Transgression (Worth the Risk #52)

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It’s cool this morning. There’s a chill in the air that hasn’t been present recently. It’s early, though, so that might be part of it. Hermione doesn’t usually go outside before breakfast to sit in the garden because weekdays are busy from the time she wakes up until she takes the children to the Burrow. Weekends are usually productive, since she likes to get things done early and have time to relax later in the day.

Today, however, she doesn’t feel productive at all. She wasn’t able to sleep last night, and she almost wishes that she had let Teddy stay over because she probably would have been able to get some rest. Considering everything that happened with Rose earlier in the evening, she hadn’t thought it was a good idea, so he went home after Hugo went to bed. It wouldn’t have been a wise decision, she knows, but it would have been nice to have him sleeping beside her even if they hadn't done anything else.

As it is, she feels lethargic and tense. She has a cup of coffee, which helps some, and it’s a lovely morning, even with the chill making her feet cold, but she can’t relax and enjoy it. Rose didn't leave her room after her childish behavior in the kitchen, and Hermione’s not sure what to do about her. Her outburst was unexpected, in all honesty, so it’s difficult to figure out the way to approach her; it's never really come up before. It wasn't news that Rose hadn’t taken the idea of her dating Teddy well, but based on past behavior, she didn’t expect her to stomp around and throw things. Rose hadn’t even behaved this immaturely when she was a toddler.

Teddy's told her more than once that Rose is dealing with a lot, so she shouldn’t blame herself, but it’s hard not to place the fault on her own shoulders. She wants her children to be happy, after all. Is it so wrong that she wants to be happy, too? She knows that her relationship with Teddy isn’t exactly typical, and she knows that there are going to be problems with friends and strangers judging them, but she’s willing to face all that because she enjoys being with him. It might not last once they’re out in the open and there’s pressure from various sources, yet she’s finally willing to take that chance because she knows that a few weeks or months with Teddy are better than living in regret because she didn’t try.

The sight of an unfamiliar owl pulls her from her thoughts. She doesn’t often get post at home that isn’t from a friend or family, so she’s immediately suspicious. The owl lands on the chair next to hers, and she studies it as it holds out its leg. It’s not a common owl from the post office, which means it must be a privately owned owl. Before she accepts the scroll, she performs a security check on the parchment. The last thing she needs is to find herself cursed by a disgruntled opponent in the courts or someone with a grudge.

Once she’s certain it's safe, she summons a few treats and exchanges them for the scroll. The owl doesn’t seem particularly fond of her discount treats, but it’s all she has, so it can eat or go away for all she cares. Bloody finicky animal. It finally deigns to eat what she's offered while she unrolls the scroll and begins to read. She doesn’t get very far into the brief note before she glances at the signature and then at the house. Rose’s window faces the garden, but Hermione can’t see anything because the drapes are closed.

She finishes reading the note and gets to her feet quickly, startling the owl in mid-bite. “Sorry,” she mutters at the bird as she hurries inside. She goes upstairs and stops when she reaches Rose’s door. After taking a moment to breathe and calm her nerves, she knocks lightly. There’s no answer. She knocks again, a little louder. There’s still no answer.

Bloody hell. She tightens her grip on the parchment in her hand and opens the door. Rose’s bed is unmade, and she’s nowhere to be seen. Bugger it all. The letter isn’t some twisted joke. She curses under her breath as she goes to her bedroom to put socks and shoes on, then goes downstairs. The initial plan is to Floo Ron to see if he’ll stay with Hugo while she goes to collect Rose. It’s only after she has a handful of Floo powder that she remembers him telling her that he had to work today.

With Ron busy, that leaves Harry or Teddy. She decides to try Harry first, since coming back with Rose and having her find Teddy here seems a recipe for disaster. It’s pretty early, but maybe he’ll be up by now. She tosses in the powder and then sticks her head through. “Harry? Are you around?” she calls out, trying not to be too loud in case the kids are still asleep. She’s doing her best to avoid having to wake up Hugo, after all, so she tries to be considerate. “Harry?”

