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A Mother's Dying Wish by required_inspiration

Format: Novel
Chapters: 18
Word Count: 64,076
Status: WIP

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Mild Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Romance
Characters: Hermione, Draco
Pairings: Draco/Hermione

First Published: 09/05/2007
Last Chapter: 07/02/2011
Last Updated: 07/02/2011

Summary:


~Banner by Shalena at The Dark Arts~
After an extraordinary twist of fate, Hermione finds herself pregnant with a baby that was once another woman's. As she explores this ancient magic and begins to accept what life has in store for her, what unexpected person will decide to help her with her unintended fate?


Chapter 1: Last Words and a Beginning
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~*~




Hermione spun a final time as she apparated outside the town of Godric’s Hollow. She set out at a run, not pausing even to catch her breath or take in her surroundings. It was happening, he was here. There were indistinct sounds of commotion coming from farther north towards the town center, and she made her way towards them.


  

The sky was a deep, saturated blue as the sun sank along the horizon. It struck Hermione as odd how perfectly average the scene was: a street lined with brick houses, each one identical to the one that came before, and what could be seen as a calming stillness in the air. To Hermione, whose heartbeat was thumping loudly in her ears, the stillness was unnerving.




She continued to race down the street, intent on reaching those far off sounds of disorder. She must get to Harry. However, when she reached the end of that ordinary street, her attention was diverted for just a moment.



 


The house on the corner, which did indeed look just like every other house that had come before it, bore a sign that was far from ordinary. Her eyes raised to the deepening sky above its shingled roof and took in the skull and serpent, suspended ominously. Hermione slowed down, her breath ragged as she appraised its baleful viridescent form.



 


She paused for only a second before she grasped her wand and kicked down the front gate that was already swinging on its hinges. There was no time to think or weigh the pros and cons. The Dark Mark had stopped her in her tracks and her instincts told her to not pass this house by – there might be something here to be found.




The front hall was dark. Everything appeared normal until you looked at the details. There was a chair standing out of place in the hall, a picture frame was uneven on the wall, a vase of flowers had fallen over and the last remnants of water were dripping onto the hardwood. All of these things showed signs of a chase: Whoever the Death Eaters had come for had fought for their life.




She followed these signs of struggle into the kitchen. On the wall next to the kitchen stairs there was a handprint in blood, as if someone had grabbed the wall as they ran around the corner and up the stairs. Hermione took them two at a time.




On the landing above, a pool of dark liquid shimmered on the floor, the faint light from the window illuminating its surface. She closed her eyes for a second, steeling her nerves. There was only one door off the landing and only one direction for the victim to run. She walked to the door, grabbed the glass knob and turned. Tensing her jaw, she pushed the door open roughly, and entered with her wand in front of her.




A dark figure lay on the floor across the room and by the window. It omitted a gasp when it noticed Hermione’s presence and then let out a strangled cry. 


      



            “You’re alive!” Hermione cried, lowering her wand and rushing to the figure’s side. When she approached, her stomach lurched. The figure was a woman and by the rounded bulge of her belly, Hermione could tell she was pregnant.


      



She knelt immediately by her side, reaching out to feel her wrist for a pulse. It was as faint as a hummingbird’s, but it was there.




            “How long have you been here?” she asked, looking desperately into the woman’s wide blue eyes.


 



            “Less than half an hour,” the woman panted. “My husband – they took him. Tortured him in front of me…”




            “What did they do to you? There aren’t any wounds!” Hermione checked her body up and down for signs of injury, but there were none.




            “I ­– don’t – know,” she panted again, “but I think I’m dying.”



 


            “Did they say an incantation? Can you remember?” Hermione questioned her desperately.


 



            “No. No incantation...” The woman grimaced as she spoke, as if each word caused her physical pain to utter. She stared with wide-open eyes up at the ceiling, tears rolled down her pallid cheeks.




            “Finite Incantatem!” Hermione cried, but it was futile. “I – I don’t know what to do!” Without the incantation, she would never find a counter spell. She looked frantically around her, not knowing what to do with herself. Her eyes had already started spilling tears, and her mouth quivered as she looked at the woman below her, lying desperately on the ground. “I want to save you, but I don’t know what I can possibly do!”




            “I really don’t care if I die,” the woman said slowly, “but, my baby… never deserved this.” Now she closed her eyes, her mouth parted to let loose a sob. The sound was so mournful, it embodied sadness, and it seeped into Hermione and throbbed inside her heart. She sank lower to the ground and rested her forehead on the woman’s shoulder, letting go a cry of her own.


 



            “Save my baby,” the woman whispered, delirious in pain. “I don’t care if I die, but my baby…”



 


            “I don’t know how…” Hermione moaned hopelessly.




            “Please! If I die, my baby dies with me… Help me.”  




Hermione reached out and touched the woman’s stomach as she let out another cry of pain. There was a kick, as if the baby knew her hand was there and wanted to reassure her that it was still alive. She wept more at feeling that kick. The mother was right. It was going to die without ever seeing daylight … it wasn’t even a real death, just an incompletion.




She rested both of her hands on the woman’s stomach and tried to fathom how evil a person must be to do this to a woman.


 

“Will you promise me to save my baby?” The woman gasped, clutching Hermione’s arms and raising her head to look pleadingly into her eyes. “I can’t die thinking, knowing…” She didn’t need to finish her statement because Hermione knew what she was trying to say. She raised her hand to the woman’s face and wiped the tears from her cheeks.




“I promise,” she said, staring her in the eye.




Hermione Granger was not a person to make empty promises. Her world was grounded in logic, her morality bound by the restraints of reason. Her brain knew that she had done all she could forseeably do to save this woman and her child, and she knew that any further attempt she could make would be fruitless. But when she was asked to promise to save the woman’s baby, to fulfill her one dying wish, her system of logic and reason collapsed and she said what the woman wanted to hear. She promised. Not because she knew that she could save the baby, but because she knew that those two words were her only chance to bring the woman any sense of peace. All she could do now was hold the woman’s hand and hope desperately that her promise could be true.




The woman eased her head back to the ground. She closed her eyes and let her left hand reach deftly towards her pocket, pulling out a string of wooden beads and a cross. She held the beads to her chest and began to whisper, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”




Hermione recognized the Christian prayer, for it was a muggle religion that her parents had practiced before their own deaths. She realized the woman must be a muggleborn such as herself.




She continued to sit there for what felt like eternity. The woman never ceased in her whispered recital of the Virgin Mother’s prayer and Hermione felt herself close her eyes and rock back and forth to the rhythm of the woman’s words.




“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now…”


 



Hermione opened her eyes and looked into the woman’s face. Her mouth was still formed in an ‘O’ as she said her last word. She pinched her eyes shut to force back the tears before she leant down, kissed the woman’s stomach and whispered, “and at the hour of our death. Amen.”




~*~


 




A/N: Hello, readers! Thanks for starting this little story of mine. This chapter has been revised on June 26, 2011, four years after its first publication. I'm proud to have the opportunity to escape into Rowling's magical world and create something of my own. Please tell me what you think - it is all appreciated. 



Chapter 2: A Great Leap Forward
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~*~  

 

It was dawn by the time Hermione stirred awake. Her eyes seemed to be glued shut from a combination of sleep and tears. She raised herself onto her hands and opened her eyes just enough to have a look around at her surroundings. Where am I? she thought helplessly as she stared around the strange bedroom. Glancing down, the memories returned. Her stomach gave a wrenching lurch as she looked upon the woman’s cold, lifeless face. She let her eyes shut again against the sight.

 

 

 

 

 

She knew that protocol was to report a war-related crime such as this to the Ministry as soon as possible. She located her wand on the floor behind her and focused her mind on sending an alert message to Dumbledore. A silver otter pulled itself out of the tip of her wand and flashed away in an instant. She trusted that, once Dumbledore knew, the Ministry would be informed as well and she wouldn’t be left with the unpleasant task of having to give a completely emotionless murder report.

 

 

 

 

 

She turned back to the woman once more and looked down into her wide, empty eyes. She couldn’t quite comprehend the true injustice of it all. Growing up in a time of war, it was easy to become jaded against the trauma and the heartache of death, loss, and cruelty. But Hermione still felt it all. This woman, lying before her, did not deserve her fate. And Hermione had been able to do nothing to help her in her final hour…

 

 

 

 

 

She noticed that the woman still clutched her rosary to her chest. The fingers that had held that last bead had fallen limp. Hermione reached down and slid the beads from her fingers. On the back of the small cross the name ‘Mary’ was etched in the wood. Was her name Mary?

