*Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling!
*Title of the chapter comes from 'Slow It Down' by The Lumineers.
*Thank you all for the overwhelmingly amazing amount of reviews from last chapter! It really does make me feel great to know that you enjoy my writing, and it encourages me to improve!*
As soon as I get home, I know things will end terribly. I can hear the defeated tone in Mum's voice. I glance over the balcony. She's arguing with... Ron. I nearly do a double-take. What can he be doing here?
"Dad, shouldn't you-"
"I promised Hermione I'd let her settle things on her own. Unless it gets out of hand, of course," Dad answers. If his expression is any indication, he's hoping for the chance to give Ron a piece of his mind.
"Well, then why did you make me come home?" I question. Honestly, whenever this happened, I didn't want to be a part of it.
Dad doesn't answer. Instead, he averts his attention to Mum and Ron below us.
"I just want to know if it's true, Hermione. Yes or no?" Ron asks harshly.
Mum refuses to answer. "Why would you think so? What reason do you have to believe anything like that?"
"Oh, I have plenty!" Ron replies. "You've already proven to me that you have no qualms over hiding from me the fact that you have extra children! Do I need to remind you why I wanted a divorce in the first place?"
Mum shakes her head slowly."Isobelle didn't ruin our marriage, you did! If you weren't so immature-"
Ron makes a face like that's the most ridiculous thing he's heard in his entire life."I was the immature one? Hermione, you were pregnant at nineteen! Not to mention you didn't even-"
Mum sighs and puts a hand to her temple. "This is getting off the point. What do you want? You've made it completely clear that you want nothing to do with Rose and Hugo, so why are you here?"
"You know exactly why," Ron says in a hinting tone. "This isn't about Hugo, or Rose, or Isobelle. You know who."
I know Ron's talking about Nina. I turn to look at Dad, but he doesn't move. His hands are gripped to the balcony and he's staring at Ron with enough hatred to burn holes in the side of his head.
"If Draco and I have another child, that's none of your concern," Mum responds stiffly, crossing her arms.
"But if you and I do, that is my concern," Ron counters.
"I don't care what Astoria told you. It isn't as if you know her at all." Astoria? How couldn't I have guessed that she would have something to do with this? If it's possible, Dad looks even angrier.
"I don't care if I know her, Hermione! What reason would Malfoy's ex-wife have to come and tell me that I have another child with you? For her own health?" Ron demands.
"You should have asked her when she came to you," Mum retorts bitterly.
Ron narrows his eyes at Mum. "I want to see her," he resolves.
"Of course, not,"Mum answers immediately, taken aback that Ron would ever make such a request.
"Why not? If you don't have anything to hide?"
Mum scoffs. "Don't be silly, Ronald. I'm not going to bring her down here so she can go back upstairs and tell Rose and Hugo that you've come by without even asking to see them."
Ron takes a considerable step closer to Mum. Dad's shoulders tense.
"Dad, don't." I whisper, knowing that his temper's rising violently. I don't want him doing anything rash.
"Hermione, I swear I'll get the muggle police involved! What you did is illegal!" Ron threatens. I don't know what this means, but I know it's bad by the tone of Ron's voice.
"Honestly, Ron, police?" Mum questions in an exasperated tone.
"Yes, Hermione, because I'm sure they'll do a hell of a lot more about this than Aurors. Or have you forgotten about muggles altogether?"
"No, I haven't forgotten!"
Ron raises his eyebrows. You could have fooled me. All of this isn't you, Hermione! Which is why I have no problem whatsoever-"
Dad takes off, charging down the stairs angrily. "Weasley, I swear to it all, if you threaten my wife one more time-"
"Dad!" I shout coming after him. "Dad, don't do anything!" I reach out to grab the sleeve of Dad's robes before he can murder Ron.
Dad jerks his arm away from me. "Isobelle Delphine, you get out of my-"
"The both of you, stop!" Mum orders, looking absolutely appalled. "Draco, I told you I could handle this!"
"Hermione, I don't care what you told me! Weasley isn't going to speak to you like that!" Dad shouts back, turning to face Ron. "If you so much as speak another word against my daughter- or any of my children, I'll see to it personally that you-"
"Calm down!" I snap. "All of you! I'm sure you can be heard all the way on the other side of the Manor!"
Mum sighs, and I notice her move to stand in front of Dad. He's seething. "Isobelle..."
