brunch meetings with Cho about investments and other things." He turned around to look at her, slipping his hands into the front pockets of trousers. "Nothing's happened, but I like her company."
"I spent some time with a man while I was visiting my cousin. In the end, I did not care for his company."
"Did you…" She saw the question die on his lips but knew what he wanted to ask. She'd answer if he finished the inquiry. She'd answer honestly.
"Never mind," he said and slid his gaze up at the ceiling. "You can have the house."
"I don't want it."
"Then we sell it. Split the profit."
"All right." She got up from the couch and folded her arms. If only the house could be their one shared asset they invested in, the divorce could be finalized in no more than six weeks. "I ask for no profit from your and George's business, so long as the royalties from my books and manuscripts are mine alone."
Ron looked stricken. Unsurprisingly, the process of their divorce would not be buttery smooth but consist of badly brewed tea and stale crumpets at a conference table while the four of them—she, Ron, and their lawyers—tried to figure out what the hell to do to make them all happy.
A month later, Hermione found herself in Muggle London cafe at a table beside the window. The clouds had broken up enough to delay the downpour for a short while. She had come to the café for a ninety minute reprieve from her negotiation meeting with Ron and their solicitors. She ordered a cup of soup and an iced mocha. Her soup lay cooling and her drink warming as she read over Ron's third proposal concerning the dividing up of their assets. The trouble came from the fact that he wanted some share in her royalties as a novelist and textbook author. Hermione would gladly agree to this if he gave her some profit off his joke shop creations.
It was only fair.
During the more creative periods of their marriage, they had dealt out support to each other. When she had struggled with writer's block, Ron helped her break down the barrier by purposefully pitching terrible, awful ideas. When he and George faced difficulty in forcing a new product behave or function properly, she solved the problem and taught them what to do and how to fix it.
"Have you figured it out yet?"
Bristling at the familiar voice, she peered over the proposal packet and saw Loki draped in the chair across from her as if it were a throne. He was dressed in a crisp white dress shirt accompanied with a black blazer and trousers. His hair was shorter than when she last saw him, his curls coiling at the base of his skull instead of hanging above his shoulder blades.
Hermione folded up the proposal and set it on her lap. "You're not supposed to be here."
"Odin's taken to the Odinsleep. Without his influence, Thor's reigns are more flexible."
"He's occupied with other matters to track your comings and goings. I take it you shrouded yourself from Heimdall."
"Indeed. Alas, I cannot stay long and confess," his eyelids drooped lazily, "my patience thinning for your return to Asgard. My dear Hermione, tell me you've discovered my gift."
"The gift was not for me," she said bitterly. "You cursed me."
"I granted you immortality the same way Jane will receive hers in due time."
"For the same reason?" Hermione arched her brow at Loki's unreadable features. She folded her arms and leaned back in her chair, crossing her legs and tapping the heel of her shoe impatiently on the tile. "Jane accepted an offer that requires a long life. Persuade me, Loki, that you haven't cursed me to thrive while my friends and the rest of family die around me. What've you to offer that makes this burden a gift?"
Loki narrowed his eyes, and she almost detected hurt in them which was ridiculous. Why was he offended? Did he appreciate a goddamned thanks for demolishing her existence by eternalizing it?
Hoping he'd get the hint and leave, Hermione returned to reading Ron's proposal. A minute or so after, Loki shifted in his seat and spoke, "If you happened to suffer an ailment or inadequacy that negatively influenced your being's natural state, the apple of Iðunn remedied the fault. If you were slight of sight or hearing, they are no longer a concern."
Wiping her fingers with her napkin, she said to Loki, her voice quiet yet firm, "I think you should leave."
"Mmm." He nodded and stood from his chair, circling the small table and bending down to press a lingering kiss to her temple. He said nothing more and walked out of the café. He walked by the window she sat by and disappeared.
In her meeting, Hermione wasn't much use, her thoughts coiled around Loki, and how he dared to defy the sentence his father and Thor placed on him. Loki was not allowed to leave Asgard, and he had agreed to the new terms of his imprisonment after his assistance in Greenwich during what Thor called the Covergence.
