[personal profile] valentine_veela
Title: The Scent That Lingers
Author: seraphimerising
Pairing: Ron Weasley/Pansy Parkinson
Prompt #: 115
Rating: R
Word Count: 20,000
Summary: The moment that changes everything.
Warning(s): (highlight to read)*Angst. Lots of plot. Frank talk of death and suicide. Not friendly towards Hermione at all. Creature fic. EWE/AR. Switching POVs (hazard of this story).*
Beta: [personal profile] starstruck1986 – Have I told you how much I love you lately?
A/N: [personal profile] apricot2077 – What follows is what happens when I completely misread the prompt. I apologise deeply that I'm probably not giving you the fic that you prompted. However, I do hope you enjoy what turned out to be my little novela.
Disclaimer: This piece of art or fiction is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made, no copyright or trademark infringement, or offence is intended. All characters depicted in sexual situations are above the age of consent.



Day One

Sandalwood.

Pansy Parkinson had been attracted to sandalwood her entire life. The woodsy scent always made her feel warm, safe, secure, and most of all calm. She had burnt it for days on end when her father died years ago, shortly after she arrived at Hogwarts. She had even gone so far as to have her bedding laundered with it after the battle ended and she had become a pariah in the British wizarding community.

Her friends had only ceased to tease her about her need for the scent during their seventh year at Hogwarts. It had only taken one ill-timed prank to ensure that her sandalwood oils and incense was never taken away from her again. For in that moment, when she was mere centimetres from killing Draco after rendering the other seventh year boys in Slytherin unconscious, that her friends learned the secret her parents had both sold their souls to keep: that Pansy wasn't exactly a witch. She was in fact a Veela, a rare full-blooded Veela.

It had come as a shock to her parents who had rescued her as an infant. They had stumbled across a burning cottage in the south of France where they had gone to escape the stigma of being purebloods and barren. Pansy's cries that evening had sent her father into the flames to rescue her. When everything was said and done all that was left that life was her and the locket she wore around her neck. Her parents could only see the whole matter as sweet serendipity.

The first clues that Pansy was something more than a witch appeared fast; in fact, within weeks of her family's return to England. However, her parents were so happy to not only have a child but to able to return to England that her father sacrificed a portion of his soul to ensure that her physical Veela traits would never emerge. The dark magic her father had subjected himself to had led to his early death, but only Pansy and her mother were party to that information. Pansy only knew due to her mother's recent death, which had come unexpectedly just days before.

She remembered the owl her mother had sent her when the time was close at hand. The letter, in her mother's elegant script that Pansy had failed to copy for years (not for a lack of effort), explained exactly what her mother had done in reaction to the night Pansy had received her full-inheritance of her powers as a Veela; the same night she had damn-near killed her friends.

The letter that would follow only moments later, Pansy had torn up as she yelled and cried in her flat in Santiago de Compostela. Curses flew regarding her mother for completing that ridiculous spell that had now taken away both her parents . The tears really began to freely fall when the realisation that at twenty-eight she was completely alone in the world –no parents or mate of which to speak.

Merlin knew her mother and her friends had set her up with male after male, trying to help her find her mate; not one of the men she had ever met or come across had the same effect on her as her beloved sandalwood. She had finally convinced them all to give up their efforts and rely on her to find someone. And they had. Only they didn't realise she had simply stopped looking. She simply took each day as it came and enjoyed life. Pansy knew better than anybody that she was condemning herself to an early grave by not finding a mate, or even searching for one, but she had come to the conclusion she should have died in that fire years ago, and there was no mate for her to have.

Her mind folded in on itself due to her melancholy thoughts as she slowly made her way through the customs station at the Ministry of Magic in London. She found herself drowning with not only her sad thoughts, but for hearing so much English for the first time in years.

Not paying much attention, being more concerned as she was with simply getting out of the Ministry so that she could attend to her mother's estate and return to Spain, she suddenly tripped. Pansy expected to hit the floor with an ungraceful thud, when in slow motion her nostils filled with the smell of sandalwood, moments before a set of hands grabbed her and righted her quickly.

All she could think about was sandalwood. A peaceful calm overwhelmed her. Her heart, however, began to beat faster when her mind and instincts started to tell her: this is it, this is the one, this is your mate –

Ron Weasley?

Her breath escaped her chest as she gaped at her former classmate standing in front of her. Her very married former classmate: one-third of the Golden Trio married to another third.

She stood there in shock: deaf, dumb, and mute. Pansy could see that he was saying something to her but she didn't know what it was. Her entire focus was on comprehending just how nature could be so cruel.

At least without knowing or finding her mate, her death would come slowly and peacefully. The books she had read explained that she would probably wouldn't even notice when the end was near. That one day she would just go to sleep only to never wake again.

However, now, she was forced to make the ultimate decision: actively chase a married man, a War Hero, in order to die peacefully and painlessly -or willingly walk away from him, causing her a death that not only would be sooner, but more debilitating and painful. She knew that many Veela in her shoes would keep putting forth the effort of trying to mate, simply to avoid the death that would have one begging for their sweet release months and sometimes years before it would actually come.

Taking a deep breath, Pansy closed her eyes and mentally signed her death warrant. She couldn't fathom that her pursuing him would end any better for a pariah such as her. Quickly she walked away from him, knowing that even if she hadn't been a pariah, that there would be no way she could get him to give her a chance even if he wasn't married to the Gryffindor princess. Pansy had burnt that bridge long ago, regardless of the fact that her Veela powers wouldn't work against her mate.

Anyway, now with her mother gone, she really considered that she had nothing to live for.

* * * * *


"Hey, have you got a minute?" Ron asked, poking his head into Harry's office.

Harry didn't immediately say anything from behind the piles of files on his desk, though he did wave him in. Ron closed the door to the office and took a seat in the one empty surface that he could locate in the office. He didn't say anything more. In fact, he was content to wait until Harry was ready to talk because he was still grappling with trying to get his thoughts in order.

The run-in with Pansy Parkinson moments before had left him completely befuddled. He hadn't seen her since sixth year; she like many of the other children associated with Death Eaters, or those who simply had the misfortune of being in the Slytherin house, had high-tailed it out of the country. Several, only now ten years after the end of the war, were starting to return.

The only conclusion he could reach of why she was in the Ministry was that she had finally decided to return. However, her bizarre behaviour after he caught her and prevented her from falling made his boring day a little more interesting. He hadn't even known it was her when he saw her trip, he had just done the gentlemanly thing and as he was close enough, he had caught her. The image of her face filling with a peaceful, calm countenance warmed his heart; he truly had never seen anything more beautiful in his life than she had looked at that moment. It had been a look he had dreamed of for years; a look he had expected on Hermione's face time and time again, but with Hermione she always seemed too busy complaining about work, or finding fault with him, to be either peaceful or calm.

Thinking about his wife yelling at him, fighting with him over every little thing he didn't want to do as she thought was best, was the only thing to pull him away from he image of Pansy's crushed face when she had opened her breathtaking pale blue eyes and looked at him.

He had tried to ascertain if she was okay and what was wrong, but she didn't appear to hear a single one of his gentle questions which had quickly turned to pleas. The devastation, which he could clearly see on her face, unexplicably hurt him too.

And for the life of him, he couldn't figure that out.

"So wotcha need?" Harry's jovial voice woke Ron from his thoughts. Ron watched as concern quickly flooded Harry's face as he threw down his quill. He didn't even have a chance to start before Harry jumped in with, "Is everything okay? It's not something with Rose or Hugo? It's not your –"

"No." Ron sharply interrupted Harry before he went too far down that road. "Everything is fine, I just need to ask your opinion about something."

"If everything is fine, why do you look like someone just ran over your owl?"

Ron opened his mouth to answer Harry's question when Harry sighed and didn't give him a chance before saying, "What did Hermione do now?"

Offended Ron stood up and snapped, "You know what, forget it. I'm sorry that I bothered you."

"Hey," Harry exclaimed, getting to his feet. "What's going on?"

"Nothing. Don't worry about it," Ron said moving to the door. "It was nothing pressing or important. Just a general question."

He slipped out of Harry's office, ignoring the calls of his name. After the bizarre episode with Pansy, he couldn't deal with Harry's recent development of trying to figure out what was wrong before a person could actually tell him. This was the first time since Harry had developed this annoying habit that Ron hadn't stuck around to try and have a conversation.

It just wasn't worth it.



Day Five

"I thought you lived in Spain?" Draco's cool drawl broke through Pansy's thoughts. She turned away from the gardens at the Parkinson Estate to watch him enter the morning parlour and approach her.

Putting forth her best everything-is-fine face, she responded, "I did. With mother's death, I thought it was time for me to come home."

"But you hate England... Oh, it's nice to see you at least haven't changed your obsession with sandalwood."

"So what do you want Draco?"

"First, how is it that I only found out today that you had returned to our little island?" Pansy watched as Draco summoned a chair and took a seat in front of her.

Nonchalantly, turning her head back to look back out over the gardens, she said, "Sorry. Mother didn't want a funeral, so I've been busy attending to all of those arrangements and the estate. It must have slipped my mind."

Only, it hadn't slipped her mind -she was merely trying to keep her friends away, so that firstly, they wouldn't try to talk her out of her decision because she knew it wouldn't take them long to sniff out that she had found her mate, but also secondly because she didn't want them to watch her suffer. It was the least she could do for them.

"I smell bull-shit, Pansy," Draco retorted with a hollow laugh. "In the ten years you have called Spain home, the first thing you have done on returning here is to owl the Manor. So, me finding out that you have been here for a few days...well, something isn't right."

"And I've never had to bury my mother before, either," she sadly replied, her eyes never leaving her garden.

"How long are you planning on staying? So that I can inform the others?"

Feeling her eyes burn at the true answer, she instead gave him a carefully worded reply of, "For the time being," though she had already made arrangements to have her flat packed up, her belongings shipped and the flat sold. She was determined to die in her childhood home, in her bed with her sandalwood-laundered sheets.

"Would you care to be a tad more specific?"

"Sorry, Draco, I can't."

"Can't or won't?"

Pansy inwardly cursed Draco's astuteness for the times it emerged; it would have to be now. "Can't."

The sound of the clock ticking filled the room. She didn't add any more to the conversation, wanting Draco out of her parlour and home as soon as possible. She didn't even turn her head. Pansy assumed that his need to be the centre of attention would outweigh his stubborness, and he would take the hint and leave.

She just didn't know how long it would take before she heard the chair being returned towards it's normal resting place.

"Be at the Manor at eight on Friday evening," Draco sharply said. She could hear the frustration and irritation in his tone. "If you aren't there, I will come and drag you over myself. Do you understand me?"

"Crystal clear," she replied softly.

Draco sighed before the sound of his shoes on her wooden floors added to the tick-tock of the clock.

"You know, there was a time that you were my best friend... Why won't you let me be yours now?"

