“But who is she exactly?”
“Why don’t you ask her?”
“You ask. I’m scared.”
The voices were low and whispered, but loud enough to wake Draco. He rolled over, groaning, and pressed his face into the pillow, his arm flinging out to the side. He was alone in bed, and experienced the wild thought that something terrible had happened to Hermione. He shook his head. Everything was fine. They were together, they were happy and she had agreed to marry him, but not, and he was willing to compromise, for at least a year. Draco pulled his concentration back to the voices that interrupted his slumber.
It was the fourth morning his children, Dorian and Briana, had been in Hermione’s house. It was the second time they had visited in two weeks. During the first visit, Dorian had locked himself in a room and refused to speak to anyone, yelling at his father and teasing his sister until the little girl cried. Briana, on the other hand, has clung to her father and no amount of smiles from Hermione had made the girl warm to her. The children had only relaxed when Ginny, after a desperate call from Hermione, had brought her boys over to play.
The children were arguing still, and Draco guessed they were in the hall outside the door. He could hear the shower running faintly in the background, and assumed the kids were waiting for him to get up and find them some breakfast. They’d been ordered not to go barging into any rooms of the house.
“She’s our new mother,” Dorian said, his voice exasperated. “At least, I think so.”
“But,” Briana whined, “We have a mother! Why do we need a new one? What’s wrong with our mother?”
The boy sighed. “I don’t know, stupid. Nothing. She’s dad’s girlfriend, or something.”
“Dad doesn’t have a girlfriend. And don’t call me stupid, stupid!” The little girl wailed. Draco heard the sound of a slap, and made to get out of bed, not knowing which child had hit the other.
“Then why are we here? Why does dad sleep in her room? Why does he kiss her then, Brianna? You really are dumb sometimes.”
Draco frowned, throwing back the covers and reaching for his pants. He could hear Briana begin to cry again and he pulled a hand through his hair. The children were upset, stressed and confused, and he did not know what to tell them. They had questions that needed answering, but he was not sure how to go about it. He did not know what Pansy had told them, or what he should tell them. He’d tried to get Pansy to help him, to talk to the children with him, but his ex-wife had simply refused, telling him it was his mess and he could clean it up.
This was harder than he ever imagined. Hermione had spent the evening after the children had left the first time crying on his shoulder, saying the whole thing was too hard. She was terribly afraid they hated her.
Draco flung open the bedroom door just as Hermione emerged from the bathroom. Dorian and Briana were fighting, the little girl beginning to scream, her fists clenched around her brother’s shirt, her legs lashing out towards him. Dorian was yelling at her, taunting, dodging out of the way, seemingly amused by her anger. So caught up in their fight, the children did not notice the appearance of the two adults, and Draco bent and grabbed the boy around the middle, lifting him off the ground. Briana immediately released her hold on her brother’s shirt and stamped her foot, the screams replaced by loud, uncontrollable sobs.
Hermione knelt and gathered the little girl in her arms. Briana was stiff for a moment, before relaxing, continuing to sob against Hermione’s shoulder. Draco had subdued his son, and Dorian was now back on the ground, a sullen expression on his face.
“Apologise to your sister,” Draco said sternly. Dorian shook his head, folding his arms and turning his back, facing away from everyone.
“I want to go home,” he muttered mutinously to the wall. “Why do we have to be here? Why?”
Draco sighed. “Dorian, please, I told you ...”
“No,” the little boy yelled, turning and glaring at his father. “You told me nothing. I’m not stupid, dad. Tell the truth.”
Draco looked at Hermione quickly; she nodded. “Alright. What do you want to know?”
“She’s your girlfriend?” Dorian asked, motioning to Hermione. Draco grit his teeth. His son’s insolence was infuriating at times and he flashed Hermione an apologetic glance. She shook her head and mouthed that it did not matter.
“Yes,” Draco told his son. Briana had stopped sniffing and pulling back to study Hermione. The little girl took a deep breath.
“Do you love my daddy?” she asked loudly. Hermione’s mouth fell open in the face of the child’s bluntness and Draco hid a smile. He’d taught his kids to get straight to the point.
“Yes, I do, very much,” Hermione managed to say. Briana looked at Draco, and back to Hermione, her little face puzzled.
Hermione burst out laughing, and Draco could not help but be mildly insulted.
“I don’t know,” she answered with a smile. “I just do. He makes me happy.”
Briana contemplated that, before adding in a whisper, “but he snores!”
Draco cleared his throat. “Right. Thank you, sweetie. Any other questions?”
“What about mother?” Briana and Dorian both asked, their eyes flickering between Draco and Hermione.