"I need to say something to you, Mr. Weasley." Ron seems a bit disgusted at me addressing him directly, but I ignore it. "You may hate my father, but he's done something you could never do: he loves children that aren't his. You should be grateful that at least someone wants to be a father to your children, since you didn't want to be. You haven't for once thought of how they'll feel when they get older, finding out that one of their parents doesn't even care for them," I tell Ron calmly. I don't understand how he can show up so angry about Nina. Whether or not she's his, I know he won't want anything to do with her. He only wants to spite Mum and Dad.
Ron's attitude doesn't change a bit. Instead, he looks at me as if I'm telling him some sort of lie. I'm not, I know exactly how everything about that situation feels.
Ron clenches his jaw. "Hermione, I'm not asking you again."
Mum turns around and gives Dad a meaningful look. "This was bound to happen," she whispers. "Please, Draco, I think-"
"Fine," Dad relents, looking past Mum and at Ron. "Under one condition, you're never to show your face around my family again."
"I have no plans to. You can be sure of that," Ron replies.
Dad nods in my direction, and I turn to go upstairs. I walk quickly, my heart pounding in my chest. I hope Nina's in her room. If she's with Rose or Hugo, what can I say? Slowly, I walk down the hall to Nina's door.
I reach out and knock. "Come in!" Nina calls from the other side.
Taking a deep breath, I open the door. Nina's at the easel in the corner of her room by the window, fingerpainting. Rose is on Nina's bed, reading a book. Damnit. "Hey, Belly," Nina greets, smiling at me. Rose looks up, too.
"Hello, both of you. Nina, can I see you for a moment?"
"I'm busy painting," Nina informs me. "They're flowers."
I sigh. "I see, and they're very beautiful flowers, but do you think you could clean your hands for a moment and come with me?"
Nina wrinkles her eyebrows. "Why?"
"Because Mummy and Daddy want to see you," I answer, trying not to lose my patience with Nina.
"Am I in trouble?"
"No, but Nina, Mummy and Daddy want to see you now."
"Fine, you don't have to be mean," Nina grumbles, getting down from her stool to go to the bathroom and wash her hands.
Rose puts her finger in the middle of her book. "What do Mum and Dad want with Nina?" she asks curiously.
I shrug. "I'm not sure. They don't tell me everything, you know."
"Just about," Rose mutters, not meeting my eyes.
"Why don't you go check on Scorpius and Hugo?" I suggest in an attempt to keep Rose busy.
"They're playing chess. They asked me if I wanted to watch a few minutes ago. I said no," Rose tells me.
"Fine, then. Just read your book," I say as Nina comes out of the bathroom. "Don't dry your hands on your dress. You have towels in your bathroom."
"I know, Belly, but I forgot," Nina explains. I'm not sure how she 'forgot' her hands were wet, but I decide not to ask.
Nina takes my hand in hers. She always does that to me. "Why do Mummy and Daddy want me again?" she asks.
I'm not sure how to answer. "Er... I'm sure they'll tell you."
"Okay." Nina skips down the stairs and nearly drags me over to Dad. "Daddy, Belly said you and Mummy wanted me!"
I don't know whether or not he means to, but Ron's entire body tenses when he sees Nina. Nina stares at Ron with a confused look. "Mummy, who's that?"
Mum fumbles for a response. "Er... this is Mister Wealsey... an old... friend of mine. Say hello."
"Hi," Nina smiles. "You have hair the same color as my brother."
Ron's expression tightens, but he doesn't say anything. He just stares at Nina intently, at the identical pair of blue eyes and freckles looking back at him. Nina does look a lot like Mum, but I notice she does resemble Ron quite a bit, too. There's no way he can't know that she's his. My heart feels like it's going to beat out of my chest, and I'm sure Mum's feels the same way.
"I can't believe you, Hermione," Ron mutters under his breath, looking up again to give Mum a scathing glance. "Why?"
"There were multiple reasons," Mum replies in a quiet voice.
Ron shakes his head in disbelief. "I don't even know who you are anymore."
Dad clears his throat and gives Ron an expectant look. "Our deal?" he prompts, gently pulling Nina back.
Ron straightens up and gives Nina one last look. He looks at Dad, then me, then finally Mum. "I'm glad we're divorced," he says before turning and disapparating.
Mum lets out a deep breath and chances a glance at Dad. She's extremely upset.
"How the hell did this even come about?" he asks angrily. Dad knows, but I know he's just trying to see if Mum will tell the truth.
Mum purses her lips. "Apparently, Astoria said something to Ron. How could she have possibly known anything?" she asks in a distressed voice.
