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: Reviews welcome as always. I have left review replies to those who are anonymous at the end of this chapter.

Occasionally at Hogwarts, Hermione had lain awake filled with exasperation at the sobs of her room-mates. She had turned and twisted uncomfortably, and wished to God that one of them would learn a silencing charm. She had wondered if it would be unconscionably rude to try to teach one to Lavender, or Parvati, since neither of them appeared to use one at all. Sometimes either of them would pad from their bed, and go to comfort the other one, soft words mixed in with small sniffles. She just lay awake and stared into the dark. She had wondered if that made her a bad person, that she didn't feel the need to smother and sympathise, had felt it might be slightly crass if she tried to do so.

She had kicked herself in self-hatred, last year of Hogwarts when she returned for her NEWTs, because Lavender didn't cry at all then. Her ruined face provided her with more than enough motivation, but the tears that had been so easily elicited by fickle boys, were locked away inside her. Hermione had wanted to comfort then, but years of holding back, holding aloof from her roommates had stood between them, and she had been worried that it would seem patronising; her sympathy might seem like pity.

She regretted now that she had never reached out, even before that last year. Because this was what it felt to almost have your heart broken. This was what it felt to sob, and feel as though your chest could tear itself apart from the force. She had Apparated almost unknowingly to Bristol, the last place she would usually think of going, and therefore the last place anyone would look for her probably. In one hand she held her work bag, and her evening bag was tucked in a capacious pocket. It had seemed only fair to let Ron stay in the house. After-all she was the one driving this relationship apart wasn't she? She stared unseeingly at the ring on her hand, and twisted it round and round.

It was the same old story, she thought sorrowfully to herself. Only this time she was the man in the scenario. Wasn't it supposed to be men who didn't want children? Who were afraid that they wouldn't be good parents, afraid that they couldn't cope, who didn't want it cutting into their alone-time? And yet there was Ron who would probably sacrifice his Quidditch career for a chance at a child, while she was running a hundred miles.

She spent the afternoon wandering aimlessly around Muggle Bristol, having taken the precaution of changing into Muggle clothing. It was a spacious city that she was quite fond of, especially the waterfront, and she was able to wander around pretty much unnoticed, watching the First buses go by, the water fountains, and pretending to shop for clothes in the unremarkable shops. Small things seemed to be enough to remind her of what happened, while she was browsing in the Amnesty bookshop, she came across a copy of Fifteen Things to do to get the Girl of your Dreams. That inevitably brought back Ron's shame-faced confession of using a book to help woo her. She managed to hide her tears, but still wondered what on earth the stringy haired clerk must think of the thirty year old woman staring so intently at a teenage boy's manual on how to get into a girl's knickers.

What happens to the books? she thought sadly. If we never get back together, do I put them in storage until I get my own apartment, or do we work out something awkward like waiting and dividing them up together. There was no doubt that how that would work out. Every Quidditch book, with its pages dog-eared and tattered from long-reading, would be Ron's, and every book with it's neat inscription in magically removable ink of 'Hermione Granger' would be hers.

She'd had an argument with Molly about that of course. It wasn't exactly sexism on Molly's part that made her so anxious that Hermione become a Weasley, but there was more than a touch of the pressure that a patriarchal society put upon the role of the wife in a relationship. Hermione wondered wryly if she had married anyone else, if she would have fought so hard to keep her own name, after discovering with a shock that it changed automatically instead of with choice. Ron had wanted her to take Weasley, because as he'd told her he was proud of his wife.

Part of the reason she'd refused so adamantly was simple. Ron's family was pure-blood. She would be the first Muggleborn to marry into their line, in a long, long time. Taking his name would be inducting herself into that culture, be hiding who she truly was under a false name and image. She was quite happy as Hermione Granger: bookworm extraordinaire, excellent Auror and wife of Ronald Weasley. Though she was quite happy she didn't have the buck teeth anymore.

As darkness fell, and the pubs began to fill up she strolled through the black spot of the area- St Pauls, the problem zone, secure not only in her magic, but the hand-to-hand techniques that Kingsley had insisted all Aurors start versing themselves in. Her height and weight would always leave her at a disadvantage, but few potential rapists seemed to expect any measure of defence at all. If she had been ten years younger she might have been tempted to drain the whole sorry mess in alcohol, but she was responsible now, as she had to remind herself. When she finally felt hungry enough to stop walking and find something to eat, she was far enough into a residential area that there was only a fish and chip shop. Normally the threat of that much fat would have scared her away (chasing Dark Wizards only burned so 

many calories, and the thought of her thighs getting even bigger was a frightening one) but now she only felt an overwhelming urge for food.

