Author's Note: In the past six months, my personal life has changed dramatically. Though there have been a number of large changes as a result, the main change has been my divorce. Encouraged to journal out my feelings and experiences during this really shitty time, I decided nah. That sounds depressing and boring. Much like I did with The Minister's Secret and how it dealt with certain aspects of my past that were traumatic (domestic violence in dating relationships, toxic relationships, sexual assault, etc.) I thought of a different idea for this moment in my life. So, whether anyone wanted it or not, here's a new story I'm working on. There is no set update schedule. It happens when it happens. Yeah, another weird pairing. I know. I like to be odd, I guess.
This story is written for a Mature audience as we will be dealing with Adult themes and situations. Though I don't usually offer content warnings in my stories because of personal preferences, you can be assured that this story will discuss infidelity, infertility, pregnancy loss, alcohol use/misuse, and lots more fun adult content.
This is NOT a Weasley-bashing story. If you are wanting a story where you can just hate on the Weasley Family and review about what pieces of shit they all are, please find another story. As Ron is the character in Harry Potter that I most identify with, I'm a little protective of him. Just like I make mistakes and you make mistakes, so will he. And so will Hermione. Lots of mistakes. Hello, human beings!
If there is a villain in this story, it is not a Weasley. It might be denial, anger, frustration, pettiness, lack of self-control or a host of other negative emotions, but it's not an actual person with red hair. As always, you can follow for updates on my Tumblr - Canimallow.
Life was not always very happy for Hermione Granger-Weasley. She hated to admit so even when the only person who knew was herself. It seemed wrong somehow to be dissatisfied with the life she had been given. There were many people who hadn't been nearly so fortunate.
She was married to a man she loved dearly. Even if the passion that had consumed the early years of their relationship had cooled to an almost depressing degree, there was still love there. Maybe not the all-consuming, can't-imagine-taking-a-single-breath-without-you love, but didn't most people notice a drop in the heat of their marriages as time passed? At times it felt like they were little more than flatmates. Happy to share the same living space and very little else.
Complaining about the absence of heat in her marriage just seemed wrong when there was so much laughter. There might not have been much more than sleeping done in their bed for longer than she really wanted to consider, but there were always deep, meaningful conversations and laughing until they couldn't breathe. Ron was her best friend. Sometimes it hurt her just a little bit when she recognized that if asked the question, he would claim Harry as his before her every time. She'd had years to brush off the little prick of pain straight to her heart when she knew she was only ever second-best.
There were lots of people in the world who had never had the privilege of marrying someone they loved. Either no one ever fell for them or they tragically lost them at a young age. Hermione was lucky in that way. What right did she have to be disappointed when she had more than so many others?
Just as she always planned when she was a student at Hogwarts, she had a job at the Ministry for Magic. Thanks to her tireless devotion and hard work, house-elves throughout Britain were still being dismissed as lesser beings by the wizarding world at large and the vast majority of them refused to accept the paltry pittance that they were offered in exchange for performing the duties they were ordered by their former masters. She had singlehandedly started a mission that brought about the freedom of an entire species. That was something that she knew she should be proud of and happy about.
Except the job wasn't nearly as interesting as she thought it would be. It had taken years to get any progress done. Even when she was forced to rely upon the little bit of celebrity she still possessed after her contributions to the war. She had a single assistant in her office who, while she never claimed so, would much rather have worked for just about any other division within the Ministry. There might have been much more exciting divisions in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures than the House-Elf Post-Freedom Career Development Office, but they were doing such important work that it felt like neither witch should really ever feel the need to look wistfully at the others in their Department who seemed to enjoy their work so much more. She had accomplished the goal she set forth when she was in fourth year. That was something to be proud of, something that should have given her great joy and fulfillment.
Hermione lost count the number of times that she accidentally fell asleep at her desk during the course of a normal workweek. It wasn't as if she could even use the excuse that she had been at the office late the night before working. She never worked late. Not anymore. Not since the second year of her marriage when Ron insisted that she start coming home at a decent hour. They hardly saw each other in those first several months. He was often away on Auror duties while she buried herself in the Ministry library searching for any snippet of information or historical precedent that could further her case for the house-elves still in bondage. It had been a struggle, but she agreed that for the sake of their marriage, they needed to spend more time together.