“Your mother is still your mother,” Draco said softly, shifting until he was sitting with his back against the wall and his legs stretched out. “That will never change. But, your mother and I do not love each other any more and we decided it would be better if we ...”
“Got divorced,” Dorian finished bitterly. Draco sighed, and nodded.
“Sometimes, that’s just what happens,” he said sadly. When he’d started the whole affair with Hermione, he never, for one, believed he would fall in love with her. She was Hermione Granger. The know-it-all Gryffindor, the Boy Wonder’s sidekick. He just wanted some fun. He could never have predicted he’d be sitting in her hallway almost a year later explaining to his children why he was with her and why he didn’t love their mother anymore.
“Mother said you had an affair,” Dorian continued, almost smugly, his face showing he knew exactly what an affair was. Draco scowled.
“Did she now. Well your mother ...”
“Draco,” Hermione cut in sharply, shaking her head in warning. He sighed again and nodded. “Who wants breakfast?” Hermione continued, and Briana nodded.
“Will those boys from next door be back today?” the little girl asked as Hermione led her to the kitchen. Dorian laughed spitefully and Draco resisted the urge to pull at his own hair in sheer frustration.
“Just because you have a crush on one of them!” Dorian sniped at his sister, dashing past her into the kitchen.
“What’s a crush?” Draco heard Briana ask.
After breakfast, Reuben appeared on the back doorstep, asking shyly and with much foot shuffling, did Dorian and Briana want to come and play at his house. Both children agreed, and Hermione told Reuben to tell his mother that she would come over soon to see her. Left alone, Draco crossed the kitchen and wrapped Hermione in his arms.
“I’m sorry about them,” he whispered, and felt her shake her head against his chest.
“Don’t be. It’s not their fault. They’re confused and hurting. I’m fine,” she whispered, kissing the line of his jaw, from ear to chin. Draco ran his hands over her arms, onto her waist and down her hips, moving them up her back and pulling her closer to him. Her hair brushed against his knuckles, tickling the skin on the back of his hand, and he shivered. Hermione was still wearing her dressing gown, a thin, silky thing she’d thrown on after her shower. Draco’s hands moved to the tie and he tugged sharply before she could stop him.
Hermione gasped as the cool morning air hit her naked skin. She immediately attempted to cover herself, glaring when Draco grabbed her wrists. “What are you doing? The children ...”
“Are busy,” Draco interrupted firmly, releasing her and slipping his hands inside her robe. He kissed her deeply, his fingers exploring the shapes and curves he would know even in his sleep. Hermione groaned against his mouth, her hands coming to life as she pulled at the drawstring of his pants urgently.
“If we get caught, you’re the one explaining things,” she muttered against his lips. Draco chuckled.
“Better be quick then,” he replied, sweeping Hermione into his arms and laying her gently on the nearest surface. He laughed loudly at her outraged face.
“We are not shagging on my kitchen table!”
“Why not? We have before,” Draco argued, bending to kiss her. “If we break it, I promise I’ll fix it.”
“That was before ... before ... oh stuff it,” she said, pulling him down to meet her kiss, before pushing him away again. “I hope the back door is locked. I better check.”
“Granger,” Draco said firmly, pinning her to the table. She glared at him and he groaned at the sight of her flushed cheeks, half-exposed naked body and her hair tumbling over her shoulders. “Shut up and kiss me.”
There was no easy way to transport two children magically across town. Pansy had always used a Wizard driving service. Hermione offered to drive them – Draco had been rather surprised to see a Muggle car in her garage. He didn’t know much about cars, only that he liked the one he saw. It was red and flashy and looked like it went fast. He’d never seen her drive one and she’d never mentioned it. He made up his mind to ask Hermione to teach him how to drive, listening as she explained to the children how you drove without magic. Dorian was all for the idea of the car, but Saturday afternoon traffic and wanting to get the children home to Pansy on time made Draco decide on simple side-along apparition. In the end, Dorian went with his father and Briana with Hermione.
Once the four of them landed on Pansy’s front lawn, Draco had to prise Briana off Hermione. The little girl had never liked apparition and she was sniffing back tears, clinging to Hermione’s neck. Both children took off at a run, calling for their mother. Draco grabbed Hermione’s hand when she lingered.
“It’s okay,” he said softly when she sighed and shook her head.
“It would be better if I didn’t see her, not yet,” she replied, before frowning. “The front door is open.”
A chill ran up Draco’s spine and he was calling out for the children to stop, his legs moving instantly. Pansy never left the door open. Hermione was not far behind him; he could hear her breathing. Dorian paused on the front door step, looking back in puzzlement, before running inside. Draco cursed loudly, withdrawing his wand from his pocket and stepping inside. Dorian was in the kitchen.
