A/N: I own not the characters or the world of this story. Just the plot.
Hermione Granger-Weasley was excited, nervous, and waiting. She couldn't remember the last time she anticipated anything this much. She was bouncing on her toes and looking around, waiting for a certain individual to arrive. She was waiting to begin a new, exciting, and different life than what she'd been living.
She knew she was early, but that beat hanging around her office and waiting there. Instead she was outside the Leaky Cauldron, their agreed upon meeting place. They had agreed to be there at 11:00am, and it was only 10:55. But she'd been there for ten minutes already. She wished they were meeting someplace less visible.
As she waited, she thought back to the series of events that had brought her to this place and time. Six months ago it would have been inconceivable to her to actually be in this position, but it had started longer ago than that.
She remembered a year ago, waking up one morning next to Ron as usual, feeling completely bored and restless. She'd been married for a good while; Hugo and Rose were at Hogwarts, Ron still partners with George at the Wheezes. Her career in the Ministry exactly where she wanted.
But she was bored. Tired of the same old sameness of it all. She missed the excitement of new things, new places, new challenges. Maybe even new people? Huh, that was an interesting and intriguing thought. She pushed these thoughts aside and rose from their bed to start her day. It was remarkably similar to the day before, and to the day before that. Maybe she'd try someplace new for lunch today, that was all she needed.
She remembered four months ago when Ron came home from attending a Quidditch match with Harry. They were still best mates, and tried to get together a couple times a month for Quidditch or chess or just a pint at the local muggle pub.
But Ron came home more excited and animated than normal. "How was the match? How's Harry?" she remembered asking. "You seem excited about something?
Did the Cannons actually win?"
"No, they lost like normal, but I had an interesting conversation with Harry. He wants me to come back to the Aurors as a Strategy Consultant for a short term mission to Europe," he continued. "They think they can eliminate the last of the old Death Eaters, and to stamp out a new group trying to reform. They want me for strategy for a couple months."
She remembered he paused for a minute before looking her in the eye asking quietly "Would you be ok with that? I'd be away for awhile."
"Is it something you want to do?" she had asked.
"Yeah, I do."
She remembered that Ron left two days later, with the promise to return in two months time. She also remembered that he had said there would be no chance for owls or any other communication, and that he loved her very much.
"See you soon" Ron said as he apparated away that morning, four months ago.
Hermione remembered missing him terribly for the first month, but then those thoughts of being bored and restless had returned. Work was boring, and Ron wasn't around afterwards so home was boring. Where could she find something new, something challenging, some place new, some new somebody? Where could she find some excitement in her life? The answer came from a completely unexpected source.
She remembered the day shortly after Ron left that she saw Draco Malfoy in the Ministry cafeteria while eating a rare lunch away from her office in the DMLE. She learned later that day his "Official Ministry Probation" had finally ended and that he had taken a position with the Ministry Office of International Trade. His office was only a short distance from hers. His presence was something new, and she remembered being intrigued.
It had started out innocently enough she remembered. Draco had stopped by her office the next day in the process of introducing himself to the folks on their floor. Their conversation was pleasant, but formal. They actually spent some time catching up on all that had happened since their Hogwarts days. Draco had glossed over the time he spent under house arrest after the war, and how the Ministry had confiscated all his family fortune.
He had concluded their chat with the words "I'm now such a better person than I was back in those days, I hope I get a chance to prove it to you sometime."
Hermione remembered watching him walk away thinking that she hoped so too, and that maybe he could add a little excitement into her current dull existence.
She recalled how quickly those words seemed to come true. Draco started stopping by routinely to see how she was doing. She remembered telling him that Ron was off on a mission and she hadn't heard from him in over a month and that he should be home soon as they had yet another lunch together. Seems like they had lunch together several times each week, sometimes in the Ministry cafeteria, sometimes she remembered being surprised that Draco would go with her to a muggle café.
She remembered the owl she got after Ron had been gone for two months. All it said was "things are going slowly, I'll be gone for awhile longer. Miss you and love you, Ron."
