A/N: Well, this one popped into my head and would NOT leave me alone, despite the fact that it's been years since I started up a new fic. I've written quite a bit on it already. I don't imagine it will be too long – maybe 10-12 chapters? Hopefully you'll like it. Let me know if you do!
The Floo lit up at the Potter residence, making Harry, Ginny, and their three children look up. Harry had his hand on his wand; even though it had been a decade since the last Dark Wizard had been apprehended, he still couldn't help that instantaneous reaction. He was a fully trained Auror now, head of the department, and could never really turn that off.
Two kids stepped through the fireplace, and he softened immediately.
"Hey, Rosie. Hugo," said Harry. "What's going on?"
Rose Weasley, twelve years old and the only Weasley without red hair, stepped out of the fireplace, dusting off her robes, and Hugo followed afterward, his red head lightly coated with soot.
"Just Mum and Dad are at it again," said Rose, sounding sad yet a bit impatient or annoyed.
Harry and Ginny looked at each other knowingly. Hermione and Ron had always had a virulent relationship, that hadn't stopped, but they both wished the kids weren't involved with it all.
"Any wands drawn?" asked Harry.
"Not yet," said Rose quietly.
Harry pulled an arm around her shoulder.
"They fight, I know," he said. "You should have seen them back at Hogwarts. They never let up. I know it's hard to listen to it, but it has nothing to do with you two. They love you."
"We know," Rose said.
"You just never listen to me!" shouted Hermione. "You're never around to help with the children! All summer, nothing. Always at work or with Harry. What did you expect? That I would just be willing to wait until after the children go to school to see you?"
"It's not as though you've been around forever. You've gone off and done things," Ron replied.
"What's that supposed to mean?" spat Hermione.
"Don't be all innocent. I know you had an affair!" shouted Ron.
Hermione pulled herself up to her greatest height, her brown eyes blazing with fury and her jaw set hard.
"An affair?" she asked, her voice crackling with anger.
"An emotional affair!" he yelled.
"Since when do you even know what an emotional affair is?" shouted Hermione.
"I'm not stupid," Ron said angrily. "A couple of years ago, back when you were spending all that time with Desmond-"
"Who was my mentor in my job!" interrupted Hermione.
"You were never around! You were distant and barely paid attention to the kids! It was an emotional affair!" Ron said.
Hermione stared hard at him.
"So that gives you justification to do whatever you like now? Because I spent a lot of time learning how to do my job two years ago?" she said.
"I just think maybe we got into this too fast," Ron said.
"Too fast? Too fast? Isn't it a little late to say too fast?" Hermione shrieked. "Look around, Ron! We have two children! They're leaving for the second year at Hogwarts tomorrow! We've been married almost 14 years!"
"Yes, and how old were we when we got married?" Ron replied.
"Nineteen! I know! I was young, too. But your sister was only 17 when she married Harry, hell, she was pregnant with James before we even set a wedding date!" Hermione cried. "Everyone was getting married right away, that was just what we all did after the war was over. And you don't see everyone else screaming and shouting and saying that it all happened too fast!"
"I just never got to experience anyone else besides you!" he said.
"Oh, Lavender Brown wasn't anyone else?" Hermione spat acidly.
"Lavender Brown? You're really gonna bring up Lavender Brown? That was fifteen years ago, Hermione," Ron said, annoyed.
They stared at each other, not sure what else to say, both breathing heavily. They had always fought, since they'd met at Hogwarts twenty years earlier. Hermione loved Ron very much, but he wasn't wrong about the emotional affair. She'd gotten close to her coworker, someone who shared her interests, her intellect, her goals, but as soon as she'd realized she was distancing herself from her husband, she'd cut things off and gotten a different job. Still, Ron had never called it an emotional affair before. Who had he been talking to?
"I'm just saying I never did anything but you. I never did anyONE but you," he said, and Hermione winced at his choice of words. "And you aren't totally innocent. You had an emotional affair."
"Okay," she said slowly, wondering where this was going.
"And the thing is, Hermione," Ron began, his face beginning to redden and turn the same color as his hair. "I want to . . . I've . . . Maybe we should get a divorce."
"A divorce? You want to get a divorce?" Hermione said, blindsided. Sure, they fought. They fought every damn day of their lives, mostly just bickering but at least once a week they had a screaming blowout. They'd even thrown some hexes the week prior. But a divorce? That was the last thing she ever expected good old dependable Ron to suggest.