“Where is mum?” he asked as Draco entered the room. Draco didn’t answer; his eyes swept the room, noticing two empty coffee mugs on the table. The fridge was open and Pansy’s wand was lying on the bench. Dorian started towards it, but Draco grabbed him and pulled him back. Looking over his shoulder he saw Hermione had Briana in her arms.
“Why don’t we go for a walk around the yard?” Hermione suggested, glancing at Draco. He nodded. Dorian sighed, rolled his eyes and stalked away. Briana struggled free of Hermione’s arms and raced after him, yelling at him to wait.
“Draco, what ...”
“I don’t know,” Draco replied in a low voice. “Pansy never leaves the door open like that. I don’t know.” He wandered out into the darkened hall, frowning. “Can you watch them? I’ll come get you when ... you’ve got your wand?”
“Of course,” Hermione replied, her voice tight. Draco could see the worry on her face and he leant over and placed a kiss on her cheek. “I’m sure everything is fine.”
Hermione followed the children outside, looking back at Draco. He forced a quick smile, feeling his lips tremble, and turned towards the stair case. There was no sound in the house. It was unnaturally still. Above the pounding of his heart, he could hear his children shouting and laughing outside. He took a deep breath, gripped his wand, and placed one foot on the stairs.
Draco lifted his wand, his eyes flying to the top of the stairs. Dark shadows coated the walls and Draco’s heart began to race as someone stepped into the light, coming slowly down the stairs towards him. He cast a quick ‘lumos’.
“Weasley, what the hell?” Draco almost yelled. The other man was deathly pale, his hair a brilliant red against the pallor of his skin. “Where’s Pansy?” Draco’s eyes narrowed as he noticed the wand hanging limply from Ron’s hand. “Give me a reason not to stun you, Weasley.”
Ron stared at Draco for a long moment, before sighing and pushing past him, heading for the kitchen. After a moment of contemplation, Draco followed, twisting his head to glance over his shoulder at the dark staircase as he went. A lump had formed in his throat and he swallowed it with difficulty, feeling it rest in his stomach.
Ron was sitting at the table with his head in his hands. His wand was lying beside him as though deliberately discarded. Slowly, Draco picked it up, sliding it into his pocket. Nausea jumped to life in his stomach as Ron lifted his head, looking at him with lifeless eyes.
Draco licked his lips, his heart pounding. He wanted desperately to send a message to Hermione. “Stay here. Don’t move.” He did not wait to see if Ron was going to do as he asked. He turned and raced from the room, taking the stairs two at a time. A quiet sobbing met his ears, and Draco realised slowly that it came from the portraits on the wall. The picture of his mother had her hands over her face, and her shoulders shook.
“What happened?” Draco asked her in a soft voice, but Narcissa shook her head, her sobs increasing in volume. She lifted a shaky hand and pointed. The door to the room he had shared with Pansy for so many years was wide open. From the hall, Draco could see the end of the bed, the bedclothes pushed down and spilling onto the floor. He gulped in a breath of stale air when he noticed a foot, and his own feet began moving before he could think.
Pansy was lying as though sleeping, with her eyes closed and her body sprawled across the bed. Her hair lay across her pale cheek and her lips were red. She was dressed for the day in the blood red dress Draco knew she loved. Slowly, Draco approached the bed, reaching out to touch Pansy’s ankle as he went. Her skin was like ice.
It took Draco a moment to notice her chest was still.
He stared, shocked, before stumbling his way to the bathroom and vomiting. His eyes were glassy and wide, his skin pale. The face that appeared in the mirror registered horror as the truth slowly dawned on him. With a final glance at Pansy’s body, Draco tore from the room and raced back down stairs, the sound of crying lingering in his ears.
Ron was still in the kitchen. Draco’s hand was steady as he lifted his wand, a rushing sound tearing through his ears. His breath was coming in painful, short gasps. The situation was surreal. As Draco stared at Ron, he wanted to believe it was not true, that this was a mistake, that his own feelings about the man sitting before him had clouded his judgement.
“Do it,” Ron whispered before Draco had a chance to speak. “I don’t care.”
“Why?” Draco asked, his throat tight. “Explain it to me before I call them to come and get you.”
Ron sighed, lifting his head and leaning back in the chair. He looked at Draco with bloodshot eyes. “You’ve never been the pawn, have you, Malfoy?”
Draco frowned. “The pawn? What the bloody hell are you talking about?” His fingers tightened their grip on his wand.
“Of course you haven’t; you’re Draco-sodding-Malfoy,” Ron laughed humourlessly. “No one can ever take you for a ride. You’d never let yourself be that gullible.” Ron sighed deeply, tugging at strands of his hair. “I’ve spent my whole life being gullible.”