Draco had tried his best to comfort her that day, and looking back, she remembered that that was the day things seemed to change between them. Hermione remembered how after that day, Draco seemed to pay her more attention, bringing her flowers on a particularly bad day, checking in with her routinely, having lunch together almost every day. Hermione thought that her life was still boring, but at least Draco provided a bit of excitement at work.
She remembered that about a week after Ron's owl, Draco stopped by her office late in the afternoon. "Hey" he said, leaning against her doorjamb, "I know this may be weird, but I have tickets to the muggle opera tonight, and I'm looking for someone to go with me. Would you be interested?"
"What about your wife Astoria?" she replied. "Don't you want to go with her? What would she think about you being out with me?"
She recalled Draco's face falling at that, and he closed her door and came into her office and whispered "Can I tell you something in confidence? Can I trust you to keep a secret?"
"Of course" she replied. "You can trust me."
Draco came closer to her desk and whispered to her "Astoria and I are separated, but nobody knows. We want to keep it from Scorpius and the press. We live in the same house, but in separate wings. We've agreed that we can live our lives separately as long as we keep it private and out of the press. When Scorpius graduates from Hogwarts, we'll get divorced."
Hermione remembers being shocked at this news, but didn't let the surprise show on her face. "Okay" she said. "I'd be happy to go with you tonight instead of spending another boring night at home by myself. Now I understand why it's the muggle opera. No Daily Prophet reporters there."
"Exactly" he had said. "Can I buy you dinner before hand? I know a great Italian place near the Opera House."
"Sounds good" she had replied. "I haven't had a dinner out in a long time."
"I can meet you there. It's called Margot. How's 6pm? That way we won't be rushed."
Hermione remembered that as the first of many amazing nights out with Draco. They went out together several nights a week. They always went somewhere in Muggle London, away from any magical eyes. They did all kinds of things. Things that were new and exciting, and things that Ron wouldn't have even considered. They went to the Theatre, Museums, Art Galleries and even bookstores and libraries.
She recalled their long conversations over dinners. Discussing their jobs, current politics and the state of the Ministry. After a while their conversations had turned more personal; sharing their frustrations and disappointments. Hermione had shared her feelings of boredom, of feeling stuck, and how she was restless and looking for something new. She shared how she missed Ron and having someone to hold her at night. Draco had vented his frustrations with his job and how hard it had been to be the son of Death Eaters. He had commented that it would be easier if he could just go somewhere where no one knew him or his history.
After several almost two months of spending time with Draco, Hermione realized that for the first time in a long while, her life wasn't boring. She still felt restless, like she needed to move on to something or somewhere, but she didn't know what that was. But she did enjoy her time with Draco. Maybe she was enjoying it too much. She had begun to feel a bit different towards him in the last couple weeks. She was thinking about him often, and even wondered if they could have been together if life had been different back in the day. Draco and her certainly had more in common than she and Ron. He was still handsome, and at the end of their "dates" when hugging him goodbye she found herself holding on a bit longer and a bit tighter than maybe was proper. But it felt so good to be held by someone, and she relished those times. A couple times after their hugs they had looked in each other's eyes and Hermione could almost swear he was going to kiss her. She knew she wouldn't resist if he did, and she realized that she actually wanted him to.
It all had led up to the dinner they had together a week ago. They were at a new exclusive Indian place. She recalled that Draco started the night quieter than normal, and he seemed a bit reserved and nervous.
"Draco?" she had asked. "What's going on with you tonight? You seem preoccupied and distracted."
His reply had surprised her. "I have realized in the last couple weeks that I don't want to wait to get divorced." She remembered that he looked down at his hands as he continued. "I want to end things now so that I can move on. But the woman I want to move on with is a married woman." With those last words he looked right at Hermione. "I don't know what to do."
"Oh, oh my. I… I.. I'm not sure I know what you mean" Hermione remembered stuttering in reply. "I don't know what to say." She was stunned, but at the same time quite intrigued. Was he saying what she thought? Did he mean her?
She remembered that his demeanor completely changed when he looked up at her. His eyes were excited and his face had lit up.
