Disclaimer: I don't own the Harry Potter series. That belongs to J.K. Rowling.


R&R


Authoress Note: In this one-shot, Hermione detaches herself from both Ron and her children, and it is for this reason along why I use "the" to describe the characters. The only names I use are those of Hermione and Draco because they are the main focus. The same trend can be seen with Draco.


Cruel Frailty


I was old enough to know better, and yet my heart was too young to care. I have reached my prime; a point of utmost wisdom, too soon a woman, forced to endure this cruel frailty we call life. These chains restricted me, restrained me from achieving a sense of normalcy. It was suffocating to live by the norms of society, a day-by-day set of rules, to be the bigger person. I never had the opportunity to be free and careless.

But at what price would it take to feel that way? To let the wind blow through my hair. To feel recklessly foolish without a second thought. To have someone want me for mind, body, and soul. To not have any regrets…

A heavy price it was.

We both knew it was wrong. Even though we matured into adulthood long ago, this charade had yet to end. This continuous game of inflicting pain on others, on ourselves, would have to come to a halt. It would, I promised myself. Yes, I knew that lie very well. I rehearsed it over and over again since our first encounter.

I didn't want to feel this way, to feel love for another man. It was an unforgivable affliction of mine, of his, that neither one of us could fight off. Our kisses lingered without remorse each time they met with a passionate fervour. We would shake with anticipation, liberation, but knew this was wrong.

Four months. It has been four months since this began. We didn't know it at the time, but it began with innocent conversation just months before. The children were gone to school, husband on yet another business trip, while I was left behind. I dwelled on my quiet desperation, anxious to keep myself busy.

I would dread that time of year. The sheer loneliness was something I feared. I did not have siblings or friends growing up, until I arrived at Hogwarts. Books and schoolwork were my companions, filling a ravenous void. It would never be satiated. As each summer drew near, I would ask for extra assignments.

Yet life had become eventful, infested with misfortunes and genocide. The world had gone dark with hatred. Death tolls reached their highest in ages. Brainwashing. Murder. Hollow, lifeless eyes. So many loved ones forever gone…

We were saved, however. Our saviour had escaped death and did away with evil. The world was safe once more, arising from ashes like a phoenix. At that point, life was lived to the fullest. Weddings were done by the dozen. Children were birthed every second. We were the new baby boomer generation.

I had an ideal life. I was married, no longer lonely, and had two beautiful children. The love I have for them is indescribable. Those children kept me sane. Whenever the husband was gone on his business trips, they wetted my appetite for company. But as the years passed, they grew up and things changed.

The children were called forth to attend Hogwarts, and so left my presence for most of the year. I had always been fond of children and yearned for more. The husband scoffed at my proposal of having another child. He found the idea ludicrous, stating that such a big family was bothersome. The conversation had died there.

And so I would bury myself at work. Just as I did in my youth, I would take up extra tasks to escape that revolting emptiness. The husband was never around. He would make trip after trip, sent occasional owls, and returned as the children would in the summer.

I would pretend not to see it. The two of us were well past romanticism and lust. Perhaps, I thought to myself, perhaps I as no longer attractive to him. As shallow as the thought was, I began to change myself.

The words of my mother ran through my mind as I entered the salon. She would chide, your hair is your glory, after a merciless child teased me for the unruliness of my hair. I rarely wore my hair down so for the first time I tore the hair clips which held it in confine. The stylist stared with an amused expression and began his work. With this new change I had decided upon wearing my old muggle clothing.

I was supposed to meet the husband to pick up the children. I arrived at the station and he had been late. Needless to say, it wasn't shocking. I always knew the man was a lost cause.

"This is quite a surprise."

I turned upon hearing a male's voice. I knew the dry, mirthless tone very well from my youth. "Malfoy. What is it you find so surprising?"

"Madame Weasley," he acknowledged. "I find it shock to see you…not so pert, if I may say."

"The hospital refuses to let me work unless I take a week off every other month. They believe I will exhaust myself." I waved my hand, dismissing the board's decision as foolish. "Alas I am here on one of my free days awaiting the arrival of my children."

"And I as well," he mused. His stare was attentive yet glowed with interest. "Your hair is shorter."

His statement had astounded me. "You noticed?"

"Of course. You kept it long during our times at Hogwarts."

"I felt the need for a change." An unfamiliar bubbling of laughter escaped my throat. Another surprising trigger in response. "It is manageable to say the least."

"Indeed so. Time has been kind to you, Madame Weasley. I, on the other hand, cannot say the same about myself." He touched his head and caressed his receding hairline.