Dad shakes his head. "It was only a matter of time," he reasons. From the day Astoria came back, it was obvious she knew something wasn't right about Nina. "But I promise you, if Weasley decides to be the idiot I know he is and try to do something about this, he'll regret it."
"Draco," Mum says. "I don't want you doing anything foolish over Ron."
"Please, Hermione. I know better than to get my hands dirty."
"My hands were dirty earlier, too, but then Belly made me clean them. I was fingerpainting," Nina informs Mum and Dad, trying to keep up with their conversation.
Mum gives her a weak smile. She looks shaken. "Have you finished your painting?"
Nina shakes her head, her pigtails waving back and forth. "Not yet. Almost."
"Well, how about you go upstairs and finish your painting, and you can bring it to me and Daddy when you're done? I think Isobelle would quite like to help you," Mum tells Nina, giving me a look to let me know I don't have a choice in the matter.
"Kay, come on, Belly. Let's go finish my painting." Nina takes my hand again to lead me back upstairs.
"Mummy's friend seemed mad to me," Nina realizes, talking to me as we go upstairs. "Did he seem mad to you?"
"A little," I nod.
"And he looked at me weird. Did you see that, Belly?" Nina asks, opening the door to her room.
"See what?" Rose looks up. "What are you guys talking about?"
I open my mouth to answer. "Noth-"
"Mummy's friend!" Nina answers loudly. "He just left."
Rose closes her book and her eyebrows furrow. "Who's Mummy's friend? Didn't you know who he was?"
"Nina shakes her head. "No, I never saw him before. But he had hair the same color like Hugo, and Mummy said his name was-"
"That's enough, Nina," I interject. "Finish your painting."
Rose gestures for Nina to keep talking. "What was his name?"
Nina looks at me. "What was it, Belly? It was kind of funny. 'Mister Wheezy' I think is what Mummy said."
Rose stares at Nina blankly for a second, trying to figure out who that could possibly be. The realization slowly comes across her face, and her mouth sets into a deep scowl and her eyes glare daggers at me.
"Why didn't you say anything?" She demands, slamming her fist on the bed.
"I wasn't supposed to," I answer simply. "Rose, I'm not arguing with you about this. It's not my decision."
"I don't care! You're my sister, you could have said something!" Rose argues.
"Why? So you could have your feelings hurt again? I'm sorry that I'd rather not put you through that."
"Yeah, my feelings definitely aren't hurt now!" Rose shouts acerbically.
"Why can't you be more like Hugo?" I demand. "Why can't you see that things are better for you this way? You just want trouble!"
I don't mean to be so angry at Rose, but it frustrates me that she doesn't see that Dad cares about her a hell of a lot more than Ron does. I don't know why she wants so badly to ignore that.
"You're such a hypocrite, Belle! All you ever do is get in trouble!" Rose retorts.
"At least I know when things don't concern me!"
Nina gives both Rose and I disapproving looks. "No fighting in my room!" she orders. "I don't like everybody fighting all the time! I'm gonna kick you out if you don't stop!" When Nina says this, it makes me think of things from her perspective. It must be terribly frustrating to see all of us arguing, especially when she doesn't understand why.
Rose picks up her book and tucks it under her arm. "No need. I'm leaving," she mutters. Rose pushes past me and slams Nina's door behind her.
I sit on Nina's bed and rest my chin in my hands. "I'm sorry, Nina," I apologize. "I didn't mean to argue with Rose."
"I know, Belly. But it's still annoying," Nina tells me, dipping her finger in a jar of paint. "And I wish it didn't happen."
"I'm afraid arguing is a part of growing up," I inform Nina.
Nina makes a displeased face. "Oh, then I don't ever want to grow up," she decides. I know, I wish I never had to, either.
"Isobelle, come downstairs, please. It seems that you have some...mail," Mum calls in a resigned voice. She's been awake since early this morning. I don't think she got much sleep last night.
I come downstairs quickly, wondering who could have possibly sent me something. Also, I don't want to irritate Mum by being slow. I know she's terribly upset about everything that happened yesterday.
"It's in the dining room," Mum tells me as I follow her. For some reason, I'm increasingly anxious. Whenever I'm sent something, I expect it. I'm not one for surprises.
The rest of my family is at the table. The mood is somber, and there isn't much chatter like there normally is.
"Good morning," I offer into the room quietly.
"Morning," Dad and Scorpius reply.
"Belly, you got something!" Nina says excitedly, seeming completely unphased by yesterday. Oh, to be six-years-old.