“He’s out.” Ginny enters the room and leans against the sofa. “He got the kids up early this morning for a Daddy Day. Breakfast, flying, and possibly the zoo.”

“Fuck,” she mutters. “Alright. I guess I’ll try someone else. Thank you.”

She straightens up and reaches for another handful of powder so she can try Teddy. He’ll want to help, but she hopes that she doesn’t disturb him. She’s about to toss it in when she hears the sound of Apparition behind her. It startles her, and she hits her head on the fireplace as she turns to see who is there, then feels the scrape of the stone against her cheek when she unsteadily overcorrects. Finally, she gets herself together and stands up.

“Ouch,” Ginny says, grimacing slightly as she shifts from one foot to the other. “Uh, sorry. I didn’t want to try to Floo if you were using it.”

“It’s fine.” It really isn’t because that really hurt, but she’s got too much on her mind right now to care.

“What’s wrong? Why did you need Harry?” Ginny frowns. “You cursed, and, well, I got worried. You don’t usually curse.”

“Did I?” She sighs and rubs her head. “Rose is gone. She must have snuck out this morning when I was outside because I’d have heard the Floo otherwise.”

“Gone? What?” Ginny looks worried. “Do you need help finding her? What happened, Hermione?”

“I know where she is. I got an owl telling me, but Hugo’s asleep, and I didn’t want to wake him up and worry him about this. Ron’s working today, so I thought of asking Harry.” She stands up and puts the Floo powder back in the tin. “As for what happened, I don’t know. I mean, I do know, but I don’t.”

Ginny looks at her like she’s barking mad, and maybe she is because she’s not even making sense to herself right now. Ginny looks around the room before she focuses back on Hermione. “I can stay here, if you want. Harry thinks that I enjoy when he does the Daddy Days because it gives me some time alone, but I really don’t unless I’ve got something to do. Today, I don’t have anything yet.”

“Really? Are you sure?” She’s surprised by Ginny’s offer, considering how awkward things have been between them lately.

“I’m sure,” Ginny says firmly. “Whatever else might happen, you’re my sister even if paperwork says you’re not anymore.”

“Thank you.” She sighs and runs a hand through her hair. “Rose isn’t reacting well to the news of my relationship with Teddy. She was upset last night, and I guess she decided that sneaking out today was the best way to deal with it. I don’t know. It’s a mess, I suppose.”

“At least you know where she is, so you can go get her,” Ginny tells her. “I’ll stay here with Hugo, so don’t worry about that.”

She’s grateful for no ‘I told you it was wrong’ or ‘what did you expect by shagging someone so young’ remarks from Ginny. That’s really the last thing she needs right now. “Thank you,” she says again before she tosses in Floo powder. When she steps through, she finds herself in a formal sitting room. The furniture looks very uncomfortable, and she wonders if anyone has ever even used it.

“You look horrible, Granger,” a voice drawls from beside her.

She turns and schools her expression before she can glare. This isn’t the time for that. “Good morning, Malfoy. Where’s my daughter?”

“Your daughter is in the back gardens with Scorpius.” He arches a brow. “I’ll take you there in a moment. First, come with me.”

“That’s alright. I think I can find the gardens,” she says dryly. She has no interest in being social right now with anyone, much less Malfoy. Besides, he’s old enough to ask politely instead of giving orders.

“You’re unfamiliar with the property, and, for all you know, there are curses set up to prevent strangers from wandering the premises alone,” he points out smugly. “I neither deny nor confirm the existence of said curses, of course.”

“While I appreciate you letting me know that Rose is here, I really just want to see her.” She’s not in the mood for any of this, especially not when she’s still trying to process everything. It’s all happened so fast, really, and she hasn’t had time to analyze it. All she knows is that Rose snuck out and that Malfoy had the decency to let her know she was here.

“If it were my son, I’d feel the same,” he admits. “However, you really are a mess. I have something for the bruise in my office, so don’t make me regret actually offering assistance during a momentary lapse of judgment.”

“Bruise?” She reaches up and rubs her head where she hit the fireplace, then remembers the scrape on her cheek and touches it lightly. Ouch.. “Right. Okay.”