 

        

 

   

 

At this moment, a bang sounded from downstairs.

 

 

 

           

 

            “Hermione!” several voices rang out. She could identify Lupin’s, Mr. Weasley’s, and Tonks’.

 

 

 

           

 

She gave the woman, Mary, a last look. You’ll be in heaven now, Mary. I know that is all you want now… I hope your baby is still with you. She then turned around and released a sigh. She already knew she was never going to look into her face again; this was goodbye.

 

     

 

      

 

Downstairs, she found Lupin, Mr. Weasley, Tonks, Kingsley Shaklebolt and at least five other Ministry members searching around the ransacked house. She noticed that the rosary was still in her hand and she placed it in the pocket of her jeans.

 

 

 

 

 

            “Hermione!” Tonks cried, hurrying over to her. “How long have you been here? Are you okay?”

 

 

 

 

 

            “I’m fine,” she said hurriedly. “There is only one body here. A woman. She’s in the room off of the kitchen stairs.” At her words, two Aurors rushed out of the room towards the back of the house where the kitchen was. Tonks stayed and looked pityingly upon Hermione.

 

 

 

 

 

            “You don’t look fine! Everyone’s been trying to find you… After you didn’t show up for the battle, we thought you had been taken, hurt or worse…”

 

 

 

 

 

            “I never made it to the battle… What happened?” She felt an instantaneous wave of panic wash over her, realizing for the first time since the night before that there was a war going on, that she may have lost the people closest to her.

 

 

 

 

 

            “It’s over,” Lupin said quietly from behind her. Hermione turned around to look him in the eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

            “And Harry?” she asked anxiously.

 

 

 

 

 

            “He survived. Voldemort was defeated.” There was silence for a moment as Hermione took in the information, looking between Tonks and Lupin as if trying to detect if what they said could possibly be true.

 

 

 

 

 

            “I need to go… I need to speak to Dumbledore.” She made towards the door.

 

 

 

 

 

            “He’ll be at Hogwarts now. If you were wondering,” Tonks piped up from behind.

 

 

 

 

 

            “Yes… thank you.” With that she walked through the already open door, dodging a group of Ministry law enforcement who were making their way in. Once she passed the gate, she spun on the spot and apparated away from the house forever.

 

 

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

           

 

The air around Hogwarts was startlingly cheery. The villagers in Hogsmeade seemed to buzz excitedly about the streets with an unchecked, almost childish exuberance she found unnerving. She didn’t think a single passing face did not sport a smile, whether it was simply a content grin or a full-blown, ear-to-ear beam. Everyone was celebrating the end of the war. Everyone was turning over a new leaf in their lives, preparing for an era in which things would be better for themselves, their families, and for the whole of the wizarding world. She found it unnerving, because the fact that the war had ended had not managed to hit her yet. It had passed her by. 

 

     

 

      

 

She felt like a shadow – left behind, as the whole world seemed to take a giant leap forward. She couldn’t understand how so many could be so happy and so free; she was still living in a world in which the Dark Mark hovered sickingly over ordinary homes, and innocent women lay dying and alone on their bedroom floors.

 

 

 

           

 

As she crossed through the gate to Hogwarts’, she finally let go of a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding. This, this, was home.

 

 

 

           

 

The lawns were lush and green and sprawled endlessly. The lake glittered in early morning sun and the beech tree she, Harry and Ron had spent so much time under, swayed a bit in the slight breeze. There was the forest with its looming canopy of evergreens, its shadows stirring intrigue and curiosity. Hagrid’s small wooden hut sat on the forest’s edge, a thin trickling of smoke spiraled out of the chimney telling her that her friend had made it safely home from the night before. She looked up at the school itself. The castle’s mighty towers and fanciful turrets had always made her think of fairy tales she had read as a muggle girl. She had never thought back then that, someday, she would roam freely about a castle just like the ones she saw in the glossy illustrations of her storybooks. It had seemed like such a silly dream to her already logical mind. But here she was, walking up the steps to a set of fortress-like front doors.

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe none of it really was happening. Maybe all of this had simply been a lapse of imagination; a story woven together by her own mind…

 

 

 

 

 

There were only a few people whom Hermione didn’t know inside the impressive entrance hall – they looked like ministry officials. She made her way to the marble staircase across from the doors and climbed up to the first floor.

 

 

 

 

 

She ran into virtually no one during the remainder of her walk to Dumbledore’s office. Only a few ghosts here and there, however none of them made any effort to talk to her. She was glad of it.

 

 

 

 

 

Upon reaching the entrance to Dumbledore’s office, it dawned on Hermione that she hadn’t a clue what the password was. Strangely, the gargoyle didn’t seem to require a password today for it began to spin upwards revealing the hidden staircase without her uttering a word.

 

 

 

 

 

She knocked on the polished oak door three times once she had arrived at the top of the winding staircase.

 

 

 

 

 

            “Come in,” Dumbledore’s soothing voice rang out from inside the office.

 

 

 

 

 

The door swung open noiselessly and Hermione stepped over the threshold.

 

 

 

 

 

            “Hello, Miss Granger.” Dumbledore was standing at his window, looking out on the grounds as they were bathed in the pink light of the rising sun.

 

 

 

 

 

The door closed softly behind Hermione and she took a few steps forward, suddenly unsure of what she was doing here.

 

 

 

 

 

            “I was expecting you to come sooner or later,” Dumbledore said, smiling sadly at her from his spot at the window. “You were not at the battle last night.”

 

 

 

 

 

            “No,” she said in a very small voice. Hermione didn’t know why she was shutting down like this. It wasn’t as though she was uncomfortable with the Headmaster. They had talked on many an occasion the previous year. What with what had happened to her parents and all…

 

 

 

 

 

            “Perhaps you have come to me to ask what happened?” he provided for her. “Or perhaps you have come to tell me where you were and what happened to you?”

 

 

 

 

 

            There was a heavy pause as Hermione decided what she had come to say.

 

 

 

 

 

            “To tell the truth,” she began, “I’m not even sure now why I have come… It just seemed like the thing to be done.”        

 

 

 

 

 

            “I see,” Dumbledore said contemplatively as he walked from the window to his chair behind his desk. “Then perhaps I should ask you some questions and see if we can discover what your intent was for coming to me.”

 

 

 

 

 

            Hermione nodded as she took a seat on the other side of the desk.

 

 

 

 

 

            “Where did you end up last night?” Dumbledore began, placing the tips of his long fingers together.














 

 








 


 


             "I... I tried apparating to Godric's Hollow. I believe I made it because I could hear sounds of commotion in the distance... the battle. I was running towards the noises, but then something stopped me. There was a Dark Mark above the last house in the row and the front gate was off its hinges. I guess I thought there might be someone there who needed help because, the next thing I knew, I was inside. 


 


 








 

            “Don’t feel that it is wrong that you entered, Miss Granger. It shows great courage and sense of empathy in your character.”

 

 

 

 

 

            “Well, I can’t help but feel that my loyalty was to Harry… I should have gone immediately to him.”

 

 

 

 

 

            “Sometimes we choose a path that may seem like a mistake when we look back on it, but really was the ‘right’ course for us to take. You may feel now like you were abandoning Harry, but maybe what you encountered in that house needed you more than Harry…” He looked at her imploringly and she took it as a cue to continue with her story.

 

 

 

 

 

            “Well, when I entered the house there were all the typical signs of attack. Furniture was turned on end, it was dark, things were broken, there were spell marks on the walls and a thin trail of blood on the floor. I followed the blood to the back stairs. In the room off the first landing I saw a figure. It was a woman, lying on her back and seeming unable to move. When I got closer I realized that she was also pregnant. She was alive but clearly in great pain. I checked her for injury, but I found none and there was no blood.”

 

 

 

 

 

Dumbledore sat perfectly still, his mouth resting on his steepled fingers.

