Characters: Ron and Hermione Granger-Weasley, their children, Severus Snape, and Molly Weasley
Warning (highlight to view): For implied infidelity (not Ron's).
Word Count: 3450
Summary: Ron discovers that there are worse things than becoming his mum—and that those things aren't necessarily so terrible when faced as a father.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created by J. K. Rowling, and owned by J. K. Rowling and various publishers, including but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended by the posting of this fic.
Author's Notes: I love Hermione; she's ambitious, driven, intelligent, strong, and talented—but she's not necessarily the domestic sort. Were she a male character, I doubt that anyone would expect her to be house-proud or -bound, something that I've often felt Ron would grow up to accept as he grew into his own. This story comes from that contemplation as one possible future for the Granger-Weasleys (and some of you might recognize the Ritual of Reckoning from Transformare). Thank you, fodirteg, for beta'ing.
Dear Mr Ronald Bilius Granger-Weasley,
This letter is to inform you that Hermione Jean Granger-Weasley desires to perform the Ritual of Reckoning before you at noon on the nineteenth day of September, two thousand ten, whereby she may submit her wrong actions against you into the Record of Acts and call judgment upon herself to be decided by you and the Arbiter Wizengamot, or by the Arbiter Wizengamot alone should you elect not to be present.
All Rituals of Reckoning are recorded in the Record of Acts and sealed until both the Reckoner and the Concerned Person or Persons have died, and all save the Concerned Person or Persons are bound not to speak of the matter.
Should you wish to be present for the ritual, return this letter to its envelope, re-seal it with wax mixed with a drop of your blood, and it will serve as your Portkey to the Arbitration Hall at the appointed time.
Yours in service,
Clerk of the Arbiter Wizengamot
Ron reread the letter he'd received that morning over lunch, frowning. It was just like Hermione to want to spend her thirty-first birthday on some ritual with which he was largely unfamiliar. He'd go—he didn't usually refuse Hermione anything—but the phrase, "wrong actions against you," made him nervous, as did the notion of "judgment."
"Da?" Rose asked, pushing a drawing in front of Ron's face. "Is this right?"
"You get to decide that, I think," he replied, shoving the letter back into his robes and examining his eldest's lastest masterpiece. "That's a lovely house."
"It's our house," Rose said proudly, before pointing to the people in front of it and listing who they were. "There's you, there's Hugo, there's me, there's Uncle George, there's Mr Mouser."
"There are all the gnomes," Ron said, wrinkling his nose in the way that made his daughter laugh and feeling contented when she did. "And who are these two?"
"Oh, Mummy and her friend."
Right, Ron thought, grinning despite the lump that had formed in his throat to see Hermione's placement behind the house. And her friend. "Good job, munchkin! Now, finish your stew, all right?"
Rose giggled and took herself back to her little desk, placed next to Ron's own in the back of the Wheezes, and Ron sighed.
"Ew!" Hugo exclaimed, pounding on his high chair's tray.
Ron turned to his left and picked up the toddler's spoon. "Yes, of course you may have more stew," he told him, dutifully following Hermione's dictum about not baby-talking in front of Hugo. His wife was good about making rules and pronouncements, but she wasn't home as much as Ron would have liked to help him put them into practice. Yes, curing Lycanthropy was a worthy goal, not to mention the other curses to which Hermione, working with Snape, had discovered or developed counter-curses to; Ron didn't deny that her work was important. It seemed to him, however, that a mother might try to find time to spend with her children.
Most mothers want to. Most wives might show more gratitude to their husbands for leaving their own professions to take care of their families.
Ron had got used to the hyphenation; he'd not complained too very much when Hermione had started her apprenticeship before Rose had been out of nappies; he'd made a rather grumpy transition from Auror to joke shop assistant manager when it became clear that Hermione's late nights weren't just a passing thing—and he'd actually never regretted his decision because he couldn't imagine, now, missing any of his children's firsts as Hermione had—and he'd also got used to the idea that sex was something for special occasions once his wife stopped welcoming his impromptu visits to the Guild. Overall, he liked his life and couldn't quite bring himself to mind Hermione's good work to help so many people, but he still missed Hermione missing him; it wasn't something that he'd ever get used to.
And now this ritual. She can't even say what she wants to say to me in private, and it's no doubt to do with that "friend" of hers.