Pansy didn't respond until after she was sure he was out of earshot. Through her tears she whispered to the empty room, "But I do Draco. That's why I don't want you to see what will become of me."

Reaching up to the locket that she had worn dutifully every day of her life, she gave it a sharp tug and broke the delicate chain. Summoning her favourite and most trusted house elf, Tipsy, she waited for her to arrive; unable to look at the locket – or merely have it in her possession any more. It was the one thing that could give her secret of her mate away.

"Yes ma'am?" Tipsy squeaked upon arriving.

Turning her head away from the gardens as the tears continued to burn her eyes, she dropped the locket and said, "Please get rid of this for me."

She heard the elf gasp but instead of waiting for a reply, Pansy simply said, "I know. Please, just dispose of it and allow none of my friends admittance unless I say otherwise. Now go."

When Tipsy exited with a soft crack, Pansy finally let the tears flow; mourning all she would not have and what she was condemning herself to, a painful death without a known escape.

* * * * *


"I was wondering where you had gotten to."

Ron couldn't help but smile at the sound of Ginny's voice. He took a quick look down at Hugo who was still happily chugging away at his bottle before saying, "It was too much noise for him, and I would prefer that he got at least a little nap in before we left."

"Oh, yeah, blame Hugo," Ginny replied cheekily, as she took a seat next to him. "But this is me you're talking to. Why are you really out here hiding? My nosy husband, who isn't doing a very good job listening these days, or our beloved mother who has never really listened to either of us for most of our lives?"

Shaking his head, he replied, "Neither."

"I'm going with 'liar, liar, pants on fire', but I'm ready to let it go, if you'll tell me what's bothering you."

Ron knew exactly what was bothering him, but for the life of him he couldn't bring himself to talk to Ginny about it because it involved Hermione. He hated that Ginny and Harry always got caught in the middle of his and Hermione's issues. But what bothered him more was that the last two times he had admitted to either one he was thinking about leaving, he ended up staying with Hermione. The first time, he stayed and got Rose; the second, Hugo.

So that time, instead of telling his sister the truth, he simply replied with a non-committal, "Nothing, Ginny."

"Okay... So... should I ask where Hermione is?"

Sighing, he said, "At work. Something came up."

"On a Sunday?"

"Yes."

"And it couldn't wait until Monday?"

"Evidently not," Ron replied, knowing that to anyone but his wife it could have waited until Tuesday, but work and her career had always come first.

"Do you think she'll make it by today?"

Noticing that Hugo was done with his bottle, Ron set it aside and adjusted Hugo to pat his back, saying, "I don't know Ginny. She didn't say."

"And are you sure there's nothing wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong," Ron sighed, getting to his feet whilst balancing Hugo. Grabbing the bottle, he asked, "Is there anything I can say that will convince you of that?"

"For starters, you can tell me if something is wrong. You're so quiet these days. Withdrawn. You appear to be avoiding me and Harry; I can't remember the last time I saw you and Hermione together. I always see her at the Ministry, and you with the kids."

That simple sentence proved more than Ron was capable of swallowing. Quickly and quietly, he whispered harshly, "You're a bright girl Ginny. Figure it out yourself."

Ron stormed into the Burrow and started to pack up Rose and Hugo's things; avoiding and ignoring repeated attempts of his family to talk to him. He just couldn't take anymore of them that day, especially if they refused to see what was in front of their eyes.



Day Ten

Pansy kept discretely paying attention to the clock in the Manor's evening parlour. She knew she needed to stay at least until eleven before she could safely make her way home without her friends following her and discovering that she had blocked them from entering the Estate.

That day had not been a good one. It had taken her most of it to even get out of bed; her body refusing to cooperate. In fact, she wasn't entirely sure how she had even managed to make it through getting ready, arriving at the Manor on time, making it through a five course meal that turned her stomach the longer it sat in front of her, to now trying to make small talk with Tracey, when all her mind could do was focus on the pain radiating from her hips.

"Tracey, do you mind if I have a word with Pansy?" Narcissa's smooth voice was a welcome relief to Pansy. She made an attempt to stand but fortunately Narcissa waved off the gesture just at the same time that Pansy realised she was no longer sure if her legs would support her. Pansy smiled as Tracey left and was turning to face Narcissa when she asked, "Where is your locket?"

Pansy tightened her fingers around her champagne saucer in order not to drop it as she struggled to calmly reply, "It was accidentally destroyed."

Narcissa's eyes narrowed as she coolly asked, "And how exactly did that happen?"

"Stoking a fire the other day," she lied, turning her eyes away. "The chain broke and there it went. I just thought it was just another sign of my bad luck."

"Interesting," Narcissa drawled, in a way that only added to Pansy's nervousness. "An unbreakable chain on a necklace that only you can remove. Sounds like serendipitious bad luck to me."

"Well, it's what happened," Pansy said, firmly turning back to Narcissa to meet her glare to glare.

A heavy silence hung over the two of them as they glared each other: one clinging to their secret, the other determined to decipher it.

Until Pansy lost.

She watched in equal horror to what was spreading across Narcissa's face as she whispered harshly, "You know."

Pansy turned her head away in response. Narcissa's sudden touch on her face caused her to jump. She let the woman gently turn her head back to look at her. Tears she had been holding back rushed to the surface as she met Narcissa's own glassy eyes.

"Don't do this, child," Narcissa pleaded.

She wasn't sure how she managed it, but Pansy rose to her feet, causing Narcissa to back up. Struggling to maintain her balance with the amount of pain shooting through her hips, she softly said, "It's done. Nothing can change anything now."

"Pansy..." Narcissa whispered, reaching out towards her face again. This time, she tucked loose strands of hair behind Pansy's ear, like her mother had always done.

"I'm sorry Narcissa," Pansy whispered back, trying to fight the tears in her eyes. "Please don't tell Draco and the others. I don't want them to see this."

She watched Narcissa nod before the woman quietly said, "If you need anything, you must contact me, understood?"

"Yes ma'am."

"Would you like Lucius to escort you home?"

"No," Pansy said firmly with a gentle shake of her head. "I'll be fine."

"You don't have to do this on your own."

"I know... But I do need to say my goodbyes." Pansy kissed Narcissa's cheek before very slowly making her way around the room, avoiding all the questions and comments about the normal night owl of the group taking their leave long before midnight.

All told it was entirely the most painful thing she had ever experienced: every step echoed with shooting pain, every hug and kiss led to her head pounding a little more; even Lucius' gentle help of escorting her to the Apparition point felt like a monumental achievement.

"Pansy, are you sure that you can manage this?" Lucius whispered in her ear. "There are other means with which to get you home."

"I know and thank you, but I'll be fine," she whispered back, knowing full well that they had an audience of people whom she didn't want to know of her choice.

"Owl as soon as you get home or I will never hear the end of it from Narcissa."

"Yes sir."

Pansy kissed Lucius once again on the cheek before stepping into the Apparition point of the Manor. She gave a final wave before Apparating.

A sigh of relief escaped from between her lips as she realised she had Apparated cleanly. Pansy took a step towards the grand staircase which led straight to her rooms. However, her right leg gave way in a blinding shot of pain that sent her tumbling to the floor, landing hard on her left arm. A resounding crack could be heard even over her screams of pain. Pansy desperately tried to keep moving towards the staircase until the pain became too much.

She didn't know how long she laid there, but as the pain started to steal away her consciousness, she could have sworn she heard her name in the distance.

* * * * *


"I'm home!"

Hermione's voice echoed through the downstairs of the house. Ron wanted to yell back that he had just gotten their children down for the evening, but he just knew it wouldn't be any use. Parenting, he had discovered, was something Hermione wasn't good at simply because one couldn't learn everything one needed from a book and be perfect at it from the get go. There were times it amazed Ron that they even had a second child after the disaster of Rose's first few weeks, until he realised that both her announcements of being pregnant came soon after he had tried talking to his sister and best friend about leaving Hermione and asking for a divorce.

With a heavy sigh and a mental note that she was just now coming home at seven-thirty in the evening, he moved into the kitchen. Upon seeing her, still in her work robes, he pointed out, "I just got the kids to bed."

"Oh I'm sorry," Hermione apologized quickly as she bustled around the kitchen. Ron never was sure why she did it because her lack of cooking skills were well known, despite her talent at potions, but she still did it every night after coming home from work. "I had a great day at work. It looks like I'm going to get that promotion after all. I know it means more travel but the money is good..." Ron stopped listenting at that point. He knew he would only become more frustrated and angry towards his wife if he continued to listen to her. Her commitment to her work was one fight he was tired of fighting, especially as he tried to find a way out of the mess his marriage to his supposed dream girl had become.

"So how was your day at work?"

Hermione's question brought him back to the here and now. Nonchalantly, he shrugged his shoulders and responded with a non-committal, "Fine."

It wasn't a lie. Work had been fine. Hugo was beginning to teethe and Rose was excited about not ruining her big girl knickers – those were the exciting things that happened to him during the course of the day. However, he had learned a long time ago that Hermione wasn't interested in that.

"Nothing exciting? There has to have been something exciting in the Aurors' Office today. There always is."

"Nothing at all," Ron dutifully replied, sipping on the drink he had fetched himself as Hermione ate dinner. "Anything exciting that happened today happened here and I didn't think you would be interested."

Ron knew his tone was sharp at the end, but he didn't care. Fortunately, he also knew that Hermione wouldn't pick up on something as subtle as tone when she had just gotten home from work; starting a fight with her, after he had gone and picked it, just wasn't high on his priority list.

"You know, I don't understand why you're so grouchy," Hermione remarked, pointing her loaded fork at him. "Ginny said you were cranky the other day at the Burrow and Harry said you blew up at him a couple of weeks ago for no reason. And now you're avoiding him. What's gotten into you lately?"

Ron gave a hollow laugh in reply before saying, "You know what, let's just chalk this up to me being immature and jealous." Jealous of everyone who had a spouse who actually helped with the children. Jealous of men who could go out. Jealous of the couples that both loved their children. But he didn't add any of that aloud. He kept to saying it internally to make him feel a little better.

"See, that's what I don't get about you," Hermione prattled on, either completely missing or just simply choosing to ignore what was in front of her face. "I don't understand what you have to be jealous of. You have it all--"

"That's where we differ," Ron snapped, interrupting her. He knew it would lead to her screaming, which would lead to Hugo waking up which would in turn lead to another sleepless night for him. "But you know what? I'm too tired to argue with you tonight so I'm just going to go up to bed."

"But you are always tired," Hermione whined. "Ever since you took that desk job with the Aurors."

"Hermione, I took that desk job because one of us had to be a parent," Ron snapped. He watched as Hermione's eyes narrowed. Ron started to read himself the riot act internally for picking that argument tonight. "Fine." He said abruptly holding his hands up in surrender. "You're right. I'm wrong. Just please don't wake Hugo. He's teething."

Ron watched Hermione calm down with that smug, told-you-so face settling in. He so wanted to wipe that look off her face, given he had given up a position he loved to take that damned desk job because she refused to be a parent to their two children with him.