 

 

 

 

 

            “She was panting as I kneeled down next to her and muttering something. Her eyes were unfocused and her skin was as white as a sheet. I shook her a little bit to get her to focus on me. I tried asking her what had happened, who her attackers had been, what spell she’d been hit with. They had taken her husband, she told me, but she didn’t know what spell they used on her. She knew that she was dying. She kept repeating it to me, over and over, and soon began to cry… I didn’t know what to do! I felt helpless without the knowledge of what cursed her. There was no way for me alone to save her without that, and there was no time to call for help… I think she must have known she was really nearing her death because after a moment she clutched my arm tightly telling me I had to save her baby… I didn’t know what to tell her! If I couldn’t save her, then there was no way I could save her baby! But that was all she could think of – her baby’s life. She didn’t care about her own, she just couldn’t die thinking her baby wasn’t going to make it. Like it was her fault the baby would die.” Hermione realized that her cheeks were wet at this point and she absently raised a hand to wipe them. “Finally, after she had been hysterically sobbing, begging me to save her child, I told her that I promised I would. Those were the last words I got out. She died praying with this,” Hermione pulled the wooden rosary out of her pocket, Dumbledore reached out to accept it from her and then turned it slowly in his hands, studying it.

 

 

 

 

 

Hermione fell silent. She didn’t know what was to be said now. She felt it was Dumbledore’s turn to speak, but he was busy looking at the plain wooden beads.

 

 

 

 

 

            “Mary,” he said finally, looking up at her.

 

 

 

 

 

            “I think it must have been her name,” Hermione said quietly. “She was obviously a Muggleborn. However, unlike me, she decided to continue practicing Christianity…”

 

 

 

 

 

            Dumbledore nodded contemplatively as he rolled the beads between his fingers.

 

 

 

 

 

            “Professor,” Hermione began suddenly, “do you have any idea who this woman’s husband might have been. She said the Death Eaters tortured him in front of her. What could they have been after?”

 

 

 

 

 

            Dumbledore looked at her evenly, his eyes a little sad, “I don’t have an answer to that question, Miss Granger. Lord Voldemort’s reign of terror is, or shall I say was,

 

indiscriminatory.”

 

 

 

           

 

Hermione nodded slowly. That was her only comforting thought now: Voldemort was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

            “Professor?” she said, suddenly aware of another person she very much needed to speak to, “Where’s Harry? Is he here at Hogwarts?”

 

 

 

 

 

            “I finished speaking with him maybe ten minutes before you arrived, it is possible he is still on the grounds.”

 

 

 

 

 

            “Oh, well, would you mind if -”

 

 

 

 

 

            “If I allowed you to leave me to go talk to your friend?” He smiled at her softly. “Not at all, Miss Granger. There’s just one last thing I would like to ask you.”

 

 

 

 

 

            “Anything, sir,” she replied, already standing up.

 

 

 

 

 

            “I would just like to ask you to consider being our Head Girl next year. I know you’ve had a difficult and stressful year, but I hope you’ll accept the position. You really are the best candidate for the job.”

 

 

 

 

 

            “Oh, Professor, I’d be honored,” she said earnestly, nodding her head.

 

 

 

 

 

            “Well, very good. I wasn’t quite sure if you would be up to another year of a stressful schedule, but I’m thrilled you said yes.” He beamed at her gratefully. “Well, don’t let me keep you. I’m sure you’ll find Mr. Potter around here somewhere… perhaps you should check the lake.”

 

 

 

 

 

He winked at Hermione and she said her farewell, taking the gargoyle stairs back down to the first floor.

 

 

 

 

 

Out on the grounds, she felt like a different person than she had been on her way into the school. Dumbledore had a calming quality about him. You couldn’t help but feel reassured after talking to him, like everything would turn out alright.

 

 

 

 

 

As she neared the lake, a lone figure sitting on the waters’ edge became apparent. She smiled to herself, knowing it was Harry from the misshapen angles his hair shot out in. She approached him, the wet gravel crunching beneath her feet made him turn around and look up at her as she neared.

 

 

 

           

 

            “Hey,” he said simply, giving her slight smile and then turning back to gaze at the expanse of water before them.

 

 

 

 

 

            “Hey,” she returned, plopping down next to him on the wet stones.

 

 

 

 

 

There was tangible silence between them. It was as if they could hear each other’s stories just from sitting side by side, no words needed to be spoken.

 

 

 

 

 

            “It’s over,” he said matter-of-factly, looking over at her.

 

 

 

 

 

            “I know.”

 

 

 

 

 

            “Where were you?”

 

 

 

 

 

            “I… was with a woman who had been attacked. I met her on the way and had to help her… I wish I could have been there for you.” 

 

 

 

 

 

            “Well, maybe it was better that you weren’t there… you were safe at least.”

 

 

 

 

 

            “That doesn’t matter. I should have been there with you guys… I just couldn’t abandon her. It would have been wrong.”

 

 

 

 

 

Harry sighed and smiled. Hermione was being such her typical self. It was amusing how one might think everything would change after something so monumental as what had happened to him the night before, and yet, here she was, just the same as ever. 

 

 

 

 

 

“I would have done the same thing in your shoes. Please don’t feel bad about it, Hermione. Everything happens for a reason.”

 

 

 

 

 

“You sound like Dumbledore,” she said with a smile, nudging him in the shoulder.

 

 

 

 

 

“Yeah, well, he knows a lot of things, that man.”

 

 

 

 

 

“True, true…” she said, nodding her head. “Can I ask you something?”

 

 

 

 

 

“Go ahead.”

 

 

 

 

 

“How does it feel?”

 

 

 

 

 

“How does what feel?”

 

 

 

 

 

“How does it feel to know it’s over? To know that he’s gone… all because of you.”

 

 

 

 

 

Harry looked down at his lap. She couldn’t tell his expression and wondered if she had angered him by asking that question.

 

 

 

 

 

“Honestly? I can’t tell whether or not I’m happy or sad,” he said looking over at her.

 

 

 

 

 

“Well you must be happy, right? What do you have to be sad about? You are the savior of the wizarding world! Without you, we might have been condemned to another hundred years in a world of darkness and corruption.”

 

 

 

 

 

“That’s just it, you see. I should be happy, grateful that I had the ability to finish him… It’s just that I… killed.”

 

 

 

 

 

He looked slightly unsettled as he said this, his brows furrowed slightly and he began to absently spin a stone in his fingers. 

 

 

 

 

 

“You can’t be serious, Harry?” she said, turning to face him. “Every bloody person in this world is toasting you at this second. Toasting to your victory. Toasting to your strength and courage. No one sees you as a killer. And how can they? By vanquishing Voldemort, you have ensured freedom and security for every person. We are all in debt to you.”

 

 

 

 

 

“But… it feels like I’m just like him. I went to his level… I killed just like he has countless times.”

 

 

 

 

 

“Yes, but, in my opinion, it is the intent behind the murder that really matters, not simply the act of murder itself… You didn’t murder him for personal gain or simply for revenge. You murdered him because you knew that it was your duty to our world, to our people. You knew that he was a source of evil so great that he would continue to cause disaster and hurt for as many years as you yourself allowed… This murder was not like any of the self-centered murders he committed… You were thinking of everyone but yourself.”

 

 

 

 

 

Harry looked down at his hands, chagrined. Hermione rested her hand on his elbow and he looked over at her.

 

 

 

 

 

“You really don’t allow me to wallow in my own self-pity, do you?”

 

 

 

 

 

“No, Mr. Potter. I’m very sorry but I most definitely do not.”

 

 

 

 

 

He laughed at her appreciatively and then sighed deeply as he looked up at the lake, glittering madly now as the first beams of sunlight filtered straight across its smooth reflective surface.

 

 

 

 

 

“I suppose someday we should find our way back to the Burrow,” he mused.

 

 

 

 

 

“You’re probably right… Mrs. Weasley must be beside herself, but what else is new?”

 

 

 

 

 

Harry laughed at the thought of Mrs. Weasley all in a dither, but made no move to get up and head towards the school gates. Hermione had similar feelings of lethargy. It wasn’t as though she didn’t want to see the Weasleys and it definitely wasn’t because she took any sort of joy in seeing Mrs. Weasley all worked up, there was just something about that moment. Watching the sunrise across the Hogwarts’ lake, she felt like today it was even brighter, an even more splendid golden red. It was like a signal – a new start, a new era, a new sun.

 

 

 

 

 

~*~

 

 

 

A/N: Thanks so much for continuing to read! The version you read here was updated from its original form on June 28, 2011. I will continue to be updating the story's existing chapters as I work on those not yet posted. Stay tuned and thank you so much for the reviews!

 

 

 

 


 


Chapter 3: Not Possible
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August 15th...
Two Months Later



       
    “Fred, would you pass the kippers?” Mr. Weasley called from the far end of the kitchen table one sunny morning in mid-August.

    Breakfast was its usual noisy ordeal. With eleven people crammed around the one worn down wooden table and its surface primarily taken up by upwards of two dozen steaming platters of breakfast foods courtesy of Mrs. Weasley, the kitchen was in a justifiable state of chaos.

