Story: Starting Over
Synopsis: Hermione and Ron's marriage fails after the loss of their first child. Several months later she is given the chance to try and start over. Will she take it? Can a new love mend the pain of an old one, or are their some scars that never heal.
Beta Love: Thank you oblivionbaby for working your magic on this final chapter. You are amazing.
Disclaimer: I am not profiting from this story. Anything you recognize belongs to the great and mighty JKR.
Chapter Twenty Seven
"What do you think," Hermione asked, biting her lip as she looked across the table at Harry. He had brought four copies of the Prophet to her and Draco's tent that morning, and the two couples sat down to read in silence.
"It's good," Harry told her.
"It's not too much?" she asked, letting her eyes move down to the photos spread across the two pages that held their story. There were several photos of the group, one of Ron and Draco near each other laughing, Hermione and the girls talking, smiles on their faces as they spoke, but the largest image was a repeated loop of Draco pulling her into his arms and kissing her deeply after France had caught the snitch. The article started with a recap of the one Rita had published months ago, followed by the story they had told of falling in love after being reunited by the article and living near each other. There was some of Ron's bit about how happy he was for them and the impending arrival of his child, and then the news of her promotion to the Head of the Improper Use of Magic Office. It spun their love story in a way that made Hermione feel like she looked a bit lovesick, but she supposed that was better than being a cheating homewrecker.
"Of course it is," Draco said, looking up from his own copy. "Which is what it needs to be."
"I agree," Ginny piped in, cradling her tea before her. "It's got to look like you two had no choice but to fall for one another. The pictures are good. That kiss." She winked at them, and Hermione felt her cheeks tinge. She was very glad her parents would not be getting a copy of the Prophet.
"Hopefully, I'll do something important in Misuse that will make me look like a bit less of an airhead," Hermione told them as she closed her copy of the s and pushed it away.
"No one who spends ten seconds around you would call you an airhead," Harry told her.
"You're going to have the Minister's endorsement. Everyone knows your name. We have years to get past you being dumb enough to fall for me. It's going to be fine." Draco smirked at her, and she couldn't help but laugh back at him.
"So true. They will all forgive your weakness," Harry told her, closing his own copy as Draco faked a glare in his direction. "So, you going to lay low for a while then?"
"No," Draco said. "We're going to try and get the staring and gawking over as quickly as possible." They had decided this was the best path to take to make it look as if they had nothing to hide or be ashamed of. They would go out shopping together, have meals in restaurants, and had plans to attend three separate Ministry functions as a couple in the coming months.
"Harry and I made an appointment for you both to look at a house tonight," Ginny told them cheerily.
"What?" Hermione asked, her head snapping to her friend. "We could have still been at the match. The cup goes on for days sometimes."
"Oh, stop it." Ginny rolled her eyes. "Like you were going to spend more than one day watching a Quidditch match. I'm surprised you made it to the end of that one. I'm proud of you."
"I've given up on finding a house," Draco informed the Potters. "We're never going to agree. We will live in those two tiny flats for the rest of our lives."
"If you would just give up on having room for an entire Quidditch team to come visit, we would be able to find something." Hermione gave him a pointed stare, but he seemed entirely unaffected.
"A quarter of my books wouldn't fit in the places you've liked, and I'm fairly certain I have about a third of the number you probably have stashed away somewhere," Draco countered. Hermione tried not to think of her Gringotts vault, which may or may not be holding the majority of her library, and just continued to glare at him as if she was entirely unaffected by his words.
"We're never moving," Harry told Ginny.
"It's a friend of ours. Her father is moving in with her, and they need to sell his home. They haven't listed it yet. Harry will take you tonight," Ginny said with a tone of finality.
Harry apparated with Draco and Hermione that night, landing them all in front of a stone covered home. It was smaller than Draco would have preferred, but larger than anything Hermione had wanted to this point, so he supposed that was acceptable. He glanced towards her to find her staring hesitantly at the home. Draco turned, taking in the scenery around them. It was bare of any signs of habitation outside of the house.