Her mind elsewhere, the most Hermione could do in her meeting was to make a counter-proposal to Ron's. It would be her third one, and from there, he'd create a fourth. Their disagreement on who got what and how much morphed into a never-ending cycle, and Hermione feared she'd miss Jane's due date. The only thing she and Ron agreed on was the house which had sold rather quickly, the main selling point being that it belonged to the Tragic Magic British Sweethearts of the Golden Trio. A husband and wife paid a ridiculous amount of money for it, and Hermione split the profit evenly with Ron.
Three month later, Ron's solicitor spouted the forbidden a-word three minutes into the meeting, evoking another forbidden word to tumble out of Hermione's mouth.
"Alimony," proposed Mr. Davies.
"No fucking way," hissed Hermione and smacked Ron with a frigid glare.
Her solicitor Susan Bones put a gentle hand on her arm. "Calm down, Mrs. Weasley."
"I will eat you alive in court," Hermione threatened, and Ron shrank back in his chair, vaguely motioning to his lawyer, mutely explaining it was Roger Davies's idea.
"Yes, Mrs. Weasley, please calm yourself," said Mr. Davies as he lazily cleaned his glasses with a handkerchief.
Slowly, Hermione got to her feet, her eyes pinned on Ron's. She braced herself on the table separating them and leaned forward. His gaze dropped to his lap, and she said, "Ron, look at me."
"Don't look at her, Mr. Weasley," Mr. Davies ordered.
"Ronald Bilious Weasley, you look at me."
Reluctantly, he did as she requested and gulped.
"This ends now. The books, the novels, the manuscripts, the baby grand piano, my marriage bands, and the china tea set and dishware your mother gifted us for a wedding gift are mine. I need not and will have no more unless you and Mr. Davies drag this out further. If that be the case, then I will take you to Wizengamot and bleed you dry slowly for months, years, a decade if needs be. We never signed a pre-nup, and the new appointed Chief Warlock is a friend who owes me a great deal. This is my counter-offer" Hermione extended her hand in offering. "Save us both from severe humiliation and take it."
"Mr. Weasley…" started Mr. Davies and then cursed when his client practically dove onto the table to shake Hermione's hand.
Two hours following the agreement and sending the final divorce decree application into the system, Hermione found herself sweating and panting in her bed at her Muggle flat, a little guilty for not showing up for her remaining hours at work. She smacked her lips and wiped her forehead, turning to face Ron, sighing.
"I can't believe we just did that," she said and burst out laughing.
"You were bloody hot in there. Christ," he swore and broke into a grin. "I didn't realize how much I missed you bossing me around. Now I know what all the fuss is about concerning breakup sex."
"Divorce sex," Hermione corrected, her mood sobering. "It was good. And bad. Really bad. We were supposed to go back to work and didn't. We haven't done that since-"
"We first got married," he finished. "You know, Hermione…"
"This was a one-last-time thing? I know." She sat up and nodded, stretching her arms above her head to loosen the muscles in her shoulders and back. She let them fall heavily to her sides, and she said, "It's okay. I'm going to be putting in my two weeks' notice at work very soon, and my parents are going to be renting this place out to someone else in a couple of months."
"Where are you going?"
Hermione hesitated for a millisecond. "Norway. My cousin's about to have a baby, and I'm going to help her and her husband out. I plan to be gone for a year."
"This cousin is the one that got married a while back?"
"Are you going to date while you're there?"
She didn't miss the slight quivering encased in the question.
Hermione curled up her legs to rest her chin on her knees. "I'll be a little busy. I think you should, though. Invite Cho to a real lunch or something."
Ron said nothing for a while and then sat up, reaching for his pants on the floor. "Does Harry know you're leaving?"
"I told him. He was encouraging."
"He's probably right. Maybe I should do the same. Go see Charlie."
"I'm sure he'd like that."
Hermione and Ron conversed for a half-hour more before she walked him. She waved goodbye to him at her doorstep as approached the staircase. He returned the gesture and gave a tired but genuine smile. She didn't know it then, but she and Ron wouldn't see each other again for a very, very long time.