    At the Burrow, mealtime was a time for talking just as much as it was a time for eating.  It was a rare sight indeed to find more than four people all engaging in the same subject, more commonly one might find at least four clusters of people all talking over each other about a wide variety of subjects.

    This morning, however, there was one person who wasn’t talking. Hermione sat pressed between Harry and Ginny, a plate of eggs, porridge and buttered toast sitting untouched in front of her. Everyone around her was currently in the midst of an apparently enthralling conversation about Ron’s latest bizarre dream. Hermione however could not take her eyes off the food sitting in front of her.

    Globs of runny mucous,
she thought with disgust, staring down the sunny-side up eggs sitting in front of her. And their friend, the swamp of liquefied vomit, she turned her eyes toward the helping of grey porridge peppered with cinnamon. Her stomach was churning at the thought of the usually delicious breakfast foods that littered the table. She saw toast and butter and thought, burnt cardboard saturated in grease. She saw a jug of milk and couldn’t help but picture it curdled and sour smelling. Nothing was an exception. Even the sweet rolls, which she usually had third helpings of, only made cringe and close her eyes. Taking a look around to make sure that everyone was occupied with either their food or some conversation, she slid her wand out of her pocket and quietly vanished the food on her plate.

    She mumbled something about having to excuse herself, and then rushed out of the kitchen and out the back door and into the Weasley’s deplorable flower garden. Heading straight for the patch of withering petunias, she managed to heave up and inordinate amount of vomit for the miniscule portion of food she had consumed that morning. She coughed and sputtered a final few times, wiping her mouth with the napkin she had brought with her from the table.

    “Third time this week,” she gasped, taking a deep breath.

    You would think, having vomited three times in one week, Hermione would admit to herself that there was indeed something wrong with her; however, this simply was not the case. Hermione was more than certain that this was just a 24-hour thing. Or perhaps it’s 72 hours by now, she thought to herself. But it surely can only last this long. I bet this is the last day it will happen… It’s not like a feel… too terrible after breakfast.

    Of course, this was not entirely true.

    Hermione wandered over to the low garden wall, overlooking the dead lawn where conniving gnomes occasionally peeped about, and started to tally up her symptoms. After the initial morning bout of nausea, she had a whole range of mild discomforts ailing her. There were the headaches – more dizziness than anything, really – the fatigue, overall soreness and a weak feeling she couldn’t quite describe. She felt as if her energy was sapped. The only problem was, she hadn’t a clue what she had done to trigger it.

    After the first day, she had chalked it up to being her womanly time of the month. After all, her stomach had seemed a bit bloated, but usually it didn’t carry on like this. She figured she had been feeling ill for a least a week, and that was uncommonly long for just PMS.

    And with that ruled out, the only option is, I’m ill. 

    The only problem was, Hermione couldn’t exactly think of what her supposed illness could be. She didn’t have a fever, which threw out the flu as an option, but she was still vomiting quite frequently which meant it was more than just a cold.
A horrible thought came to Hermione just then. I must have caught some obscure magical disease that no one knows how to cure! I could die before I even sit my NEWTs!

    But then came the self-assurance that she had put herself through the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that, basically ever since she had started retching right after breakfast. Honestly, Hermione knew there was no way she could actually be sick. She just wasn’t one of those people who got sick. Ever. This was sure to pass shortly, probably tomorrow.

    Fully reassured, she got down off the wall and made her way back to the kitchen which she found empty save for a mountain of dirty dishes and Mrs. Weasley working away at the kitchen sink.

    “Oh Hermione dear! Would you mind helping me with these dishes? The rest of those brats ran off on me!” she said good-humoredly.  

    “Oh, of course, no problem,” she said, slightly caught of guard. She had wanted to escape the kitchen and its abundance of nausea-inducing smells as soon as possible, but she supposed it couldn’t hurt to help with a few dishes. Her nausea for the day must have passed already.

    Mrs. Weasley moved from the sink and asked if she could just rinse each plate and then hand it to her for drying.

    Hermione nodded enthusiastically, but her stomach lurched as she looked down at the gobs of runny food remnants stuck to the plates she was supposed to be cleaning. Ok, Ok, Ok, you can do this. It’s just some bits of food- nothing to be afraid of. Just look straight ahead and don’t get sick!

    She managed to wash a few plates that way, looking straight out the window and into the garden, but luckily Ginny came tromping down the stairs just as Mrs. Weasley started to give Hermione funny looks.

    “Oh, Gin!” Hermione called quickly, withdrawing her hands from the sink, “Could you take over here? I really have to use the bathroom!” She was already halfway out the door before Ginny could point out that the bathroom was upstairs, not out in the garden, but Hermione hardly cared. The last thing she wanted to do was vomit all over the floor and then have everybody fussing over her.

    Unfortunately, Hermione wasn’t so lucky as to go without anyone noticing at all. Ginny knew better than assume Hermione would tell her right away when something was going wrong. Hermione was a person who liked to fix her problems by herself, but sometimes she just wasn’t able to do it. Ginny took the liberty of assuming that this must be one of those times and so quickly followed her friend out into the garden, rushing to help her hold her hair when she saw what she was doing.

    “Merlin, Hermione! Are you alright?” Ginny exclaimed in shock as her friend heaved in to the shrubbery.

    “Oh, yeah,” Hermione said weakly, attempting to get to her feet and the stumbling over, white-faced, “Yeah, I’m fine.”

    “You’re clearly not. Here, let me help you.”

    The two walked precariously over towards the garden wall, Hermione’s face so white Ginny thought it likely she would pass out any second.

    “Alright, just sit down and take a breath,” Ginny said calmly, taking a breath herself,
   
    “Should I go get my mum?”

    “Oh, please don’t!” Hermione whimpered, putting a hand to her head in embarrassment, “I really don’t want anyone to make a fuss.”

    “Make a fuss?” Ginny asked incredulously, “You’ve just been retching in the back-garden and now you’re white as a sheet! How long has this been going on?”

    “Only a couple of days…”

    “A couple of days! Why haven’t you told anyone, you twit!”

    “Hey!” Hermione said, looking up at Ginny angrily, “Don’t chastise me for not telling     anyone! I’ve been in denial!”

    “You’re a bloody fool,” she replied, somewhat meekly. It was no use staying annoyed with her, it was cruel to be angry with a sick person and so she sat herself down and prepared to continue calmly. “Alright, let’s look at this rationally. I know now, so you might as well tell me everything and maybe I can help you. Does that sound reasonable?”

    “I suppose it does…”

    “Ok, so what exactly has been wrong with you?”

    “Well, I believe it was three day ago, I vomited after breakfast and ever since then it’s happened everyday,” Hermione said in a rush. “And it’s not just that, I’ve also felt dizzy, fatigued and sore throughout the daytime. Oh, Ginny, do you think this will last long? I’ll just die if I’m ill for the start of term!”

    “Oh, don’t be dramatic!” Ginny said, slightly annoyed, “This can’t possibly last till the start of term… Of course, it might have been cured a lot quicker if you had just told someone about it three days ago!”

    “Yes, well, I’m sorry about that, but I can’t go back in time and change things… Well, I can, but it would be a lot easier if you just consented to help me now! Please?” Hermione looked at her friend pleadingly and finally Ginny heaved a sigh of compliance.

    “I guess this is my job, as your official best friend and all…So apart from the nausea, dizziness, soreness and fatigue, have you had any other symptoms?”

    “No… that’s pretty much it. But they’re enough, you know!”

    “Yeah,” Ginny replied distractedly, thinking of Hermione’s potential illness. “Do you have a fever at all? That could mean the flu. Or are you stuffed up? It could be a sinus infection.”

    “No to both of those,” Hermione replied with a sigh. She almost wished she were running a fever. At least then she would know what was wrong with her.

    “Well, is it... you know... Your time of the month?” Ginny asked, eyebrows raised.

    “That’s what I thought initially too, because that should have happened a few weeks ago, but it’s just not happening. It’s not the usual symptoms either… I don’t usually get nauseas.”

    “You’re late?” Ginny asked, suddenly amused, “Well, don’t tell me you and my brother have been getting up to the dirty, dirty!”

    Hermione slapped her on the arm.
   
    “NO! Merlin, Ginny, it always comes around to that, doesn’t it?”

    “Well, I wouldn’t hold it against you if you had… You’ve been together for months now!”

    “We’re not together! I don’t know what Ron’s been telling you, but we are definitely not together.”