"You know that look isn't becoming on you," he growled, spinning around and stalking out of the kitchen.

Her shriek of "Ronald Bilius Weasley!" rung through the very foundations of their house, only to be followed by Hugo's own shriek's and Rose's wails.

Ron sighed, heading up to the children's rooms knowing that sleep was going to be a luxury that night, and more than likely whatever he did get was going to be in a chair with an upset infant in his arms.



Day 22

Draco wanted to know what the hell was going on.

Firstly, Pansy had mysteriously entered the country without telling anybody, only to refuse any visits to her home for the past two weeks, and for that matter, had not been seen since the dinner at the Manor.

Now his parents had performed a disappearing act of their own.

Well, not quite.

They had told him that they were going to the house in the Bordeaux region of France for a while, letting him and Asteria have the run of the Manor. However, when he popped over to ask his father a technical question regarding the fountains in the gardens, he found the house shut up though he managed to get an owl through to them somehow.

Asteria had tried to convince him he was merely being paranoid, but Draco knew better. Something was definitely going on and he knew whatever it was, it had started around the time Pansy returned from Spain following her mother's death.

Which was why he told Asteria he was attending to business in Manchester, since it was close to the Parkinson Estate. He wasn't trying to lie to his wife but he could at least do what he could to protect his first true friend, if the secret he was afraid she was keeping was as bad as he was starting to believe it was.

He had to admit that it bothered him even more having been standing and knocking at the front door of Pansy's home for the past five minutes. He knew her house-elves were better trained than to leave him standing there.

He was about to start yet another round of knocking when the door swung open, revealing a haggard looking house elf. Draco's mouth was about to fuss at it when an ear-shattering scream caused the elf to jump and start to slam door back in his face. He reached out to grab the door to stop it from blocking his entrance. However, he didn't get much further than that when he heard his mother scream, "Lucius!"

He saw his father cross the landing at a run – something Draco couldn't remember his father ever doing. Concerned, he moved to step into Pansy's home, only to find himself thrown twenty feet backwards and landing on his arse.

Cursing Pansy, her mother and any other thing or person he could think of, he stalked back to the still open front door and yelled, "Will someone let me in? And then tell me what the bloody hell is going on?"

Another blood-curdling scream assaulted his ear drums as soon as he finished shouting.

Draco was about to call again when his father came down the stairs. He spoke out to his father causing the man to stop in his tracks and ask, "How?"

Draco didn't know how to respond to that question, as he wasn't entirely sure about what his Father assumed he knew, and instead asked, "What is going on?"

"Well get your backside in here and go help your mother," Lucius growled before another scream filled the air. Draco watched his father fling on his cloak and when he realised that Draco hadn't moved he shouted, "What's stopping you?"

"I can't get through the bloody doorway," Draco snapped back.

"Tipsy! Let Draco in this residence immediately."

"But sire, Mistress said –"

"I do not give a bloody hell what your Mistress told you! Let him in, now."

"Yes sir," The cowering house-elf replied, wringing her hands.

Draco tentatively took a step but didn't breathe a sigh of relief until his foot rested firmly on the entry way floor, and no force threw him back out of the Estate.

"So what are you waiting for now? A hand-written, engraved invitation? Get up there boy and help your mother!"

Knowing that tone well, and though Draco was closer to thirty than ten, he didn't have to be told twice. He took off for the stairs, taking them two at a time, listening for any noise that would tell him exactly where his mother was and hoping it wouldn't be one of those heart-wrenching screams that would direct him.

Unfortunately, that was exactly what he heard. Running towards the sound, he didn't know what to make of the sight he found when he opened the door: there was his mother in muggle jeans, her hair pulled up while she crouched over a clearly distraught Pansy, whispering words that Draco couldn't quite make out. The sight of Pansy tore at his heart as he looked at her; her hair a mess, her skin grey and covered with beads of sweat.

At that moment, Draco could only comprehend that not only was his mother scared but that he felt his mother's fear. He hated just how helpless he felt, recognising not only that his best friend was dying, but that she had hidden it from him.

That and why the hell the sandalwood he smelled couldn't calm him like it did her. Or at least, like it used to.

* * * * *


Ron hated the way he felt.

He wanted out of his marriage. Out of the Ministry. And he was pretty sure that he wanted out of England, too.

He just didn't know how to make it happen and protect Rose and Hugo. Pushing away from his desk, he turned his chair from the door so that nobody walking by could see just how troubled he was on a Wednesday afternoon.

Looking out of the charmed window, he mentally started making a list of what he would need to do to separate and divorce Hermione without adding another child to the mix. The timing of Rose and Hugo after years of Hermione saying 'it's not a good time' over and over again until he made it known that he was thinking of leaving, followed by a few nights where he couldn't remember exactly what he had done, scared him.

But he wouldn't have traded his children for the world. He just wanted to make sure they were protected and that they knew they were loved unconditionally.

He knew he couldn't do that any more whilst being married to Hermione. Children were simply not her thing and he didn't hold it against her; he only wished she could have been honest with him regarding them, knowing he would never have married her in the first place. He really had come to hate her for trapping him by getting pregnant as a means to keep him as her husband, though he had to believe she was just as unhappy in their relationship as he was.

A knock on the door frame interrupted his thoughts as he heard Harry's voice, "Got a minute?"

Forcing a smile onto his face, he spun his chair around and said, "Sure, what can I do you for?"

"I was kind of hoping that you would talk to me," Harry said in a matter of fact tone before closing the door behind him. "You've become really distant as of late and we're concerned."

Ron leaned back in his chair and sighed, "So what exactly have I done wrong this time?" assuming that was the most evasive and elusive way to continue the conversation and get Harry out of his office as quickly as possible, with as little damage and headache as was necessary.

"You haven't done anything wrong. Why do you think you've done something wrong every time one of us tries to talk to you?"

"No reason."

"Well there must have been a reason for you to ask that?"

Rolling his eyes, Ron tried to divert the conversation another way with, "So what did you want to talk about?"

"Why are you pulling away from all of us? You never go out with me and the guys anymore..."

"Hermione's had to work late a lot lately," Ron replied, not adding that it was by her own choice not to come home until after the children had been put down for the night.

"You always seem tired these days. I thought you taking this desk job was so you would be less tired..."

"I've had a lot of long days recently," he muttered, that time not adding they were due to the fact that since Rose had been born, he had practically become a single parent.

"So why did you miss lunch at the Burrow last Sunday?"

"Hugo had an ear infection and Rose was still in a bad mood from being sick. I thought it would be best on everyone if I kept the two of them home."

"The kids have been ill?"

Ron wanted to do nothing more than reach across his desk and shake sense into Harry. When he thought about it a little more, he really wanted to shout at Harry to open his bloody eyes and see what was really going on, instead of leaning towards Hermione's side. Because if one more person, especially in his family, told him how lucky he was to have Hermione Granger as a wife, he was liable to scream and ask them when was the last time they actually saw her with her children. Maybe then they would notice that Hugo never asked for his mum and Rose had actually started and stopped asking why she didn't have a mum. He would have bet good money that Rose would not have been able to pick her out of a line-up.

"Yeah the kids have been sick," Ron diplomatically said instead with a heavy sigh. "That's why I had to take two days off last week and take them to the Healers."

"But Hermione didn't say anything when I had lunch with her last week?"

Because she was too busy to notice, Ron thought. Though he did add mentally, it was because he had become so accustomed to caring for the kids by himself that he didn't mention it aloud. Either way, it didn't paint the two of them in a very good light, so he took the safe route of, "She had a few pressing items last week, she probably didn't think to mention it; I mean really, it was just an ear infection and a cold."

Harry simply looked at Ron oddly before saying, "But I asked her specifically how they were doing."

"I don't know what to tell you then, Harry."

"So what's going on?" Harry said as his eyes narrowed, studying him. "Something isn't right."

Playing dumb Ron shrugged, "I don't know what to tell you, nothing's going on."

"Are you two fighting again?"

"Nothing more than the usual."

"Would you stop talking in circles and talk to me," Harry said forcefully, slamming his hand down on the desk.

Frustrated, Ron snapped back, "There is nothing to talk about because there is nothing wrong."

"You know, I thought I was your best mate," Harry shouted, getting to his feet. "If you don't stop pushing people out of your life, you are going to wake up one morning to find Hermione gone, the kids gone, your family gone, and me gone. And if that's what you want, then you're doing a fine job of making that happen sooner than later."

Ron didn't react to Harry's little tirade. He took every word with a grain of salt and let it bounce off him. Cool and collected, Ron asked, "Are we finished? I have work to do."

He watched as Harry's jaw worked up and down as he tried to say something in response. However, no sound emerged until Harry threw his hands up in frustration and growled before leaving and slamming the door in his wake.

With the door closed, Ron sealed it and spun back around in his chair; mentally he continued to make plans to protect his children and remove them from his increasingly toxic situation.

He just wondered if after everything was said and done, if he would be able to find a bit of happiness for himself.



Day Thirty-One

Ron couldn't believe he was the 'only' Auror on duty and in the Ministry.

Though as he thought about it on the lift taking him to the disturbance on Level Four in the Department of Magical Creatures, he was sure that this was yet another passive aggressive attempt by Harry to come and talk to him. Ron knew that hell would freeze over before he did that: he no longer trusted his wife and he didn't trust Harry not to run to Hermione and tell her everything. After everything that had come to pass over the last four years, he had decided that what they didn't know couldn't hurt them.

As he stepped off the lift, he could hear the voices shouting along the corridor. Picking up his pace, he followed the sound of a very posh tone saying very un-posh things.

When Ron turned the corner, he knew beyond a shadow of the doubt that the two people who were disrupting the entire level were Draco Malfoy and Cormac McLaggen. He had never really pin-pointed at Hogwarts which of the two he disliked more; he just knew he never wanted to be around either of them ever again.

Loudly, Ron firmly said, "Are you two quite done? You have done a lovely job of disrupting the entire level."

"No, I'm not done," hissed Malfoy, albeit in a lower volume, "And I won't be done until this slimy git without any brains to speak of allows me to pick up the sedation potion I requested."

"And as I told this prick," McLaggen sneered back, "I can't very well can't give him that potion without proof that he is responsible for an ailing Veela's medical care, seeing as it is fatal to witches and wizards in minimal amounts."

"And I told him that the Veela in question is at their own residence which is stated in their file. The Veela's own health issues have been thoroughly documented accordingly to necessitate the potion."

"And I told him that I can only give the potion to the Veela's emergency contact–"

"Who died a month ago," Malfoy cut in. "I brought the bloody death certificate. The Veela fell ill shortly thereafter and was unable to submit the proper-"

"And my hands are tied--"

"No, you are being deaf, blind, and dumb," Malfoy growled, cutting off McLaggen. "We have submitted certified writs that I'm one of the Veela's caregivers."

"And I told you that those writs don't mean a thing even if they are from the bloody Queen herself."

