Title: White Lace Robes

Fandom: Harry Potter

Pairings: Hermione/Ron, Ginny/Dean, Harry/?

Rating: T (for swearing)

Summary: Ron and Hermione have been together ten years, and everything but one facet is perfect. Will it break them apart when Hermione makes it clear that she doesn't want children, Ron is angry, and Harry is trying to bring them through it.

A/N: I've worked quite hard on trying not to make one side more sympathetic than the other, so that neither appears to be unreasonable. Personally I'm with Hermione on the issue, but hopefully nothing will be that clear cut. Hint (minor minor hint) of slash.

Hermione Granger has just turned thirty.

She is standing in her kitchen, surrounded by surprise party debris, having a screaming match with the man she's sworn to love, cherish and be faithful to. Right now though she thinks that she has never been angrier with anyone else. She's angry enough, that the vaunted self control that has become her hallmark as one of the coolest most contained Aurors currently at work, has utterly dissipiated, and she's throwing plates at Ron, because she wouldn't trust herself with her wand. Hermione has no desire to go to Azkaban for an Unforgivable.

Her husband has got his hands up, and the Quidditch skills that make him so formidable on the pitch, are enabling him to just about dodge her missiles. "It was a suggestion Hermione," he shouts at her, having lost his own calm a long time ago. "For fucks sake, I'm allowed to suggest something, especially when it is as important as this. Why will you never consider anything I say properly? It's not exactly an unreasonable request. If I was trying to prostitute you out, I'd expect this kind of reaction!"

"Well it's about the fucking same thing," Hermione shrieks at him, running out of plates. She knew she should stop and try to calm- the fact she was swearing at him, was a gross indicator of just how far the situation had deteriorated, and she knew vaguely that she was being unreasonable. But he knew what this subject did to her nerves. She mimicked his voice unkindly, she was too far along the path of pure rage to care about the inevitable fallout from this explosion. "Hermione, let's take off the Contraceptive charm. Hermione let's have a passel of brats running about our feet. Hermione maybe you should try for a baby. Hermione mind if I rent out your body for nine months, then tie you to the hearth and home, and have you cooking and cleaning like a little version of my mother."

"Don't you speak about my mother like that," Ron growls dangerously. "I'm not asking any of those things of you, so don't make me out to be some sort of feudal throwback. I happened to suggest that maybe we are at the point in our lives that it might be nice to think about having children. We agreed when we married that we wouldn't rule children out, and to be honest I've been thinking about them a lot." A suddenly wistful expression came onto his face, a hungry look that she'd seen before, but never understood what it meant.

She slumps into a chair and stared at him. "I said no. I'm never having any children. I told you that when we married, but you insisted on believing that I only meant right away." She lowered her head onto her arms. Wearily, she spoke. "Ron, I love you. But the thought of having a child sickens me. It's not you that has to become fat, ungainly and ugly for months upon months, you won't have to give up your job because Dark magic could affect the foetus, or stick around at home for the next eleven years. Men are all alike, all you ever think of is that having a pregnant wife will show off your fertility and manhood. It's like a little wink to your mates 'oh I've got her whipped' and I won't stand for it."

He sits down opposite and cast a sombre gaze on her. "It's not like that Hermione. I'm longing to have children, desperate," he clarified. "I'd be willing to do anything to help, you know that. It tears at my heart when I see how happy Ginny and Dean are with their three, Teddy growing up, Bill and Fleur and the pride in their eyes when they watch Victoire. I'm proud of you, and I love you, I really do, but there is something missing, and I don't think once you'd had the child, that you'd feel the same way." He watchs her despairingly, as she shakes her head.

"It's not on the cards," she says quietly. "You know how close I am to being the Head of the Department, I've been angling for the job for fourteen months and if I get it I'll be the youngest Head ever. That's too important to toss aside to become your bare foot Quidditch-mum." Her eyes lit up, as they always did when she talked about her job. "I've been waiting to implement these changes for years, you know that Ron. When did you stop being proud of me? When did you start loving me because I could be the mother of your children, and not because I'm your perfect women."

A strange silence falls between them.

Ron traces her form with his eyes. At thirty, she has blossomed into a woman that the girl of fourteen had never even hinted at. Her hair was as wild as ever, her brown eyes as warm, her figure had never been better- chasing Dark wizards tended to do that for you, and the little Glamour charms that most women conspicuously succumbed to after their mid twenties were absent. Hermione always said that she could live with a few freckles and flaws, and that it was just another form of escapism to try and achieve perfection. Despite that the awkward teenager had turned into a woman, not as striking looking as say Fleur or Ginny, but beautifully imperfect. After ten years of marriage, he knew every inch of her, the small scattering of freckles on her stomach, the untameable quality of her hair, the small hands with the simple gold ring on the left ring finger.

When she walks upstairs, he follows quietly, and sat down on the landing as she rummages through her bedroom. He wasn't surprised when she came out, carrying only her wand, and a small blue evening bag. Ron stood, and they walk in silence to the door. "I just need some time to think," she says stiffly. "I'll be at Harry's if you need me for anything urgently." Ron could feel his heart cry out. Kiss me Hermione, he begs silently in his mind. Kiss me, because then I'll know that we have a chance, that it's not all finished. She leans forward and touches him awkwardly on the shoulder. Then she is gone

--

Hermione curled up on the bench in the park, and watched as the sun rose over the trees. She was thirty years and a day old. The air was bitingly cold, and glancing hurriedly around to make sure there were no muggles, she chanted a Warming Charm, relaxing as the warm air settled around her. When she'd left her house only hours before, she had stumbled through the streets, deciding she couldn't intrude on Ginny in the middle of the night, and risk waking Dean and the kids. Even as the beautiful colours tinged the sky above her, she felt slow hot tears crawl down her cheeks, and she thanked God she didn't have the weekend shift. She should be curled up next to her husband now, relishing the warmth and companionship, not crying like some teenage witch whose crush doesn't fancy her back.