    “So I guess that rules out-” she looked around dramatically as if expecting Mrs. Weasley to jump out of the nearest Begonia bush, “pregnant.”

    “How could that even be and option?” Hermione asked, exasperated.

    “Well, I don’t know what you get up to with my brother in dark corners…”

    “I don’t get up to anything! We do not go into dark corners!”
   
    “Well, I don’t know, but your symptoms seem to point in one direction…”

    “Hate to break it to you, but that just cannot be. That road is blocked; no symptoms of mine can be pointing in that direction.”

    “I’m just trying to make connections!”

    “Well, there HAS to be something else,” Hermione said desperately, “I mean, that cannot be the only option.”

    “Maybe if you let me ask mum…”

    “No!” Hermione cried, “I mean, it’s not necessary yet, is it?

    “We’ve run out of options!” Ginny said, frustration becoming evident in her voice.

    “I don’t know… I’m pretty sure it’s going to go away. I’ll probably be 100% normal by tomorrow!”

    “And what are you going to do if you’re not?” Ginny asked skeptically.

    “Well,” said Hermione, rising to her feet, color restored to her complexion, “We’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow morning.”

* * *




    Hermione snuck quietly into the bedroom off the third landing that she shared with Ginny. After coming back inside from the garden, she had been immediately swept into an animated argument concerning Quidditch. Luckily she didn’t have much to say on the subject, and everyone else did, so she was able to slip away unnoticed.
Closing the bedroom door behind her, she breathed a sigh of relief – she hadn’t yet had time by herself to mull over what she had talked about with Ginny.

    Catching a glance at her reflection in the full-length mirror across from the door, she walked closer to get a better look.
   
    God, I’m pale… she thought morosely, probably from not being able to keep anything down.

    Without really thinking about it, she turned to her side and lifted up her T-shirt to reveal her porcelain-white stomach beneath. She looked at her stomach critically, sticking it out and sucking it in. The odd thing was, it appeared different in a way, although she couldn’t quite put a finger on what that different thing was.

    I’ve just let Ginny get to me! She says the most unbelievable things and yet I still find myself believing her…


    She pulled up her shirt again and had another look.

    I mean, how could I be… There’s no POSSIBLE way I could… I mean, there’s only one way for it to happen… right?

    She lowered her hand down to right below the soft curve of her stomach… Surely it hasn’t always been curved like that! She rubbed her hand around in circles, as if that would tell her the truth.

    God, I’m being ridiculous! She thought suddenly, throwing herself on the bed. Living in this world has made me throw all traces of reason right out the door! I mean, how could I even CONSIDER this? It cannot be possible! Well, at least it can’t be possible in the Muggle world… But could it be possible in this one either? And how am I supposed to find out?

    She lay, absorbed in thought for a few moments, staring at the beamed ceiling. All of a sudden, her brain fogged over and she found herself kneeling on a hard wooden floor in a darkened room, a figure lying below her and a cold sweat running down her brow.

    “Will you promise to save me baby? I can’t die thinking… knowing…”

    The woman’s clear blue eyes stared up at her pleadingly, her white hand held Hermione’s wrist surprisingly tight.

    “I promise.”


    The fog melted away and Hermione lifted her head slowly from the pillow.
She walked purposely towards the writing desk by the window and pulled out one sheaf of parchment and a black quill.

    Carefully she scrawled on the backside of the parchment:
       
            Albus Dumbledore
            Hogwarts School of
            Witchcraft and Wizardry


    On the front side she frantically wrote much more. Much of it did not make sense, even to her, but she didn’t stop or slow down or check her spelling. She just wrote. Word after word, she scrawled them all down. Finally she folded up the parchment in thirds with the address on the outside and rushed over to Pigwidgeon, who happened to be residing in Ginny’s room, and tied the letter to his leg. The small owl was overcome with excitement, but Hermione held him tight in her hands and said, “You are to get to Hogwarts as fast as your wings can carry you. Deliver this to the Headmaster and no one else. Make sure he writes a reply before you leave. I need a reply tonight.”

    The owl gave a small, shrill hoot and with that Hermione pushed open the window and tossed the feathered bird out and into the sky.  

* * *




    Hermione found dinner that night to be a much higher stress affair than usual. She sat herself in the middle of the table, hoping to have lots of distractions around her to keep her mind off the letter that was sure to be in the Headmaster’s hands that very moment. Unfortunately, none of the plentiful amount of conversations around her distracted her in quite the way she had in mind.
   
    “Molly dear, you won’t believe who I ran into today,” Mr. Weasley began from his seat at the head of the table, “Do you remember Georgina Haddington from the Accidental Magic Reversal Squad? The one who was always so charming to you at the Ministry Christmas parties?”
   
    “Of course, she was such a little dear!”
   
    “ Well you wouldn’t believe – she got married recently and just had a baby!”
   
    “Oh, how wonderful for her!” Mrs. Weasley began to gush just as Hermione turned her head rapidly away. There was no way she was getting sucked into that one.
   
    On the other side of the table, the twins were telling tales from their week in the joke shop industry.

    “And so the little thief – couldn’t have been more than eight – gets dragged back by the ear by his very pregnant mother,” Fred said animatedly, grabbing George’s ear for affect, “And she is just in a right state –”

    Hermione turned quickly away again, not believing her extraordinary bad luck. Of course it had to be today that the residents of the Burrow had to unite on one inescapable dinner topic – the very topic Hermione wanted so very much to avoid.

    Turning back to the adult end, she was relieved to see that Fleur was now the one talking. Hopefully they’ve decided to stop torturing me…

    “And so, I guess we have a leetle something zhat we have to say,” Fleur began, demurely.

    Suddenly Bill was clinking his glass with his fork and Hermione’s stomach began to turn itself into a knot. Surely he can’t be about to say…

    “We have some exciting news,” Bill said, beaming from ear to ear, “The Weasley clan is about to get a new member for its ranks – Fleur’s expecting in January!”

    The table erupted in applause, laughter and squeals of excitement and joy. Mrs. Weasley was positively sobbing, clutching the blonde girl she usually despised to her in happiness. Everyone was standing up and hugging, patting Bill on the back and waiting for a chance to rub Fleur’s belly.

    No one noticed Hermione slip away up the stairs, her face not bearing an expression of excitement and delight but rather one of anxiety and fear. She couldn’t tolerate being around all of them anymore. It was just too much. Especially with the reply she was awaiting from Dumbledore…

    Not bothering to be silent on the stairs – knowing that the din from the kitchen was sure to drown it out --– she tromped irritably up to the third floor.

    Upon opening the door, however, all signs of irritation flew quickly away as a hyperactive Pigwidgeon, positively buzzing with the success of delivering the letter, greeted her.

    Hermione snatched the parchment from his leg in one swipe and scrambled to unfurl it. She couldn’t help but sigh disappointedly when she saw the apparent absence of assuring words, however when she did read them, she was once again instilled with a sense of security. 

        It seems necessary for us to meet tonight.
            My office. 10:30.




    Hermione’s stomach fluttered nervously, but she couldn’t help but feel a sense of contentment amongst the butterflies. There was no doubt in her mind: Dumbledore was going to fix everything.

Chapter 4: A Promise Fulfilled
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    Five minutes later...





    Hermione spun in ashy circles as she was expelled from the flames within the large mahogany grate in Dumbledore’s office. She coughed and wiped the soot from her eyes before stepping into the Headmaster’s office.

   
    Dumbledore stood a mere few feet from the fireplace when she stepped out and signaled for her to take a seat in the cushy armchair opposite his desk.

   
    Hermione didn’t know if she was imagining it, but Dumbledore seemed to be a bit less serene than usual. If she didn’t know better, she would say he looked almost anxious.

   
    “Miss Granger…” He began somewhat carefully, “I must admit to you now that, upon receiving your letter earlier this evening, I was quite taken off guard. I must ask you to confirm something for me now…”

   
    “Yes, Professor?”

   
    “You said in your letter that you have… what was it? ‘A ludicrous, completely unthinkable notion’ that you are… with child? When you say this –”

   
    “What I mean is,” Hermione said hastily, sensing that the Headmaster was uncomfortable and obviously meaning to question her virtue, “there is literally no scientific… medically proven way for me to be … with child.”

    
    “And so, you’re saying that you’re suspicions are strong enough for you to consider there being a magical means for it to be true,” Dumbledore mused softly, “Am I correct?”