Ron waited for the two grown men, who were doing a fantastic job impersonating teenagers, to continue, only because he was waiting for Malfoy to get the last word in. When Malfoy didn't, he assumed it was time to settle the way McLaggen should have and could have settled it long ago, by saying, "You know McLaggen, you could have just summoned an Auror to be responsible for the potion and sent them with Malfoy to ensure everything is on the up-and-up according to those writs? Would've saved you how much time today?"

"You mean that's all this incompetant buffoon had to do?" Malfoy hissed before turning back on McLaggen. "You have wasted how much time arguing with me? If I didn't want your head on a platter at the moment so badly, I'd drag your arse back to the Estate and let you listen to her screams...So Weasley, are you going to sign this potion out for me, or not?"

He really hadn't planned on it but seeing as it was a quick, easy job that would get him out of the Ministry while still making it possible for him to leave at six, he shrugged his shoulders and said, "Sure, anything to allow the other people on this level to actually do work." Looking at McLaggen, he said, "Make yourself actually useful, McLaggen, and go and get the potion Mr. Malfoy here is requesting and the forms I need to sign."

McLaggen shot him a dirty look but Ron didn't care one iota. Leaning against the reception desk, he asked Malfoy as he picked up the stack of writs, "Are these yours?"

"Yes... Thank you."

Ron's head spun around quickly out of shock due to Malfoy's tone of gracious thanks and exhaustion. Taking a closer look at his childhood nemesis' face, he noticed the dark circles under his eyes and the way his body was hunched, struggling to stay upright. Knowing that he should look and carefully examine each of the writs, something told him that what Malfoy had been truthful about his situation, so he simply took a look at the one that adhered to the immediate situation.

"The forms you need to sign, Weasley," McLaggen's growl caused him to look up from the writ he was looking over.

"Great," Ron replied, snatching a quill from desk. As he scanned all the forms McLaggen had handed him to ensure that he signed or initialed in all the appropriate places, he told McLaggen, "Everything is in order with the writ."

"You didn't have that much time to examine them all," McLaggen accused and tried to grab the parchment he was signing but Ron was too fast for him.

Grabbing McLaggen's wrist, Ron snarled, "All I need to see was the one for Malfoy here. It's fine. So it is up to you to attend to the rest. Get your hands off my form."

He kept glaring at McLaggen until the idiot did the smart thing and backed away. Once he had, Ron grabbed the vial from the desk, pocketing it before finishing his portion of the form.

Sliding it to his left, he said, "Your turn, Malfoy. Just sign here, here, and here. And initial there."

Ron watched as Malfoy went to take the quill and stopped. Malfoy's eyes grew wide as he just stared at him and whispered, "Sandalwood."

Shocked, Ron asked, "Sandalwood?"

"How's Granger, Weasley?" Malfoy asked instead, taking the quill from Ron before starting to sign where Ron had told him to.

Ron couldn't find an answer before McLaggen pipped up with, "She's amazing, having done wonders recently with house-elves and merpeople alike."

"That is exactly what I want to hear," Malfoy replied coolly pushing the parchment and quill towards McLaggen. "Weasley, is there anything else I need to sign?"

"Nope," he said, still trying to figure out the last two minutes of conversation as he stood up completely. "So where are we going?"

"I'll tell you in the lifts."

Ron followed Malfoy as he spun and headed towards the lifts. Once the doors closed, he finally took the opportunity to ask, "Why did you want to know how Hermione's doing?"

"I just wanted to see what you would say."

"But I didn't say anything."

"Exactly." Malfoy said firmly as if that was the answer to everything that had happen in the last five minutes. "So are you in need of a good divorce lawyer? If so, I imagine I could convince Theo to take it for shits and giggles being such a fan of Hermione himself."

Ron couldn't help but look at Malfoy slackjawed. He couldn't fathom how the man made a leap from his non-response to him needing a divorce lawyer. Granted, he did, and if the rumours around the Ministry were true, then his former classmate was the person he needed on his side. Especially in custody battles of epic poportions, which was exactly what Ron expected if he divorced Hermione, even though the last thing she had done for either of their children was to give birth to them.

"Really?" Malfoy drawled, evidently noticing Ron's shell-shocked appearance. "Do I have to explain this to you?"

"Well sorry, but I'm trying to figure out how you got from point A to point B."

"Logic and maybe a little insider information. Granted, it's all people can talk about at the Leaky these days –the impending end of the Golden Trio with comments of your recent behaviours..." the bell dinged singalling the gate was about to open. Malfoy hurriedly finised, "But let's talk after our business at the Parkinson estate."

The lift doors opened on them as Ron followed Malfoy towards the Floo system. He was about to throw powder on the flame and go through when Malfoy grabbed his arm and asked, "Please tell me you have a strong stomach?"

Blinking quickly at such a strange comment, Ron shook his head before asking, "What exactly is going on?"

"You'll see in a minute... Just promise me you have a strong stomach."

"I do."

"Good. Now, follow me."

Ron sighed and did as he was told. His mind focussed on just what was he about to step into. When he emerged on he other side, he saw Malfoy removing his cloak and surprisingly dressed in muggle clothing.

Malfoy turned to him saying, "If you want, no one around here will care if you want to remove your robes. In fact, you may want to do so. It will keep them clean and it's been a bad day. Or at least it was when I left earlier."

This whole day was becoming more and more surreal. Hating his robes anyway, and always one for the opportunity to remove them when he was on duty worked for him. He was hanging them up in the wardrobe in the foyer as Malfoy had done when he heard –

"Took you long enough."

Ron spun around to see Tracey Davis coming down the large staircase. Her own shirt and jeans splattered with blood while her arms wrapped around a large bowl filled with bloody rags. He suddenly understood why Malfoy had asked him about having a strong stomach.

"Not my fault. McLaggen was an arse besides being an idiot. Weasley had to intervene."

"Speaking of which, why is he here?" her eyes narrowed as the two men approached the staircase she was descending.

"Easy. One... He is the only way I got my hands on the bloody potion. And two... Sandalwood."

Ron watched as the bowl fell from her hands because they had gone straight to her mouth. He heard her gasp, "Really?"

"Really."

He really wanted to know what the hell sandalwood had to do with this very strange morning. Only then did he realise that the smell of sandalwood filled the house. He couldn't think of one reason why anyone would use it other than as an air freshener, but then again he had never been a good student in herbology.

"So is anyone going to tell me exactly what is going on?" Ron asked as Tracey and Malfoy carried on a hushed conversation that he couldn't understand. They abruptly stopped talking at his interruption. Tracey started to attend to the mess she made as Draco waved him to follow and said, "Come on. I'll explain...How much do you know about Veela?"

"A fair bit given my sister-in-law is a quarter of one."

"Not the same, but we will go with it," Malfoy sighed as they continued up the stairs. "How much do you know about their mating practices?"

"The basics: mate for life after imprinting, which only happens after they turn seventeen and that their powers don't work on their potential mates... Which I wish someone had told me in fourth year."

"Well, you are about to see what happens when a Veela imprints and chooses not to pursue their mate."

Confused, Ron stopped on the stairs and said, "I don't understand."

"Don't worry, we don't either," Malfoy shrugged, "Because she's condemning herself to a very drawn out and painful death."

As if on cue, a pained scream filled Ron's ears. He had never heard something so heart-wrenching and terrifying in his life.

"Why is she submitting herself to this?"

"That is the million galleon question Weasley," Malfoy snapped before sighing and continuing, "She says he's happily married and unfortunately, Pansy is about as hard-headed as they come."

"Pansy? Pansy Parkinson is a Veela?" Ron stuttered, not sure what to think about that development. He was such a heart-on-the-sleeve bloke that Veelas effected him more than most, and he had never once reacted to Parkinson in six years of going to school with her –well, outside of anger.

"Yes. Her parents both sold parts of their soul through some dark magic in order for her not to transform but otherwise that, since she turned seventeen, she is one-hundred percent Veela... Are you ready for this?"

"No."

"Too late," Malfoy replied, opening the door at the same time another scream filled the air.

Nothing in a million years could have prepared him for what he was witnessing. There was blood everywhere as broken bones pierced through skin. Narcissa Malfoy was holding a grey-coloured Pansy who was sweating profusely as Lucius and Draco's other classmates tried to fix her breaks and clean up the blood. Vomit rose in Ron's throat as tears filled his eyes. Grabbing Draco before he could get too far, he pushed the potion into his hand and whispered, "I'll make sure you are kept supplied with whatever you need from the Ministry."

Draco nodded as he quickly moved towards his mother. Ron, on the other hand, backed out of the room. Once in the hallway, he rolled to rest his back on the wall and slid down it. He buried his head in his hands. No amount of battle, blood, and death had prepared him for that.

Day Thirty-Two

He wasn't exactly sure why he was standing at the front door of the Parkinson estate during his lunch hour, but he was.

Between yesterday afternoon and most of the morning, he had spent his entire time at the Ministry ensuring that the Malfoys got all the support they needed from the Department of Magical Beasts and Creatures. Luckily, he hadn't had to go to Hermione once to get anything done, because if the head of the department who was rarely interested in anything was dying to see what Pansy was putting herself through, Ron knew that Hermione would not only want a front row seat for the action, but would probably demand Pansy be transferred from her home and allow only medical professionals to her.

Ron gave a sharp rap on the door. It wasn't long before a very casually dressed Draco answered the door with a simple, "Yes?"

"I just wanted to let you now I got everything straightened out at the department," Ron said, fiddling with his Auror robes, not entirely sure as to why he was so nervous all of a sudden. "You, your wife, and your parents have access to anything the Ministry can assist you with. It's not much given the situation, but it's all I could do."

Draco nodded before softly saying, "Thank you. And thank you again for your help yesterday."

"I didn't do anything--"

"No. You did everything. We needed that potion so her body could have some time to heal," Draco responded, interrupting him. "Her body couldn't take much more of that type of punishment."

A heavy silence filled the doorway. Ron was about to take his leave when Draco said, "You know, Asteria and I were about to sit down to lunch. You are more than welcome to join us if you would like. It's not much but I imagine it beats the Ministry's cafeteria?"

Ron shook his hands with his head and said, "Thank you but I don't want to interrupt."

"I wouldn't have asked Wea—Ron, if you'd be interrupting," Draco huffed, standing aside. "It's only soup and sandwiches in the kitchen."

Ron gave a short laugh. Giving up, he just crossed the threshold of the the house and remarked, "You don't take no for an answer do you?"

"I bellowed at McLaggen for forty minutes before you arrived yesterday. What do you think?"

"It's nice to see some things don't change."

A heavy silence fell between the men as Ron followed Draco. It took a few moments before he finally was able to ask, "May I ask how Pansy is doing today?"

He noticed that Draco's body sighed in relief as he kept walking, saying, "The sedation is working as it should; it's keeping her from moving so there is no chance for her to break or dislocate anything at the moment."

