Speed of Lightning Competition. Prompt: "All that glitters is not gold." Requirement - 1000 word minimum.
Thanks to WeasleySeeker for information on the British version of the American dream/idealized life, which I then twisted to fit the Wizarding World.
They're perfect, aren't they? Ron and Hermione. She's the brains, the book-smarts. He's the strategy. They just fit, don't they?
Their life is perfect, isn't it? Ron's got his job at the Auror's office. Hermione does freelance research for Saint Mungo's when she's not busy watching the kids. Their house is plenty big enough and always spotless with a garden big enough for Quidditch as long as they stay inside the wards. Rose and Hugo are perfect – and exactly what Hermione wanted. One boy, one girl. It's exactly what they always wanted, isn't it?
On the surface, they're perfect. Two-thirds of the Golden Trio, together, as they were always meant to be. It's like the whole Wizarding World's happily ever after. From the outside, everything looks normal. Everything looks happy. Everything looks ideal.
But not everything can be seen from the outside. And all that glitters is not gold.
From the outside, it can't be seen that Hermione sleeps in the guest bedroom most nights. From the outside, it isn't obvious that they've been falling out of love for so long.
She's sick and tired of arguing all the time. He's sick and tired of being nagged. She's sick and tired of reminding him to do things fifteen times and finding it still not done. He's sick and tired of going to work and coming home and having her expect more from him, when all he wants is to relax for a while.
They're both so tired.
The fights have gotten more and more frequent. And louder. A lot louder.
"You never do anything!" she screams at him.
"All you do is tell me what to do!"
"That's because you don't ever do it!"
"Because I spend all the rest of my day at work!"
"Oh, don't even go there, Ronald! Don't even! I work just as hard as you do, and I take care of Rose and Hugo, who, by the way, are your kids! Don't know if you've noticed, given you don't spend any time with them!"
"So it's Ronald now, really, Hermione? Are we that childish?"
Her eyes flash. "We? No. You? Yes. But then, you never did grow up, did you Ron?"
"I'm the child here? Me? I don't think so!"
Hermione whirls around, her eyes wide. "Rosie! Hi, sweetheart."
Rose is clutching her blanket in her hand like a lifeline. "Mummy, why is Daddy yelling at you?"
Ron's face drops at the phrasing of Rose's question.
Hermione kneels down in front of her daughter. "You know how you and Hugo fight sometimes, sweetie?"
Rose nods somberly. "And then you tell me that I shouldn't fight. That sometimes we can disagree, but we should do it nicely. 'Cause yelling's not nice."
Hermione smiles, but her eyes are sad. "That's just right, Rosie. Yelling isn't nice. Sometime Daddy and I forget. But we're both very sorry." She picks Rose up and props her on her hip.
"Aren't we?" she asks Ron.
"Course, Rose. We're sorry."
Rose sticks her thumb in her mouth, her other hand still clutching the blanket. "Mummy," she says around her thumb. "Why are you and Daddy different from Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry?"
Hermione takes a deep breath. She doesn't believe in lying to her children, and she doesn't believe in trying to hide the truth from them. She doesn't believe in deciding that they're too young to hear something, or that there're certain things they shouldn't hear. She believes that if they are old enough to ask a question, they are old enough to hear the honest answer.
Sometimes that isn't so easy to put into practice.
"Rosie," she starts. "You know how you get along really well with Al, but sometimes not so well with James? But they're both your cousins and you like them both, just sometimes you don't get along with James so well?"
Rose nods seriously, her expression contemplative. "So you and Daddy don't get along so well sometimes?"
Hermione nods. "Yeah, baby. Sometimes we just don't get along so well."
"Rosie kiss it, make it better?"
Hermione presses her lips together tightly, trying not to cry.
"Oh, Rose. There are some things even kisses can't fix."
Rose's face droops. With one hand still propping Rose up, Hermione touches Rose's cheek with the other. "Baby, some things we have to accept the way they are, because we can't fix everything."
Pouting, Rose says, "But I want to!"
Hermione smiles slightly. "I know you do, baby. You want to fix the world. So do I. But we aren't invincible."
Rose kisses Hermione's cheek sloppily. "Love you, Mummy." She yawns widely.
"I love you, too, sweetheart," Hermione whispers. "Time for bed."
"Story?" Rose asks softly. Her eyes are already drooping.
"Of course, Rose. What story would you like tonight?" Hermione asks as she sweeps off toward Rose's room.
"Buty 'n Beast," she murmurs, rubbing her eyes.
Hermione laughs. "All right. Beauty and the Beast it is."
After Rose is asleep, Hermione speaks to Ron again.
"We don't get along so well?" he starts skeptically.
Hermione shrugs. "It was the best way to explain it in her terms."
She looks him in the eyes. "I really am sorry, you know. I wish… I don't know. I wish it was better than this. I wish it wasn't so…"
Ron shrugs. "I'm sorry, too. But I feel like no matter how much we wish for things to be better, they don't change. Nothing ever changes."
Hermione shakes her head. "We can't think about it that way, Ron. Something has to change. We can't keep going like this forever, but if we believe that nothing ever changes than that's just giving up."
"Is it giving up? Or is it acknowledging reality?"
Her eyes widen. "Ron, no."
He tightens his lips and then shrugs. "No, but, y'know. Just… something to think about."
He walks away without another word, retreating into the guest room. For the first time since before Hugo was born, Hermione cries.