Author's Note: Just a few quick notes before we get this story kicked off. Everything in DH happened (minus the epilogue) but there are a few alterations. When Ron came back, they decided to go back to the Order and continued their hunt for the horcruxes from there. Hermione and Ron have been a couple since the beginning of DH and not the end. The Final Battle occurred because they got wind of a scheduled attack against the school after retaking it from the Death Eaters, and because Harry had basically figured out where the rest of the horcruxes were. They went with the Order to the final battle. After Hermione and the others were inside the school, everything basically happened the same from there on.
Now this is a Draco/Hermione fic, but Hermione is married to Ron, which I promise is for the good of the story and they won't be together for that long. Also, Hermione was eighteen when she conceived Rose.
I'd really like to hear your opinions on how I've done so far, so please review. This is my first try at the Draco/Hermione ship.
.: Chapter One – The Veiled Truth :.
Monday, April 15, 2002
There was method to his madness, or at least she hoped there was. It wasn't that she didn't have faith in him; it was simply a matter of facts outweighing interpretation. He had worked so hard over the past few months that she felt bad for doubting him. But the odds were not in his favor. His job wasn't ideal, in fact it was far from it, but after being rejected by the Auror's Department he hadn't really had another option. The Department of Magical Games and Sports was good to him, but it was just a stepping stone, or so he said. She had encouraged him to take chances, to make good use of the opportunities placed before him. Hermione had played the supportive role a wife should play, but on the inside she was skeptical. It had been a toss up between supportive or realistic, and normally she would have chosen the latter of the two, but he had his heart set on going for the promotion. He wanted to give them a better life and who was she to argue with him? His intentions were noble but when it came down to the nitty gritty, he didn't have the experience, knowledge or patience the job required.
It wasn't as if they had money problems, both their wages were reasonable and they lived quite comfortably. But Ron wanted more and she couldn't help but think that a large part of the why, was because her job paid more than his. She was only twenty-three but largely respected in her field, yet her husband had a simple desk job. It didn't bother her one bit, but she thought it bothered him. He had never and would never say anything out loud, yet she knew that he was in someway ashamed of her being the primary provider. It was why he tried so hard, putting his name forward for other higher earning jobs that didn't interest him, trying to get a promotion he knew he had no chance of getting. The whole repetitive process was exasperating, but Hermione kept her mouth shut, knowing that he had to feel like he was doing everything he could to give them a better life.
They'd been married for five years last February, yet it seemed as though ten had passed. It had been a small ceremony with only a few family and friends to bear witness. There had been no extravagant flower decorations like at Fleur and Bill's wedding, and no grand fireworks display like George and Angelina's. It had been small and understated, something quiet compared to victory celebrations going on all around the world. Like almost every girl she had imagined her wedding, designed it down to the very last detail. Her wedding, like so many others, hadn't even come close to the dream. She didn't know what it was exactly, but something hadn't felt right. She did love him, it just hadn't seemed the right time. They were barely out of school, their last year not even attended, yet they had been hard pressed to marry. The war was over, the name Voldemort becoming nothing more than a bad memory, and the world was on a high. She had agreed to the marriage because it had seemed the right thing to do. Everyone had wanted it. Just because she had doubts was no reason to flay their happiness, right?
An unwed mother in the wizarding world was not uncommon, but extremely frowned upon. She had wanted to wait, to be sure, but Molly had insisted and eventually she caved under the pressure. The happiness of her friends and family meant the world to her, and the prospect of a child being born after everything they'd endured was intoxicating to them. She hadn't wanted to disappoint them, to dampen the rare joy in their eyes. Her mother had seen her hesitation as had her father. They had tried talking to her before the wedding, telling her that they'd support her in whatever she did and that if she wasn't ready to marry Ron, they would understand. She had said she was fine, and minutes later she was Mrs Ronald Weasley. Her parents had kept quiet since then, but she was sure they saw what others didn't.
