A Clandestine Reality: 01. The Veiled Truth

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There was method to his madness, or at least she hoped there was. It wasn't that she didn't have faith in him; it was simply a matter of facts outweighing interpretation. He had worked so hard over the past few months that she felt bad for doubting him. But the odds were not in his favor. His job wasn't ideal, in fact it was far from it, but after being rejected by the Auror's Department he hadn't really had another option. The Department of Magical Games and Sports was good to him, but it was just a stepping stone, or so he said. She had encouraged him to take chances, to make good use of the opportunities placed before him. Hermione had played the supportive role a wife should play, but on the inside she was skeptical. It had been a toss up between supportive or realistic, and normally she would have chosen the latter of the two, but he had his heart set on going for the promotion. He wanted to give them a better life and who was she to argue with him? His intentions were noble but when it came down to the nitty gritty, he didn't have the experience, knowledge or patience the job required.
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It wasn't as if they had money problems, both their wages were reasonable and they lived quite comfortably. But Ron wanted more and she couldn't help but think that a large part of the why , was because her job paid more than his. She was only twenty-three but largely respected in her field, yet her husband had a simple desk job. It didn't bother her one bit, but she thought it bothered him. He had never and would never say anything out loud, yet she knew that he was in someway ashamed of her being the primary provider. It was why he tried so hard, putting his name forward for other higher earning jobs that didn't interest him, trying to get a promotion he knew he had no chance of getting. The whole repetitive process was exasperating, but Hermione kept her mouth shut, knowing that he had to feel like he was doing everything he could to give them a better life.
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They'd been married for five years last February, yet it seemed as though ten had passed. It had been a small ceremony with only a few family and friends to bear witness. There had been no extravagant flower decorations like at Fleur and Bill's wedding, and no grand fireworks display like George and Angelina's. It had been small and understated, something quiet compared to victory celebrations going on all around the world. Like almost every girl she had imagined her wedding, designed it down to the very last detail. Her wedding, like so many others, hadn't even come close to the dream. She didn't know what it was exactly, but something hadn't felt right. She did love him, it just hadn't seemed the right time. They were barely out of school, their last year not even attended, yet they had been hard pressed to marry. The war was over, the name Voldemort becoming nothing more than a bad memory, and the world was on a high. She had agreed to the marriage because it had seemed the right thing to do. Everyone had wanted it. Just because she had doubts was no reason to flay their happiness, right?
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An unwed mother in the wizarding world was not uncommon, but extremely frowned upon. She had wanted to wait, to be sure, but Molly had insisted and eventually she caved under the pressure. The happiness of her friends and family meant the world to her, and the prospect of a child being born after everything they'd endured was intoxicating to them. She hadn't wanted to disappoint them, to dampen the rare joy in their eyes. Her mother had seen her hesitation as had her father. They had tried talking to her before the wedding, telling her that they'd support her in whatever she did and that if she wasn't ready to marry Ron, they would understand. She had said she was fine, and minutes later she was Mrs Ronald Weasley. Her parents had kept quiet since then, but she was sure they saw what others didn't.
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Upon looking back, she liked to think she'd made the right decision. Ron was a loving husband, one that went out of his way to make her happy. He was a doting father and took every opportunity he could to spoil his girls. Her choice had to have been the right one...at least she hoped it was. They lived a comfortable life, yet she couldn't help but feel as though something was missing. It was a good life, a quiet life, one where everything was set in a secure routine – perhaps that was the problem. Everything was scheduled, planned down to the tiniest of details. She wanted to shake things up but didn't really know how. The daily routine made her feel safe, and she would readily admit that it was like a safety blanket. The problem was, her safety blanket was starting to become torn and weathered. She was bored.
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Her job was her sanctuary. It was the one place where everything – though structured – was completely unpredictable. After Rose was born she had wanted to do something worthwhile, something that benefited others before herself. Ron had been completely against the idea of her working at the beginning. But she'd put her foot down and he couldn't do anything but agree. His image of marriage was one where the husband worked and the wife stayed at home, caring for the children and the upkeep of the house. Hers was somewhat different. She couldn't blame him for his opinions, but that didn't mean she agreed with them. As a child he had absorbed his surroundings like a sponge, learning about life from the people around him. His mother and father's relationship was all he knew, so she wasn't surprised that he had the views he did. What had angered her were not his beliefs, but his expectation that she follow the same path his mother had. He knew she had dreams, aspirations, yet he asked her to push them aside. She'd stood her ground and won.