   
    “Yes, Sir,” Hermione replied, acutely aware of how ridiculous it all sounded. She could just see it now: Dumbledore bursting out in laughter, calling her a fool and unworthy of attending Hogwarts… She would be sent back to live with her parents, banned to a mere Muggle existence for the rest of her life. Her wand snapped in half…

   
    “Well, Miss Granger, you may very well be correct.”

   
    Hermione stopped fidgeting with the loose thread on her skirt and looked up to meet Dumbledore’s gaze. Did he really just say what I think he said?

   

    Noting he deer-in-the-headlights expression, Dumbledore tried a different approach.

   
    “What I mean to say is, the method you have suggested in your letter as the means of your pregnancy has a very legitimate probability of causing it.” 

   
    “A – Are you sure?” she asked, suddenly feeling quite faint.

   
    “I am sure that there was a probability, Miss Granger. I am, in no way, assuring you that it did in fact occur.”

   
    “How do you know it was a probability, Sir?” she asked again, feeling her heartbeat quickening.

   
    “I admit, Miss Granger, that from the moment you recounted your detour on the night Harry defeated Lord Voldemort to me, I took an inordinate amount of interest in the story… I noted right away your intense empathy for the woman you watched die and also the profound way the experience seemed to have affected you.”

   
    Hermione was back to looking at her lap as she recalled her account of the event to Dumbledore. Somehow it all seemed to be more significant now.

   
    “I also took a particular interest in the way you told me what your last words to her were… Do you remember?”

   
    “I promise,” Hermione said softly, “I promised her I would save her child. I promised her that, even though it seemed so absurd… I promised so she could die in peace.”

   
    “You remember very well I see.”

   
    “I had a… flashback, I suppose, to that very moment earlier tonight.”

   
    “When you were contemplating what was happening to you?”

   
    “Yes… right before I wrote the letter to you.”

   
    “You realize the significance of this, do you not Miss Granger?” Dumbledore asked very quietly, looking at her over the tops of his half-moon spectacles.

   
    “I realize,” Hermione started, her throat now uncomfortably tight and her eyes stinging with tears, “that I must have… given her my consent at that moment. She gave her baby to me!”

   
    “Essentially, yes,” Dumbledore said kindly, handing her the box of tissues as her eyes began to leak, “I have only ever read about cases like this, but have never seen one. This ancient magic is known as Phasma Eturnus.”

   
    “Phasma Eturnus?” Hermione asked. Everything was becoming so real. It had seemed foolish to consider this when it had just been her, lying in Ginny’s bedroom and letting her mind go out of control, but now it was Dumbledore telling her these things – she couldn’t not put them off as foolish musings of a naïve teenage girl anymore.

   
    “Yes,” Dumbledore said, proceeding slowly for he sensed that all of this information was greatly overwhelming her, “Its particular branch of magic is greatly unexplored. The last recorded use of Phasma Eturnus was sometime in the 1500’s, when it was essential for the continuance of the wizarding race. There have been no modern cases, however. Needless to say, Miss Granger, if it is proven that Phasma Eturnus is the cause of your pregnancy… Well, you will be given much attention indeed.”

   
    “But, Professor, please! Before we get carried away!” she began, cradling her head in her hands, “I am not positive I am pregnant!”

   
    “That is a very valid point, however, I do think the symptoms you’ve listed in your letter pretty plainly point in that direction… Of course, to be safe, I will arrange an appointment for you with a Healer friend of mine as soon as possible. Hopefully, tomorrow… Although I don’t think she’ll have any qualms over clearing her schedule if I tell her my suspicions concerning the nature of your pregnancy.” 

   
    Hermione dropped her head between her knees and breathed deeply. This was all too much for her. Dumbledore seemed entirely too sure of everything he was saying. Wasn’t there some doubt? Some ambiguity? How could he just carry on as though everything was for certain and then have her see a Healer and be told that it was all a false alarm, she just had a touch of the stomach flu! That could still happen! Couldn’t it?

   
    “How… Can you be… so certain?” Hermione asked, taking heavy pauses between words as she caught her breath.

   
    “I’m very sorry, Miss Granger, please don’t mistake me for certain. I am not a trained Healer and I am certainly not an expert in this particular field of magic. What I do have is a strong feeling about this, and my feeling tells me that my suspicions – and your suspicions – are quite right.”

   
    All he has is a feeling? And why is it that I still find myself believing him? Is a feeling enough to go by? Hermione asked herself in rapid succession.

   
    “But why, Professor, would Mary have chosen to enact this ancient form of magic – magic that has not been used in centuries – with me?”

   
    “An excellent question, Miss Granger. One of which I cannot supply an answer. No one, of course, can really know for sure unless they had some sort of mental connection with the woman as she died, and as she made the decision to pass the spirit of her child along into you.”

   
    Hermione nodded and sat in silence for a few moments. She wasn’t really sure what to make of all of this information. It gave a new definition to the word ‘overwhelming’. Mere hours ago she had been a normal witch. Granted she had some issues keeping down her breakfast – or any food for that matter – but she was normal nevertheless.

   
    Now, on the other hand... Now was a different story. Now, there was the definite possibility that she had a baby growing inside of her.  A baby that got to be there, not by the normal way that every seventeen-year-old’s parents lectured him or her not to do, but by an ancient magic spell that implanted another woman’s baby’s spirit within her.

   
    A baby.

   
    A baby inside of her.

   
    “A baby,” Hermione said aloud, breaking the silence with her bordering on hysterically shrill voice. “There is a baby inside of me.”

   
    “Just take a few deep breaths, Miss Granger, you’re alright.”

   
    “No.. No… No… Baby… Not alright…”

   
    Dumbledore walked over to a cabinet holding potion bottles on the opposite wall and pulled out a small blue one. He filled the cap with the liquid substance and handed it to Hermione to drink. She downed it without thinking and then continued on her mindless rant of “No…No…No.”

   
    “Miss Granger, can you hear me?” Dumbledore asked, his face in front of hers.

   
    “Y-Yes,” she replied slowly.

   
    “It’s alright to be shocked. You are actually reacting a lot better than most would in your situation. I think we’ve talked about it enough tonight, however. I’m going to take you back to the Burrow and then explain everything to Molly and Arthur. We’ll go to St. Mungo’s tomorrow and then we’ll get all of our answers.”

   
    “Answers… good…” Hermione replied, as Dumbledore helped her to her feet and over to the fire.
   

    The last thing she remembered that night was Ginny helping her into her pajamas and tucking her into bed. Her dreams were filled with blue-eyed women, asking her things and all she could say in reply was, “I promise, I promise, I promise,” over and over and over again. 

~*~


Chapter 5: An Unknown Beyond
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August 16th




“Hurry, Ginny,” Mrs. Weasley’s sharp voice called from the noisy Muggle street in downtown London.
  
  Ginny grumbled noticeably as she grabbed Hermione’s arm and hastened forward so that they were both only a pace behind her mother and the Headmaster.
  
  It had actually been Hermione who had been bringing up the rear, but Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t dare admonish her… not with her “condition” and all.
  
  Hermione was feeling quite easily perturbed at the moment. She hadn’t altogether come to terms with what Dumbledore had said the previous night and having the usually no-nonsense Mrs. Weasley coddle her was not helping her forget. The only reason she had gotten a minute of sleep the night before was the calming potion Dumbledore had fed her in his office. Nevertheless, her sleep was fitful, filled with agonizing dreams and anxiety. Despite her undying curiosity, she really had no desire to be going to St. Mungo’s at all. Hermione had grown up as a Muggle, and in the Muggle world, going to the hospital was not something to take lightly.

    When they finally turned the corner into the somewhat deserted square where the old Purge and Dowse Ltd. “Department Store” stood, Hermione’s stomach began to twist with worry and fear. This cannot be happening to me… I hate hospitals, I hate needles, and I hate sickness. I really don’t care if they’re called Healers, they’ll always be doctors to me… Doctors with scalpels and bad news…   
   
    Dumbledore spoke softly to the dummy through the glass window and Hermione watched as she quickly nodded her Styrofoam head. Seconds later she found herself walking into the glittering Reception Area of the hospital.

    Dumbledore didn’t even bother waiting in line at the Welcome Witch’s desk, he just quickly ushered Hermione, Ginny and Mrs. Weasley into a lift at the far end of the room and pushed the button for the Fourth Floor: Spell Damage.

    Hermione’s heart sank when she saw what floor they were heading to. I’m incurable… I’ve got a permanent spell that will never be lifted… I’m a freak!