"How long has she been dealing with this?"

"Going on for at least a month from what I can tell. Mother and Father took care of her on their own for a couple of weeks before I found out. Since then, it started as all of us taking rotating schedules but the last week had gotten so bad that every episode was taking all of our combined efforts... which is the reason for the potion." Ron noticed Draco looked guilty about something the way his hands jammed into his trousers and adding softly, "We all needed the break as much as her body did."

"How long will she suffer like that?" Ron knew his delivery was blunt but he couldn't think of a better way to phrase that particular question.

"A couple of years at least."

Ron stopped in his tracks. Starring at Draco's back as he kept walking. Draco only took a few more steps before he realised that Ron was no longer following him. Ron watched as the other man turned around and asked, "Are you okay?"

Ron snapped, "No," before taking a deep breath and continued more gently remarked, "You mean she's putting herself through this for years over a mate she won't pursue? Why?"

"Like I said yesterday, your guess is as good as ours. You know as much as we do."

There was something in the way he said that, that something registered with Draco, "But you all have an idea who it is though, don't you?"

"Yes."

"Have you thought about approaching this person and explaining the situation. Hoping that this person can convince her to stop this insane behaviour?"

"See Wea—Ron, we only recently found a clue and all of us would prefer to have a confirmation. Unfortunately with her refusing to tell us and now that she's sedated, the only other way for us to get the confirmation we are looking for is a locket that she always wore and she has conveniently destroyed."

"And that's it? You are just going to sit on your hands and do nothing?"
Draco looked at him aprisingly before saying, "No. We actually have hopes that our suspect will come around. For now though we are buying our time until the sedation wears off and see if we can convince her then... So, lunch?"



Day Forty-Five

Ron wasn't exactly sure how he had gotten to this point.

In two weeks, he had managed to view Draco as something entirely different than his childhood nemesis. He just wished that had been the biggest surprise however, that was reserved for how he and his children had somehow integrated into the group of friends caring for Pansy. His lunch hours were now spent at the Estate with Draco, Asteria, and their son, Scorpius. After work, the entire group would assemble with children in tow for dinner every evening. His weekends were actually relaxful now; spent at the Estate with the others enjoying his children and people who didn't only see him as Hermione's other half. He knew he should feel bad about missing two Sunday lunches, which had brought him more than one visit to his office from Harry, and a couple of his brothers, but he couldn't bring himself to feel guilty about missing lunches when he would be the centre of the Weasley equivalent of the Spanish Inquisition.

All of that had brought him to this Tuesday: or as Draco and the others had taken to calling it 'the moment of truth.'

For this Tuesday he owled in sick. Well, he owled in that Hugo was sick, which he wasn't, and took both of his children to the Manor for Asteria to care for while he joined the rest to wait for the sedation to wear off. He wasn't entirely sure why he was needed for this, having only become friends with the others since she had been sedated, but he did know it wasn't worth fighting Draco as his heels were dug in deep regarding the matter.

As the minutes ticked by, approaching the appointed moment when they expected her to her, the increasing tension could be felt. While everyone else began to fill those moments with twittering around in whispers and rushed departures, Ron remained still, taking the time to really look at Pansy. He found himself struggling to rectify the girl he remembered from school with the woman who laid in front of him.

The hair was the same colour: a glistening black that had grown long over the years. Her skin was paler than he remembered it, though thankfully the greyish tint of death had departed a few days before. Now he could see her smooth English rose skin and the light freckles that dusted her nose and cheeks. When he first had noticed them, he couldn't help but give a short laugh ,especially in light of all the disparaging comments she had ever made about his. He even found that somehow her nose had flattened; enough to make it less pug-esque and more appealing and upturned.

All together, Ron found it hard to believe the nasty girl he remembered from Hogwarts to be the beautiful woman laying in front of him then. He did have to admit that it was equally hard for him to believe that he fallen out of love with Hermione, the girl he had loved since he was eleven –but he had managed to do that, so maybe he could change his opinion about Pansy too.

Watching Pansy's face take on a calm, peaceful, and happy look as her eyes started to flutter warmed his heart. He recognised it as the same exact feeling he had experienced in the Ministry over six weeks ago when he unexpectedly had to cover a shift in the customs department and ran into her. Though his eyes never left her stirring face, afraid that something was bad was going to happen at any given moment, he noted that the resulting silence from people holding their tongues and breaths started to overwhelm the room.

When her eyes finally opened, her pale blue eyes locked with his. Mesmerised, Ron watched as her eyes first glistened, then faded to pink before a single tear made it's way from her eye. He was lost as to why she was reacting the way she was to him, especially when the room was filled with her oldest and nearest friends. Yet her eyes appeared only to be for him; a person she had made fun of during their years in school together.

And he hated himself for the warmth he felt, that he, for inexplicable reasons, had just made her day. He never made anyone's day -but Ron liked making her's.

* * * * *


Pansy struggled with the fog surrounding her. Glimpses of light pushed her efforts forward until her nose found the scent of sandalwood.

And not just any sandalwood: his sandalwood.

The fog cleared immediately as her eyes flew open to find him standing at the end of her bed, leaning casually and effortlessly against the wall. She couldn't tear her eyes away from the connection they found with his bright blue ones. So many emotions flooded through her and her heart and soul until her heart and soul determinely stood firm when they came to joy.

So in joy, she laid there with tears starting to burn her eyes until she felt one escaped. Pansy longed to wipe the evidence away but was too afraid that the pain would flood her body again, so she remained still.

Slowly she came to realise that other people were in the room besides her and Ron. Draco leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Am I right?"

Breathlessly, she whispered, "Yes, but the locket..."

"First things first. He doesn't know, but he's here on his accord," Draco whispered. Finally brave enough to attempt to move her head, she slowly turned it to look at Draco as he whispered, "Choose him this time. We are all begging you, please choose him."

"Okay."

Pansy softly smiled at her best friend who was wiping his own tears away. She turned back to look at Ron, softly smiled and closed her heavy eyes as sleep claimed her again.

Day Forty-Seven

Chaos didn't really begin to describe the frenzy Ron walked into that Saturday morning. Much to the men's consternation, the women (not including Pansy) had decided it was too pretty a day to spend indoors as well as the fresh air would do Pansy good.

He really wasn't sure how the next part happened though. One minute he had his arms full with a squirming Hugo, a nappy bag, and an excited Rose who wanted to find her playmates, but the next minute both of his children were gone, as well as the bag, and he was under strict orders to bring Pansy down. He started to argue with Millie, who was the closest to him, but she just pushed him on his way.

He took each step slowly, not sure about his role. Ron hadn't been alone with Pansy since she had awoken. The first few days she had been asleep more than she was awake, and she hadn't had the strength to join them for lunch nor dinner yet. With each step, he tried to figure out something ahead of time to say to her, but he simply was at a loss for words because the sheer fear of carrying her outside overwhelmed him.

Taking a deep breath, he knocked on her bedroom door and waited for a response. When he heard a soft , "Come in," he took a second breath before slipping inside.
It was a good thing he did; what he did have stored in his chest flew out of the proverbial window when he saw her sitting in a wing-backed chair, looking at the window. Her black hair fell in loose waves framing her face. The simple white dress she wore gave her an ethereal quality, which he was sure could not be imitated. He took in another deep breath when he realised what he had to be feeling was her Veela powers; that, however, brought him nothing but disappointment and he had no idea why.

Quietly, he said, "I've been sent to fetch you. Are you ready?" as he moved towards her.
When she turned to look at him and smiled, his heart leapt into his throat. He suddenly hated her being a Veela because now she stood as something he could only lust over, when all he wanted was someone who would look at him like she was now.

"As ready as I'll ever be," she told him. Her beautiful smile evolved into something that was apologetic when she continued, "I'm sorry -though it's not been a bad day, it hasn't been a good day either."

"Okay," Ron nodded, not entirely sure what she meant. "Given that I have a reputation for being a bit thick, can I please have a translation?"

Her smile changed again to something playful. Ron had had no idea that a smile could change as quickly, with so much emotion, until then. With a small laugh that rang like music in his ears, she said, "I'm afraid walking is a bit beyond me. I had trouble getting to the chair."

"Then a ride it is, madame," he replied, bowing deep; all the times he had done that to Rose had caused it to be an instant reaction. And one he suddenly was regretting until she rewarded him with another laugh.

"I'm afraid it would be highly inappropriate of me receiving a piggy back ride from you."

"Probably. How about we just stick to a simple, I'll carry you?"

"I'd like that," she replied raising her arms up. He bent over so she could wrap her arms tightly around his neck as he slid his arms behind her and under her legs. In a fluid motion, he had her up in his arms and secure. Her lightness scared him. He had expected her to be more like Ginny or Hermione when he had done the same for them but – his mind argued-- neither one had ever been as sick as Pansy had been.

"Are you comfortable?" he asked before taking a step. From experience, he knew it was easier to adjust her at this stage than say down a large flight of stairs.

"Yes," she whispered, noding her head. The simple nod had somehow translated to his body as a nuzzle, and that caused his mind and body to go to a singular place. He mentally reminded himself of exactly what he wasn't going to have and that helped his mind, but did nothing for his body.

Carrying her out of her room, he didn't know what to say, so he just remained quiet as he let her cling to him. He hated how good it felt to actually be needed for a change by somebody other than Rose and Hugo. Ron couldn't remember the last time he was wanted as a man before that moment. And he especially couldn't figure out how he allowed himself to become so emasculated.

Slowly he began the descent down stairs. Feeling Pansy cling tighter to him, he responded by squeezing her gently and whispering, "I promise I won't drop you."

Ron didn't know what to do when she suddenly loosened her hold. He barely heard her whisper, "Sorry."

"Nothing to be sorry for," Ron whispered back, "Stairs are always the scary part."

He didn't know what came over him but he gently placed a chaste kiss on her forehead. The sound of her gasping made him pull back before he was ready, but when he went to look at her face, he couldn't for she had tightened her arms around him again, and buried her face into his neck. Ron couldn't say he really minded the action one little bit. He just wasn't prepared to see Narcissa wiping at her eyes before scurrying away when he looked back down into the entry way.

* * * * *


Pansy wanted to laugh at the sight of Rose and Scorpius climbing all over Ron, all three laughing and squealing as they played. Most of the other adults were now either walking through the gardens, occupied with their own children, left in the care of Narcissa and Lucius, or were taking a moment for some quiet alone time like Draco and Asteria. All and all it left her with Hugo, curled up and asleep on her chest which is why she couldn't bring herself to actually laugh.

Looking down on Hugo, she smiled and tried to make an attempt to extract her thumb from his tiny fist. However, he squirmed against her chest and pulled her hand in closer to him. Smiling, she giggled softly and place a gentle kiss on the top of his head. Pansy wrapped her other arm around him protectively.

"That's a good look on you," she heard Draco say softly from behind. When he came around and took a seat on her lounge chair, she made a face at him which only caused him to laugh before he said, "I'm just saying."

