Title: Rowan's Heart
Written For: nriveraortiz (Marie!)
Pairing: mentions of HHr ultimately DHr
Disclaimer: JK Rowling is a wonderful writer… so who wrote that darn epilogue? Characters (except for Rowan) and setting not mine.
Summary: It's been five years since their eighth year ended and Hermione has a secret she needs to let out of the closet.
The sky had just begun to lighten and the first rooster's cry pierced through her consciousness. It seemed like a typical day in the quiet English hamlet where she had lived for five years.
She had always associated the color with him. She looked up its meaning on the internet and it fit him perfectly. According to Wikipedia:
"The word green is closely related to the Old English verb growan, "to grow". Sometimes it can also describe someone who is inexperienced, jealous, or sick. Culturally, green has broad and sometimes contradictory meanings. In some cultures, green symbolizes hope and growth, while in others, it is associated with death, sickness, envy or the devil"
So many contradictions… but had he ever been totally black and white? His whole life had always been about shades of grey. People had looked at him and seen one thing… but only the ones who knew him best could see the true man, for he was not a boy for much of his life, underneath the façade he presented to the world.
Five years ago, she had been one of those people who knew him best. Before everything fell apart, she was that one person in his life he could count on. Did he have another now? Someone else to soothe his fears and listen to his rants?
She drew a crooked crimson line on her lips with a shaky hand as she stared at her reflection in the mirror. Five years, had it really been that long?
Could it have really been five whole years since the last time she had seen him?
She looked behind her at the velvet-bound tome resting quietly on the mahogany table behind her, mocking her with the secrets she had placed inside. Secrets that were soon going to be revealed for both their sakes… and for the sake of the most precious gift she had ever received in her life.
She turned slightly to reach a hand out to caress the cover but drew back at the last moment when the sound of an opening door reached her ears.
"Mum?" her daughter's tiny voice reached out to her and she moved her lips in a semblance of a smile as she diverted her attention from the journal on her night table to her tiny, perfect daughter.
She had thought about growan for awhile, but she wasn't a cruel mother. Rowan was a good name for her daughter. Even if it meant "little redhead"… she hoped her father wouldn't mind once he found about her existence. He was the ultimate inspiration behind their child's name anyway.
Rowan's eyes were a little slanted, which made it seem like she was forever plotting mischief… she loved to laugh and talk to her mother… she loved to read and make up her own stories to the characters she encountered.
She was also the image of her father.
"Mummy? I want to go with you to 'Oogwarts, please? I promise to be good…" her eyes watered and her little lips formed a pout. So like her father.
How many times had he pouted at her in the past to get his way?
"Rowan, honey… Mummy is attending the funeral of one of her old professors. It won't be much fun there. Don't you want to spend time with Grammy?" Hermione prayed that her precocious little daughter would stop begging her to go to the place where it had all began. It would be complicated enough without proclaiming to the whole world the secret she had kept for so many years.
"Grammy said my daddy used to go to school with you. Are you going to see Daddy there?" her innocent enquiry struck an emotional chord in Hermione and she gathered her small daughter close to her chest, breathing in her powdery baby scent.
"Yes, Ro. I'll see him there." She tried to keep her voice level and not let her heart's doubts show. Rowan was a very perceptive child as it was. She did not want to cause her small daughter any more pain.
"Won't he want to see me too Mummy?" tears were starting to gather at the edges of Hermione's eyes and she took a second to wipe them away with the tip of fingers while her other hand kept a light but firm hold on her daughter.
"Let's talk about it when I get back okay? Mummy is already late…" she directed a small smile at her daughter as she ruffled the little girl's curls. At least that part of Rowan was totally hers. Mine, she thought. My daughter. My greatest gift.
Hermione straightened her white dress and slid on her Chanel sunglasses while her daughter made her way out of the room. Her hair was pulled back in a sophisticated chignon, held fast by a special charm a co-worker had taught her. She had on black gloves and black heels. The journal she had kept for five years had been slipped into her purse along with her wand. She had also brought along a treasured baby picture of Rowan.