Ron wasn't stupid. He'd known that Hermione's fancy for Snape wasn't a passing one, either, no matter his hopes otherwise; he'd even known when that fascination had become something more—when she'd stopped talking about Snape to him but had increased her "work load." If not for Rose and Hugo, things might have become ugly, but the fact was that Ron wouldn't stand for his babies to know that their mother was . . . . No, they just couldn't know. They wouldn't understand.
He thought he might; he wasn't really able to follow Hermione's discussions about her research, and he was often too tired from his own job and taking care of the children to join her at conferences or work-related affairs. She'd never been domestic, and although she did spend time with the children when she was free to do so, it wasn't enough.
It's enough that Rose has noticed Mummy's attachment to Snape, though, Ron thought, wiping Hugo's chin. Something has to be done about that.
Ron wasn't sure what to do, really, but he did know one thing: there was nothing wrong with his marriage to Hermione that couldn't have been solved by their having married other people. Love just wasn't enough to build a life on, it seemed. It was a sad thought, and one that he tried to avoid thinking.
But I have to think about it now, because if she thinks she can use this Ritual of Reckoning to hide her affair so that when she leaves me, she'll be free to take our kids with her, she's got another thing coming.
However unintellectual Ron was, he had a keen eye for strategy, and he had no intention of allowing his wife to implement the one she was currently developing.
That night, Ron left Rose and Hugo with Harry and Ginny. The following morning, he Floo'd to Hermione's latest conference. He wasn't surprised to discover that she wasn't staying at the local Guild house.
"Could you tell me where the wizard-friendly inns are?" he asked the Guild Master's assistant, smiling calmly. "I seem to have misplaced my wife's itinerary."
"I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to—"
"Hey, no problem. I'll just fire-call our friend, Harry. I'm sure he'll be able to help," Ron said loudly, striding purposefully toward the entrance hall's hearth.
That proved too much for the clerk, and soon Ron was standing in front of a small, out of the way inn.
Okay, you can do this. She's still your wife. You can talk to her. You're allowed to talk to her, no matter that she'd rather put you off.
When had he and Hermione spoken last? Ron couldn't remember. Beyond hello and goodbye, it had been weeks. He blamed himself; he'd tried to feel enthusiastic about Hermione's latest breakthrough, but honestly, he'd been more interested in sharing with her Rose's progress on not lisping, Hugo's new trick of standing up while clutching at Ron's leg, and how much better their kitchen garden had been producing since he'd found that new sun charm. Unfortunately, these hadn't been topics of interest to Hermione. If Ron hadn't known better, he'd have suspected her of not giving a damn about their kids. But he knew better. And he was going to keep knowing better, too, no matter what was about to happen.
Hell, if we split up, she'll probably see more of the kids when she comes to visit.
The thought caught him off-guard. He felt stupid. Of course he was standing there so that he could go inside and make Hermione leave him properly.
Why else would I have—
Hermione's words. Hermione's laughter. Hermione's arm around Snape's waist. If Ron hadn't been standing in front of the door when they walked out of it, he would have lost his nerve. But he was standing there, and the smile faded from Hermione's face as she registered his.
"Oh, God. Ron. Ron, what's wrong with the children?" she asked, rushing forward and clutching at his hands.
Snape frowned, as if in concern.
Somehow, their reactions were comforting, even though he wasn't fooled. I know you're fucking, he thought, his eyes meeting Snape's over Hermione's head.
She shook his hands. "Ron!"
"They're fine. Rose and Hugo are fine, but I need to speak with you," Ron answered, looking at Hermione.
He heard Snape excuse himself as Hermione began to protest; shrugging off her hands, he turned on his heel. Either she'd follow or she wouldn't, but Ron wasn't going to stand there to hear Hermione tell him how busy she was.
"Thought I saw a shady spot just down the lane, looked pretty," he replied, not stopping until he came to the bench. Sitting down, he asked Hermione, who was slightly out of breath, "What's wonderful?"
"Oh, well, I . . . test results. Severus just analysed the data from our—"
"Give us a smile?" someone interrupted.
Reflexively, Ron stood and reached for Hermione, smiling.
"Nice to see you supporting your wife, sir," the reporter said, smirking. "It's been an age since—"
"Yeah, well, a house husband's work is never done," Ron said lightly. "Give us a bit of privacy? I can't stay long. You know how it is."
The man took himself off with a wave, and Ron sat back down. He was surprised to find that he was still smiling.
Hermione turned on him, speaking quietly through clenched teeth under a strained smile. "If you've come here to tell me that you're feeling put upon, Ronald Weasley, then you can—"
"I don't see what's so funny."