"You never just 'say' anything, Draco," Pansy sighed, annoyed. Narrowing her eyes at him, she continued, "So what do you want?"

Draco flashed her a shite-eating smile, that everyone who knew him hated, before innocently saying, "What? I want nothing."

"I'm not your wife," Pansy replied playfully. "You can't get away with that innocent look with me, no matter how weak I may be feeling. So what do you want, Draco?"

"Wondering if you would like me to take Rose off of Ron's hands for you?"

Confused, Pansy turned her head to where Ron was still playing activiely with Rose and Scorpius before asking, "I don't understand."

She watched as he rolled his eyes at her and remarked, "Really?"

"What?"

"Okay, I'll spell it out for you: I take Rose, Ron has to come and see you. Comprende?"

"Oh." Pansy felt like an idiot. Thinking on it, she shook her head and said, "No, let him play with Rose. He's having too much fun."

With a pensive face, Draco appeared to look her up and down before asking, "Is this a side-effect to the imprinting?"

"What?" Pansy was definitely confused now.

"You being nice and unselfish. I'm not used to this side of you."

Pansy rolled her eyes before saying, "Look at him. He's happy and from what you've told me, he hasn't been in some time; just let him be happy now."

Draco looked back at Pansy before turning to look at Ron again. Sighing, he smiled, "Whatever. You do what you want, and I'll do what I want." Turning back to where Ron was with the children, "Scorpius, Rose would you two like to help me get ice cream for everyone?"

"Ice Cream!" Both children shouted and took off towards Draco. Pansy laughed as the two toddlers ran as fast as their legs would carry them. Draco helped them by moving towards them and scooping them up with a practiced ease.

She didn't watch where they went because her eyes were only for Ron, who was walking towards her. Her breath was taken away by the sight he made as he approached her, his hands buried into his pockets, the gentle breeze blowing through his red hair. She really wanted to run her fingers through his hair.

The whole moment felt so surreal. Pansy longed for him to walk to her, take a seat by her on the lounge, and kiss her. She longed that Hugo, still lying on her chest asleep, was their child. It caused her chest to fill with a undulating pressure; a pressure she longed for him to relieve.

Pansy managed to smile what she hoped was a soft and sincere smile -there were so many other things she'd rather do at the moment. When he rewarded her with a soft, "Hey," the pressure in her chest released. Unfortunately her replenished breath died a death when his hand brushed hers as he moved to rub Hugo's back.

Her eyes locked with his and she noticed that she wasn't the only one not breathing. Pansy watched as Ron struggled to collect himself before he whispered, "Would you like me to take him?"

"He's fine," she smiled back, trying not to notice that his hand was now lying over hers. "Unless you want him?"

"No, that's okay," he replied quickly, "I just wanted to make sure he's not bothering you."

"No, he's not bothering me."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm positive. Unless you want him back, of course."

"I'm fine, if you are."

"I'm fine," she whispered again, biting her tongue on 'I'm more than fine'.

Silence fell over both them at that point. As if Hugo could feel the tension floating between the two adults now who were still holding hands, he began to stir against her chest. Her thumb now free in his stirring, she pulled her other hand regretfully away from Ron's touch and adjusted Hugo higher on her body, his head now cradled into the crook of her neck.

"You really are a natural at that," Ron murmured.

Her eyes flew up to meet his when she heard the sadness in his tone. Once Hugo had settled again, she took her free hand and reached out to him. Pansy wasn't entirely sure what to do when he took her hand and held it, but looked away. Deciding this was one of those times that it was best for her to remain quiet, she did. She simply sat there holding his son and, most importantly, held his hand.

Day Forty-Nine

"So you didn't get the owl either?" Pansy grinned as Ron walked into the strangely empty kitchen at the Estate.

Slowly he asked, "Owl about what?", confused about the whole situation: Draco and Asteria and Scorpius not being there but Pansy evidently being well enough to come down to lunch --a first for both.

"Evidently, Draco and Asteria had to attend to matters in London today and," she said waving a piece of parchement, "I just found out."

"That makes two of us," he said with a smile, trying to reign in the feelings rushing and pooling in his chest. He hated how her Veela charms affected him; he really wished she would look at him as she did regardless of her Veela charms. The afternoon spent with her at the weekend, basically in silence, had made him feel better about everything, better than he had felt in a long time. When he had gotten home that evening, and after he had gotten the kids to bed, even Hermione coming home bustling about work on a weekend didn't phase him. In fact, he had been able to stand to be around her for longer than normal and for the first time didn't pick a fight with her because he simply no longer cared what she did or even thought. "So I guess I should just...?"

"They left us lunch," she said with an annoyed smirk that caused him to laugh. "So, I think we would hurt Asteria's feelings if we didn't eat."

Ron let out a loud laugh, thinking of the first time he learned how ill-tempered sweet, quiet Asteria Malfoy could be before saying, "Well, when you put it that way... I'm still scared of her after I learned about her temper."

When Pansy laughed in reply, Ron melted. He hated himself a little more for how doing so, however; for being so starved of human affection from a woman that a Veela could bend him to her will so willingly. Needing to escape her for a minute, he forced a smile on his face and said, "Do you mind getting it set while I run to the loo?"

"Not at all..."

Ron didn't hear anything else she said before leaving the kitchen. He leaned against the wall for a moment whilst he breathed deeply, trying to settle himself. Rubbing his face with both hands, he tried to figure out how he had become so pathetic: a loveless marriage with a woman who refused to be a mother to his children, friends and family he had known his entire life and couldn't trust, friends that he had hated during school now being the people he wanted to be around, and a Veela who was putting her moves on him purposefully --all in all, a broken, useless man with nothing except two wonderful children.

Pushing away from the wall, he realised he heard noise that wasn't Pansy. In fact, it sounded a lot like Draco, whom Pansy had said wasn't there. Ron carefully crept to the noise; needing to make sure that his mind wasn't playing any more tricks on him than necessary.

When he got to the library, he knew for certain that the noise was not his imagination. He could clearly hear both Draco and Asteria inside. Pulling at the extendable ear he always carried on him, he placed it against the crack at the bottom of the door and stepped back into the shadows that a suit of armour could provide him.

"I still don't think this is a good idea." Asteria's voice was the first he could make out. "They're both smarter than you are giving them credit for. This is just going to end badly if you keep interfering."

"No, it's not," Draco responded. The arrogant glee in Draco's voice annoyed the hell out of Ron. He sighed, assuming that certain things would never change. "It can't end badly. Ron has too big a heart and Pansy will not put herself through that again."

"You know I read the same books you did Draco. You can ruin this even if she has imprinted on him. Anyway, we aren't entirely sure, not without the locket. She's never confirmed."

Ron's breath escaped his chest at that piece of information but his body seized the moment he heard, "She did though. He's her one..."

He couldn't listen any more. Dropping the extendable ear, he left, walking fast, and he didn't stop until he found himself in his office. Ron wasn't sure how he got there as he continued to take long, deep breaths trying to process that he could be a Veela's one.

Especially the beautiful one he had left standing in the kitchen waiting his return.

* * * * *


Pansy looked at clock on the kitchen wall again. Ron had been gone for twenty minutes. The loo didn't take that long even when one wasn't constipated.

Slowly she made her way towards the toilet that was on that side of the house. When she didn't find him there, she started towards the other side. Her gut screaming that something was really wrong. Pansy really hated the fact that her gut was also telling her that Draco was behind all it.

The first fucking day she had felt as good since waking from sedation and Little-Mister-I-Have-No-Patience had to do something. She wondered if Asteria would mind if she killed her husband. There was the possibility Asteria might beat her to it with her loud Irish temper.

Walking towards the entryway, she noticed the extendable ear by the study. Taking a deep breath, she waved her wand at the doors and blasted them open.

"Pansy!" Both Draco and Asteria yelled jumping up from their position on the sofa.

"So, London?"

"Didn't take as long as we thought," Draco said hurriedly, smoothing his clothes. "We decided not to interrupt your lunch with Ron."

Pansy picked up the extendable ear and walked into the study growling, "Would you like to try again?", dangling the extendable ear.

"Not my idea, Pansy," Asteria quickly said.

"Oh, I know it wasn't your idea," Pansy purred, approaching Draco, moving forward for every step he was back-tracking as she neared. "It was Mr. Impatient here, am I right?"

"Yes," Asteria mouthed but Pansy heard her loud and clear.

"So Draco, what am I supposed to do now?" Pansy whispered, suddenly feeling completely and utterly lost. Dropping the extendable ear in front of him, she whispered again, "What am I supposed to do?"

When nothing came out of his mouth, she turned on her heel. Pansy started walking and didn't stop until she found herself out at the family mausoleum.

* * * * *


After Pansy walked dejectedly out of the study, Draco watched as his wife said, "You, my dear, have one hour to try and fix this. If you don't, I suggest you get a room at the Leaky tonight," before exiting the study.

Running his hands through his hair, he wondered how he managed to fuck up quite so badly. He had only wanted Pansy and Ron to spend time together, alone, especially after seeing them together on Saturday and Sunday. Draco had watched the two of them share glances, quiet conversations, and touch when they thought nobody was looking. He wanted Ron to see Pansy enough to finally leave the Granger bitch.

Draco growled and stormed out of the study. He didn't bother to grab his cloak before Flooing to the Ministry.

He didn't know exactly what he was going to say to Weasley, but if the redhead thought Draco was going to stand by and risk losing his best friend because of something as silly as pride, then he had another thing coming to him. When he got to the floor where the Auror offices were located, he stopped momentarily, realising he didn't know exactly where Ron worked.

"Shite," he muttered. Grabbing the first Auror he saw, he asked, "Where's Weasley's office located?"

The Auror just opened his eyes wide and pointed down the hall and said, "Last corridor, take the right, fifth door on the left."

"Thank you," Draco growled and pushed the Auror back away from him.

When he finally found the office, he didn't bother to knock to announce his arrival. He simply stepped inside and slammed the door shut.

"We need to talk, Weasley."

When no answer came, Draco took a seat in front of Weasley's desk and remarked, "I'm not going anywhere until you talk to me."

Still no answer came from Weasley. Draco growled and tried to get comfortable in a chair he swore was some sort of medieval torture device. He hadn't even managed to get there when the door swung back open, slamming against the wall.

"Just what do you think you're doing here?"

Rolling his eyes, Draco replied through his teeth, "What does it look like I'm doing? I'm waiting on Weasley here."

"Ron?"

"It's fine. Close the door when you leave."

"I can have him removed --"

"And I said it was fine," Ron snapped, spinning around in the chair. "Now if you please..."

Draco was dying to take a look at Potter's face but he didn't want to give away anything that Ron had or hadn't told his best friend.

"Ron, look--"

"Harry. Leave. Now." Draco was impressed. He didn't think Ron was capable of spitting that much ice at Scarhead, but he did have to admit he liked it. It was time someone put Potter in his place and who better to do it then the friend that had been relegated to nothing more than a shadow: a loyal puppy could do that same job.