Upon looking back, she liked to think she'd made the right decision. Ron was a loving husband, one that went out of his way to make her happy. He was a doting father and took every opportunity he could to spoil his girls. Her choice had to have been the right one...at least she hoped it was. They lived a comfortable life, yet she couldn't help but feel as though something was missing. It was a good life, a quiet life, one where everything was set in a secure routine – perhaps that was the problem. Everything was scheduled, planned down to the tiniest of details. She wanted to shake things up but didn't really know how. The daily routine made her feel safe, and she would readily admit that it was like a safety blanket. The problem was, her safety blanket was starting to become torn and weathered. She was bored.
Her job was her sanctuary. It was the one place where everything – though structured – was completely unpredictable. After Rose was born she had wanted to do something worthwhile, something that benefited others before herself. Ron had been completely against the idea of her working at the beginning. But she'd put her foot down and he couldn't do anything but agree. His image of marriage was one where the husband worked and the wife stayed at home, caring for the children and the upkeep of the house. Hers was somewhat different. She couldn't blame him for his opinions, but that didn't mean she agreed with them. As a child he had absorbed his surroundings like a sponge, learning about life from the people around him. His mother and father's relationship was all he knew, so she wasn't surprised that he had the views he did. What had angered her were not his beliefs, but his expectation that she follow the same path his mother had. He knew she had dreams, aspirations, yet he asked her to push them aside. She'd stood her ground and won.
At just nineteen, she'd received a scholarship from the Ministry of Magic to study law in their new Department of Regulations. Ron hadn't been too impressed at her choice of a career, mainly because of the long hours she had to work as a trainee. It had been what she'd wanted to do and even though they had Rose, she knew she could cope with the added stress. The job wasn't easy, especially when she had to deal with the snobbery of senior Wizengamot members. But it had its rewards. She was now twenty-three and considered to be one of the best female lawyers in the country, which on its own was a large accomplishment.
"Mummy! Mummy!" shaking her head violently, Hermione whipped around. Was something wrong? Why was Rose yelling for her? Had she tripped over? Fallen down the last few stairs? Had something happened? Was she hurt?
"What is it, cricket?" she asked anxiously, making her way over to where the little four year-old stood, balancing on the balls of her feet. Looking her up and down quickly, scanning for any injuries, she was relieved to see that nothing was wrong. There were no scratches, no cuts, bruises or any other kind of injury. But that left the unanswered question; what was wrong?
Lifting her tiny hand, Rose pointed toward the stove, eyes wide. "Ids burning, mummy," she said, her small voice awed.
Burning? "Rose, wha –" realization hit her as the smell of burning meat met her nostrils. "Oh, shit," she swore under her breath, running over to the large cloud of smoke drifting up from the oven door.
Hermione heard a giggle behind her, but focused on the task at hand. Dinner was ruined and Ron would be home at any moment. She didn't know what to do. Her work hours allowed her to be home by four in the afternoon provided she arrived at work earlier than usual, and normally Ron finished by six. He always expected his meal to be placed on the table waiting for him when he came home, and normally she had it timed perfectly. But she had let her mind wander too far and effectively ruined the meal. She'd just have to order takeout because dinner was unsalvageable. Chinese would do, he liked Chinese.
"Mummy?" when she heard a sing song voice sound behind her, Hermione had to suppress an irritated sigh. The tiny hand tapping her on the shoulder was definitely not helping either.
"Yes, Rose," she answered, turning around to smile at her daughter.
The little girl grinned impishly. "You saids a bad word," her hazel-brown eyes twinkled mischievously and Hermione just knew that her daughter was up to something.
"I know, cricket, mummy's very sorry," she said, voice repentant. Reaching forward, she stroked her daughter's curls lovingly, marveling at how silky they felt beneath her fingers. Her daughter was definitely up to something.
"Will you gives me a lolly?" Rose asked suddenly, a mischievous but hopeful look in her eyes.
Hermione frowned. "What? Why?" she asked in confusion, eyes narrowing slightly at the little girl. "Rose, what are you up to?" her voice was suspicious.
"I won't tell daddy if you gives me a lolly," the little girl said, a tiny but triumphant smirk on her face. Hermione felt her stomach drop. She knew that smirk.
"Okay, sweetie," she said, deciding to play along. Her voice shook slightly, but she didn't think Rose noticed. "Pinkie swear you won't tell?" Hermione asked, extending her pinkie finger toward the little girl.