Maybe, just maybe, he could find it in his heart to forgive her and want to meet his daughter. She could show it to him and he would see how much she favored him.
Maybe when she came back she would also have with her the person who knew her best.
"Harry!" Hermione laughed as her best friend tickled her sides. Seventh year was coming to an end and they had done nothing but laugh and play after defeating Voldemort. They felt they deserved the break after all that they had been through.
Hermione and Ron had admitted to themselves that their relationship was too volatile for them to be anything more than 'just friends'. Ginny had also found new love while helping Neville with Dumbledore's Army. It seemed only natural for the remaining two members of the Golden Trio to gravitate toward each other, offering each other the comfort that they earlier thought would be coming from different sources.
She smiled up at him and he ceased his teasing to place a soft kiss on her lips. Life just seemed so perfect when you were in-love with your best friend. They could talk to each other about anything and everything. Nothing was too monumental or too mundane for them.
If they only knew how a pair of gray eyes watched them, waiting for his chance to make her love him instead.
She sighed in irritation as the barrier dividing 9 ¾ from King's Cross Station refused to let her through. She knew she was going to be late, but she had dropped off Rowan at her Mum's house and had a brief chat with said grandparent about revealing too much information to minors.
Needless to say, her Mum had simply waved her hands in apparent compliance before reminding her daughter that she had raised her quite well, thank you very much. She didn't need any grand-parenting advice.
Shaking her head at the uncooperative wall, she made her way out of the busy station. Looks like she would have to apparate to Hogsmeade and walk to the pier where the boats to Hogwarts would be waiting. The anti-apparition wards that the four founders had set up during the school's beginnings were still in place.
Hermione walked toward the parking lot and spied an alley that seemed deserted enough for Apparition. She put her hand in her purse and gripped her wand without bringing it up for view. She had enough problems at the moment without having to worry about Muggles needing to be Obliviated.
She closed her eyes and tried to envision Hogsmeade, she hadn't been there in years so she had to think really hard about where it would be safe to land. One, two… FOCUS Hermione! Crack.
She felt the familiar rush to the head that apparition always gave her and opened her eyes to see a myriad of colors passing in front of her eyes before she felt her feet hit the ground. The Shrieking Shack looked as decrepit and abandoned as ever. She gazed at it critically and shook her head before making her way up to the village. She was ahead of the people who took the train now, so maybe she would browse through the establishments and see if anything had changed since her last visit.
Hermione was late for her meeting with Profe-no-Headmistress McGonagall. She had a few revisions for her Ministry application that she wanted Minerva to look over but Harry had detained her at the portrait guarding Gryffindor tower and she had lost track of time.
The boy lounging on the wall outside the office straightened as he heard her footsteps approaching the stone gargoyle that marked the entrance to the tower. He had heard her request a private meeting with the Headmistress and realized that it was the perfect opportunity to make his move.
His grey eyes watched her approach and his heart fell at the look of distrust and suspicion in her eyes.
"Hello Hermione." She raised an eyebrow at his use of her name. It wasn't bushy like the hair on her head but perfectly sculpted, like his mother's after a day at the parlor.
"What do you want Malfoy? I'm a little busy." She tried to get past him but he quickly moved to block her way.
"I know. I was actually hoping to talk to you…"
"Can it wait? I'm already late to my meeting with McGonagall." She pushed past him and said the password, turning back to watch the back of his head as the stone steps lifted her above him and into the tower.
She never saw the look of disappointment that flashed over his face as she ran past him. What she did see, much later, was a boy sitting by the stone gargoyle, patiently waiting for her to return.
Hogwarts still evoked the same feelings of awe in her as she gazed up at it from the silence of her barge. She had thought that it would seem diminished somehow. After all, a war had been fought there and she knew first hand that not a stone was left untouched by the events of that final bloody, yet ultimately glorious battle.