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At just nineteen, she'd received a scholarship from the Ministry of Magic to study law in their new Department of Regulations. Ron hadn't been too impressed at her choice of a career, mainly because of the long hours she had to work as a trainee. It had been what she'd wanted to do and even though they had Rose, she knew she could cope with the added stress. The job wasn't easy, especially when she had to deal with the snobbery of senior Wizengamot members. But it had its rewards. She was now twenty-three and considered to be one of the best female lawyers in the country, which on its own was a large accomplishment.
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"Mummy! Mummy!" shaking her head violently, Hermione whipped around. Was something wrong? Why was Rose yelling for her? Had she tripped over? Fallen down the last few stairs? Had something happened? Was she hurt?
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"What is it, cricket?" she asked anxiously, making her way over to where the little four year-old stood, balancing on the balls of her feet. Looking her up and down quickly, scanning for any injuries, she was relieved to see that nothing was wrong. There were no scratches, no cuts, bruises or any other kind of injury. But that left the unanswered question; what was wrong?
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Lifting her tiny hand, Rose pointed toward the stove, eyes wide. "Ids burning, mummy," she said, her small voice awed.
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Burning? "Rose, wha –" realization hit her as the smell of burning meat met her nostrils. "Oh, shit," she swore under her breath, running over to the large cloud of smoke drifting up from the oven door.
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Hermione heard a giggle behind her, but focused on the task at hand. Dinner was ruined and Ron would be home at any moment. She didn't know what to do. Her work hours allowed her to be home by four in the afternoon provided she arrived at work earlier than usual, and normally Ron finished by six. He always expected his meal to be placed on the table waiting for him when he came home, and normally she had it timed perfectly. But she had let her mind wander too far and effectively ruined the meal. She'd just have to order takeout because dinner was unsalvageable. Chinese would do, he liked Chinese.
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"Mummy?" when she heard a sing song voice sound behind her, Hermione had to suppress an irritated sigh. The tiny hand tapping her on the shoulder was definitely not helping either.
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"Yes, Rose," she answered, turning around to smile at her daughter.
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The little girl grinned impishly. "You saids a bad word," her hazel-brown eyes twinkled mischievously and Hermione just knew that her daughter was up to something.
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"I know, cricket, mummy's very sorry," she said, voice repentant. Reaching forward, she stroked her daughter's curls lovingly, marveling at how silky they felt beneath her fingers. Her daughter was definitely up to something.
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"Will you gives me a lolly?" Rose asked suddenly, a mischievous but hopeful look in her eyes.
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Hermione frowned. "What? Why?" she asked in confusion, eyes narrowing slightly at the little girl. "Rose, what are you up to?" her voice was suspicious.
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"I won't tell daddy if you gives me a lolly," the little girl said, a tiny but triumphant smirk on her face. Hermione felt her stomach drop. She knew that smirk.
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"Okay, sweetie," she said, deciding to play along. Her voice shook slightly, but she didn't think Rose noticed. "Pinkie swear you won't tell?" Hermione asked, extending her pinkie finger toward the little girl.
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Rose considered it for a moment. "I pinkie swear, mummy," she said seriously, face somber as she hooked her finger with her mother's.
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"Now off you go, cricket," her voice still shook, but Hermione covered it well.
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Rose huffed. "My lolly?" she said, glaring up at her mother.
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"You'll get it after dinner," Hermione said sternly. "Now go upstairs and wash your hands, your father will be home soon and he'll want dinner," it was true, Ron thought of nothing else but food when he got home. After he was fed, he had energy enough to entertain his girls. But before then it was pointless to try and get his attention.
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"You never said when you wanted your lolly, so I decided for you," she laughed, ruffling Rose's hair affectionately. "Off you go," pointing toward the stairs; she couldn't help but laugh at the look on her daughter's face.
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