    “Miss Granger,” Dumbledore started calmly after he noticed her troubled expression,   
    “Don’t worry. Your specific problem is not precisely spell damage. They just have to lump many different departments together and the hospital’s Maternity Wing just so happens to reside on the fourth floor.” He gave her a small wink.

    “I didn’t know St. Mungo’s had a maternity wing!” Ginny said, sounding too cheerful and fascinated for Hermione’s liking: she shot her a glare.

    “Sorry,” Ginny said quickly, “It’s just that I always thought witches went to Muggle hospitals to have babies… or just had them at home.”

    “Well, some do,” Dumbledore replied, “But some magical pregnancies have specific complications that can not be cared for effectively by Muggles. It is always advised for every Witch to come to St. Mungo’s before she decides if she wants to be treated in a Muggle hospital.”

    The lift door glided open as they reached level four and Hermione stepped out first. She couldn’t take anymore of the baby talk. It was driving her mad. Everyone was tiptoeing around her, apologizing when they slipped up and mentioned the b-word or, even worse, the p-word. At this point, she just wished she were doing this by herself. She may feel lonely, but at least she wouldn’t have to endure constant verbal reminders of her “condition” and, if she were alone, she wouldn’t be pressured into making conversation.

    Hermione allowed Dumbledore to move in front of her and lead them all down the brightly lit corridor towards the “Magical Maternity Ward”. Finally they reached a small reception area and Hermione noted in frustration that there were upwards of four women sitting about, each sporting bellies as big as Quaffles.

    Dumbledore nodded at the Witch behind the counter and then proceeded through a door marked “Healer Astrid Vance: Private Examination Surgery”. Hermione took a deep breath; apparently the time had finally come to learn the truth.
 
    It was only a few minutes before Healer Astrid Vance strode through the door, beaming at them all and hurrying to hug Dumbledore hello.

    Hermione looked at her skeptically. She was elderly, her hair a mop of shoulder-length bouncy gray curls. She was rather petite, but with a voice and personality that made up for that. Her eyes were a warm, endearing blue and her cheeks were rosy. Hermione was overall, quite upset, that she found herself unable to hate this woman on principle. She wanted to hate her so badly, but somehow the woman’s charm rendered her unable to do so.

    “Miss Granger, is it?” Astrid asked kindly, stepping forward to shake her hand.

    “Yes,” Hermione replied simply, finding it difficult to look the woman in the eye.

    “Excellent. Well…” she paused uncertainly. Perhaps this situation is difficult for her too… “Dumbledore has shared with me his speculations concerning your condition, but I must admit I am unwilling to accept them until I have tested you entirely to my satisfaction.”

    “Test me?” Hermione asked, suddenly quite nervous. Images of long needles piercing her anatomy came to mind upon hearing the word ‘Test’ from a doctor’s mouth.

    “I assure you it’s really nothing to be afraid of, dear,” Astrid said, smiling at her,
   
    “You’re probably just picturing those awful Muggle methods of examination. I assure you, you will be much more comfortable during these magical tests.”
 
    “She’s right, Hermione,” Mrs. Weasley pitched in, “There’s not a slight bit of discomfort.”

    “Yes, well, alright then. I guess there’s no way around it,” Hermione consented, suddenly wondering if they would all remain in the room during her exam.

    “We’ll just wait in the Reception Room while you have your exam, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said, as if on cue, “Don’t worry, we’re leaving you in very capable hands.”
Astrid laughed modestly and then waved them off, waiting for the door to shut before speaking.

    “Could I perhaps, ask you something before we start?” Hermione asked breathlessly.

    “Absolutely, I was actually going to ask you something as well, but go ahead,” Astrid said encouragingly.

    “I just… I just wanted to know how likely you think it is that I’m…”

    “Pregnant?” Astrid finished for her. “Well, to tell you the honest truth, if I had been asked this question yesterday – without having heard of any suspicions of a person with Phasma Eturnus – then I would have said there was a less the .2% chance of it ever happening.”

    “Wow,” Hermione said, quite shocked.

    “Exactly, and I can tell that you must already know that if this suspicion is indeed reality, you will definitely be a magical, medical miracle.”

    “Yeah, I can see how that would be,” Hermione said.

    “Now, if you don’t mind me asking, I just wanted to know how you came to suspect this at all? It seems a bit of a far-fetched conclusion to jump to for a teenage witch who has never heard of the ancient magic that would make it possible.”

    “Well,” Hermione began, unsure of how she was going to explain this without it sounding like an outright fabrication of her imagination, “I’ve been feeling ill all week… dizzy, sore, throwing up in the garden after breakfast, but I couldn’t really think of what my illness could be. Ginny planted the thought in my mind by suggesting I had been fooling around with her brother Ron – completely untrue, by the way – but I just couldn’t shake that particular idea. When I was in my room alone, I kind of had… Well, I guess you would call it a flashback, to the time the Phasma Eturnus must have occurred… If it did occur at all.”

    “I see,” Astrid said simply, chewing the side of her cheek in thought. “Was this flashback brief or more expanded-”

    “Oh, definitely brief. We probably both only spoke 15 words.”

    “Quite brief, then…” She sat in silence for a few moments, staring off into the distance before saying suddenly, “Alright then, why don’t we continue with the examination?”

    “Sounds fine.”

    “Ok, very good,” Astrid said as she got up and grabbed a chart over on the counter against the wall.

    Pulling out her wand, she asked, “Could I have you lie down on the examination table    then and pull up your sweater so I can see your stomach?”
Hermione did as she was asked, lying back nervously, knowing that her answer was coming in a matter of minutes.

    Astrid performed all of her spells wordlessly, pointing her wand at various sections of Hermione’s anatomy. At one point, she told her that she was going to have to take some blood for sampling. The magical method of taking blood however did not require her skin to be punctured, although she was a bit light-headed immediately after.

    Finally, Astrid put her wand down and gently prodded Hermione’s stomach with her hands. She then picked her wand up again and pointed its tip at the lower region of Hermione’s stomach. The spell came out invisibly but with pulsing waves like a heat current. Hermione’s closed her eyes tight, afraid of what she might see if she opened them. The skin on her stomach felt like it was crawling, and her insides seemed to squirm.

    “Yes,” Astrid said in a tone that Hermione cringed to think sounded definitive,

    “Hermione, I do think you’ll want to look at this. Although, be warned, it might be a bit of a shock at first.”

    Wrinkling her brows, Hermione slowly lifted her lids and allowed the picture before her to come into focus.

    The skin on her stomach had turned translucent. She could see clearly her inner organs, pumping and gurgling ominously. Astrid waved her wand and then, quite smoothly, her intestines grew clear to reveal something smaller, round, a glimmering in the background. Astrid moved her wand up and, like a puppet on a string, the distant object came closer and into focus, magnifying itself for human eyes.

    “I think congratulations are in order,” Astrid said softly, squeezing Hermione’s hand reassuringly.

    Hermione squeezed her eyes shut and tucked her chin into her chest, suddenly bursting with intense emotion that she did not know how to control.

    “That little pulsing glimmer is a heartbeat, Hermione,” Astrid said calmly.

    “And… and that heartbeat belongs to a… a…”

    “A fetus,” Astrid finished, matter-of-factly.

    Hermione dropped her head back onto the examination table, her eyes watering uncontrollably and her head feeling light.

    Sensing that she needed a few moments to soak everything in, Astrid exited the room quietly to tell the others in the waiting room the news.

    Hermione was feeling an incredible sense of shock that she did not know how to describe. It was similar to the emotions that ran through her body when she, Harry and Ron were up to one of their usual adventures, and yet, it was different. There was a sense that she was losing something – her youth, perhaps – and that she had been given no choice in the decision. Which was all true, of course. And then there was the feeling that she was being propelled at an uncomfortable speed away from all her previous plans for the future and towards an unknown beyond that she was not ready or prepared to face.

    I was never supposed to be a mother at eighteen. Babies were supposed to come in fifteen years when I have a husband and a career… and a diploma! How did this happen to me? How could this have happened without me knowing? Why wasn’t I given a choice? How is this fair? My life is being ruined! I did nothing to deserve this!

    She started sobbing now. Big, uncontrollable sobs that made her breath hitch and fat tears roll down her cheeks. She put her hands on her belly, still translucent due to whatever spell Astrid had put on it, and rubbed it vigorously as if she could simply rub the pregnancy away.

    Somewhere in her mind, however, a glimmer of the reasonable Hermione piped up. You are giving another being a chance to live. The baby would have never seen the light of day if this hadn’t happened. You couldn’t save the child’s first mother, but you are being given the chance to save the child. Plans can be changed… maybe this will turn out to be the right thing.