“This way.” He leads her down the corridor to his office. “I’ve never known of a woman to use Floo powder to enhance a hairdo but perhaps you’re ahead of a trend?”

“Very funny,” she mutters as she runs her fingers through her hair. She enters after him and looks around curiously. It isn’t what she expects, not that she’s ever given any thought to what Malfoy’s office looks like. The shelves are full of books, there are broomsticks balanced against a table, paperwork is neatly stacked in piles on the desk, and there’s a large window with a nice view of a tree outside.

“Perhaps you can explain to me why your daughter decided that half-seven on a Saturday morning was a good time for an unplanned visit with my son,” he says as he opens a drawer in the desk and removes a jar of healing paste. “I caught her sneaking around upstairs trying to find his room.”

“I don’t know. I hadn’t realized that she’d left the house until I received your note.” She’s reluctant to admit that because it must make her sound like a terrible parent. She takes the jar from him and opens it. “I know that they’re friends, but that doesn’t excuse her behavior.”

“I still can’t believe that my son is friends with a Weasley,” he murmurs as he glares at her momentarily like it’s her fault their children are friendly. “Unfortunately, I can’t place the blame squarely on your daughter’s shoulders. Scorpius was expecting her, and it seems that they exchanged owls several times this morning when he should have been sleeping. I suppose that there’s a minute possibility that he invited her over, but I prefer to think that she acted recklessly because it’s a much more believable explanation, considering her parents.”

“I don’t really think it matters,” she tells him as she hands him the jar back. “She shouldn’t have left without telling me, and your son shouldn’t have invited company over without permission. The responsibility is shared at the moment, so perhaps that’s a good place to leave the analysis for now.”

Malfoy shrugs a shoulder. “Perhaps. When I agreed to my son’s request to have your home added to our Floo network permissions, I had no idea it would open up the possibility of visits at odd hours. If I had, well, I still would have agreed because I rarely refuse him anything,” he confesses with a frown. “I’m pleased that he has a couple of good friends, in all honesty, even if one’s a Weasley and the other’s Corner’s son, but you’re not to tell him that. I refuse to acknowledge ‘friendship’ until he uses the word himself. He seems to like having a rival.”

“I won’t tell him,” she agrees. She walks over to look in the mirror and ignores it’s commentary as she fixes her hair somewhat. When she finishes, she turns back to Malfoy. “Will you take me to Rose now, please?”

“Be careful of the table. If you break something, you’re compensating me,” he informs her as she steps around the table and various items leaning against it. She knocks her foot into a broom when he speaks, but she catches it before it falls to the ground. Fortunately, he doesn’t say anything about her being clumsy or she might have had to hex him. Instead, he motions to the right. “The gardens are this way. My wife is out there with them, likely plying them with baked items and beverages. She thinks Scorpius is too skinny, and she was muttering the same thing about your daughter.”

“Rose is tall for her age.” She finds it strange to be walking around Malfoy’s home discussing Rose, and she would likely think that this was just some twisted dream if she didn’t know better. She glances at Malfoy as they walk. “Your home is very nice.”

“It isn’t the Manor, but it suits us. Colette is very talented at decorating.” He smirks slightly. “The formal sitting room was designed by my mother, but Colette had control over the rest of the house.”

“Ah. That explains it.” She hadn’t been impressed with the uninviting, expensive furnishings but the rest of the house that she’s seen is surprisingly warm and comfortable.

“Colette would be very angry if I allowed anyone to assume that she was responsible for that room. However, it proves to be impressive for those who do not have permission to go beyond its four walls, which is the point.”

They reach a door that opens up onto a courtyard. She sees Colette sitting at a table drinking a glass of juice, but she doesn’t see Rose or Scorpius anywhere. When they approach, she smiles. “Good morning, Colette.” While she still has some issues with Malfoy, she has a fondness for his wife and has enjoyed working with her in the past.

“’ello, ‘ermione. Would you like something to eat?” Colette asks as she motions to the various choices on the table.

“No, thank you. I’m here to get Rose.”