"You know where to find me."

Neither Ron nor Draco said anything in response. Draco heard Potter sigh and leave closing the door behind him.

When the sound of their breathing was the only thing to be had, Draco broke the silence with, "You do know what they say about eavesdroppers?"

"I don't think that applies here, do you?"

"So --"

"I'm married."

"Quite aware of that. Offered you the services of a very good solicitor too."

"But how...I mean...what...no, how..."

"Is there a question in there somewhere, Ron?"

He watched as Ron's face flushed red as his mouth started to flap up and down. Shaking his head, Draco sighed, "Sorry for wanting to give you two some time, alone, together with no friends or children milling about; in the hopes that you would actually grow two testicles and leave the woman--"

"Would you lower your voice?" Ron growled, sending a spell towards the door.

"Fine," Draco whispered harshly back, leaning forward he continued, "Where was I? Oh yeah, I had high hopes you would actually grow two testicles and leave the woman that has been making your miserable for the past Merlin knows how many years. But, seeing as you have no intention of leaving her, do us both a favour and allow Pansy to pursue it. For if you cost me my best friend, then I will have your head served to me by Salome."

"It's not that easy you know, and...Really?"

Draco's jaw dropped as Ron's tone after his pause changed from shear, unadulterated anger to a wonder and hopefullness. He tried to say something and though his mouth opened nothing came out, the first several times he attempted to do so.

However, after a few minutes, his mind put together the crumbles and hoping he was right, said, "Yes. It's you."

"She was willing..."

"Yes."

"But no one..."

"They're blind."

"But..."

Leaning over, Draco whispered, "I don't care whatever your family, your wife, or you best mate have convinced you. You are worthy. Just do us a favour... you can't save her unless you save yourself first."

Nodding his head to himself, Draco stood and quietly said, "I expect you at dinner tonight. We can talk then in peace," before lowing his voice and saying, "Theo will be there. No cost to help you. Remember that."

He waited for Ron to nod knowing that the man would be in attendance, he turned and left the office. When he closed the door, he found himself standing in front of an angry little Pot-head.

"Afternoon Potter," Draco said curtly with a quick nod, before stepping around him. He didn't get far when he felt a hand wrap around his arm. Turning to stare at Potter he growled quietly, "Take your hands off me, now."

"No. I want to know what you had to discuss with Ron."

"That is between me and him."

"And now it's between me too."

Looking at Potter like he had just grown a third eye, Draco gave a quick laugh which said everything in it's tone, before replying, "I have a news flash Potter -but no, it's not. Now get your damned hand off of me."

"I will find out," Potter growled back at him, letting go of Draco's arm.

Taking a step away from him, Draco responded, "I doubt it," though he added, "Until it's too late" under his breath.

Day Fifty-Three

Lost in thought, Ron couldn't follow the conversation that flew around the table even if he tried. Every so often he would snap out of it when Rose screamed his name and wanted his attention but for the most part, the best he could do was make sure that Hugo ate, which was becoming a monumental task as he was more interested in making people laugh than doing anything else.

"Hey," Millie whispered in his ear, "Let me finish feeding him. I think you're needed in the music room."

Confused, he asked, "What... Why?"

"Look to see who isn't here any more." The look in her eyes told him the answer without looking around.

"Millie, I don't think..."

"It's not a story Ron. We don't understand. And we can't and we won't. Please go talk to her."

Biting his lower lip, he thought for a moment. Ron sighed and placed his napkin on the table, leaving the kitchen where the group had recently taken to having dinner. He took his time as he made his way to the music room, not exactly sure what he could say that would make the situation any better. He was still beside himself with the piece of information that he, Ronald Weasley, was a Veela's mate. And not just any Veela, but Pansy Parkinson.

He knocked on the door before entering. Even in the darkened room, he could make out Pansy sitting at the concert grand sitting there. Her fingers rested in her lap as her eyes stared at the keys.

Quietly, he asked, "Are you okay?"

"I'm surprised they sent you."

"I came on my own," he lied, closing the door behind him. He really didn't care if she found out later he had but he knew at the moment she needed to hear his lie all the same. "I noticed you had left."

"I'm surprised. Your eyes were only for Rose and Hugo this evening, as they have been since lunch on Monday."

Ron didn't know what to say. He felt shame coursing through his system; he had been focused so much on himself that he had forgotten he was not the only one caught in this situation.

Taking a seat next to her on the piano, he whispered, "I'm sorry."

"Not your fault. I dragged you into this mess."

"Which one? My marriage having failed about four years ago and me still being in it? No, that's pretty much my fault. The whole imprinting thing? Neither one of us had any say in that. I'm thinking you're in the free and clear on this one."

Turning his head to the side, he looked at her. Brushing her hair back and tucking her hair behind her ear so that he could see her face, he saw a tear begin to trail down her cheek. With his thumb, he brushed it away and whispered, "I'm still sorry. I didn't handle Monday very well."

"You came back though," Pansy whispered.

Ron felt awful for the sadness and fear he heard in her voice. Wrapping his arm around her shoulder, he pulled her closer to him until she sighed and leaned her head against him. After a few moments of sitting there, he turned and kissed her on the top of the head, "We'll figure this out."

"How? You're married and I can't abide the thought of pursuing a married man."

"Well, I happen to be an unhappily married man, so that should make it somewhat better."

"But you're still married to her regardless."

"I know," Ron sighed. "And for one of the worst reasons in the world."

"Because of Rose and Hugo? That's understandable."

"Not exactly," Ron whispered. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves as he found himself about to explain for the first time why he had stayed with Hermione for so long. He placed another kiss on her head, noticing that she smelled like vanilla for the first time, which calmed him immensely. Resting his chin on her head, he quietly said, "I realised four years ago, we were never going to have children and decided that it was time for her and I to move on. I had gone and talked to Harry about it and the next thing I knew there was a week that I really don't remember... and about nine months after that Rose was born. The first few weeks were god-awful until I took over care for Rose. Hermione went back to work and I was so happy to have Rose that I never noticed that Hermione was staying away longer and longer each day. When I decided to leave her again, the same thing happened and Hugo was born nine months later. Since then I have been a single parent to two children with a wife who leaves before they get up and comes home after they go to bed. I hold nothing against her; parenting just isn't Hermione's thing. I'm afraid if I mention that I'm leaving her and asking for a divorce, then I'll find myself with child number three."

"That's awful. I'm sorry."

"I wouldn't trade Rose or Hugo for the world though, so it's hard to hate her for giving me them... But the whole situation makes me unable to love her, or even like her very much."

"So what's stopping you from leaving this time?"

"I need to figure out a way to leave her without her suspecting it and taking the children away. I don't think she would do anything to them but... please don't tell anyone this... they don't know her. I don't think Hugo's ever really seen her and I can't remember the last time Rose did."

"You know Theo will help you if you ask."

"I know, but I also have to think about a somewhere new to live and more than likely a new job too."

"Ron," Pansy whispered pulling her head away from him. She lifted her head as she put her hand along his jaw line and continued, "If you need help, All you have to do is ask. No one in this house at the moment will make you do this by yourself."

"I... can't do that Pansy. It's my problem--"

"No, it's not," she replied firmly albeit her voice still quiet. "There's a group of people in my kitchen at the moment that won't let you do it alone. They wouldn't leave me be, though I did everything in my power to prevent them from seeing what happened and I know they would help out if you just asked."

"Pansy..."

"There's a book in the library. It's currently sitting on the desk. I think you should read it."

"I'm not following," Ron asked confused, not sure what a book had to do with what they are talking about.

"It's a book on Veela. I think you need to read it before deciding what you want to do with Hermione. There is a huge consequence to being a Veela's mate that you need to be aware of before we cross the line, because I'll be honest -I'm longing to."

Ron realised as Pansy slowly spoke those last words that her eyes were no longer focused on his own, but on his lips. Her fingers came up to brush over them. Quietly she continued, her fingers still on his lips, "Either one of us cross this line and there is no going back."

"Pansy..." Ron whispered her name, unable to think of anything else to say at that moment, when heat and tension surrounded him. He knew exactly what line she was talking about, and he, at that moment, wanted to do nothing more than cross it with her; even if it took him through the gates of hell.

"Please read the book."

"Pansy..."

"Ron, you need to understand what will happen to you if you should choose me."

"What will happen?"

"I'd rather you read it for yourself and come to your own conclusion."

"And I'd rather hear it from you. Years of Hermione telling me to go to the library to find the answers, led to several of our issues. So I'm asking you to tell me... I'll still go and read the book but I need to hear it from you."

He felt powerless to do anything as she slipped away from him. His eyes followed the sway of her body towards the doors of the music room, when she opened the door she turned back to him and with a hopeful smile asked, "Will I see you tomorrow at lunch regardless of what I'm about to say?"

"Yes," Ron nodded, returning her smile.

"Good. Ron, choosing a Veela means you choose their circle and their friends. Choose me and you won't ever feel the same way about your family and friends again. Rose and Hugo aren't the same, as they never have had a mother; that's a role I can fill for them and you. The book explains everything... So lunch tomorrow?" He could hear the fear in her voice and he hated it. He longed to wrap her in his arms but he instinctively knew that would mean choosing her. He realised that was exactly what he wanted to do, but he didn't want to do it still married to Hermione.

"I will see you at lunch tomorrow," he promised with a soft nod and smile that he hoped could reassure her to let her know that the possibility of her having him was more inevitable than anything else.

"I'm glad. I'll see you tomorrow." Her beautiful smile warmed his heart as she exited the room, closing the door behind her. Resting his elbows noisily on the piano keys, he buried his head in his hands trying to comprehend why the only thing that mattered to him now, outside of Rose and Hugo, was Pansy.



Day Fifty-Five

"Auror Weasley, you are needed in the Nursery Centre immediately."

The voice of the manager, Madame Melacon, kept repeating itself in Ron's head as he ran towards the Nursery, the child care facility provided by the Ministry. In between the woman's voice, his mind raced with all the possibilities of what could have happened. It had to be serious for the woman not to be more specific than that. The last few times that one of the children had been sick, she had sent very specific messages to him. So the generality of the message undid him the most.
He hadn't even gotten through the door when he heard Rose's screams of 'No. Get away from me. No.'

Barreling through the door, he realised that all his carefully constructed lies were coming down with a resounding thud. There was Hermione trying to hug Rose who wanted nothing to do with her Mum with Harry standing wide-eye behind her. He quickly made his way over to his red-faced daughter who yelled, "Daddy! Make her go away!", with her hands reaching for him.

Ron picked Rose up quickly. She wrapped her legs and arms around him tightly as he whispered comforting words to her trying to soothe her as he rocked her.

Madam Melacon quietly whispered, "You, your wife and I need to have a long discussion."