She had returned to her grammar school once when she was looking for pre-schools for Rowan and found it to be smaller than she remembered, less grand. Hogwarts didn't leave with her with a diminished impression… in fact it seemed even larger and more grandiose than she remembered.
It was sad to think that her favorite Professor had passed on. Minerva McGonagall had been a pillar of strength the whole seven-no eight- years she had spent in Hogwarts, not to mention a great source of information regarding the development of Wizarding children.
Hermione was sure that Professor Flitwick was going to be a wonderful and caring Headmaster… but she couldn't help but expect Minerva to be waiting for her at the end of the dock, all ready to usher her into the Great Hall to meet the rest of the student body.
The other alumni had started trickling in about twenty minutes after she had arrived. Most of them had made it to the special train sent by the school to ferry them to Hogwarts.
She recognized more than a few faces, but kept to the relative safety of the wall as she wasn't ready to face any of them just yet.
"Hello Hermione." The voice she had grown so used to during her seven years as a student at Hogwarts made her break out in cold sweat.
She turned to look into the deep green eyes of Harry Potter savior of the Wizarding World and her former best friend. He still had the same tousled hair, although it was shorter than she ever remembered it being. His scar was gone and he looked taller, more self-assured.
"We didn't think you would be here." He said, watching her intently, an indecipherable look in his eyes. She couldn't decide if it was pity or longing… or maybe those were just emotions she wanted to see.
"And who is we?" her voice came out a lot higher and sharper than she had intended and she saw his eyes narrow at the unprovoked attack. "I'm sorry. I was asked to speak a few words at the funeral… for her eulogy…"
He gave a sad smile at the reminder of why they were all gathered together within the castle walls for the first time since their graduation day. Since that day when everything had come out into the open and their paths had diverged for the first time in eight years.
"You always did have a knack for putting things in perspective." With that parting statement, he turned and disappeared into the growing crowd of former classmates and distant acquaintances. She felt her heart squeeze at the realization that for the first time since they had become friends, they hadn't even touched each other once in the ten minutes they were in others presence. Not even a single sympathizing squeeze on the hand or shoulder. She lifted a glass of butter beer from a serving tray floating by her unaided and headed to the dungeons. She needed what she and Rowan liked to call "mememe time".
"Harry, we're just study partners, not even friends." Hermione hurried to put her things in her backpack and rush to the library meeting with Draco. She was already five minutes late. She hated being late.
"Not even friends yet you seem to spend more time with him than with any of us anymore." He didn't mean to be so difficult… but after she had come back to their common room to report with surprise that Draco Malfoy asked her to tutor him in Advanced Transfiguration, things seemed to change between them.
"Harry. I'm late and you're being silly. We'll talk about this later." She hoisted her bag on her shoulder and gave him a chaste peck on the cheek before rushing out.
He wondered why he couldn't remember the last time they had really sat down to relax and talk. "Yeah. We'll do that." He said tonelessly to the air in front of him. "Later…"
The dungeons were as creepy and drafty as she remembered. Her white dress stood out in the inky black darkness. The cold air surrounded her, chilling her to the bone.
"Hello Granger." A voice drawled out from the shadows of the dungeon walls as she gave a little squeak of fright and surprise.
"Tsk. I don't remember you being such a scared little mouse. Figured out you have a fear of the dark and unknown, Gryffindor?"
"I don't remember you having a penchant to hide in the shadows like a common criminal waiting for his prey. Show yourself ferret." She took a sip from the drink in her trembling hand and squinted into the darkness. Had he dyed his hair black or something? She should have spotted his blonde head from miles away.
"One thing you seem to have forgotten in your absence, witch, is that I am a Slytherin. We're born sneaky and mysterious." With that, he straightened from his lounging position against the wall behind her and walked up toward her until they were only a breath apart. "Why are you here?"
"It was my school once. I was just visiting old haunts." She hoped her latent Gryffindor courage hid any hints of fear and nervousness in her voice. She hadn't been expecting to bump into him so soon.
"Oh. Is that all? Or were you hoping the ghosts of Christmas past would be hanging about here too?" he circled her warily, unable to believe that she was really here.