I remembered laughing again, but to follow was the warmth that spread across my cheeks at his compliment. "We are often our own worst critic."

"No, if you do recall, I was an arrogant braying arse in my younger years."

"Oh, I do recall."

"Ouch," he chuckled, "to think I said that comment in order to gain sympathy."

"One cannot have sympathy for the devil," I teased. It was astonishing to find myself so at ease with Malfoy.

"Touché." His expression had turned pensive, a trace of regret etched upon his face, as he pondered. "I truly hope that you have forgiven me for my past wrong-doings."

"Oh, dear. I see that my sad attempt at being witty has failed."

"I am only saying this, Hermione, because I hope you were not humouring me with your clemency."

"And I was earnest when I forgave you. All is well now, Draco." An that moment of truth, that instant moment of respect and dignity, I had felt it. The moment his name left my lips, I knew a bond had formed. For some strange reason, I felt that he too knew of what had occurred.

We went our separate ways as the children arrived. They noticed the small changes I had made, gave their complements, and went on about their stay at school. It had been a nice start to the day. I foolishly thought the husband would notice. Oh how very wrong I was.

He didn't arrive until the stroke of midnight. I had been awake, watched as he stripped himself for bed, and slipped into the covers. Not so much of as a greeting was received.

"Hermione?"

My stomach gave a gentled leap as I awaited his comment about my appearance. "Yes?"

"How long do you plan on staying awake? The light is distracting."

The breath I held within had been lost. "Oh. Not long." I stared at his back, disappointed. "I cut my hair today."

"That's nice," he mumbled in response, lacking coherence.

And that had been the last of our conversation. His snores drowned the heavy, silent sobs I cried that night. It was then I vowed to be stronger; tougher.

So time passed, drawing slowly like the shifting seasons, but passed it did. The husband barely stayed a day with the family until he claimed under business expenditure trip. I liked to think he told the truth, happy within my solitary walls of blissful ignorance, but even I could not drown in my denial. The lipstick on his shirt collar was a brilliant fire red. He was an oblivious man. For pity's sake, he didn't even notice he had dirt on his face when we were younger.

Before I knew it, I found myself at the train station once again, waving farewell to the children. I wondered, bitterly, how my life turned sadly predictable. I never wanted to end up like this, like some pathetic cornered wife whose husband cheated on his wife. I had been very ambitious in my early years—but that had been it—in my early years.

"Fancy seeing you here."

"Draco."

"Hermione."

We remained quiet in that one fraction of time. The remnants of our last conversation from months passed had not been forgotten. "How have you been fairing?"

"Quite alright." His eyes rose in suspicion. "Where has the other half gone to?"

"Belgium from what he said, but his schedule said Sweden." I could not help the angered growl.

"I apologize. I did not mean to bring up such an unpleasant topic."

"All is well. What about you? Where is your significant other?"

His faced had turned livid with a hidden fury. "Not so significant other. The whore, pardon my language, is in Paris with her lover." His composure returned in an instant. "As you can see, I am resentful."

"Why do you not just divorce her, if you don't mind me asking?" The curiosity had been so evident in my question.

"Would you believe me if I said I was an idiot to think she actually loved me?" He laughed harshly. "I have thought about it, really I have, but it is not fair for my son. If I divorce the woman, she receives half of my earnings. This way, I can control her spending habits."

"You are not an idiot, Draco. She is just a very good actress."

"And what about you, Hermione? Why have you not divorced?"

I gasped, taken aback by his words. "What?"

"The question is quite simple. I think we are well past formalities. Now why haven't you left his sorry arse? We both know he isn't very loyal."

"Complications," I had responded. "The children."

"So we are both martyrs in our own, sad ways. Does this make us masochistic?"

"I believe so, yes."

Neither of us noticed that we had stepped outside, walking down the bustling streets. It was strange, that connection we had, that instantaneous pull of gravity we had with one another. It seemed ethereal. Former enemies now speaking of our woes.

The conversation did not end. We had stopped at a nearby café, speaking of everything, anything, that appealed to us. The feeling was nice; comfortable. We enjoyed the time spent with one another, and before either of us knew it, we had become best friends. We confided, laughed, cried, did every cliché in the book, but it was real. It was like being at home.

We had been like that for weeks. We met for meals, frivolous shopping, or even a simple film. That night had been like any other. I had been in the kitchen, cooking dinner for the two of us. He arrived, a bottle of wine in one hand and a baguette in the other.

"What have we planned for tonight?"

"I picked out a classic film and the fettuccini is about right."

"And I have brought a bit of Pinot Grigio so we can get pissed-drunk and bitch about our lives."