When the sky was the palest blue, she Apparated herself to Harry's house, letting herself quietly in with the key Harry had pressed on her, years ago. As she had known he would be, he was padding round the kitchen in a securely wrapped towel, humming to himself as he made tea. Hermione watched her friend with a fond smile. Harry was as different to his teenage self as Hermione, was not merely in his height, but in his entire aura. Where once he'd been filled with a nervous energy, he was now possessed of a deep calm that affected everyone around him. His dark green eyes radiated contentment, and even standing near him calmed her down. He was never going to be as tall as Ron, or with the muscles that came from Quidditch, but the serenity he exuded more than made up for the small defects in his appearance. Even the glasses seemed a part of him now. She sat down silently at the table, knowing he knew she was there, from the extra mug he set out, to the freshly made gingersnaps he retrieved from the cupboard. As he passed with the milk- neither her nor Hermione had ever got used to casually using magic for such things, he patted her shoulder, and spoke. "I've got someone here," he said casually. "They're heading off now." He made his way to the door, and pressed his lips lingeringly to the blond who waved briefly and left.

Hermione's mouth dropped unbecomingly open. "Is that who I think it is?" she said breathlessly.

Fifteen years ago, Harry would have flinched and mumbled something inaudible but now he simply smiled at her, secure in her friendship and understanding. After everything they had been through, his choice in sexual partners was the last thing that would concern her. "I'll tell you the story one day," he chuckled. "For now, well I'm happy." Hermione nodded, a small smile creeping onto her own lips, finally laughing with amazement. Harry's quiet laugh rang out as well. "Now tell me why you're here," he said quietly.

The smile left her lips, and her eyes sobered. "Harry," she said quietly. "I'm not going to ask for your support on this, because I know you can't give it to me. You're best friends with Ron as well, it wouldn't be fair to stick you right in the middle of a Muggle Soap. But it would help if I could tell you about it." She paused and waited for his nod. "Ron wants children." It came out starkly. "He wants them so badly, that I think he'd leave me for them. I don't want any. It's selfish and wrong, and Molly would say unwomanly, and Ginny would accuse me of being scared, and Luna would ask if the Zinglepuffa had infiltrated my brain, and made me hate children. I know he's right. I'm thirty years old, and time will run out sooner or later, and I'll be left childless and alone, a mad old cat-lady with her career to console her, but I still don't want them. I adore Teddy, Lily, Victoire and all the rest, and I love being their slightly mad aunt, but the thought of having one scares the hell out of me." She drew another breath. "I hate hurting him like this, and I said some pretty unforgivable things about how he wanted me bare foot and pregnant like his mother. I know it isn't true, but I was so angry..." her voice trailed off and she stared hopelessly at Harry.

In a gesture of sympathy he touched her hand. "Why don't you just apologise?" he said quietly. "If it wasn't true, and you regret it, just say so. You know Ron could never hold out against you long."

A tear fought its way free of her closed lashes. "But even if I apologise," she whispered, "that doesn't solve my problem. Every time I look at him, he has this dream filled look on his face, and he doesn't even know it. It breaks my heart when I see him staring so avidly at Luna's baby, and stopping in front of Veronica's Knitwear to admire the white christening robe. But you know me Harry. When I don't want to do something, I entrench myself further and further, and it's driven us apart. Last night was the worst argument, but it wasn't the first, or even the tenth. He's going to leave me, Molly will hate me, you'll become awkward with me, because Ron was your first friend, the Weasleys will continue with their happy family, and I'll be left by myself." Again, she added silently.

Harry's eyes were filled with compassion. "Hermione," he began, stroking her hand with his thumb comfortingly. "I made friends with Ron first, but you are equally my friend, and always will be. After everything I've done in my life, you're still here supporting me, and bolstering me up. Hell your reaction on seeing my er partner, was all I could wish from a best friend. Molly and the Weasleys love you as well, whether you're with Ron or not."

She shook her head quietly. "I wish I could believe that," she said softly, "but children are such a big part of life in the Wizarding world. I have an idea, but it's a make or break one." She watched his face tentatively. "If I tell Ron I'm barren," she said, choosing her words with care, "then he'll either stop pushing the idea, or he'll leave me."

"Hermione," Harry gently said. "You know as well as I do, that that wouldn't work. They'd have you checked by every Medi-Wizard from here to Timbuktu, and probably by a Muggle gynacologist. They'd assume thats why the subject upset you so much, that you wanted a baby but were incapable, and when they finally find out you're perfectly fertile, well it would be awkward to say the least."

The words hung in the air, but she knew as well as Harry that if Ron ever found out what she'd done, that their relationship could never survive it.

A little bit drastic perhaps, but Hermione is the most logical of all witches. Reviews appreciated, I've tried to keep them in character, but with an extra dimension of maturity