"What do you know of Muggle stories, Draco?" she stiffened as his name slipped easily from her lips. It had been so long.
"I know more than you think, Hermione." And he started up the stairs leading away from the dungeons. "Are you coming?"
She nodded silently, accepting his offer to hold onto his hand as they made their way back to civilization. A tingle crept up her spine at the contact but she tamped it down with a silent sigh of irritation. First things first… or easy thing first… she couldn't really decide with him so close to her.
Hermione entered the Great Hall with Draco at her side and she thanked him before moving on to find Harry. She found him by the punch bowl.
"Can we talk?" she asked quietly.
"Sure." He replied, placing a hand on her back to guide her outside. He led her to an empty classroom and leaned on one of the desks. "What's on your mind?"
"Five years ago…" she started to explain how she had never meant to deceive him or hurt him in any way. The heart wants what it wants right? "… but in spite of all that happened, I did love you in my own way."
"Oh... and I guess that you just loved him more?" he couldn't help but be bitter.
"I loved him differently. I loved you both in different ways. It was friendship, but it was also… something else entirely. Harry, I would have been so happy with you… so content and unbelievably happy…"
A voice interrupted her then, "Then why did you start things with me?" An angry Draco walked into the room. "I wanted to be your friend, I wanted you to love me… but I never forced you into anything. If you were so happy with him then why were you with me?"
"Yes, Hermione. Why?" Harry and Draco were both staring at her, hurt and pain evident in their eyes and her planned speech fell apart.
She slowly got to her feet and took a shrunk journal from her reticule. She made it return to its original size and faced the two of them.
"I loved you both. I can't begin to apologize for being selfish… I was confused… and this journal tells you just how much I wanted to just make a choice… but things didn't happen that way in the end. I lost you both because I couldn't tell Harry I had met someone else and I couldn't tell Draco that my best friend meant more to me than my own happiness. So I decided to wait… and it killed my relationship with both of you."
"What are we doing here? Are we even friends?"
"Of course we're friends. We have been for awhile now haven't we? We were just too stuck in our ways to admit it."
"Do you trust me?"
"Of course… you're my friend… and…"
"But do you trust me?"
"Close your eyes…"
He kissed her soft lips and slowly caressed his way down her body until he was kneeling in front of her jean-covered legs. He lifted her soft cotton shirt above her stomach and placed a soft kiss there before pulling it over her head… watching as she lifted her arms gracefully, like a dancer, then let them fall to her sides.
She kept her eyes closed. She could feel his mouth on her body like a brand searing its way to her soul, marking her forever as his. She knew it was foolish to think that this night could be the first of the endless nights they would share wrapped in each other's embrace… but a girl was allowed to be a bit of a hopeless romantic during her first time with the man she was going to love forever, wasn't she?
He watched her through lidded eyes as he slowly undid the clasps of her lacy white bra. It figured that after all the practical outer wear he had seen her in, his Hermione would choose the most provocative fabric on earth to cover her more trademark… womanly parts. He wondered what she was thinking about and if it was the man in front of her on her mind.
A flash of jealousy went through him and he growled low in the back of his throat before nipping at the buds straining toward him for some attention. Her breasts were perfect in their imperfections and he wondered if she had gone any further with anyone else.
He stopped his exploration of her body and his eyes sought hers out. She looked into his eyes and understood his hesitation. She reached out a hand to caress his cheek before placing a soft kiss on his lips. A promise.
"There will never be anyone else."
That was all he needed to hear. He lifted her onto a desk and divested her of the rest of her garments. And when he slid inside her, it was perfect and good and all that they had ever dreamed of it being.
And other eyes watched in horror before a hand holding a platinum engagement ring slid back into a pocket. Things weren't supposed to work out this way.
"There's so much about these past few years that neither of you know about. So many things were put into motion and couldn't be stopped… What I did was wrong, but I did have my reasons for staying away till today." She tapped her wand on the cover of the book and uttered a quiet spell that cloned the journal.