Rose considered it for a moment. "I pinkie swear, mummy," she said seriously, face somber as she hooked her finger with her mother's.
"Now off you go, cricket," her voice still shook, but Hermione covered it well.
Rose huffed. "My lolly?" she said, glaring up at her mother.
"You'll get it after dinner," Hermione said sternly. "Now go upstairs and wash your hands, your father will be home soon and he'll want dinner," it was true, Ron thought of nothing else but food when he got home. After he was fed, he had energy enough to entertain his girls. But before then it was pointless to try and get his attention.
"But yo –"
"You never said when you wanted your lolly, so I decided for you," she laughed, ruffling Rose's hair affectionately. "Off you go," pointing toward the stairs; she couldn't help but laugh at the look on her daughter's face.
With a scowl on her little face, Rose flounced toward the stairs, tiny feet stamping indignantly on the wooden steps. Hermione had half a mind to berate her daughter for her little temper tantrum, but thought better of it as Rose's blonde curls swept around the corner and out of sight. She was definitely a handful, but then she wouldn't be Rose if she weren't. It was hard to imagine that in just six months, her little baby would be five. Time was moving too quickly and it seemed like just yesterday she was in the hospital, screaming about castrating her husband. But when it was all over and she held a sleeping Rose in her arms for the first time, she'd felt complete and all thoughts of castration fled her mind. How could you love someone so much that you'd only just met? It was odd, but in holding her little girl she'd felt as though she were a part of her. Rose was a part of her.
It had always been a subject of discussion that Rose hadn't inherited the famous Weasley red hair. But Hermione had explained that when she was little her hair had been blonde and that as she got older, her hair had darkened and turned brown. The problem was Rose's hair wasn't getting any darker, if anything it seemed to be getting lighter. She didn't know the exact moment she knew, but at some point she just did. Ron wasn't Rose's father. As the years passed and Rose got older, developing a personality of her own, Hermione had become convinced that this was true. Her daughter was nothing like Ron.
Rose had these little quirks in her personality and somehow Hermione knew that she'd inherited them from her father, her real father. She was tiny for her age, but the healer's had said that as she got older, Rose would grow to be fairly tall compared to her mother's short 5'3. Ron had been thrilled, insisting that she got it from him. But Hermione knew the truth. Her daughter was a scary combination of both her and her biological father. Rose had an insatiable love of books and learning, yet she also loved painting and anything artistic. Hermione was hopeless when it came to art and craft, not to mention anything remotely musical. Rose however seemed to be a natural. True, she was only four, but Hermione could already tell that she had a certain flare for the arts. She knew for a fact that Rose didn't get it from her, so she assumed she'd inherited her talent from her father. The little girl had an explosive temper, which as much as she hated to admit it, she'd inherited from her. But there were these quirks, things as simple as a facial expression or pronunciation of a word, that had Hermione convinced that Ron wasn't her father.
It had only been one night, yet it seemed the consequences were far greater than she'd ever imagined. The Battle of Hogwarts as it was remembered had been terrifying for more reasons than one. When they'd gotten word that the Death Eaters planned to attack the school, the Order had arranged individual portkeys to strategically place each individual there. Her portkey had malfunctioned somehow and she'd overshot her landing by at least 100 meters. Looking back, she knew she'd been lucky. Her portkey had landed her almost directly in the enemy camp.
She remembered feeling cold, the dread and fear of seeing the Death Eater's ranks preparing for battle, seeping into her bones. Hermione had heard them before she saw them, but her legs wouldn't move. In a matter of seconds she'd been dragged roughly into a cave, a hand clamped over her mouth to keep her from screaming as the two Death Eaters she'd heard approaching, walked past. He'd saved her. She didn't know why she did it. She'd been so overwhelmed at the time, confused but beyond thankful. It had been a moment of insanity, a moment of fear, of understanding. They were in a war, one neither of them wanted to fight in but had no choice. He had no choice; she could see it in his eyes. His fight was for his family as was hers. It was a war built on survival, and to some that was all that mattered. No words were said, but each understood. They'd sought each others comfort, their understanding, if only for a moment. And when it was all over they went their separate ways.