"Come away with me." He had said softly. "We can leave this boring humdrum place and our boring lives. We can do something exciting and new. We could go to France; my family still has a small chateau in Provence. No one will know us; we could go there and start new lives. I've saved enough to get us started; we could do and be anyone. Think how amazing that would be!"
Her first reaction she remembered was to say "No, oh no, no no no. I can't do that. What would my family say? What about Ron, and Rose, and Hugo, not to mention Harry and the whole rest of the Weasleys? That would be impossible."
But Draco had calmly responded. "Yes, it could be difficult at first, but wouldn't your family and friends be happier knowing that you were finally happy again? Can't they see how miserable you are now, stuck in a boring place? Wouldn't they want to see you full of life again and as vibrant as you used to be? And what do you want? Do you want to be happy again and excited about life?"
Hermione recalled being shocked into silence. What did she want? Did she want to continue as things were and be miserable? Here was a chance to break away from the humdrum and restart her life in a more exciting direction.
She then had said "I don't know… I'm not sure… I have to think about this. I'm terribly flattered and intrigued, and I have to confess, I am attracted to you and the thought of being with you is appealing tremendously. I love being with you and we have much more in common than Ronald and I. Starting over with something new is also terribly exciting. Meanwhile, why don't we enjoy our time tonight and this wonderful Indian food?"
Their conversation then returned to their previous normal. Discussing politics and some of the latest art they had seen. Hermione was having yet another wonderful time and was getting more and more interested in moving their relationship along. Ron seemed like just a distant memory at this point. At the end of the meal, they had walked together to a nearby apparition point.
Draco had gone to hug her goodbye when Hermione couldn't take it anymore and kissed him. She had kissed him hard and long. Draco couldn't help but deepen the kiss. After a few moments, or maybe a lifetime, they broke apart and had looked deeply at each other.
"Come home with me" she had implored. "Come home and make love to me. It's been so long since I've been loved."
Draco had replied "there's nothing I want more than to make love to you, Hermione. Nothing. But as a Malfoy, it's against our honor to make love to a woman who wears a wedding band from another. As long as you're with Weasley, I just can't do it. Leave your wedding band behind, come away with me, and I'll gladly spend every night with you, loving you as you deserve."
"Oh Draco!" had been Hermione's reply. "Okay, yes, I'll come away with you. We can make this happen. How do we do it and when can we leave?"
Draco then kissed her deeply and embraced her tightly as he had said "Oh Hermione, we're going to be so happy, you won't regret this, I promise. I need a week to get things settled. Let's meet at the Leaky Cauldron at 11:00am this Friday. From there it's just a short walk to the International Portkey Terminal. We'll portkey to Paris and spend some time there before we head down to Provence. This is going to be wonderful."
She had spent the next days getting her things in order. She managed to corral all of her clothes and the possessions that weren't going immediately to France and moved them to her old bedroom in her parent's house. She had shrunk them down magically and had explained to her mom by saying she needed to store them while they were "doing some remodeling." She knew she'd have to explain at some time, but not now.
Then came what she had considered to be the hardest part. She had written a letter to Ron explaining what had happened and why she was gone. She did her best to explain the boredom and routine-ness that her life had become. She tried to avoid putting the blame on him, but explained that she needed something new and someone new. She never used Draco's name, but said that she didn't love him anymore and wished him a happy life. She tried to convey how sorry she was.
She realized that she still had no way to contact him directly, so she simply put the letter into a envelope along with her wedding band and placed the envelope on the kitchen table where she knew he would see it whenever he finally made it home.
So here she was at the Leaky Cauldron, waiting to begin what she hoped was the next great adventure in her life. She was waiting, nervous and excited.
When it became 11:00 she began looking earnestly for Draco, expecting him to show any moment. When it was 11:15 she began to wonder what could possibly have gone wrong to keep him. When it became 11:30 she started to worry.
At 12 noon she was still alone and still waiting and was quite concerned. Using the Leaky's floo she headed back to the Ministry where she had seen Draco that morning as she was leaving her office for the last time. She went immediately to Draco's office and found the door closed and locked.