Ron nodded, making a point of not looking in the direction of Hermione and Harry, finding he couldn't deal with them at that moment. Taking a deep breath, he knew what he had to do. This was his moment of truth; thinking about his children and what was best for them, he had made up his mind. By the end of the day, the awful charade he had been living since Hermione had fallen pregnant with Rose would come to an end.

Quietly, he asked Madam Melacon, "Let me have a friend come pick up the children for the rest of the afternoon?"

"I think that would be very wise Mr. Weasley. You may use my office."

"Thank you," he said, walking into the room. Once he was in the office, he looked to see who was paying attention to him. Seeing Harry's eyes glaring at him, he gave a weak smile back before deciding to send one message and trust the recipient to relay to the others.

Once he sent it, he stepped out into play area, still rocking Rose and waited for the proverbial to hit the fan. It didn't take long for Asteria to arrive, and make her appearance known, with a breathless, "Ron, is everything okay?"

He watched as Asteria ground to a stop upon seeing who else was in the room and squeaked, "Oh."

Rose though finally picked her head up from Ron's shoulders and upon seeing Asteria cried, "Asderia!" Setting Rose on the ground, he ignored the slack-jawed looks from Hermione and Harry as Rose ran to Asteria. He instead went to gather up Hugo and his children's things.

When he handed a sleeping Hugo over to Asteria, who now had Rose tightly clinging to her legs, she whispered, "They're handling what you asked. Meet us at home."

Ron nodded and kissed Hugo on the head. Squatting down he said, "You be good for Asteria, yes?"

"Yes Daddy," Rose said puffing out her chest. "I'll be very good."

Kissing her, he stood back up to watch Asteria leave with the children. When he turned back around, he was glad that looks couldn't have killed because if they had, he would have instantly been a dead man.

"Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. My office. Now." Madame Melacon barked.

Ron walked in without saying a word to Hermione or Harry. Leaning up against the wall, he watched Hermione take a seat in front of the manager's desk and Harry follow her in. Madame Melacon quickly said, "Mr. Potter, this does not concern you."

"But --"

"Leave. I'm sure your friends will inform you as to the content of our conversation when we are finished."

Ron watched as Harry shot him an evil look before giving Hermione a hug, that he imagined was to reassure her, before exiting the office and closing the door behind him.

"Now Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, would someone please explain as to why your daughter refused to go to Mrs. Weasley, acting like she was a complete stranger?"

Ron rolled his eyes when Hermione began with, "I don't know why --" before cutting her off with, "Really Hermione? You don't think it has anything to do with you leaving the house every day before the kids get up and not coming home until they go to bed?"

He gave a hollow laugh as she bristled at his statement, turning to Madame Melacon and sputtering, "You see, work has been crazy as of late so Ron has been having to pick up more of the duties around the house and with the children."

"And by 'as of late', she means since a few weeks after Rose was born. You were out how long after you gave birth to Hugo?"

"You have to understand --"

"Oh that's right, less than a week," Ron interrupted, his anger seeping through every pore of his tone. Finally voicing what he had been feeling for the last few years was doing his immeasurable good to his soul. He simply wished he'd found the courage to do it earlier.

The horrified look on Madame Melacon's face said it all. Ron drunk it in trying desperately not to turn to Hermione and smirk. He couldn't remember the last time she had been put in place, it had always been his fault since they got together and quickly married after the end of the war. All he needed now was for Theo to be as good as his reputation and he would be free and clear of Hermione.

"Mrs. Weasley, I hope for your sake that your husband is prone to exaggeration. Unfortunately though, given your daughter's refusal to go to you speaks volumes. Mr. Weasley, I can not believe you would let this situation go on for this long --"

Ron snapped, interrupting, "I didn't have a choice. I haven't done one thing right in her eyes in years, if ever. So please do not criticise me for doing what I thought was the best to protect my children."

"Ron!" Hermione shrieked at him. "Your children? I --"

"You carried them. You gave birth to them. That's it Hermione. You haven't been a parent, let a mother since I caught you with Rose --"

"Don't you dare --"

"Press your luck then," Ron snapped. "I'm done covering your arse regarding your priorities being work, work, work, work and your two best friends. You children aren't in the top five and I haven't been in the top ten in years."

"Ronald --"

"So Madame Melacon, would you like to know --"

"Stop this at once!" Madame Melacon yelled, silencing Ron, who leaned back against the wall with his arms crossed. "You two are supposedly adults here and I'm clearly not seeing it. I'm going to be recommending to both of your bosses that you both take time off and to concentrate on your family --"

"You can't do that!" Hermione screeched. "I have a huge presentation --"

"You have to excuse her. Parenting really isn't her thing," Ron snidely interrupted. Watching both women gape at him before trying to say something, Ron raised his hands and said, "You know what, I'm going to take the rest of the day off and spend it with my children. I'm done." Looking at Hermione, he added, "I'm especially done with our marriage. You will have the writ in the morning. The house. The money. All of it is yours. I just want the kids."

"Ronald Bilius Weasley, you stop right there..." Ron just let the rest of the sentence drown into a annoying hum as he left Madame Melacon's office and running smack into Harry who grabbed him and threw him up against the wall. Growling Ron pushed Harry off him and asked, "Subtle much?"

"What's going on?"

"I'm serving Hermione divorce papers in the morning. I'm done with her."

"Ron, why?"

"Ask Hermione. Ask her why her daughter thinks she's a stranger. Now I'm leaving before I find myself with another week I don't remember after threatening to leave her," Ron said simply, before walking away from Harry. He ignored the screams all the way down the hall on the way to the Floo system.

* * * * *


The Estate had descended into a mad-house when Ron's message came to Pansy. She had sent Asteria in her place, thinking that it would be better for Ron in the long run. While Tracey, Daphne, and Millie set about readying the rooms that the children and Ron would need for the short term until they could get the Dowager house at the Manor ready, Pansy paced in front of the Floo in the kitchen knowing it was the one that would be used to transport into the kitchen.

When she saw Asteria come through with the children, she hurried over to them with Asteria handing Hugo off to her immediately. Squatting down, she asked Rose, "Are you okay sweetheart?"

"Yes," Rose replied before giving her a hug. "Daddy came for me and then Asderia did too. I was a good girl, wasn't I Asderia?"

"You most definitely were. Would you like to go play with Scorpius now?"

"He's here?"

"Yes he is," Asteria cheerfully said, picking up Rose. "Why don't we go play with him while Pansy and Hugo wait on your Daddy?"

"Yeah!" Rose cheered, clapping her hands. Waving towards Hugo, she said, "Bye Hugo."

Pansy waved his hand for him as Asteria and Rose left the kitchen. Taking a seat at the table, she rocked Hugo whilst she sang to him with intermittent kisses to his forehead as he cooed. She revelled in the peace she found just being with Hugo, anxious for Ron to arrive to see if he was making the choice she wanted him too. That he would be choosing her.

She had no idea how much time had lapsed before he stumbled into her kitchen. Pansy smiled at him immediately and took Hugo's hand and waved to Ron saying, "Say Hi to Daddy." The tears in his eyes told her everything she needed to know; he had chosen her.

"Thank you," she whispered, walking over to him.

Pansy melted as he wrapped his arms around her holding her and Hugo close to his body. Breathing in the sandalwood she found there, she lost herself in the kiss he placed on her head before he whispered, "I think I should be thanking you."

"You know what this all means?" she whispered. "You read the book right?"

"Yes."

"The way you look at me is everything I'll ever need."



Epilogue - Eight Years later

Harry's eyes were searching everywhere for him. He knew Scorpius and Rose should be starting Hogwarts this year and he hoped to see them; hoping that maybe those two and Albus could bring him back the friend he had missed all that time.

They talked about him and the children frequently: wondering what he was up to, how he was doing, and most of all how could they have missed all the warning signs of how bad it had become between him and Hermione. Everyone blamed themselves for him choosing to stay away, when all they had done was force his hand at staying longer then he would have if they hadn't picked sides --and then without a thought to him and his needs, they picked Hermione's.

No one had even seen her after the divorce proceedings became public. She had been roasted by public opinion as everyone and their uncle became aware of her failings as a parent. Harry had to admit that Ron and Theo had done everything in their power to keep the proceedings sealed, but the idea that Hermione had basically abandoned her children, and the scandal that followed was insurmountable for her solicitor to overcome. It caused the Weasleys to pull away from her when they finally realised what their son had been going through before their very eyes, what he had been trying to tell them countless of times. It hurt them every time they thought about how him walking away from his family was their fault. They had done everything in their power to chase him away and they hadn't even realised they had done it, until the owls started coming back un-answered, as well as their patronuses. Then he had simply disappeared from public life in general. They never even saw a glimpse of him or the children on the streets of Diagon Alley.

The last time they had even heard of anything regarding Ron, since the divorce, had been five years before when his marriage to Pansy Parkinson had been announced in the Daily Prophet. They had to admit that it wasn't a shock to them; they had seen it coming with the way the two had interacted at every court date and the few times they had seen the two out in public with Rose and Hugo. Not one of them could think of a bad thing to say about her, it was obvious she doted on the three of them which hurt them more than they thought it could. She simply loved and adored him, the way they should have. Pansy had made him the centre of her world. They could see him blossom under her adoration: the bags under his eyes had disappeared, his eyes shone in a way they couldn't remember them doing before, and what hurt the most in the changes they could see was his smile. His smile, the one they hadn't realised had gone anywhere, reappeared. The one that could melt ice, the one he used to freely give them but now he only bestowed them on his children, and her.

Finally, Harry saw what he was looking for: a tall lanky redhead that he had shared his most important years, battles, and struggles with; the one he failed in the end after all Ron had done for him. Nudging Ginny, he pointed Ron out to her. She gasped before curling around him, squeezing him tight. When George and Percy caught his eyes moments later, he nodded in the direction where Ron stood.

Looking himself, he watched Rose and Scorpius chase each other around the other adults with Hugo hovering close by to Pansy as well as two other small red-head children: nieces and nephews they didn't know, let alone know their names, and they weren't sure if they ever would. They didn't want it to be that way. Every single Weasley wanted their brother back and would given everything they had in the world to have the chance to say what they should have said years ago when they finally realised how wrong they had been about their sister-in-law; but he had already disappeared, preventing them from having the chance.

When Ron threw his head back to laugh at something Malfoy said, jealousy grew inside Harry. He was the one that supposed to make Ron laugh like that, not somebody like Malfoy. Ron had been his first real friend besides being his best friend. He had chosen Ron all those years ago instead of Malfoy, only to now watch Ron chose Malfoy over him.

Every passing second that they all stood there, silently, watching the brother and friend they lost, the niece and nephew they knew, the nephews they didn't, the wife they only remembered with disdain for the choices she had made as a child, the pain only grew. Their own children, who surrounded them, went ignored as they took in the one they missed with his new family and friends, the ones he chose the minute he chose Pansy.

And there weren't words in the English language to express the anguish, torment, sadness they felt at seeing Ron so happy without them.

FIN


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valentine_veela

March 2010

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