"There isn't really anyone else around. A house or two you can't see, but they won't bother you," Harry told them. "Do you want to go in?"
"Might as well," Hermione said. As Harry led the way down the path, Draco took Hermione's hand. He was so beyond tired of looking at homes. He just wanted to be done with this and have all of their things in one place. He could no longer handle living out of two flats while having to hunt down missing items. It was unbearable.
When they reached the front door, it opened to reveal a pretty young woman with her dark hair tied back. She was wearing jeans and a loose t-shirt. Her face was flushed from exertion, but her smile was wide. "Harry," she cried cheerily as she engulfed the man in her arms.
Draco stared, his mouth gaping. Someone, likely Hermione, thrust their elbow into his side. He stammered over something that was supposed to be a greeting while the girl clearly attempted not to laugh at him.
"He likes Quidditch, huh?" the woman asked, reaching for Hermione's hand, which she shook firmly. "Wilda Griffiths."
"Yes. I'm sorry. I'm not a huge fan though," Hermione apologized.
"I actually prefer it that way," Wilda told her with a shrug. "Reminds me I'm human."
"Your … Your family is a - " Draco round on Harry then. "A family friend?"
Harry shrugged, flushing. "Well, she is. She played with Gin."
"How is she doing with this one?" Wilda asked. "She gonna come back to torture us soon? Gwenog would take her on as a coach, surely. That woman can fly." The note of amazement in her own voice seemed to finally make Draco aware of the fact that she was human.
"I'm so sorry, Ms. Griffiths, I was just surprised."
"Wilda," she told him, waving her hand at him. "Come on in. We're packing everything up right now, but this house is really lovely. I hope you both love it. I would really like it to go to someone that needs a bit of an escape."
Wilda Griffiths wanted him to buy her father's house. Griffiths was the descendant of many professional Quidditch players, but his favorite of her line was Glynnis who was famous for ending a seven day match against the Heidelberg Harriers by catching the snitch. He never would have admitted it to his father, but that witch had been his idol all those years ago. Seven days of Quidditch, and she took the fewest breaks on either side. It had been pouring rain and pitch black when she finally wrapped her fingers around that elusive golden ball that had been the bane of his childhood in many ways. "This is it," Draco whispered under his breath to Hermione.
She looked at him like he was crazy, but she would see; this was a Griffiths home.
The day Hermione began her new position as head of the Improper Use of Magic office, Lavender Brown delivered a perfectly healthy baby boy. Hermione learned of his arrival that evening at dinner with the Potters and Draco. Hermione hadn't been sure what she would feel when the news came, so she was surprised at the wave of relief that engulfed her. Ron's child, a boy who would be showered in love, was healthy, safe, and alive. She had allowed herself a minute with her eyes closed and her breathing slow and steady, acknowledging the tension that had crept into her heart all those months ago when she had learned that Lavender was pregnant and releasing it into the world.
They celebrated the birth, Hermione's first day, and the fact that Draco and Hermione had finally settled on the Griffiths house with wine, food, and laughter. James and Albus coerced Draco into playing a game of some sort that involved running in circles and giggling wildly, and Hermione had sat firmly on the couch to watch them have at it. At bed time, Harry scooped Albus up, and James had turned his irresistible sweetness on Draco to ask him to read Babbity Rabbity.
"You don't want me to read it?" Hermione teased him, feigning a sad frown. James had just giggled again and looked expectantly at Draco whose eyes were wide.
"I, er, I guess?" he said, more to Ginny than the boy who was doing the asking.
"Of course," Ginny told him. James cheered, racing over to the stairs to stomp hard on each one as he made his way to his room. Ginny nearly snorted at the expression on Draco's face. "It's a good thing, Malfoy. My children like you. Go with it."
"You had better get the voices right!" Hermione called after him as he turned to follow James.
"I don't do voices," Draco said firmly.
"You do now," Ginny informed him, doing her best to control her laughter.