"You see, I've met someone-"
"You're having an affair?" screamed Hermione, drawing her wand in an instant and hitting him with a hex that broke his nose.
"It's not like that, Hermione!"
"Then what's it like?" she shrieked.
"It's just that I finally met someone who doesn't scream at me every day!" he roared, spitting blood from his nose onto the floor. "Someone who thinks I'm smart and interesting and that everything I do and say isn't wrong!"
"So is that where you've been all summer?"
"Not ALL summer," he said, and Hermione roared into action once again, hitting him with some well placed hexes that would leave bruises for weeks. She even managed to get a rib while she was at it, leaving him gasping for breath.
"STOP! STOP! STOP!" shouted Ron, and he finally drew his wand and cast a Shield Charm that sent Hermione's last hex, a body bind, right back at her, and she fell immobile to the floor. Ron walked over to her and stood above her.
"It's not that I don't love you," he began, and Hermione's eyes lit up with fire. "And it's certainly not that I don't love the kids. I love them more than anything. But this marriage isn't working. It never has. I'm going to file the paperwork at the Ministry after we drop the kids off at Platform 9 ¾."
With that, Ron summoned a bag, one he had clearly already packed ready to go, and walked out the door, casting the countercurse just before he Apparated away.
Hermione stood slowly, mostly furious but also in disbelief about what had just happened. It wasn't that Hermione had never contemplated divorce. Merlin, she had thought about divorcing Ron just about every day of their marriage. He was an excellent father, loving, caring, doting, amazing in every way, but as a husband, he failed miserably. They shared very little in terms of goals or ambitions, his ability to provide for their family was negligible at best and they survived mostly on Hermione's own salary and on the fund that the Ministry provided to Harry, Hermione, and Ron at the war's end – sort of a "thanks for defeating Voldemort and sorry for all the trouble" account, and that fund was running thin. Even her sex life with Ron was disappointing – she still sometimes wondered how Hugo managed to be conceived at all.
But she'd never in her wildest dreams imagined that Ron would be the one to find someone else, to file to divorce and leave their marriage in the dust. She'd always figured that would be her. She didn't really have it in her to feel sad about the dissolution of her marriage: it was a long time coming, really. She was actually more annoyed that she hadn't been the one to leave him first. With an angry sigh, she gathered up a few things and Flooed to Harry and Ginny's, where Rose and Hugo always went during their parents' fights.
Draco Malfoy was putting his things away in his bag after a grueling session at the studio. He was a member of an elite dueling club, an organization that trained witches and wizards (though, mostly wizards) in the finer points of fighting: everything from basic jinxes and hexes to Dark curses to some forms of physical fighting. As each fighter moved up the ranks and mastered more and more difficult spells, his or her wand carried an engraving of a different magical creature, a more dangerous creature for each higher level. Draco's wand currently bore an engraving of a Manticore, the second highest level in training. He was one of only a few dozen that had mastered this level of fighting, and there were fewer than five wizards in Great Britain who had bore the engraving of the highest level, the dragon.
But that level of skill still eluded him, despite years of training. He had been able to skip the first few levels based only on the skills he had learned as a Death Eater. He absently rubbed the Mark on his left arm. It still hadn't faded, a constant reminder of whose side he had been on.
Now that he had more time to practice, he was progressing up the ranks faster. He had mastered the Manticore level of fighting in record time, so it was just a matter of practice. Endless practice. And with his current schedule, that worked out fine for him.
He shared custody of twelve year old Scorpius with his ex-wife, Astoria. Why had he married her in the first place? He honestly had no idea. Everyone was getting married, and in the rush to fit in, to assimilate with society, to keep up appearances as a reformed Death Eater, he had just joined the masses and proposed to the first gorgeous woman he'd taken out on a date. Astoria was certainly gorgeous: blonde hair, cool blue eyes, aristocratic features. She was pureblood as well; he hadn't been able to shake a lifetime's prejudice just yet. They were a good match and had produced good offspring. Scorpius was a smart, handsome boy. Draco missed seeing his son every day. He currently only had custody every other weekend, and once Scorpius boarded the Hogwarts Express, he was unlikely to see him again until the school year ended. That thought sent a wrench into his heart, so Draco had just been focusing on his training.