"If either of you ever loved me like you claimed… read this. When you're done, if you have any more questions, you can come and talk to me."
She took a deep breath as both men reached out to take a copy. Draco turned to leave almost immediately while Harry's hand lingered on top of the journal without picking it up and his piercing green eyes bore into her own amber gaze.
"This will change everything again, won't it Mione?"
The words caught in her throat as she glimpsed the torment in his eyes. He wanted to take the book and know what had really happened those few weeks leading up to graduation, from her perspective, but he was also afraid of losing the little respect he still had for her.
"I've never disappointed you Harry." Her quiet answer unnerved him, made him want to run from the room... but it also sparked anger in him. She didn't know him anymore. It had been five years. He had changed.
"Not before that day. No. I refuse to read this. When you're ready to talk to me like you used to, you know where to find me." with that he pivoted on his heel and left. The journal lay untouched on the table.
And her heart broke all over again.
Draco pushed off from the wall outside the room. He couldn't help himself. He had to know what they were talking about. He glanced inside to see tears streaming down Hermione's face and swore under his breath while quickly walking toward the direction Harry had gone in.
"Potter!" he had to stop himself from sneering. It came almost naturally when faced with this particular human being.
"What do you want Malfoy?" Harry snarled as he rounded on the simmering blond. He had wrecked everything and if he thought he was going to get away with it again, he had another think coming.
"I love her." His words made Harry freeze in his tracks. "It's been five years and I still feel the same way I did when I saw the two of you sitting under the tree. It's never been about wanting something that was yours… or getting one up on you… it's always been about her."
Harry could feel his throat closing up. This had to be some sort of dream. He wanted to scream and rant and tell Draco that no, HE loved her and he was going to get her back. Instead what came out was an incredulous voice asking a question, "Are you asking my permission to be with my best friend?"
"No… I…" Draco didn't get a chance to finish because an arm came flying out at him and he dropped to the ground, his jaw already swelling from the impact. "Fuck!"
"You deserved that." Harry said simply as he extended a hand to Draco, helping him up.
"Yeah. Whatever." The ex-Slytherin rubbed his jaw and glared malevolently at the grinning ex-Gryffindor. He bent to pick up the journal and froze at the words staring up at him from one of the pages.
"Malfoy?" Harry bent down to get a closer look at the page that had caught the attention of the man in front of him. "Oh Merlin."
November 18, 1998
I decided to name my newborn daughter Rowan. She has such beautiful eyes, just like her father's. her hair is the same color too… but I think it's going to be as unruly a mane as mine.
Death comes unannounced, abruptly he may thwart you; no one knows his features, nor the sound of his tread approaching.
Hermione took a deep breath as she prepared to ascend the podium and give her mentor the eulogy she deserved. She had a whole speech written out but now it seemed like such a pithy tribute to the greatest witch she had ever known.
She looked out at the gathered crowd of students, friends and acquaintances and she realized that this was what their lives together had been reduced to. When would she see these people next? Who would have to pass on so that they could be together again?
She moved to the center of the stage and blew a kiss toward the barge where Minerva's body lay in eternal repose. They had decided to do a scene out of Camelot apparently and the archers with tar on their arrows were standing at the ready.
She cleared her throat before casting a Sonorous and beginning her speech. To hell with the script she had written out. She was going to do this for the Professor she had loved and looked up to and she was going to do this right.
"We are all gathered here today as a testament to the magnificent legacy left behind by the best witch I have ever known. Minerva McGonagall was a fountain of wisdom, strength and courage throughout my eight years in this institution. She has mentored not only me but hundreds and thousands of other former and current students, a handful of which are present today. Her influence was far-reaching and lasting. She was the first person to initiate me into the world of Magic and she was my guide through this strange new world…"
Hermione continued on to talk about the contributions Minerva had made to the Wizarding World and to Hogwarts. She inserted little anecdotes here and there, and yes, she talked about Harry and Ron and all the hijinks they had gotten into. She looked into the green eyes that had meant so much to her for so long and she was surprised to find him smiling softly at her, as if he too was remembering all that they had been to each other.
