Author's Notes: New story. After suffering from a tremendous bout of writer's block for several weeks, I had momentary bursts of inspiration, but they didn't work with my other WIP. I fell in love with what I had written and decided I had to find a way to use it and after another few weeks of tossing idea after idea around, one of my lovelies on Tumblr offered me a truly inspired headcanon and I couldn't refuse.

Trinkisme, you have my never-ending gratitude. You set this in motion and gave me my start. I adore you endlessly for it.

I must send love and kisses to themourningmadam, as well. Thank you, darling, for all the encouragement and excitement you shared with me earlier. It's quite an honor to earn the respect and admiration of someone you look up to and adore. Our conversation meant quite a bit to me. And I still say that you're much too kind.

As always, I do not own Harry Potter or any of the recognizable, trademarked characters named within this story. Queen JKR holds all the power, I'm merely a lowly peasant playing make-believe.

Hermione Granger's life had not gone according to plan, to say the very least. At age sixty, she lived alone with her kneazle Artemis - bought a few years after Crookshanks passed from old age. She married Ronald at twenty, though she felt they were too young and had much yet to accomplish. But it seemed so important to him and she felt she could deny him nothing. She agreed and walked down the aisle and made her vows. Hermione felt empty when they kissed to solidify their union. Something felt wrong, something was missing - but he looked so happy and carefree that she tried not to let it bother her. Most likely wedding day jitters, she told herself.

It was not.

Ronald wanted a family. Immediately. She wanted a career, there would be plenty of time for children. They were barely adults themselves. They argued viciously over it and in the end, Hermione had given in. It wasn't like she couldn't have a career and children, perhaps it would be more difficult but children were gifts from the greater powers that be and she had always wished to be someone's mummy.

It should have been a wondrous time in her life. Newly married and shagging like crazy to ensure a little Weasley would be growing in her womb, they should have been blissfully happy. And maybe, for a little while, they were. The time when the mediwitch informed her that she didn't have the muggle flu or dragon pox, but instead her vomiting at all hours of the day and night was because she was with child - she'd never seen Ronald smile so widely.

That was a joyous time, for roughly six weeks.

And then she lost the baby. He blamed her. Didn't comfort her. Was so angry with her.

And Hermione hadn't known what to do to make it better. Her heart was shattered, her little miracle was gone and she just didn't know what to do.

Ronald decided they would try again. Immediately. She didn't think she could. Hermione begged him to allow her to heal, to get over this all-encompassing loss they'd both experienced. He accepted, on the terms that after a year they would try again. He barely touched her in that year, though she was thankful for it.

The blame for losing their child weighed so heavily on her soul, and the fact that she'd never thought for a moment that it was her fault until he spoke those words - well, she didn't want him to touch her. She didn't want to speak to him if she could avoid it. He was always so angry. Hermione attributed it to the war and all the losses they all faced. They were damaged, of course, but still. That he could be so cruel and callous to the woman he said he loved more than anything, it cut her to the core.

Hermione spent that year in a daze of depression and mourning. She no longer wished to be the youngest Minister of Magic, she no longer wanted to spend her every waking moment playing the political game. Instead, she took a potions apprenticeship with St. Mungo's and worked in relative privacy. She didn't need to be surrounded by people all the time and tried to emulate Severus Snape. She'd get her mastery and terrify everyone that even dared look at her the wrong way. It felt like a good plan.

Once the year had passed, Ronald made sure to remind her that they had an agreement and shortly thereafter, she found that she was pregnant once more. Hermione did everything she could to make this little one stick, cut back on her hours of study, refused to allow herself to get upset, ate all the proper healthy things pregnant women should, she avoided caffeine and alcohol. It was all for naught. She lost their little girl at five months. It was much harder the second time around. She had felt her daughter move. Seen her stomach swelling with the life inside her. It destroyed a part of her.

And Ronald, sweet Merlin, he was brute about it. "Brightest witch of our age can't figure out how to keep a baby alive inside her own body? For fuck's sake, Hermione! Can't you do anything right?!"

She cried herself to sleep for months after that.

It was brutal and tragic and what's worse is that she began to believe him. This was all her fault, and she couldn't deny it. Ginny had already birthed two beautiful children and Hermione couldn't keep even one growing babe safe whilst in her own womb. It broke something inside of her. She continued on, going through the motions, accepting Ronald's abuse and torment, because she knew it came from his own pain - though she also knew he was in the wrong.

For a while, she didn't even have to ask for time before trying again. Ronald wanted nothing to do with her. He spent many nights in his Auror's office. They barely spoke to one another. There was no affection. No love or laughter. Just two people, barely making it through the days. Two years seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, and Hermione found herself living a half-life. She was proud of her accomplishments and was well on her way to being a Potions Master but that was all. She barely saw her friends, and there was nothing between her and Ronald these days. Part of her wished he would just leave, leave and find some other witch that could give him as many redheaded babies as she could and Hermione could disappear into the shadows never to be heard from again.

But Ronald was a prideful and boastful man. He had wanted Hermione because she was treated like wizarding royalty after the war. Well loved and sought after, he enjoyed possessing her and letting the world know she was his. Hermione loathed it. She wanted to be cherished and adored, not flaunted and treated like a trophy. Like something he won.