But tomorrow he would be meeting his son and his ex-wife at King's Cross to see Scorpius off to Hogwarts for his second year. That was going to be awkward. Draco hadn't wanted his marriage to end, but about a week after Scorpius had left for Hogwarts for the first time, Draco and Astoria had realized that there was absolutely nothing holding their marriage together besides their son. They had nothing in common and were barely able to find anything to talk about besides occasionally commenting how pleased they were to have Scorpius sorted into Slytherin. Astoria had filed for divorce a month later, and she was now dating some other rich thirty-something, only this one didn't have a Death Eater tattoo on his arm.
The divorce hadn't been good for him. Draco's grasp on trust, respect, and love had been tenuous at best given his upbringing. His parents certainly had never modeled a loving relationship, though they were still married, living in Malfoy Manor and likely never even glimpsing one another in the spacious halls. He'd never really dated anyone at Hogwarts; certainly there had been plenty of girls who'd jumped into his bed at first opportunity, but Draco had never allowed himself to be close to anyone. Not friends, family, teachers, anyone. Astoria had been the closest he'd ever come to loving someone, though he had never really known how to show it. He'd kept his distance with her. That was what she'd said when they divorced: he always seemed cold, dark, distant. He was a Malfoy, for Merlin's sake. What had she expected from him?
He tried not to dwell on it.
Draco Apparated to his posh London flat. After the divorce, Astoria had gotten the house, a beautiful manor near Cambridge, so Draco was left to find a place to live. He decided to go for something modern, something trendy. It wasn't as if money was a problem. All Malfoy holdings belonged to him, given his father's trial and subsequent conviction after the war. Lucius Malfoy had served two years in Azkaban followed by a lengthy probation, so every last galleon technically belonged to Draco. It wasn't as if his parents went wanting, of course. Draco saw to it that they had everything they might possibly want.
His flat was sparse but well appointed. Low couches, subdued lighting, a few portraits on the wall to keep him company when things got lonely. His great grandfather Marius Malfoy hung in the main living area, a portrait painted when he was just around Draco's age, white-blonde hair, piercing grey eyes, handsome features, and an aristocrat's drawl.
"Still wasting time in the dueling club, I see," said the portrait haughtily.
"What else am I to do with my time?" answered Draco.
"What sort of Malfoy spends his time play-fighting when there are real fights to be had?" asked Great Grandfather Marius.
"What sort of real fights?" Draco said with a humorless chuckle. "Something to get me thrown into Azkaban? The Malfoys are still on thin ice as it is."
"Nonsense!" cried Marius. "The Malfoys are among the oldest and most powerful pureblood wizarding families in the entire wizarding world! Our bloodlines date back centuries . . ."
Draco left the room as Marius trailed off into a genealogical history of the entire Malfoy clan, dating back to the Etruscans. He slipped away to his bedroom, not in the mood to remind his great grandfather once again that blood status simply didn't matter the way it once did, however frustrating that reality might be.
Draco cast a spell with his wand to check the time. The hour appeared in the air in glittering letters for a moment. Late. Past dinner, and he would have to be awake extra early to meet Astoria at Platform 9 ¾ and ensure he got to wish Scorpius well before he boarded the train. It would be just like her to shove their son into a compartment before Draco even had a chance to see him. Exhausted, he took a long, hot shower and crawled into bed.
"He's filing for divorce," whispered Hermione.
"What?" Ginny cried.
"Shh! Don't wake the kids!" Hermione admonished. "He told me today. Said he'd met someone else . . ."
"Oh, I'll kill him," said Ginny. "It's been way too long since I've given one of my brothers a good hex. My Bat Bogey is getting a little rusty."
"It's okay," said Hermione, waving her hand. "I'm not upset."
"Not upset? How can you not be upset? He's cheating on you!" Ginny said.
"I'm just saying, if I found out Harry had a woman on the side, he'd lose any body part he put into her," Ginny said matter-of-factly.
"I heard that," said Harry, bringing a beer and two glasses of wine into the room. "Duly noted."
Hermione just shrugged.
"It's been a long time coming," said Hermione. "I just don't know what to tell the kids."
"I talked to them earlier. Told them it would work out right," said Harry. "Maybe it's a good thing they go to Hogwarts tomorrow. Give you and Ron a chance to figure things out before they come back."
"Figure what out? How to get a divorce? Then Rose and Hugo come home for the holidays and we say, 'Guess what kids? We're splitting up Christmas this year!'" Hermione said.
Harry and Ginny didn't quite know how to respond.
"I'll stay here tonight if it's all right with you," Hermione added.
Neither Harry nor Ginny protested, so Hermione traipsed up the stairs to the guest bedroom.