"You wouldn't. You're too busy, but—" Ron continued, holding up a hand to prevent further interruption, "I'm not here to tell you anything other than no," he concluded, reaching into his robes for the letter from Prattlesby and offering it to Hermione.
She went pale. "What do you mean?"
"Just what I said. No one's too busy to leave her husband properly. That's what this," he said, shaking the letter, "is all about, right?"
Hermione just stared at him, chewing on her lower lip. Ron almost felt sorry for her. Almost.
"Look, your work's important to you and a lot of people, and I know we've grown apart. I don't like it. I miss you. I wish things were differ—"
"Then you understand?"
Still smiling, Ron said, "Hell no, Hermione. I don't understand why you thought you could neglect me and the kids in favour of screwing Snape and working all the time. I don't understand why you thought you could just sneak out of our marriage and take our kids with you when you don't even remember their birthdays and can't change a nappy worth a damn." His anger rising, Ron rose, as well, but still, he smiled. "I don't understand when you decided that I was too stupid to talk to, but know what? I'm not about to let you waltz out of my life with our kids. I take care of them. I—"
"I'm their mother!"
"Then act like it!" He wasn't smiling anymore. The anger he'd been holding at bay burst to the forefront of his mind, and he clenched his fists in order to keep it in check. "Act like it. See them. Be home for dinner. Be there at bathtime. Be there to tuck them in. Just be there!"
Hermione was holding herself now, and Ron wondered where that damned reporter was as he forced himself to smile again.
"I'm not Molly, Ron," Hermione whispered.
No, you're not. "No, apparently I'm Mum—and I don't mind it, as it happens, but I won't stand for you destroying our family. Leave if you want to, but Rose and Hugo stay with me—and there is no sodding way I'll ever," he continued, ripping the letter in half and not truly meaning what he said next—"consent to help you keep what you've done a secret! The only 'arbiters' I care about are our children."
"I was only thinking of them!"
"Yourself!" Ron spat. "You were just thinking of yourself, you mean."
Hermione bent down to retrieve the halved letter; she was visibly shaking, but Ron couldn't bring himself to care . . . much.
"Why are you doing this? Why now?" Hermione asked. "You know how much pressure I've been under!"
"You're right. I do. I take care of everything so that you're free to work. It's been like that for ages. Do you think Snape will act the same?"
"Severus is—Severus isn't the point! You don't even try to understand—"
"I understand plenty, but I'm done! No, I don't find what you do as interesting as you do, but I've never put one foot in your way—and the thanks I get is that?" Ron demanded, again pointing to the invitation. "Fuck that! It's not right. I don't care if you don't want me anymore, but you aren't going to hurt our children."
"How dare you say that to me? They are our children, and I'd never hurt them! You can't—"
"I can!" Ron exclaimed, stepping towards Hermione. "Because you are hurting them, and it would hurt them more to be separated from the only real . . . real parent they've ever known! I spelled myself to nurse them, Hermione, remember? Surely that will count for something before the Wizengamot even if it doesn't matter to you!"
By now, Hermione's face was ashen with two livid spots of colour staining her cheeks. She was breathing heavily, with tears welling up in her eyes—and the most alarming thing about it, for Ron, was that he suddenly couldn't bring himself to care.
Oh, gods. I . . . I don't love you anymore, he thought, the shock of his realisation stripping him of his anger.
"You're threatening me with the Wizangamot?"
"It's not a threat. If you want to leave, I won't stop you. I won't oppose your visiting the children. I'll never say a harsh thing about you in front of them. They'll never hear from me about Snape. But you can't take them away, Hermione. Rose and Hugo belong with me. Please don't test me on this. I may not . . . I may not love you anymore, but I want to keep liking you, for their sakes."
With that, Ron turned away and strode through the hedge by the side of the road, stopping short as he saw Snape handing the reporter who'd earlier snapped his and Hermione's picture his camera back to him.
"You were out taking nature photos. You never saw anything more interesting than the birds."
The reporter shook his head. "Oh, hullo. Sorry. Just er, bird-watching."
"Mind how you go. You wouldn't want to fall on your arse and break it," Snape replied.
In spite of everything, Ron took Snape's actions as proof of his regard for Hermione, and the feeling was perversely comforting.
"Sod you, Snape."
"Not a poof, thanks."