Three years after losing their little girl, they made an appearance at the Ministry's Remembrance Ball. Ronald dragged her around the room, eager to show off and act as if they were the happiest couple in the world. It made Hermione sick to her stomach the entire evening and she downed glass after glass of champagne simply to numb herself to it all. Ronald was rather pissed himself by the time Harry ordered the pair to go home and sober up.

Hermione thanked him profusely and dragged an unwilling Ron to the floo and back to their home. She was woefully unprepared for the way he attacked her upon their arrival. He ripped her dress from her body and growled that it had been long enough and he would have what she promised him. No matter how hard she cried, nor how much she begged him not to do this to her, to them - he wouldn't listen. And three weeks later, she sobbed over the muggle pregnancy test that was indeed positive. This baby wasn't conceived of love, and she wasn't sure she could survive another loss.

Hermione screamed through her tears at her husband that she was pregnant and that she would never forgive him for basically raping her to achieve his own ends. They barely spoke those twelve weeks. He ordered her on bed rest, regardless of what the healer said. She was basically a captive in her own home, force-fed and watched like a hawk. It didn't matter.

Hermione was well aware that she and Ronald Weasley were never meant to be together, much less bring children into this world together. And when the bleeding began the third and final time, she wept with relief instead of grief. Of course, Ron was livid. And when he lashed out, he did so with brutal finality.

"I don't know why I ever thought you were it for me. You're broken and disgusting. What kind of witch is happy their child died in the womb?"

A witch that was violated and had no choice in the making of the said child, she'd told him. And he'd laughed. Coldly. In her face. Told her she was lucky he even touched her. That she was the most disgusting thing he'd ever seen and if he ever saw her again it'd be too soon. He left that night, telling her she had a week before her things would be left on the curbside.

And she'd ran. Found herself a secluded cottage in the woods outside Wiltshire, gained her potions mastery and lived a solitary life with no friends or companionship outside of her familiars for the last thirty-five years. And though she wasn't happy, she was content enough with that.

After all, she'd survived.

Hermione's bones ached when she rose that morning, a sure sign that the weather would be rough and cold. Her body protested as she carried out her daily absolutions and she set the kettle to boil, eager for the warmth her morning tea would bring. As she opened the Daily Prophet, she found herself gasping and tears blurred her vision at the headline story: Draco Malfoy Dead at 59.

Certainly, their past had been rocky, to say the least, but it was unheard of for a wizard to die at such a young age unless they were murdered or had contracted some incurable disease. Malfoy had neither. His death was a mystery to everyone, and Hermione found herself grieving his loss - though she really didn't know why. It just seemed wrong, his life was cut way too short and maybe that's why she found herself sobbing over her rapidly cooling tea and crumpled paper.

It wasn't much later that a knock on her front door startled Hermione. She blinked and tilted her head looking at the door, still sniffling after her tearful outburst. She never had visitors. Gathering her robe about herself, Hermione answered the door with wariness rolling off of her in waves.

"Ms. Granger?" The man had a rather posh accent, dark, curly hair peppered with silver and deep blue eyes. He was smiling, a jovial and warm sort of smile that put her at ease.

"Yes, that's me," she answered him quietly. Nibbling worriedly on her bottom lip, a habit she'd never quite broken, she moved to the side and opened the door more widely. "Come in out of the cold, please."

"Thank you, miss. The name's Richard Wellington. I'm a barrister in charge of Draco Malfoy's estate."

Shock straightened Hermione's spine as she led him through her sitting area to the kitchen, "I'm sorry, you said Draco Malfoy? If that's the case I'm not certain why you're here, I haven't spoken to Malfoy in nearly thirty years. Tea?"

Richard took a seat at the table and smiled his friendly smile, nodding his acceptance to her offer, "Two sugars and a splash of cream, please? And I can assure you that I'm exactly where I'm meant to be."

"It doesn't make any sense," Hermione murmured as she made his tea and gave it to him. "Malfoy, he, he despised me. Why would he leave anything to me, it doesn't make sense. I must admit, Mr. Wellington, reading of his death this morning was a shock and it affected me much more than I care to admit but it's so uncommon and so unlikely, I didn't even know he was ill."

"Ah, yes. Terribly sad it was," Richard nodded sympathetically. "Mr. Malfoy hired me many years ago. I'm a muggle Ms. Granger, but my grandfather was a squib and I've known about the wizarding world since I was a young boy. I came to genuinely care for him, he was a really nice bloke."

Hermione found it hard to swallow in the face of this man's grief, and that's what it was. His eyes were glassy speaking of Malfoy and his words trembled every so often, and it caused a pang of regret in her heart. Why had she never reached out to Malfoy after the war? She'd sent him an invitation to her wedding, though he declined. And she never really put forth any more effort.

"How did he die, if you don't mind me asking?" she murmured softly, curling her hands around her warm cuppa.