It was warm and steamy inside, and she guiltily breathed in, hearing her stomach rumble. This was a southern chippy, and so no mushy peas. She smiled slightly remembering Peter Mandelson's famous faux-pas, as her mother had related to her. On being offered mushy peas, he'd replied, 'Splendid. I'll have some of that delicious avocado mousse.' Ordering chips, and with only the slightest hesitation, a battered sausage as well, she plonked a can of coke down beside it. The cashier flicked bored eyes over her, gaze lingering longest on her breasts. She raised her eyebrows and he flushed slightly, and hastily wrapped her order after dousing it in salt and vinegar. She handed him a ten pound note, sighing at how little change she received. Bloody inflation.

When she finally found a seat, in a silent park, she unwrapped the chips and began eating it. After a few seconds she slid them across the bench. "Have one Harry." He moved out of the darkness and sat down beside her, hand reaching out for a chip. They chewed in silence for a moment.

"The best chips I ever had," he started, his voice startling her a little, "were three weeks after the final battle." She stayed silent, and listened. He drank from her can of Coke, then continued. "Do you remember, we were thanked by the Muggle Prime-Minister. Then we went and got pissed at the Dragonshide Arms. And you suggested we did Muggle London, so we Apparated into Camden, and had a wander around. We ended up eating at that Chinese take-away that did English stuff. We had chips and curry, and Ron tried to pay in Sickles."

"And you were sick in the gutter, Ron was sick in an alleyway, and I managed to wait until we got home to call God on the white telephone. That was a good night." They ate silently on, until all that was left was the greasy white paper the chips had come in, and an empty can. She screwed them up, then lobbed it in the direction of the bin.

He shifted along the bench, and put his arm round her shoulders. The weight was solid and comforting, and she felt obscurely relieved that he was there. He seemed to sense that and pulled her a bit closer. "Those were the best chips I ever had," he repeated. "They were greasy, salty, imperfectly shaped, and they were eaten in the company of the two best friends I've ever had, three weeks after we beat a Dark Lord between us." He sighed, and she felt it rumble through him. "I think," he continued quietly, "that it never got better than that. We all live in the past a bit. Us both especially, because the past is our home really. The past for us is Hogwarts and Voldemort, and hating school enemies because it never occurred to us to do anything but. Ron and Ginny have their family, and this truly is the only world they know. But we chose it.

Hermione closed her eyes, and tried to block the tears away. He was right as always. After her letter, her life had been changed irrevocably. When her parents had died in Australia in a freak accident, she had mourned them, but more as she would have mourned her grandparents, because she knew so little about them really. She nodded, not trusting her voice to speak.

"We chose and there was nothing more we wanted than to be part of it. I wonder if part of that has influenced our choices over the years. I'm not saying that you and Ron don't love each other; on the contrary I know you do. But I wonder if half of that love is a link to the past, to a past where the most we had to worry about apart from Voldemort, was homework and kitchen-raids. A bit like my love for Ginny was because she was what I had always wanted, because I associated her with Quidditch, summer days, and her family. It wasn't right for either of us." He shifted and sighed. "Maybe we've grown up too much. Things are changing after all in the world, and maybe it's time we changed with the times as well."

She nodded shakily. "I do love him Harry," she whispered. "I truly do. But I wonder if you're right, and it's the wrong type of love. Maybe I should let him go, let him live his own life and find someone who he can share that with." She hiccupped, and laughed weakly. "I know he could. But I'm selfish. What could I do? Who would want me then? A divorced career witch."

Harry laughed, a sound of warm amusement. "I don't think you'd need to worry about that," he said. "But don't make any hasty decisions. Maybe you could work out this thing with Ron. I've spoken to him already, and he's cursing himself over the whole situation. I think he'd do anything to get you back. "Even..." he hesitated.

"... Not have children," Hermione finished for him. "I couldn't ask that of him. It's not an issue on which there is any compromise either is it? We either have them or we don't. And even if he never brings the issue up again, in twenty years time he'd hate me for it. He'd always imagine the children we might have had, and it'd drive us apart.

She took a lungful of the night air faintly tainted with the dirt of the city, and gazed up at the sky. "I'm sorry I was so overly dramatic the other night. You know I'd never sterilise myself purposefully. I don't really have a religion, but I do think that would be a sin. But sometimes I get so desperate when there seems to be no way out. If only things were as simple as they used to be."

Reviews welcome.

Anonymous review replies:

kar33m: Thanks for the review, and glad you found it compelling.

Jtgfrhn: I do indeed know women who really don't want children (to this extent as well.) In fact though I don't share the same beliefs as Hermione, I don't want children either, so I guess some of the feelings are equivalent to my own, but adapted to Hermione's world-view. The reason she couldn't be a working mother full time in her own mind, is that she felt a bit hard done by with her own parents spending so little time with her. This is no criticism of working mothers, it's just Hermione's own particular case. Thanks for the review.

Nightwing26: Although not anonymous, I felt compelled to reply here. Hermione is not a bitch for not wanting children. She is a normal woman entitled to her own feelings on the subject. She is certainly not a deadbeat!