He fought on one side, she on another. But by the end of it all his family – no doubt seeing their side's inevitable loss – changed their side in the middle of battle. Some said it was cowardice and to some degree she agreed, but not with him. Never with him. She understood. He had never wanted to be a part of the war, but forced to fight nonetheless. It hadn't been his choice. No matter what anyone said, she knew he wasn't a coward. His family, she could see, to some degree were repentant, even his father. But Harry and the others refused to see it and remained fast in their beliefs, where she kept an open mind.
It had been one night and no matter how many times she went over it in her head, she wouldn't do anything differently. When she'd married Ron, she'd had her doubts about the paternity but pushed them to the back of her mind. They'd been in a relationship for a while and it was far more probable that he was the father. Probability apparently hadn't been on her side. She'd thought about telling Ron the truth, but whenever he looked at his little 'Rosie' she couldn't do it. He loved Rose with all his heart and she didn't want to hurt him, not like that. She was haunted every day by her betrayal, because every time she looked at her little girl, she saw him.
"Hermione, I'm home!" quickly wiping her eyes, she sucked in a deep breath, trying to steady her pounding her heart. Ron couldn't have the slightest inkling that she was upset because if he did, it would lead to questions and she would be forced to lie, yet again.
"I'm in the kitchen," she yelled out, busying herself with cleaning up the mess her ruined meal made.
Hermione heard the sound of his boots hitting the floor as he kicked them off, and knew that he would be in the kitchen asking for dinner at any moment. It wasn't that she minded cooking a meal every now and then; in fact she found it quite soothing at times. But he expected it every night and she just wasn't that person. Nevertheless, she went about it without complaint, knowing that an argument was the last thing they needed.
"What on earth is that bloody putrid smell?" he grunted, hand reaching up to cover his nose, brow scrunched up in disgust.
She sighed. "It was dinner," it was hard to keep the exasperation from her voice. No matter that the dinner was ruined, she had in fact put a fair bit of effort into it. "But I got a little distracted, so I was thinking we could order Chinese from the restaurant in town," she added, turning around to look at her husband, silently asking his opinion.
Ron nodded his head absently, shrugging off his coat and laying it over a chair. "Chinese doesn't sound so bad," he didn't sound too enthusiastic and she immediately wondered why. He loved Chinese, didn't he?
Realization hit her in the form of his disgruntled sigh; the promotion. "You didn't get it, did you?" she asked, reaching for her wand to clean up dinner quickly, so she could talk to him properly.
"No," he said simply, a hint of dejection in his voice.
Hermione felt her heart constrict tightly, hating herself for knowing that he wouldn't get it, but encouraging him even with that knowledge. He deserved a promotion for all the late nights he pulled, hoping to get ahead but never actually getting that far. He worked so hard, but when it came down to it, good credentials outweighed hard work any day where the Ministry was concerned.
"Maybe next time," her voice was encouraging, soothingly calm, yet on the inside she felt only guilt for knowing that this conversation would be repeated again when there was a next time.
"Yeah, maybe next time," he said, voice dull and void of emotion.
Hermione decided to change the subject. "How was lunch with Harry?" she asked, opening a cupboard to retrieve two coffee mugs.
There was never a time where there wasn't a fresh batch of coffee in their house, mainly because of her. Her parents had been mortified when they realized just how 'addicted' she was to the drink. But it was understandable considering her work hours. She worked from seven to four on most days, though she usually ended up at work by six-thirty. Ron didn't know how she did it, but she was always ready for work on time, with a set of instructions left on the counter for him about how to get Rose ready for school in the morning. He'd been against the idea of Rose going to school so early. But warmed up to it eventually after finding out the school was run by both Susan Bones and Hannah Abbott, their former classmates, in hopes of providing wizarding families with a means to educate their children before Hogwarts. Needless to say the school was most definitely a hit, with a large number of children between the ages of three and ten, enrolled in the program.
Ron perked up. "It was really good actually. He's invited us over for dinner on Friday," he said brightly, reaching out to take the offered coffee mug.
"You told him yes, obviously," she said, taking a sip of her coffee.
"Obviously," he snorted.
"Luna's not cooking, is she?" Hermione asked, nose screwed up at the mere idea of the dreamy blonde cooking. She meant no offence to Luna, but the woman was not a cook.