“Where are the children?” Malfoy looks around before he points. “Ah, nevermind. I see them.”

She looks across the manicured hedges and rows of flowers to see Rose sitting on a bench by a fountain. Scorpius is sitting on the ground beside the bench looking up at her as they talk. Rose appears to be upset, and she feels a knot in her belly as she wonders what to say that won’t just make things worse.

“You faced dark wizards intent on destroying the world. I think you can handle your daughter, Granger,” Malfoy says dryly before he moves past her and sits down next to his wife. “Tell my son that I need him. By the time he gets here, I’ll think of something.”

“Alright.” She walks along the path until she reaches the fountain. Scorpius sees her first and stands up.

“Morning, Mrs. Weasley.” He looks at Rose quickly then back at her.

“Good morning, Scorpius. Your father needs you,” she says, waiting until he leaves before she goes and sits on the bench next to Rose.

“Are you angry?” Rose asks softly. Hermione can feel her looking at her, but she keeps her attention focused on the fountain for now.

“That’s a loaded question, Rose. Am I angry about last night? Or am I angry that you snuck out without telling me today?”

“I—I’m sorry.” Rose sighs and shifts. “I was going to leave you a note today, but I didn’t think about it when I saw you outside. I just wanted to go before you were inside cause you’d have heard the Floo. I needed to talk to someone.”

“You could talk to me or your father.”

“I know, but not about everything. I needed a friend who wasn’t part of everything.” Rose looks at her. "You're part of everything, and it feels like Dad is, too, even if that doesn't make very much sense."

"The way things feel doesn't always make sense, no."

"Either way, I didn't want to talk to either of you. And Hugo's too little."

"He's only a year younger than your friend," Hermione points out. "Give or take a bit."

"But Scorpius has parents."

Hermione lifts a brow. "I'm nearly sure Hugo has parents, too."

"No, I mean, that he sometimes--never mind. It's stupid. Only, it seemed like he might understand more."

"Do you suppose he might have understood equally well over lunch and with parental awareness?"

Rose looks at her feet. "Possibly."

"I expect the odds approach 100%."

“I know. It's just… I was embarrassed about how I acted last night. It was stupid. I don’t know why I did. I just got so—“ She trails off and looks away so Hermione can't see her face at all, just her hair lit up by the sun. “I’m sorry, Mum. I didn’t mean all those things I said. I don’t hate you or Daddy or Teddy.”

“I know you don’t, Rose.” She waits to see if Rose will look back at her, but she doesn't, so she moves her arm around her shoulders and pulls her close anyway. “I’m sorry for not telling you sooner. I was just scared, so I kept putting it off.”

“You’re never scared,” Rose says. She leans against Hermione and sighs again. “Even when Daddy left us, you weren’t. You were sad, though. I remember that. And when Daddy started to date that woman, it meant that you were alone but he wasn’t. I was so angry at him. I thought that you needed me, but you didn’t because you had Teddy. Scorpius told me that I was jealous, but that’s silly.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. I get scared.” She shakes her head and hugs Rose closer to her. "Everyone gets scared. The hard thing about being an adult is doing things even when they're scary, because they're still scary, just necessary."

"Oh. But then you were scared and didn't tell us--"

"I know. And see how well that turned out? It was necessary, and I know better. But you don't need to be worried about whether you're needed. I’ll always need you and Hugo. You’re my children, and no one will ever replace you.” She looks down at Rose. “Your father and I still love each other, Rose. Even if we’re divorced and we’re no longer in love, we do care about one another. You shouldn’t blame either of us for moving on with our lives. We wouldn’t have got back together regardless of whether he started dating Mel or I became involved with Ted.”

“I know that, Mum. It’s just hard. That—Mel isn’t so bad, but I’m not used to Daddy being with anyone but you.” Rose bites her lip, finally looking back at Hermione. “It’s weird, you dating Teddy like that. He used to play with us when we were little, and he was dating Victoire for years. Now, he’s dating you, and that’s so strange. He’s not old like you and Daddy.”