"It will sound ridiculous, but I believe Mr. Malfoy died of a broken heart, Ms. Granger," Richard sighed sadly. Hermione's eyes widened at his statement, and the ache in her chest grew stronger. She couldn't argue, it did sound far-fetched, but also maddeningly sad. "I met Mr. Malfoy when we were both still quite young. It seemed before his father was sent to prison, he had arranged a marriage for Draco with one Astoria Greengrass -"

Hermione gave a decidedly unladylike snort into her teacup, and Richard grinned at her reaction before continuing.

"Ah, you've heard of her. A right she-beast that one is. Draco was dead-set against marrying her. He told me then that he'd lost his heart at thirteen and never got it back and he simply refused to marry if it wasn't for love. I had to admire that."

Hermione was shocked to find a small smile playing on her lips, the idea that Draco Malfoy had fallen in love at such a young age and refused to settle for anything less warmed something deep within her that had long gone cold. She closed her eyes as Mr. Wellington spoke, conjuring up an image of Draco from long ago and she was surprised to find no lingering hurt or childish hatred for the man lurking deep within her heart. Only a burgeoning warmth for a man she never really knew, and would never have the chance to know.

"His inheritance was on the line with the way his father had arranged everything and Mr. Malfoy knew it would be next to impossible to convince any of his family lawyers or those in wizarding Britain to help him. Lucius Malfoy even locked away for the rest of his life, his name definitely preceded him. That's how Draco found me and we worked tirelessly together for his freedom. His words, not mine. He told me he spent years allowing his father to dictate everything he did and said and that he would not allow it another moment longer. Especially with this, with his heart. Of course, the Greengrasses were eager to blend their families, even more, eager for galleons that Lucius had promised them. Luckily though, Astoria was a stupid bint and believed she could do whatever she wished so long as she had the ironclad agreement in her family's vault. If she would've paid attention to the fine print, she would have seen the exclusivity clause. No Malfoy was ever to made a spectacle of, their honor and pride were quite important to the family name. So, with a private detective in our employ, we ended up with a rather large amount of evidence of her infidelities. A bit of a slag, that one."

The pair chuckled for a moment together before Hermione looked at him beseechingly, "As educational as this all is, Mr. Wellington-"

"Please call me Richard, I hate being called Mr. Wellington," he interrupted not unkindly.

"Richard," she corrected. "I still don't understand what brought you here today. As I said, Malfoy, er, Draco and I - we hardly knew one another outside of school so...there's no reason he would have left anything to me. Unless you're here to offer one last round of childish taunts, I'm not sure why you've been sent to me."

Richard cleared his throat and brought his briefcase onto his lap form the floor, "We discussed this a few months ago, Ms. Granger. He came to my office with a bundle of letters and a small package and ordered me to deliver them to you upon his death. It was shocking to me as well, my grandfather lived to be one hundred and thirty years old, as a squib and I knew it was common for witches and wizards to live much longer lives than muggles. I had thought, perhaps he was just getting his affairs in order, as any respectable man was wont to do. But he did look rather frail then, almost sickly. I asked if there were a reason why he wished to do this now when certainly he had many years left to live and he told me that a heart that's been broken is much weaker than one that has not and that he was tired of trying to live half a life. He was tired of being alone and unhappy and refused to fight it anymore. He told me he could feel his magic weakening, and once it was gone, he would be too. He made me promise, Ms. Granger - the absolute first thing I was to do upon his passing was to find you and deliver these things to you. It was important to him and therefore it is important to me."

Hermione watched as he pulled a large bundle of aged parchment tied up with a periwinkle blue ribbon and set it between them on the table, before placing a black velvet pouch beside them. She found it hard to swallow as she stared at the items in front of her as if they would transform into some terrifying creature and attack her at any moment.

"Mr. Malfoy's only request is that you read the letters first before you look in the pouch. I haven't read the letters, I wouldn't betray his confidence in that way, but if I may Ms. Granger?"

"Hermione, please," she whispered before letting her finger run along the silken fabric holding the bundle together. It was the exact shade of her dress from the Yule Ball in their fourth year.

"Hermione," he responded in a soft and kind voice. "Mr. Malfoy spoke of you sometimes. Always with reverence and fondness. I must admit, I'm quite taken aback that there seems to be quite a bit of animosity in your shared past because I always presumed that the person he lost his heart too was you."

Staring across the table at Draco Malfoy's barrister, Hermione blinked, open-mouthed for several long moments before shaking her head slowly. "No," she whispered. "There's no way."

Mr. Wellington offered her a sad smile and covered her small hand with his own, "I'm fairly certain, Hermione. And having met you, I think I understand. I'm sure this is all quite a shock and I'm terribly sorry for interrupting your morning, but if you'll sign just a few papers I'll get out of your hair and you can find all the answers you need within the letters Mr. Malfoy left to you. At least, I truly hope you will."

Endnotes: Chapter two will be up within the hour. That's where the real excitement begins!

Please read and review. Each and every review strengthens my resolve to push past my anxiety and share my work. Even if it's only a quick note to let me know you've enjoyed it so far, it reinforces and reaffirms my decision to put myself out there.

I genuinely appreciate each and every one of you.

Until next time, xoxo - otterly