A Clandestine Reality: 15. The End

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Today was the day. She had agonised over this for hours, worrying whether she'd made the right decision or not. In the end she had to concede; it was the perfect solution. Not only would they have somewhere to live but it would also give Draco the chance to get to know his daughter. There was so much he had missed out on. Her first word, first steps; Hermione knew that guilt was an inevitable emotion in her situation. But this – this type of guilt, the magnitude of it…it was worse than she could have ever imagined.
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She had been married to Ron for five years, five long and tiring years. He had loved her through all of them. Ron had loved her and to a degree, she him. The guilt and self-loathing she felt for what she had done to him was unmeasurable. With Draco, however, it was worse. There was no rational explanation for why she felt less remorse for Ron than she did for Draco. What she had done to each man was equally horrible, if not a little worse in her husband's case.
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Hermione wished she could do things over, go back in time and stop her younger self from making the worst mistake of her life. Terrible things happened to witches and wizards who meddled with time. This was her life now, she couldn't change that. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
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"Hermione, are you sure about this?" Alyson asked, levitating the last of her suitcases down the stairs. It had seemed wrong to ask Harry for help, especially since he was already up in arms about her change of address. He'd come over last night after Rose had gone to bed, yelling at her for what seemed like hours. In the end she'd had enough and fought back, defending her decision and rationalising it to her enraged friend. Harry hadn't been happy but he'd eventually conceded and left, brooding as he walked out the door.
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"It's the best solution, Ally," she said, pulling her hair back into a messy bun.
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Her day had been hectic. Richard Hastings, her boss, had been reluctant to change her hours. Draco had actually suggested the change, saying that she could take Rose to school in the mornings and he could pick her up, or get Mipsy to in the afternoons. He rationalised that it would be better for her in the long if she didn't have to wake up every morning at five. She had to agree with him, albeit reluctantly. Now, her hours were eight to five. Today however, she had decided to take the afternoon off to pack and finalise some last minute details.
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"Well, what about Rose?"
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Hermione sighed. "He adores her and the feeling seems to be mutual. She's idolised him ever since he gave her that infernal dog."
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"More like demonic," she muttered, trying to ignore the fact that that 'infernal dog' was actually starting to grow on her.
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Alyson tucked her wand into the back pocket of her jeans, leaning against the staircase banister. "Okay, but what about you? Don't get me wrong, he seems like a really great guy... But Hermione, you have a history. Are you sure you are going to be okay living with him?"
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She knew that Alyson was only trying to look out for her, but she'd already had this conversation with her mother and father. Harry had even calmed down enough to ask her the very same question before going off on another tangent. Truthfully, she didn't know how she was going to cope with this living arrangement. It would be awkward, but hopefully they could get by. Draco deserved the chance to get to know Rose and Hermione wasn't going to dash that dream simply because she felt uncomfortable.
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"I'm not going to lie to you, Ally," looking out the window, she saw Draco and Rose laughing as Pip rolled around on the grass. It brought a smile to her face. He'd arrived half an hour ago to keep Rose occupied while she packed. "It's not going to be easy. There will be times where I will want to throttle him, I am sure. He is probably the most arrogant person I know…but he has good intentions and a good heart – most of the time. We can make it work, for Rose if nothing else."
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"I'm not going to judge you, Hermione. You've been there for me when I've needed you, and you've told me the truth even if I didn't want to hear it. But I'm worried about this. I just don't want to see you get hurt," blue eyes stared at her, emphatic in expression. It warmed her heart.
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"I'll be fine. This is the right thing to do," she smiled, hoping her expression conveyed everything she wanted to say. Her parents were in the next room, and while she loved them dearly, she didn't want them to hear her admitting to her mistake. It was one thing to say that she had been wrong, but it was something else entirely to say that she wished herself dead for what she'd done. Hermione wanted to make things right, she felt as if it was her responsibility to do so. Her parents wouldn't understand.
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"I'm a phone call away if you need me, okay?" sometimes she was extremely thankful that her friend was a muggleborn, much like herself. It made things so much simpler. Alyson hugged her. "I've left your divorce papers on your bed upstairs, if you want my advice, do it sooner rather than later. Pull the bandaid off quick, it'll hurt, but it has to be done."
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Hermione nodded, pulling out of the embrace with a sniff. The last thing she needed right now was to start tearing up. She said her goodbyes to the other witch, wishing her good luck on her date. One of the older interns had mustered up the courage to ask her out – a Gryffindor – and Alyson had reluctantly accepted. They were a good match. From what Hermione could remember, he had very boyish facial features – definitely attractive.
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When Alyson was safely out the door, Hermione let her shoulders slump forward. What her friend had said was true, it was better to pull the bandaid off quickly rather than draw it out unnecessarily. Ron deserved to be told the truth, to be treated with respect. He deserved someone better than her. They both needed a fresh start.
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As she made her way up the stairs, heading toward her old childhood bedroom, Hermione thought back to her wedding day, their first anniversary, their third, and so on. She couldn't deny that she had been happy. The first few years had been the best, it was only in the last year or so that she began to feel discontent. Ron had always been there for her, he'd been her best friend for years. Hermione reasoned that this was probably the reason why she had kept quiet for so long. She hadn't wanted to hurt him.
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That was inevitable now. He was heartbroken, Harry had said as much. But there was nothing she could do to ease the pain, not presently at least. She had to think about Rose and what was best for her. The nightmares had toned down but she still woke with tearful eyes. Hermione didn't want to keep Rose from him; she didn't want to cut him out of her life. Ron was a brilliant father, even Draco begrudgingly acknowledged that. Still, she had to do what was best for her daughter. Perhaps in time, things would calm down and she'd be comfortable enough to let him back into their lives.
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When Hermione retrieved the documents from her bed, they glowed faintly for a moment. She didn't have to look at them to know that her signature had just appeared on the bottom of the page. All that was needed now was Ron's signature. The thought hurt more than she had anticipated. It was the end. After this, there would be nothing tying them together. Ties would be severed and she was feeling just a little nostalgic.
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Closing her eyes, she pictured the front door of their house. A few uncomfortable seconds later and it was there. For a few minutes she just stood there, hardly breathing. She knew she had to go in, she knew she had to. Her feet just wouldn't budge. It wasn't a matter of being scared; she just really didn't want to hurt him. Heart racing, she took in a deep, shuddery breath, squeezing her eyes shut before forcing her feet to move. And then she was in the kitchen, watching the poignant scene in front of her.
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An empty bottle of Firewhiskey stood in the middle of the table, surrounded by some of her muggle collection. It broke her heart. He'd been doing more than just drinking; he'd been drowning in his sorrow, running away from the pain. Alcohol was only a quick fix, sooner or later the pain would come back. When her Uncle had died, her father had said as much after making his way through their entire liquor cabinet. She felt horrible.
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Just as she was about to leave – there was no way she could hand him divorce papers if he was drunk – she saw out the corner of her eye an empty potion vial. Curious, she walked over and sniffed the uncorked bottle, immediately recognising the potion. It had been a Hangover Potion. A soft smile appeared on her face almost instantly. Harry.
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