When she found herself sighing to herself throughout the day, she would stop and ask why she was upset. Or bored. Or dissatisfied. She had a happy marriage, a wonderful husband, a beautiful home, a few close friends that she loved, and a career that more than paid for the bills. It was a damn sight more than a lot of people could claim. She should learn to be thankful. No one needed to see her be unhappy. So, even though it was damn near impossible at times to ignore the sinking in her gut that she was wasting her life, Hermione soldiered on with a convincing smile on her face that everything was going well. Used to lying to herself and everyone around her that life was perfect in the Granger-Weasley home, she should've known that eventually it was all going to come tumbling down.
On a blistering hot June evening, she opened every window in their flat to try to bring some sort of cool breeze inside. It was an exercise in futility, but she refused to be one of those people who just gave in to the hot weather as an excuse to lie about and do nothing productive. She wasn't wired that way. Determined to put a smile on the face of her husband that had been too-serious as of late, she made the decision before she left work that day that she would make his favorite meal for dinner. Though she knew she would never be able to out-do his mother when it came to cooking, Hermione was proud of the improvements she'd made in her own domesticity over the years.
As she bustled around the hot kitchen applying cooling charm after cooling charm to her face, she felt confident that they were going to have a lovely evening together. It had been so long since they'd actually sat down together for a quiet meal at home. Either they were at one of the many other Weasley homes for a boisterous meal with relatives or they were at a busy restaurant surrounded by noisy strangers. Carrying on a real, adult conversation was damn near impossible in those conditions. She hoped that they could finally have a chance to talk about some of the serious issues that always seemed to be looming in the back of their marriage. A little step in the right direction was all she was asking for. No one expected a miracle.
When George asked his younger brother to help him in the joke shop, she had been overjoyed. Being an auror had sounded like such a great idea to Ron when they were still running about the countryside fighting Dark wizards, but it hadn't taken long before he realized he didn't enjoy it as much as he thought he would. First, Neville left the department to pursue his interest in Herbology. That hadn't been a surprise. Their fellow Gryffindor had done his fair share of fighting and was ready for a quiet, peaceful life. Hermione hadn't been surprised when Ron came home to announce he wanted to resign. To be honest, she was thrilled. It was hard going to bed each night wondering if she would get the sharp knock on her front door to tell her that her husband was dead. She believed that when he started working at a less stressful job with better hours that they would finally be able to spend the time together they never could seem to find.
It had been a foolish hope. There was always something that would come up that would keep Ron from coming home at a decent hour. An error with the latest shipment. A shop assistant owling in sick. A dinner meeting with potential wholesalers or investors that ran late. Research and development that always seemed to take longer than expected. Other times it was just meeting his mates at The Leaky Cauldron for a few pints that turned into a few more and then a few more until he was too drunk to Apparate home.
She never had any reason not to trust her husband. Early in their relationship when they were setting boundaries and expectations they both brought up the subject of jealousy. Each promised they would trust their spouse up until the very moment they were given reason to not. So far in almost ten years together, Hermione had not had cause for concern. Ron was a good man. Far from being perfect, but still a good, honorable wizard.
When dinner was ready sharply at seven o'clock and her husband wasn't home, she wasn't worried yet. Warming charms had been invented for a reason. By eight, she was a teensy bit annoyed. If he was planning on working late in the shop, he could have at least had the courtesy to owl her. At nine, she was done waiting for the pleasure of his company. She attacked her food with her fork, imagining that each piece of chicken was his freckled face. Ten o'clock found the kitchen spotless and the frustrated wife soaking in a hot bubble bath. She had worked so hard to make the meal special. Why couldn't he be bothered to expend at least as much effort as she did? Why was she always the one making the concessions?
It was half-past eleven when she heard the front door open from the comfort of her empty bed. Ron didn't even bother to be quiet as he shuffled inside their dark flat, a clear sign that he'd been out for drinks. On nights he was in the lab with George, he returned exhausted, but still conscientious about the level of noise he made. When he had been drinking, all bets were off. She lay in the bed fuming. Did he have any idea how dreadful it felt to be left home alone almost every single night of the week? As much as he might have denied being intentionally hurtful, wondering if her husband would rather spend his time with anyone else in the world other than his wife cut Hermione to the core. Years might have passed since she ran to hide in the girls' bathroom with a mountain troll because she was so upset that no one wanted to be her friend, but those insecurities were still present.