Hermione had resisted the temptation to get up right away and follow them, instead, she forced herself to fall back into conversation with Ginny instead. She wasn't entirely convinced Draco could handle bedtime James, but Harry would be just around the corner if he needed to step in. After twenty minutes, Ginny moved off the couch to go get a glass of water, and Hermione took the opportunity to go check on the book reading.
She found Harry standing in the hallway, his arms folded across his chest as he gazed into his son's room. At her approach, he raised a finger to his lips. She quietly closed the distance between them and took in the sight of her boyfriend, Draco Malfoy, softly reading Babbity Rabbity. His voice was low and soothing. As he read, James' eyes drooped slowly shut and then popped open and began to close again.
"Can you believe this?" Harry whispered. "Malfoy is reading my kid a bedtime story."
"It's still all a bit crazy," Hermione agreed as she leaned her head onto his shoulder. Harry's arm moved around her back, pulling her in as they watched the display in silent amazement.
That night, when they Flooed home to their building, Draco had seemed suddenly on edge, prepared for the worst, surely anticipating that the news of Ron's son could be upsetting, but it never came. Hermione had grabbed his hand in hers, leaned in to kiss the corner of his mouth, and told him, "I'm okay. Promise." He had sighed in relief and returned the kiss.
They had moved up the stairs, talking about Hermione's day as they made their way to his flat. Once inside, they walked back into the bedroom and fell into their nightly routine. Hermione stripped off the day's clothes and began to rub lotion into her skin. On his way to the bathroom, Draco dropped a kiss on her shoulder, sending shivers down her spine. By the time she was ready for bed, he had been reading for nearly twenty minutes. Hermione set her wand on the bedside table and crawled under the covers, moving over to him. Draco kissed her head as his arm wrapped around her shoulders, but continued to read.
"Draco?" Hermione asked, staring at the bedroom door.
"Hm?" he answered, his eyes still on the words before him.
"We're buying a house together," she told him, her voice trembling just the slightest at this. Draco shut the book.
"Yes. We are," he agreed. Even if it hadn't belonged to the Griffiths, the house was perfect. There were four bedrooms upstairs, one for them, an office each, and a guest room. The kitchen was large with plenty of room for entertaining their family or friends, and the seclusion allowed for a scaled down Quidditch pitch which Wilda had happily shown off to them. It would be at least a few weeks before anything could be settled, but they were buying a house.
Hermione's fingers moved across the soft expanse of the blanket to wrap themselves in his. "Do you want children?" she asked.
"I thought we weren't talking about that," Draco told her.
"I think it might be time," Hermione moved, shifting her body to face him, not letting go of his hand. There was a furrow of concern on his brow. Her heart beat wildly. She couldn't get the image of him reading Babbity Rabbity while James fell asleep out of her head. Even with his tone soft and low, he'd done voices.
"I … I don't know," he told her, his eyes traveling down to their hands.
"If I was anyone else, if you were buying a home with some other woman who you felt this way about, would you be thinking about it?" she asked, sure she knew the answer.
"That isn't fair. I'm not with anyone else. I'm with you," he was clearly frustrated, trying to end the conversation.
"I know," she said simply, and they sat there. Silence filled the air between them, thick and heavy.
When it was nearly unbearable, and Hermione was regretting bringing it up at all, Draco sighed, and opened his mouth. "I … Fuck." He ran a hand over his face. "Do I really have to say it?"
"Yes," she croaked.
"Then fine. I think about it. All the time. Before I was with you, it was just kind of something I always assumed would happen because it was what was expected, but for the first time, I want a baby, because I want a baby with you." His eyes bored into hers. "I … I know that's shit, and I shouldn't, but I just think about what our kid would be like, and I know you would be an incredible mother, and I think, maybe, just possibly, I could be a better Dad than …" he trailed off, and he started coughing, clearing his throat.