“No, he’s not as old as we are,” she agrees quietly. “Though I'd like to note that neither of us is exactly hobbling about on a crutch yet. Still, I know it’s difficult, and I know it might not make sense. He makes me happy, though. Weird or not, that’s how it is.”

Rose frowns and looks at the fountain. “What if he hurts you like Daddy did? What if he leaves and you’re sad all the time?”

“Then I’ll be sad for a while before I stop being sad,” she says. “That’s part of life, Rose. Sometimes you do things that don’t work out, but sometimes they do. What if you try out for Quidditch and don’t make it?”

“I’d be upset, but I’d practice harder and try again.” Rose glances up at her. “That’s what you mean, isn’t it? You’re dating Teddy is like my trying out for the team. It might not go well, but I can’t imagine not at least trying.”

“Sort of like that, yes. Only, it’s much more complicated when it comes to a relationship.”

“I was really rude to him last night.” Rose grimaces. “He probably thinks I hate him. I don’t, not really. I just don’t want him to take you away or to make you sad again.”

“He doesn’t think that you hate him.” She looks at Rose steadily. “You don’t have to worry about anyone taking me away, understood? As for me being sad, you can’t blame Teddy for something that hasn’t happened yet.”

Rose nods and gives her a hug. “I love you, Mum. I’m sorry.”

“I love you, too,” she says, kissing the top of Rose’s head before she pulls back. “However, you’re on restriction for what you did this morning. Two weeks without your broom or Floo calls. I’ll allow you to write your friends, but that’s it.”

“But Mum! I have to practice. How am I going to make the team if I don’t keep to my practice schedule?”

“You should have thought about that before you snuck out and came over to your friend’s house without permission. If you push me, I won’t let you send owls, either. You disturbed the Malfoys, regardless of whether Scorpius invited you or not, and you scared me when I realized that you weren’t home.”

“I didn’t mean to scare you.” Rose sighs. “Fine. Two weeks.”

“We need to get home and let the Malfoys enjoy their breakfast in peace. Aunt Ginny is over with Hugo, and I doubt she wants to spend all morning waiting.” She stands up and gives Rose a hug. “Now, let’s go thank Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy for their hospitality, and you can apologize for disturbing them.”

Rose looks like she might protest but finally just nods and walks ahead of Hermione to the courtyard. After Rose apologizes and they say their thank yous, they go back into the house to use the Floo to go home. There are still some things that need resolved with Rose, but the talk in the garden was a good start. She hopes that it means Rose will be more open to the idea of her relationship with Teddy, even if it might take time to accept it.

Before she can follow Rose through the Floo to go home, Malfoy touches her shoulder. She looks at him curiously. “I’m sorry for the disturbance to your morning routine,” she says, deciding that she owes him an apology, too.

“It seems to have been resolved, and I don’t foresee there being a problem of repeat unwarned visits in the future.” He arches a brow and smirks slightly. “Never would have thought you’d be the type to like them so young, Granger. Barely out of his teens, even. I must say, it surprises me.”

Great. It appears that Scorpius must have shared the reason behind Rose’s visit. “Oddly enough, he’s more mature than most people my age,” she says pointedly, resisting the urge to press her palm to her forehead.

“He’s also my cousin,” Malfoy says as he loses the smirk and frowns. “I don’t have much family left in the world, so I protect what I do have. If I find out that you’ve simply been playing with him or using him, there will be consequences. Understood?”

It’s tempting to challenge him for threatening her. However, considering the fact that Teddy got beat up by Ron during the threatening talk, she thinks she can handle Malfoy. “Understood.”

“Good. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish my breakfast since you can see yourself home from here.” He nods politely and leaves the room.

After he’s gone, she rubs the back of her neck and feels a ball of tension that is likely to cause a headache any moment now. There’ll be explanations to Ginny when she gets home, and that’ll probably lead to questions from Harry and a visit from Ron once he finds out, too. She also wants to write Teddy to let him know what’s happened, and she needs to talk to Rose more to see how things stand. She shakes her head before she tosses in Floo powder and goes home. So much for a relaxing Saturday.