Maybe it would have been better if she had just closed her eyes and pretended to sleep. What good could come of arguing right before bed? It would do nothing but make them both irritable and neither of them would get a good night's sleep. Yes, in hindsight, she would have probably been better off just ignoring her hurt feelings, but discord and deep-seated marital issues always have a way of making their way to the surface at inconvenient times.
"Where were you?"
She hated how shrill her voice could get when she was upset. Judging by the closing of his eyes and the clenching of his eyelids, so did Ron. He wasn't swaying in place, a sign that he hadn't had as much to drink as he usually did. Before he answered the question, her husband took a deep breath and sighed.
"Dean and Seamus were in London. We went to the Leaky when the shop closed."
Even though she knew she still had every right to be upset with him for rudely neglecting to inform her where he'd been, she hesitated to keep up the discussion. Their fellow Gryffindors were so rarely in the country. They travelled so much with Seamus' job. Dean, a well-respected magical portrait painter, could work just about anywhere. When they came in, of course she expected her husband to make every effort to spend some time with them. But, maybe it would have been nice to have been invited. Though not as close to them as Ron was, she still considered them her friends.
"Oh, I didn't know that."
"Look, I'm sorry, love. I didn't mean to be out so late."
He sniffed at the air and headed straight for the kitchen. Without even acknowledging her efforts, he picked up the plate still under the warming charm and tucked in. She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms at his singleminded nature. There could have been a dozen other people in the room with them and he wouldn't have noticed them with the pleasant distraction of dinner. Some things never changed.
"You could've sent an owl, Ronald. I made you dinner and just sat here all night wondering where you were."
His second sigh infuriated her further. What was she saying that was so terribly unreasonable? Her feelings might have been hurt, but that didn't make her point any less valid.
"I'm sorry. I just lost track of time."
"It's almost as if you… like you…"
She couldn't say the words that she wanted to say. Even if she knew the truth without uttering them. Thoughts that were left unspoken could easily be pushed away and ignored. Once spoken, however, it was much harder to pretend they didn't exist.
"Like I what, Hermione?"
Ron was in the mood for a verbal sparring match. Or at the very least he wasn't in the mood to avoid one. They could fight for hours if they allowed themselves. Sometimes, they made up for the lack of passion in the bedroom by having the most spectacular rows.
"It doesn't matter."
She didn't want to accuse him of not wanting to spend any time with her because she feared that he might admit it if she did. How else was she supposed to take a man who never wanted to come home? Hoping she could try to calm herself down enough to get to sleep at a decent hour, she turned on her heel and headed back to the bedroom.
Several minutes passed where she lay under the covers in the dark of the bedroom willing the hot tears that were filling her eyes to go away. Ron hated when she cried, said that she used it as a manipulation tactic. Maybe there was truth to it. Mostly, however, she just felt the urge to weep. She strained her ears listening for the sounds of her husband finishing his dinner, cleaning up his plate and heading to bed. He was so quiet that she wasn't even aware he was in the doorway until she heard him speak.
"I want a divorce."
Four words she'd thought she would have heard in the past more than a few times. Four words she probably should have heard before that moment. Regardless of the expectation that at some point they would come to this place, his softly spoken statement shook her to her bones. Flipping over to look in his eyes, she'd never seen him look so serious in all of the years they'd known each other.
His third sigh of the night didn't anger her like perhaps it should have. She could hear the sadness in his tone, the resignation and the fear. This wasn't a spur of the moment decision. Maybe all of the drinking he'd done with his mates was to build up the courage he needed to make the request that threatened to rip her beating heart from her chest.
"All we ever do is fight, Hermione. When I'm home, you're mad at me."
"Because you're never home."
"That's not it and you know it. We just… we don't work.
He stood in the doorway waiting for her to respond to his statement. Waiting for her to argue. She couldn't. Later, when she could take a moment to stop and dissect what he was saying and truly understand what he meant maybe she could. But, not then. Instead, she threw the covers off and jumped out of bed.