"Yes, Mum's just told me. Where is...oh." In my place is an immaculate bouquet of flowers in a vase and a long, velvet box. "These can't be for me."
"They are," Mum nods. Cautiously, I walk over to the bouquet. I'm instantly overwhelmed by the sweet smell of roses and lilies, and my eyes can't take in all the colors at once. The beautiful flowers remind me of the ones in our garden. Tied to a red ribbon around the vase is a card. Tentatively, I pull it off and read it to myself. 'Miss Malfoy, I can't resist you'. I know it's from Simon.
My family looks at me curiously. Finally, Scorpius speaks up. "It's not from Holden, is it?" He questions, making a face.
I shake my head, still completely shocked
"Thank Merlin. What's in the box?"
"I don't know."
"Open it," Hugo suggests. Yes, that would be a good idea.
I sit down and place my hand on the lid of the box, hoping whatever is inside is appropriate for my family to see. I wouldn't put it past Simon. A large gasp escapes my lips as I open the box.
Three necklaces are inside, each more beautiful than the last. They're all set with diamonds and other beautiful jewels, and they catch the light wonderfully. They seem more precious even than some of my jewelry, which is a feat in itself. Just looking at them makes my neck feel heavy.
"Isobelle, what is- oh, dear," Mum puts her hand to her chest. "Who sent you these?"
"S-Simon," I answer, hesitantly, waiting for either of my parents to get angry.
Dad looks up in interest. "Did he?"
I nod. "Yes..."
"Those are really pretty!" Nina beams.
"What could you have done to deserve all of this?" Dad doesn't seem upset in the slightest. Actually, he seems intrigued.
"I don't know," I admit truthfully. Granted, Simon and I kissed and things grew a bit temperate, but he still has no reason to send me any of these gifts.
"You can't accept these," Mum decides. "They're too expensive."
Dad raises an eyebrow. "Hermione, who are you married to? Nothing is too expensive for Isobelle."
"Draco..." Mum says, letting her voice trail off once she realizes there is no point in arguing it.
Dad turns to me. "I told you things would turn around once you were rid of that dead weight." I know he's talking about Holden.
"You did," I agree, for the sake of the conversation. "I still can't figure why Simon would see it necessary to send me any of this."
Rose raises her eyebrows. "I hope you have some sort of fee." I know she's still angry with me from yesterday.
"Rose!" Mum chastises. "I don't ever want to hear you speak like that again. Apologize to your sister."
"Sorry," Rose mutters, dejectedly pushing her food around her plate with her fork.
I nod. "It's fine, but still, I don't know what to say." It does make me uncomfortable to think that Simon would want to shower me with all these lavish gifts. Can I even accept them without looking like I can be bought?
I glance up, and my family is staring at me once again. "Um... I suppose I should have the flowers moved to my room," I decide, gesturing for a house-elf to take them off the table. "And the necklaces, too."
"You're keeping them?' Mum questions in disbelief.
"I really don't think Simon would take them back," I reply. "I'll thank him when I see him again."
Mum doesn't seem too pleased, but she knows there's nothing she can do about it.
For the first time in days, Dad smiles at me. "This is great. I'm proud of you, Isobelle. You're finally maturing."
My eyebrows furrow. "I haven't done anything."
"Obviously, you have," Dad counters. I think he believes that there's much more to Simon and I than I'm letting on. Really, there isn't. Dad probably thinks that I had some sort of doing in this.
"No, I didn't. I can't help that Simon's fascinated in me for whatever reason. I don't want you to idealize anything, because I'm certainly not."
Dad shakes his head. "Isobelle, I'm not idealizing anything. Simon comes from a great family is all," he says simply.
"I'm sure I know what you mean by 'great'," I say in a biting tone. "And you can leave that sort of thing for Scorpius."
"Dad was only saying," Scorpius says in what he assumes is a helpful tone.
I know Dad doesn't mean anything by it, but I know he's already throwing around the idea of a marriage between Simon and I in his head. I can tell by the look on his face. I just don't want him to rush into anything, because I'm not. I'm not sure yet what Simon wants from me, and I don't know what I want from him.
"I knew he seemed rather interested in you," Dad continues. "Isobelle, I really do want you to try your best with him. Now, I'm not forcing you to do anything, but since you have the opportunity-"
"Draco!" Mum hisses in a biting tone. "Leave her alone for Merlin's sake! What did we discuss not five days ago?"