Ron spun around, then, to see that Snape was holding his wand—albeit pointed at the ground—and frowning. Ron's wand, as it happened, was pointing at Snape. He hadn't been an Auror long and had no desire to duel with the man, but Ron wasn't so stupid as to take no precautions in their dealings, however brief he intended them to be. To his surprise, Snape sheathed his wand.
"I know you don't actually need it," Ron said, keeping his wand trained on Snape.
Snape smirked. "It's not my intention to duel with you."
"What do you want—besides my wife?"
"What I want with your wife is none of your business."
Ron glared. "Your point?"
"You didn't hit her."
"Of course I didn't sodding hit her!"
"It's more than my father would have done."
Ron gaped at Snape, unable to believe what he was hearing.
"I don't have a point. I have a question."
"Well, ask it already."
"You knew and did nothing. Why?"
"That's none of your business."
"Insofar as the answer affects Hermione, it is. Did you mean what you said, that you wouldn't keep the children from her?"
For some reason, Ron found himself willing to answer the man. "Yeah, yeah, I did."
Snape nodded, and turned to go.
"Why what?" Snape asked, without turning back.
"Why do you want to know why I did nothing?"
"Call it curiosity."
Snape did turn, then. "She's the love of your life, Weasley, and you did nothing to stop her from fucking me."
"She was my first love. My true loves are my kids. No one, not even their mother, gets to hurt them. You may not understand that, but—"
"I respect it," Snape said simply, before walking away.
Ron didn't know why he should care about Snape's respect, but part of him did.
"No, Mum. If I'd married Lav, she'd have ruined me," Ron said, taking another swig from his bottle.
His mother's hands were moving almost too quickly to see as she repaired the clock before her. "What bollocks."
"I'm not asking you to understand, but I won't have you saying anything against Hermione to the children."
Ron took a deep breath as his mother's hands stopped moving and she looked up to regard him. "Oh, Ron! I'm so proud of you!" she exclaimed, enveloping him in a hug.
It was a tad embarrassing to be so mothered at his age, but under the circumstances—he'd just come from telling the children with Hermione—he didn't protest. And he knew that now that his mum knew how he felt about matters, no one in his family would have anything bad to say about Hermione; no one ever gainsayed Molly Weasley.
Ron respected that. Watching her return to her repairs, glancing at the orders pinned to the line above the window, he realised that, in spite of his father's . . . shortcomings, he'd never heard one bad word about him from his mum—his mum who he now knew had kept their family from falling into financial ruination. With a guilty start, Ron suddenly felt like apologising for all his complaining as a child. What were new dress robes to a mother who never did anything but make him feel safe and loved?
He blinked back tears, thinking, There are worse things, aren't there, than becoming you? and lunged off his stool to embrace his mum.
"Ronald Weasley! You'll make me break this clock again! Go inside and be with your children. I need to finish this."
Ron wasn't fooled by his mum's sudden grumpiness. He could hear the tears in her voice—and the pride. It made him feel as if everything would be all right.
I just hope I can do that for Rose and Hugo.
A few months later, while Rose and Hugo were napping and Ron was tidying his office, he happened upon another masterpiece of his daughter's. The house was there and the poxy gnomes. Mr Mouser and his latest litter of progeny—poor Mr Mouser was no longer allowed at the Wheezes; he'd barely recovered from his having run afoul of one of George's "special" daydream potions but made a fair mother in spite of his accident—were represented, and so were Ron, Rose, and Hugo. To his surprise, however, Ron saw that Hermione, who'd long been absent from Rose's art, was also there—in front of the house—and there was no sign of Snape.
"I s'pose that means I haven't bollocksed up everything," he murmured, smiling softly.
He'd been right about Hermione's change in priorities, and he felt good about that for Rose and Hugo's sakes, if a little wistful. As it turned out, he'd been completely wrong about Hermione—at least, about how he felt about her; she was still the love of his life.
But all things considered, he and Hermione had developed a good relationship since their divorce, and their family, although scattered, wasn't broken. Family was what Ron longed for most, no matter that he missed Hermione—but given how things might have gone, he'd take things as they were. His kids were healthy and happy, they still loved their mother and saw more of her now than ever they had, and Ron no longer felt like a married widower. Sure, he was lonely sometimes, but he figured that feeling would pass in time.
Might even find someone new, he thought, sitting down to a cuppa and paperwork, before shaking his head.
He wasn't ready to think of another woman, not yet, because he had found someone—he'd found himself. He knew who he was, and he'd decided that that person was pretty damned decent.
He was Ronald Bilius Weasley, his mother's son, and a damn good father.