Hermione sat silent, her mind running over his words as she watched him struggle to control his emotions. Her own ability to speak seemed long gone. She couldn't even find words to describe what she was feeling to herself, let alone respond to him. Her fingers tightened. They had to be hurting him, but he didn't seem to care.
After a long pause, Draco looked back to her. "If I'm laying it all out there, I'm ready for anything with you, Hermione. I've known that I want to marry you for months, and that's insane, and I keep telling myself that something is going to happen. That this is too easy and fast, but, fuck, maybe that's the point. Maybe it being this easy to fall in love with you means that it's right."
"You … I …" Hermione reeled, her mind was torn on which admission to focus on. He wanted a baby, but he wanted to marry her. "Marry?" she asked, unable to be more coherent.
"Marry," he repeated.
"I … people would think we are crazy." Hermione insisted. The response had been better than either of them could have hoped for. There were some stirrings that the whole thing was a publicity stunt, orchestrated to make them look better after having an affair. Some people even went as far as to suggest that they were paying Ron and Lavender to lie for them, but mostly it was good. People were staring every time they left their building, but it seemed more out of interest than any malicious intent. That was for dating though. What if they were engaged? What if they were married? Did she want to be married again?
"Who cares? They think we are crazy anyway. The people that matter know the truth." His thumb rubbed gentle circles on the side of her hand.
"Just to be clear," she asked, her throat dry, "are you asking?"
"Yes," he said simply. "I am." He looked nearly as surprised as her, but his voice was steady and sure.
"Draco, seeing you with James, with both of them, it isn't that I don't want to; I do, I'm just scared, and I don't know if that will ever change. I wish I could say that one day, I will be ready, and we can have a family, but I don't know." The idea of keeping him from that, from being that to his own children tore at her, clenching her heart in a vice.
"I don't care," he said, and she opened her mouth to protest. Draco held up a hand to stop her. "I mean … that isn't really right. I care. I would love that, but if it doesn't happen … you and me ... this is enough." She tried to think of something else, some reason that she couldn't do that, that she didn't want this, but there was nothing. Nothing but the way that falling in love with him had transformed her into a new version of herself, not quite the old Hermione, but someone who was happy and able to find joy and purpose in her life again, even in the suffocating moments, a new, stronger version of who she used to be.
"Yes," she whispered. "Yes," she said again, louder this time. She barely had time to process his reaction before his mouth was on hers, pulling her closer. She wrapped her arms around him, and Draco lowered her to the bed, kissing her as he moved.
"I love you," he murmured against her skin as his mouth moved down her jaw to her neck.
"I love you," she responded. The absolute joy racing through her body was electric, and it bubbled out of her in a spurts of laughter as he pushed her shirt up and off her arms.
"I promise I will get you a ring tomorrow, as soon as the damn shops open. I wasn't really expecting, even if, that you said yes, I can't …" He was rambling, and Hermione bit at her smile, trying to control her own emotions. "I just don't want you to think I haven't thought this through. I swear if I thought you would have, I would have asked ages ago."
Hermione laughed again, pulling his mouth back to hers. "I don't care about the ring, Draco," she whispered quickly against his lips, "just you."
"I'm never letting you go," he replied, and she knew it was true. He knew every facet of her brokenness, and he was still in. He had made that dedication clear from the very beginning and proven it to her time and time again.
A/N: This is the end, but I will doing some edits on it, going back to add in things my beta team have found that I have not and doing some cleaning, but this is the story. I hope that you feel I did it justice. I would love to hear your thoughts, but more than that, I just want to thank each and every one of you. This story has experienced so much love. It makes me so happy to share it with you all, and to be lucky enough to have such incredible readers and reviewers.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
If you would like to read more of my writing, check out my author's page. I have a bunch of OS and a finished Scorose full length on there. I'm currently working on another Dramione WIP, Reformed, if you want to catch up on that and take another ride with me. I am in the outlining and resisting writing stage of a Marauder's fic that focuses on Sirius, so I'm here. I'm still writing, and I would love for you to keep reading.