That was when Mum told Dad about how much she disagreed with Scorpius' engagement to Daisy, and Dad told her I could marry whomever I wished. I know that's completely true but, given the chance, I'm sure Dad would much rather see me make a pureblood marriage. I won't even lie to myself.
"Hermione, I remember perfectly what we discussed. You told me I was putting Scorpius above Isobelle, and now I'm doing my best not to," Dad replies in a calm tone.
Scorpius wrinkles his eyebrows. "What? Mum-"
"Finish your breakfast, Scorpius," Dad orders him. Scorpius gives Mum and angered look before turning to speak to Hugo instead.
"Like I was saying, Simon's had interests in a lot of women. I honestly don't think I'll be any different," I tell Dad.
"I'm sure he hasn't sent any of the others flowers and jewelry," Dad says helpfully. It's been a while since he's been so optimistic toward me.
I shrug. "For all I know, those necklaces could have belonged to his ex-wife," I mutter.
Mum frowns. "Simon was married?"
"Yes, but he and his wife were annulled. He didn't love her," I assure Mum. I'm not sure if that makes anything better.
"That's what he told you?"
I nod again. "He mentioned it yesterday. I couldn't believe it, either."
"Do you think he wants a new wife?" Mum questions.
That thought never occurred to me. "I'm not sure. Either way, I'm not rushing into anything. I want to get to know Simon first, and I want him to know me as well," I answer.
"Poor guy," Rose mutters under her breath. Hugo elbows her.
"Rose, did you say something?" Dad questions, giving her a chance to fix her attitude.
"Rose is mad at Belly," Nina tells Dad helpfully. Scorpius rolls his eyes. Nina's terrible at knowing when and when not to say things.
"Why are you upset, Rose?" Mum asks. I can tell she knows that it has to do with Ron.
"No reason. Can I be excused?" Rose crumples her napkin in her fist and drops it in the middle of her plate. "I'm not hungry."
Dad doesn't say anything. He just waves his hand dismissively. Rose practically leaps out of her seat and disappears from the dining room.
"Why's everyone so tense?" Scorpius asks, oblivious to what happened yesterday.
"Yeah, Rose has been like that all morning," Hugo agrees.
"It's Rose, she's always in one mood or another," I say, knowing Mum and Dad don't want me to say anything more than that. "I'm sure she'll be fine later."
"I hope," Hugo says. He perks up like he's just remembered something. "Mum, Dad, can Scorpius and I go to Hogsmeade with Uncle Harry tomorrow? Al and James wrote us asking if we could come."
"Of, course, that's fine, boys," Mum agrees.
"I wanna go, too!" Nina pouts, crossing her arms.
"I'm sure Aunt Ginny would be nothing short of thrilled to see you tomorrow," Mum tells Nina. "Rose, too, hopefully." If Rose has plans to come out of her room, that is.
"What about Belly?" Nina asks, turning to look at me. "You don't wanna see Aunt Ginny?"
"Of course, I'd like to go see Aunt Ginny. But I'm going to the Ministry tomorrow," I tell Nina.
"For Simon?" Scorpius asks, waggling his eyebrows. "Are you going to give him an extra special 'thanks' for those necklaces he sent you?" Hugo starts laughing.
"Scorpius," Dad chastises. I can tell he's trying to hide a slight smile from Mum, who doesn't approve of Scorpius speaking that way at all, especially in front of Nina.
"No, like it's any of your business, you nosy little git. You didn't go to school just to see Daisy, did you?" I ask Scorpius.
"I can see her whenever I want," Scorpius informs me proudly. "She's going to be my wife! And not my second one, either!" I know Scorpius is referring to Simon, but he made a quite a poor choice of words. He didn't even think of Mum.
"I don't want to hear any more about it!" Mum snaps. "Honestly, you two. This isn't even an argument you two should be having!"
Dad sighs in exasperation. "They aren't arguing, Hermione-"
"And you're encouraging it!" Mum stands up and throws Dad a dirty look. "I'm going to check on Rose."
"I'm going to go with Mummy," Nina decides, excusing herself from the table.
Dad puts his hand under his chin and watches Mum walk away, Nina bouncing behind her. He doesn't say anything.
Scorpius lets out a gust of air. "These women," he mumbles. "Touchy, touchy." It earns a smirk from Hugo.
"Let that be a lesson to you, Scorpius," Dad says nonchalantly. "Marriages aren't always happy."
*(A/N: The secret's out! Of course, Astoria had something to do with it! I think things could grow serious between Belle and Simon... Let me know what you thought of the chapter! Leave a review, please!)