The next morning came early with Rose and Lily bounding down the stairs, clothes and hair ready, trunks packed. Hugo, James, and Albus were a little slower to rouse, but eventually they managed to get all five children ready to go. It was Hugo's first year to Hogwarts, so James (being the oldest) took it upon himself to teach him how to go through barrier to the platform, though not before telling him that a troll awaited them on the other side for First Years. Hugo knew James's propensity for teasing, but he stole a glance at his mother just to be sure, and when she rolled her eyes and shook her head, Hugo seemed much more confident.
"Where's Dad?" asked Rose when they were all standing around the platform.
"No idea," said Hermione, hoping to avoid the subject all together.
"There he is! Hey, Uncle Ron!" called James.
"Who's that with him?" Rose asked.
At that, Hermione's eyes snapped up in the direction James was pointing and her jaw dropped.
"Oh, Ronald, have you completely lost your mind?" Ginny muttered beside her.
"Ginny, do something about this," said Hermione through gritted teeth, "or else I might kill him."
Sure enough, Ron Weasley was strutting along the platform with a petite blonde twenty-something in tow, completely oblivious to how totally and insanely inappropriate this would be. Hermione was seething in rage, but trying to hold it together for the kids.
"Who is that, Mum?" asked Rose, ever the curious one.
"One of Dad's friends, I guess," Hermione said, desperately attempting to keep the venom from her voice.
Ginny and Harry had both caught Ron and stopped him before he could get close. Hermione could tell they were having some kind of argument, though Ron as usual seemed totally oblivious to why he perhaps shouldn't bring a new girlfriend to see his kids off to Hogwarts when the children had no idea their parents might be divorcing. After what was clearly some reasoning from Harry and threatening from Ginny, Ron patted the blonde's shoulder and left her behind as he trotted up to see the kids.
"Dad!" said Hugo. "I was afraid you'd miss the train!"
"I would never!" said Ron, smiling.
He glanced up at Hermione but seemed oblivious to the daggers in her gaze. Must be a benefit of divorcing your wife: her evil eye no longer has an effect. Ron and Hermione managed to get the children onto the Hogwarts Express without saying a single word to each other. It wasn't until the big red train was completely out of sight that Hermione rounded on him.
"You brought your girlfriend to Platform 9 ¾ to see MY CHILDREN off to school?" she shrieked.
"I wanted them to meet her!" Ron cried.
"Ron, you're a world class idiot," said Ginny.
"I hope you've gotten your things out of the house. You aren't welcome there any longer," snipped Hermione.
"No worries. It's done," said Ron.
"Fine," she said.
They stared at each other until they finally stormed off in opposite directions.
"Another year at Hogwarts," said Astoria.
Draco made a noise that he hoped sounded interested and polite, but probably came out more like defeated.
"I'll be taking Scorpius to Ireland for Christmas," she continued.
"Can't he spend Christmas Eve with me?" he asked.
"What, let him Floo across the Irish Sea? You know how dangerous it can be to take a Floo connection over open water. By himself? No chance," Astoria snapped.
"I'll Apparate and come get him," offered Draco.
"My parents won't want you at their house."
"I'll Apparate to Belfast and you can meet me there," he pressed.
"Belfast?" she scoffed. "That's a pretty far trip for me to take."
"Randalstown then," he said.
She just gave him a look.
"You can Apparate anywhere in the entire world in an instant, woman. Please let me see my son on Christmas Eve," pleaded Draco.
"We'll see," said Astoria.
Archaic custody laws and a general prejudice against the Malfoy name meant Draco had no other choice. Draco shook his head and stalked away, a foul mood descending like a cloud around him, and of course, he caught a glimpse of Harry Potter on the far end of the platform. Seeing that face on the best of days could put a bad taste in Draco's mouth, so on a day like today, it just sent him over the edge. Without a thought, he whipped out his wand a cast a hex at a trash can, making its contents explode into the air as Draco continued his angry stride toward the exit.
"Excuse me, sir," came a voice.
Draco stopped and dropped his head, rolling his eyes in annoyance both at himself for his momentary loss of control and for the guard at the platform who'd stopped him.
"Just give me a fine," said Draco wearily, turning to the guard.
The guard seemed a bit taken aback once he realized it was Draco Malfoy he spoke to, his eyes darting down to Draco's left arm automatically. When it seemed the guard wasn't going to move, Draco reached in his pocket and grabbed a couple of galleons, tossing them at the guard's feet.
"That should cover it," he muttered.