She asked the Linda, the area administrative assistant "have you seen Draco anywhere lately?"
"Oh, Hermione, he left here about 10:30 this morning. It was quite odd, as he said goodbye to everyone as if he wasn't ever coming back. He also left this letter and told me to give it you as soon as I saw you." Linda then handed Hermione an envelope.
Linda asked "You two seem to have gotten close recently, do you know what's going on?"
Hermione hesitated and then replied "I hope to after I read what this letter says." She sat down on one of the chairs in the hallway and opened the letter and began to read:
As you probably figured out by now, I'm not coming, and we're not going away to France together. Not today, not ever. I'm not getting divorced from Astoria, and we're not separated. The idea of leaving a pureblood like Astoria for a mudblood like you is laughable. We concocted this plan together as a means to provide me with a little revenge. After the war you ruined my family. You, Potter and Weasel ruined my family by making sure that my parents were put in Azkaban and the Ministry confiscated my fortune.
My revenge is to ruin your family in return. If you look in the envelope you can find some excellent pictures of the two of us snogging last Saturday when you foolishly agreed to run away with me. I've sent copies to Weasel, Potter, the Daily Prophet, as well as to your two kids at Hogwarts. I enclosed little notes explaining what our plans were as well. I wanted everyone to know that you were willing to discard them all just to be with me.
With shaking hands, Hermione looked in the envelope and found the pictures. They were excellent shots that clearly showed her and Draco kissing passionately. How had he managed to get these? She looked back at the letter and continued to read:
Before you think of a way to get back at us, let me tell you that Astoria and I are moving to America, far from the reach of anything you might try to do to us. The Malfoy fortune was not entirely lost, as my father was smart enough to stash enough gold in America that will make our lives quite comfortable.
I'm also glad we didn't sleep together. That would have been horrible. Kissing you was bad enough.
Now you know what it's like to have your family ruined. Good luck with what remains of your life. Say hello to Potter and Weasel if you ever have the chance to see them again, which I doubt.
Hermione's heart seemed to stop and her stomach fell to the floor. Her whole life had just imploded and for the first time ever she didn't know what to do or what to think. She sat there staring, frozen in place.
"Are you okay?" asked Linda. "You don't look too well. Was it bad news?"
Hermione looked at her with wide eyes and sobbed, unable to reply. She tried to stand up and simply crumpled to the floor. Linda rushed over to help, but by then Hermione was starting to recover. She had to fix this. She had to figure out a way to keep Ron from finding out.
Hermione quickly apparated to the spot just outside the wards protecting the house that she and Ron shared. It was a wonderful cottage that had once belonged to Ron's Uncle Bilius, and had been their home their entire married life. She went to cross the ward barrier, but was surprised when she was repulsed.
She stepped back and tried again. For some reason she couldn't get across the wards. Hermione was starting to panic, thinking about the letter and the wedding ring she had left on the kitchen table for Ron, and how important it was she retrieve them before Ron got home. She fought back against her rising anxiety and tried to logically think of a reason she couldn't get into her house. Nothing made sense and she was getting frantic. What could she do and where could she go?
Just when she was about to completely melt down, she saw the front door open and Ron walk out.
"I'm surprised to see you Hermione" Ron said stoically. "I got the letter you left behind and I found your ring. I also got some pictures of you from the ferret. That's why I changed the wards. This isn't your home anymore."
Hermione was surprised by his apparent lack of emotion, but she thought she could see the tracks of tears on his face. Saying no more, he turned and she saw him retreat back into their home. Or at least what was once their home.
Hermione heard the door close and the locks click.
She stood there stunned and then cried out "Ron! Ron! Please!" And then she dropped to the ground sobbing. She cried out hysterically "What have I done? What have I done? Ron… Ron!"
There was no answer and the door to her home remained closed.
And then it started to rain. And she was alone.
A/N: First fanfic. Reviews welcome. I have been inspired by many amazing Romione writers, but none more than Holly1492.