“Weasley,” Draco sighed, leaning against the kitchen bench. His body was tight, every nerve ending and muscle straining under his skin. “I’m not a fucking counsellor. Tell me you’re not responsible for ...” Draco paused and gulped.
Ron laughed, a wild, humourless bark. “I don’t know. Am I? Because the way I see it, I was played, Malfoy. You, Hermione, Pansy ... you all played me.” His voice trailed off into a shaky sob and he let his head fall again into his hands. “I was in the middle. I was nothing but a pawn.”
Draco said nothing. He waited. He wanted Ron to continue; he felt he needed to understand. So many times he’d wished Pansy was gone, that she was out of his life, but he had never wished such an end on her. Shock gave way to anger. Before he realised what he was doing, Draco was across the kitchen hauling Ron to his feet, both hands wrapped tight around the other man’s neck, his wand discarded on the floor at his feet. Ron simply stared at him.
“You’ve destroyed my children,” Draco hissed in a whisper, his face close to Ron’s. “Did you stop to think about that while you were bemoaning your existence?”
Ron shook his head. “No,” he whispered back, his voice rough with anger. “No. I didn’t. For once in my life, I feel like I thought for myself only. Nothing I did could make her happy,” he added sadly, casting his eyes away. Draco held him a moment longer, before pushing him away. He did not know if ‘her’ referred to Pansy, or Hermione. He had a feeling it was both. Slowly, he bent and collected his wand, crossing to the other side of the kitchen. From the window, he saw Dorian race across the yard, Brianna on his heels, and another spurt of anger grabbed him as he thought about having to tell his children what had happened.
“We’re all sinners, Malfoy,” Ron said from across the room. “You, me, Hermione, Pansy ... all of us. You more than most.”
“I’m not the one who murdered a woman in cold blood,” Draco snapped back.
“Would you kill me to make it up to her?” Ron asked after a moment’s pause. His eyes were serious, his face sad. “Would you do one last thing for her.”
Draco frowned. “Do you want that? Do you want me to have to live with your blood on my hands, Weasley?”
Ron laughed. “You’ve already got blood on your hands.”
“I didn’t kill her,” Draco snarled.
“But you did,” Ron said sadly. “That’s your sin, Malfoy. You wanted more than you could have. You know what she said to me, before it happened?” Ron asked, continuing before Draco could tell him to stop. “She said, ‘why did he leave me?’ See, even in the end, she didn’t want me. I’m just a pawn.”
Ron put his head in his hands, and sobbed. Draco stared at him, slowly lowering his wand. He walked out of the kitchen, passed down the hall and went outside into the sun. Hermione and the children were across the lawn; Hermione was doing simple magic, entertaining them. She glanced up, smiling, and waved at him. Draco just watched them, Ron’s words lingering in his head, floating and swirling and sinking into his thoughts.
We’re all sinners.
Perhaps we are, Draco thought, watching Hermione as she turned back to the children. He could see a small frown on her face. Her hair glinted golden in the light, and Brianna’s childish laugh floated across the lawn. Draco turned and flicked his wand, sealing the house. He doubted Ron would try and escape. He was ready to pay for his sins.
“Am I ready to pay for mine?” Draco mused sadly, his eyes still on his family. Another flick of his wand sent a message to the Aurors, and he wondered fleetingly if it would be Potter who came to arrest his best friend. Once, that thought would have entertained Draco for hours, but all he felt was a deep sadness as he imagined the look of horror on Harry’s face.
They were sinners, every one of them, Draco realised as he slowly crossed the grass towards Hermione and his children. She looked up as he approached, her face collapsing into a deeper frown.
“Are you alright?” she asked him softly. Draco paused. Was he? He didn’t know. A series of soft pops reverberated through the air and Hermione’s expression turned to one of confusion. She rose to her feet, telling Dorian and Brianna to go play without her. Draco grabbed her in his arms, kissed her neck and ran his fingers through her hair, watching as his children darted away across the yard, totally oblivious.
Slowly, Draco turned to face the Ministry, Hermione by his side as Harry crossed the lawn to meet them. The other’s disappeared inside the house. Draco closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. He took a deep breath, feeling two sets of eyes on his face.
It was time for the truth.
A/N: And there it is - the final chapter. I know the ending may seem a little abrupt, but I didn't want to wrap it all up in a nice little bow. What happens next is entirely left to your imagination ^_^
I want to say a huge thanks to all those people who had reviewed, especially those who stuck with the fic until the very end. I apologise for the long long waits between chapters at times, but I'm glad I got this completed.
So I hope you enjoyed it! Remember, I loves reviews so be sure to tell me what you think and keep an eye out for my new fics ^_^
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