He never failed to make me laugh with his little comments. "Sounds like an eventful night. Grab the plates, will you?"

The meal had been eaten in silence, as the two of us were enthralled by the film. In between scenes where I had cried like a little child, I noticed Draco staring at me. "What is it?"

His alabaster skin flushed with embarrassment at being caught. "Nothing," he had said too quickly.

"Do I have something on my face?" I asked, dabbing the corners of my mouth with a napkin.

"No, it is just…you are beautiful…when you cry."

"Well thank you." I feigned offence. "You find beauty only in my dismay? Very gentleman like, Malfoy."

His stare was as hesitant as his words. "You look beautiful all the time."

My cheeks warmed, blood pooling beneath the flesh. "You've had too much wine. I am cutting you off."

"Hermione! You are wounding my ego. Here I am professing—"

"Don't. Please, just don't say another word."

He was confused by my pleas, but didn't comply with my request. "Why?"

"Because, you are drunk and you aren't coherent. You don't know what you are saying."

"I am perfectly fine, thank you very much." He stood and walked in a straight line. "See?"

"That proves nothing."

"Why must you deny this thing between us?"

"Because there is nothing!"

"You don't always have to be invincible, Hermione."

We gazed at one another, intent and helpless, drew nearer, pushing over the brink of recklessness. That moment defined the lines that were created between this friendship that began so innocently. We were no longer just friends as our lips met in pure vulnerability. No more restraints. No more restrictions. Our fates took a different path.

That night was the birth of our escapades. We were released from the oppressive lifestyles that burdened us so. It was pure spontaneity, but we did not care. We didn't think of others, only ourselves. It was our time and our ordeal. Only ours. We were each a possession to the other.

We committed the deepest of sins, the blackest of blasphemies. Something so tragically beautiful couldn't possibly be punishable. We were only human, and even the Gods make mistakes. Rings were discarded, clothing stripped and forgotten, as monogamy was no longer an obstacle.

Flesh met flesh in a delicious manner as our bodies met, starved as we sought attention. He had cupped my face between his rough hands, whispering benedictions against my lips. Groans and moans were cried throughout the night as we met in unison, thrust after thrust musical and rhythmic. The two of us, hollow and alone, found the one fruit that would satiate our hunger. The sweetest of tastes. The most forbidden of fruits.

It was awfully enticing, to have something that you couldn't truly have. It was inconceivable how two people could find solace in one another by going against all decency. He had held me close as we lay in bed that night. The moon's pale glow seeped through the curtains, and I wished to never have that moment end.

With Draco, I did not need faith; I did not need religion. His embrace was my temple which I most willingly worshiped. The brushing of our lips was my every prayer and blessing. He had been my salvation. He had been my awakening. I found absolution within this single man.

But it was so wrong.

We were married. We had children. The repercussions of our actions did not cross our minds. The want and need for redemption had been stronger than our common sense. Commitment to others didn't exist. That world had been left behind when the two of us met. Each time had been pure euphoric bliss. It was the vilest of ecstasies.

Yet we needed each other. This thing—no—this feeling we had was a drug. We were addicted. We were intoxicated. We happily drank from the other, enjoying this sick fulfilment. It was retribution served as poison.

Adults. We were well into our years of adulthood, knew right from wrong, and were well informed of the pain that came with life. If we knew of this, these consequences of engagement, why did we continue to hurt one another? Each meeting was promised to be our last, to turn back the hours of time, to go back to how things were. But I knew these lies like any normal spell. Promises were always meant to be broken.

December drew near, and with it came the annual Christmas party. The husband and I arrived together, but we couldn't be more distant. He went off on his own as usual, mingling with our former school mates. Words were rarely spoken. It was a marriage of convenience for the children and media. Nothing more, nothing less. I was no better than he was.

"You look lovely tonight."

I smiled; a look that others would take as friendship, yet the two of us knew in it lays a deeper meaning. "You look quite dashing yourself."

He took my hand, brushing his lips against the knuckles in a gentlemanly gesture. A cool metal grazed the inside of my palm, and I sent him a questioning stare. I opened my hand to fine a platinum ring attached to a chain.

And this is how we remained. We were scarred, marred by the imperfections of this relationship. We could never run, but we could always hide, but we didn't know for how long. Either one of us could end this tomorrow. He could easily walk out of my life, and I feared that I had given him all I had. But each moment we touched—each moment we embraced—we forgot how flawed and damaged we had become. We willing hurt the other by giving in to the overwhelming ardency that binds us together. The future is uncertain, but I do not regret being with Draco.

No, I do not regret it at all.