Ron laughed. "Merlin no! I think Harry's learned his lesson there," he snickered. With a small smile, she laughed, knowing exactly what he was thinking of.
Luna and Harry had been married for almost three years now, and only last year Luna had tried her hand at cooking. Normally Harry was the cook of the family, leaving Luna some free time before dinner to wind down. Ever since her father died during the war, Luna had taken over the Quibbler and turned it into a fairly reputable paper, though it still had its kooky moments. After having their daughter Lily, Luna had tried to get Harry to teach her how to cook but he had refused, saying that she had enough to cope with at work and caring for Lily. Eventually she won, though the endeavor was far from successful. It was easily said that the woman didn't belong in a kitchen, let alone near one.
"You know they're trying for another kid, right?" Ron said suddenly, eyes resting on his coffee mug.
She knew where this was going. "No, I didn't know," her voice was calm and indifferent; it was quite obvious that she was annoyed.
"I'm just saying that I think it's time Rosie had a brother, or little sister," he knew how she felt about this, but continued to bring it up even so.
Hermione sighed. "Now is not a very good time, Ron," it was true, her work schedule was hectic as it was, add in a baby and you've got a disaster just waiting to happen.
It wasn't that she didn't want to have another child, because she did. There was just so much to consider and she didn't think she was ready to make any job sacrifices just yet. They were only young, with a gorgeous four year-old daughter. Time wasn't against them, they could afford to wait. Ron however, didn't share her sentiments. He wanted a big family, much like the one his mother and father had had, and that bothered her. He wasn't the one who had to give birth, and while she had no objections to two, maybe three children, she had serious problems with anything from five upwards. She wasn't ready to have another child.
"It's never a good time, Hermione," he snapped.
Running a hand through her already chaotic mass of curls, Hermione struggled to keep her anger in check. "I do want to have more children, Ronald," she said calmly, taking a sip of coffee to calm her nerves. "But I'm not ready, not yet. It seems like just yesterday that we had Rose, and with my career and the mortgage on the house, I just don't think it's the right time," there was a scurry of feet upstairs and she knew that Rose would be down soon. "This conversation is over for the time being, we need to have dinner and I don't want to argue in front of Rose," she said simply, downing the last of her coffee, wincing as the hot liquid burnt the back of her throat.
"No," Ron hissed, standing up angrily. "Hermione, as far as I'm concerned dinner can wait, we need to talk about this," his jaw was clenched in determination and she knew that there was no getting out of this one. It was a first for him to think of a meal second, and she couldn't be sure if that was a good or bad thing.
Glancing worriedly at the staircase, she expected to see a bunch of blonde curls bobbing as her daughter ran down the stairs, but saw none. "I don't want to talk about this in front of Rose," she said, voice clipped with annoyance and concern. Rose would be down any minute now, she just knew it.
"Don't you want Rose to have any siblings?" he asked harshly. It was obvious to her now that he was really serious about this.
"Of course I want Rose to have a brother or sister," she cried, admonished. "I just don't think it's the righ –"
"You're in the perfect position at your work and you know that if you asked to work from home, they'd let you. You are one of the best lawyers in this country, Hermione. Do you honestly think they wouldn't go out of their way to accommodate you in anyway they could, if you were pregnant, just to keep you?" he interrupted, voice drowning out her own.
She winced at the truth in his words. If she asked, she would get. There was no real way for her to argue her point without him coming up with a rebuke that discarded whatever she said. Sure, she was the lawyer, but when it came down to it, Ron's observations were of truth where hers, she would admit, were nothing but excuses. It was true that she wasn't ready to have another child, but the reason as to why, wasn't exactly what most people would expect. She was afraid. If she had another child and that child inherited the Weasley red hair, which she was sure it would, then she was doomed. The cracks would start to show and what was clear in her eyes would become clear in others. They would see the difference; they would notice how Rose's hair seemed to get lighter each day. Questions would be asked, suspicions raised, and eventually everyone would see the world exactly as she saw it. They would see Rose as she saw her. What would happen then? What would happen when they finally realized that Ron wasn't her father? If they found out the truth, it would be the end of everything she knew. If they found out Draco Malfoy was her father, it would be the end of everything.