Other wives faced with the same position might have gone straight to cursing him or screaming. Hermione didn't have the energy. She grabbed her bathrobe off of the back of the bedroom door as she pushed past him without speaking. Once her feet were crammed into the first pair of shoes she could find nearest the front door, she stepped out into the corridor of their building. Unsure where she was going to go, she knew she just needed to get away.
Walking that late at night wasn't a safe option. She just needed to get away from their flat, away from her husband. Just for a few minutes. An hour, maybe. Spinning in place, she thought of a place she knew where she could find at least an empty room she could be alone in.
The Ministry of Magic was almost completely deserted at midnight on a Tuesday. Or, she supposed it was Wednesday. There were some souls wandering around the massive underground building. Aurors on the late shift or members of the Magical Maintenance Department mostly. None of them were likely to bother her. She just wanted to sit in her office and think over what just happened back at home. Make some kind of sense of it.
Wishing to avoid anyone she might run into in the lifts, she pushed open the neglected door to the rarely used stairs. Most of the Ministry officials avoided the stairs whenever possible. Hermione found the simple act of just walking to her office usually helped clear her head. Very rarely did she ever see a single person in the narrow, dark space.
She was past Level Two and halfway to Level Three when she first spotted the man's back. Holding what looked like a pack of Muggle cigarettes in one hand, he seemed to be using the emptiness of the stairwell to indulge in a disgusting vice.
"Smoking isn't allowed in the Ministry."
He spun around with one unlit hanging between his lips. Annoyed and clearly on the verge of telling her to mind her own business, when their eyes met, a smirk curled up in the corner of his mouth.
"Are you going to tell on me for being a very bad boy?"
Cormac McLaggen might have been older than he had been when they were at Hogwarts, but very little about him seemed to have changed. She'd forgotten that he was employed at the Ministry. Somewhere in one of the departments she didn't care much for. Probably one that Rose would've preferred to be in. He hadn't been there long. Maybe a few weeks. Their paths had yet to cross and she was cursing her poor luck. Of all of the times to run into the rude, obnoxious braggart who once attempted to swallow her tongue underneath the mistletoe, that had to have been the worst.
"Forget it, McLaggen. Just try not to burn the building down."
She didn't like how his eyes moved up and down her body in a clear examination. It wasn't disgusting as she expected. As his eyes took in the fact that she was wearing an old bathrobe over her pajamas and a pair of boots that really didn't match, there was both confusion and curiosity present.
"Are you all right, Granger? Is something wrong?"
Hearing his tone was the final straw. She had to get away from him. If there was one thing she couldn't bear to see in another person's face, it was pity. Hermione feared that if she looked up, she would see it splashed all over his admittedly still quite handsome face. Instead, she attempted to walk past him. A gentle grasp of her arm impeded her progress.
"What's going on, Hermione?"
Maybe it was the way he used her first name instead of falling back to old habits. Maybe it was the tenderness in his voice. Or maybe it was when she got the courage to look up into his face she saw nothing but concern. No pity at all. Emotions had a funny way of making themselves known when one least wanted them. She dropped her eyes from his to hide the tears that were steadily streaming down her cheeks.
He didn't ask for permission. Didn't check to make sure it was all right before he enveloped her frame in his arms and pulled her against his chest. She knew it was wrong to seek comfort from a human being she loathed, but she didn't care. For the first time in a long time, she actually felt like someone cared what happened to her. It might have been all an act, something he would use later to blackmail her or taunt her with. Again, she didn't care.
"Whatever it is, I'm sure you'll be all right. They haven't invented a problem yet that Hermione Granger doesn't know the answer to."
She knew deep down that it wasn't meant unkindly, that he was making an attempt at a joke to lighten the mood. Truthfully, it was much sweeter than anything she could've imagined would come out of his mouth. But kind or not, it had the effect of breaking the strange spell that had fallen over them both. She pushed herself back from his chest, wiped at her eyes, and glared up at the wizard.
"I am just fine, McLaggen. I don't need any of your help."
Far from being offended, his chuckles still rang in her ear as she continued her walk down the stairs.