She didn't see the grey eyes that watched her watching the Boy that lived… she didn't see the man that held a green journal to his heart while hanging on to her every word.
Hermione gripped her drink in her hand as she surveyed the room filled to the brim with former classmates and schoolmates. After the eulogy, they had watched as the barge had been set loose on the Great Lake. Merpeople guided the small boat filled with flowers and the funeral pyre to the center of the lake… the archers strung their charmed arrows to their bows and a man passed on front to light each one. The arrows had been charmed to hit only the barge, out of respect for the creatures that lived in the lake.
The sun had set while the barge caught fire and tears had escaped her eyes as she thought about all that she still needed to ask Minerva. So many things…
She straightened from the chair she had been lounging in and nodded to Professor Flitwick before making her way out of the castle and into one of the waiting carriages to take her to Hogsmeade. It was time to pick her daughter up and go home.
Harry caught Draco's eye as Hermione left the Great Hall and they moved toward the entrance, falling into place beside each other as they silently shadowed the girl they both loved. They watched her get into a carriage and when it was gone from their sight, they turned to each other, wariness still in their eyes.
He knew he had won the chance to be with her, but his earlier insecurities came to the surface again. "You love her too. Perhaps even more than what I feel for her… you certainly know her better. Maybe…"
"I do. And rest assured that that's something I will hold over your head for a very long time. Not forever, but very long indeed. However… she, misguided as I think she is, loves YOU."
"You're the one she loves… that about wraps things up in my view. Take care of the both of them, all right?"
"From this moment on, they are my life. And you know how attached I am to myself, right?"
"Yes. That's why I trust you enough to get your arse out of here in five minutes and go get your girls. I think you all have some catching up to do."
"My girls. I like the sound of that. Rowan and Hermione." He headed out of the mixer and practically ran to the Floo in the Head's office. He swore he saw a glint of mischievous blue in one of the portraits as he shouted out the nearest Floo address he knew of in her area.
It was time to go home.
"Mummy? Did you see Daddy?" Rowan asked Hermione as soon as they returned to the flat. "Did he want to see me?"
Hermione's eyes filled with tears and she turned to place her coat in the hall closet before rubbing her eyes with the heel of her palms. "Y-yes. He wanted to see you… but I told him Mummy needed some time with you first."
"Oh. Okay! I should get ready then." Rowan skipped happily to her room as her mother stared blindly out of the hall window, tears filling her eyes and spilling over her cheeks. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that her courage had deserted her on the most important day of her life. On the day that she was supposed to bring home the man she had told her daughter so much about… and the man that she had been unable to truly explain to her yet seemed so much a part of their lives despite his absence.
A knock sounded on the door and she was shaken out of her miserable state. She rushed down the hall to answer it, and the memory of rushing to the library for a meeting flew through her mind. Shaking her head to get rid of the thought, she reached for the golden knob and turned it slowly, pulling at the oak door.
He waited on the other side of it, clutching a transfigured stuffed bear in one hand and a bunch of wildflowers in the other. His heartbeat slowing as he watched the knob turn and the door open.
Grey met amber and the world stopped for a few seconds.
A pitter-pattering of small feet approached them, grey met grey, and the world started spinning again.
"Daddy! You're home!"
She took a deep breath and released it in a slow exhale. It had been a year full of drama … but it had ultimately been a gradual healing process and a chance for new beginnings.
She had found her best friend again and reconciled with the man she loved.
Her daughter had her father in her life, finally… and Rowan had never been happier.
She and Draco often took the journal out and opened it to the very first entry she had written. Seven simple words, yet it all seemed so profound. It had been the start of so much change.
The words in the journal had given them hope for a future together… and though it hadn't looked to be all golden sunshine and verdant green fields… it was still more than either of them could have wished for.
Who knew the words written on that first page would be the catalyst to so much change in their lives?
February 9, 1998
Today, Draco Malfoy and I became friends…