    Slowly, she wiped the streams of tears from her cheeks and sat up. She decided then and there that she was not going to have a melt down. She had to see past the fact that it had not been her choice for this to happen. She had to see past the fact that she was scared of the unfamiliar path she was now on. She had to accept her situation and go with it.

    She pulled down her shirt in one swift motion and hopped off the examination table. Walking briskly towards the door, she opened it and charged forth into the waiting room where she found Dumbledore, Mrs. Weasley and Ginny all talking to Astrid in a small circle.

    “Excuse me,” she said clearly from right behind them, “I do not believe my examination is over. I have a few more questions that I need answered and would appreciate it if you all could stop gossiping about me here in the reception room.”

    Each of them turned guiltily to face her. Only Astrid had the decency to pretend they had not been previously discussing her.

    “I haven’t the slightest idea what you mean, Hermione, but if you insist, let’s continue our discussion back in my office.”

    Hermione nodded and turned back to the door she had just came through, calling over her shoulder, “You can join us if you like.”

    Once they were all settled again in the examination room, Astrid did a few more checks on Hermione’s translucent belly to make sure everything was fine with the baby.

    Mrs. Weasley could hardly contain her squeals of delight upon seeing the miniscule little child and proceeded to coo obnoxiously.

    Ginny kept giving Hermione assuring pats on the arm, but appeared more fascinated at getting to see someone’s insides on display.

    Dumbledore and Astrid kept a running conversation, speaking cryptically and saying things that didn’t seem to make much sense at all to Hermione, but must have had something to do with what was going on inside her.

    “I suppose it will carry properties-” Dumbledore began.

    “Yes! That will be so fascinating, won’t it?” Astrid said excitedly.

    “I must agree that it will.”

    “Of course, you’ll have to guide and even, perhaps, choose.”
   
    “Quite true…” Dumbledore said, fading off into thought.

    “Excuse me?” Hermione asked suddenly, “Are you going to keep hiding things from me or are you going to tell me outright?”

    “Well,” Astrid said, smiling at Hermione’s forthright behavior, “to tell you the truth, there isn’t anything definitive to share with you. Right now it’s all theory. You must remember you are the first modern case of Phasma Eturnus and therefore everything that occurs during this pregnancy is going to be new and unknown.”

    “Does that mean that my… baby and I have a higher risk of complications?” Hermione asked, worry tingeing her words.
   
    “Not necessarily,” Astrid said, sounding comforting. “We just have to be careful and prepared. I’m going to suggest that you see me at least once a week from now until you go into labor. It’s going to be important that we don’t miss anything and that we always have an accurate picture of what’s going on in your body.”

    “How am I going to get to St. Mungo’s once a week when I’m in school?”

    “I’ll be able to arrange that easily, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore chimed in.

    “And once you get to your seventh month and it’s no longer safe for you to travel by Floo, then I can make the trip and we can meet in the Hospital Wing at Hogwarts.” 
   
    “Well, that all sounds fine, but will there be any other extra precautions that I will have to take?” Hermione asked inquiringly.

    “Well,” said Astrid as she walked over to one of the many glass cabinets along the wall, “I’ll give you this prenatal potion you can take daily with your breakfast – it should last you at least two weeks – and then I have some potion to combat nausea, which should hopefully help with the morning sickness you’re suffering from.”

    “Is that all?” Hermione asked hopefully.

    “That is all we can do as of now. Of course, after each check-up I’ll reevaluate the situation and see if any further measures need to be taken.”

    “And… What do you think the chances are of something serious happening?” Hermione asked nervously.

    “Honestly, dear, I really can’t predict anything in this case. It’s just that your situation is so unique,” Astrid said sympathetically, seeing the look of worry on Hermione’s face.

    “I understand, it’s just… nerve-wracking, I suppose. I mean, it would be bad enough if I had just a regular pregnancy. At least there would be some normalcy to that, but this is like walking down a flight of dodgy stairs in the dark.”

    “It’s completely normal to feel nervous, scared or even undeserving in your case. You didn’t ask for any of this, but I want you to know that everyone in this room finds it really admirable how well you’re taking it.”

    “It’s true, Hermione dear,” Mrs. Weasley pitched in. “You’re being so brave. We’re so proud of you.”

    “Thanks, Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione said somewhat embarrassed. 

    A few awkward moments passed, Dumbledore and Astrid continuing to speak in hushed tones whilst Ginny, Mrs. Weasley and Hermione sat confused as to what was going on.

    Finally their conversation seemed to cease and Dumbledore stood up.

    “Well, we should probably be on our way then,” he said cheerfully.

    “I look forward to seeing you soon, Hermione,” Astrid said, shaking her hand.

    “Yes, erm, me as well,” Hermione said, feeling uncomfortable seeing as she had only met this woman a mere hour previous. “When exactly will that be?”

    “Well today’s the sixteenth right? Hmm, I believe I can see you a week from tomorrow and then the following week as well. I believe those will be the last remaining times you won’t be in school, am I correct?”

    “Yes. She returns to school on the first,” Dumbledore answered.

    “Right. Well, at the end of the first week of school we can make an appointment. I assume you’ll be able to arrange a Floo, Dumbledore?”

    “Absolutely.”

    “Excellent! Well then, Hermione, I’ll see you next Friday.”
   
    “Sounds perfect,” Hermione said, sounding much less enthused than Astrid.


 

Chapter 6: Not Unhappy
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~*~

Later that day...



    Hermione sat resolutely, her knees folded into her chest, listening to the murmurs of voices floating out the open sitting room window below her rooftop perch.
   
    Downstairs, Dumbledore was informing the rest of the Burrow residents what exactly was going on with Hermione. She bit her lip, thinking of their reactions. But really, she only cared about the reactions of two people.
      
    Dumbledore had asked her if she wanted to be the one to share the news with Harry and Ron, but she had declined. As they journeyed back from St. Mungo’s only a few hours before, she couldn’t even begin to think what she would say to them. How was a girl to tell her two best friends that she was pregnant?
   
    As she sat there, crouching amongst the shingles and staring out into the burning sunset, she started thinking about what made her so afraid to tell people about her pregnancy. It wasn’t like it had been her decision. She hadn’t lost her honor, or anything of the sort, because of it. So then why was she so embarrassed? Why did it make her feel so awkward? She felt like an outcast, like there was suddenly a vast, impenetrable wall between her and everyone else.
   
    It doesn’t make any sense, she thought, stretching her legs out before her. I don’t have anything to be ashamed of. Pregnancy is not a dirty thing… Especially when I had no part in it!
   
    Suddenly, she heard a creak of a floorboard back in Ginny’s room and she turned around quickly.
   
    Harry and Ron were standing at the window, leaning out.
   
    “Can we join you?” Harry asked with a smile, knocking on the window frame.
   
    “I suppose,” she said, suddenly filled with anticipation, her voice quavering.
   
    The boys climbed over the sill and shuffled down the slope of the roof to sit next to her. She took a deep breath, giving them both looks, waiting for one of them to say something.
   
    “Well,” Ron began, overly exuberant, “I guess congratulations are in order!”
   
    Hermione made a sound that was somewhere between a sigh and a humph and then playfully slapped him on the shoulder. She couldn’t help breathe a sigh of relief, though. At least now she knew they weren’t going to be all emotional with her.
   
    “Merlin, Hermione,” Harry began, shifting so that he faced her, “things really can change on you quickly.”
   
    “Yeah, tell me about it,” Hermione replied sarcastically, rolling her eyes.
   
    “Are you happy?” Ron asked, looking at her in a way that quite unnerved her.
   
    “I’m not unhappy,” she said after some time, avoiding looking either of them in the eye. “I’m… overwhelmed, I suppose you would say. A bit confused as to my feelings on the subject.”
   
    “I don’t think anyone can blame you for that,” Harry said with a laugh.
   
    “Yeah, not really, right? I mean, one day I wake up pregnant and still a virgin! How is it that I am the one that happens to?”
   
    “So you’re, you’re still…” Ron began uncertainly.
   
    “A virgin?” Hermione questioned. “Yeah… A bit ironic, isn’t it?”
   
    “More than a bit.” Harry laughed.
   
    “Yeah, well, I guess that will just be another thing I’ll go down in the history books for,” Hermione said, leaning back on her palms.
   
    “I always said you’d be in history books,” Ron replied. “You’re name will just be one of hundreds that future Hogwarts students will have to remember to pass their OWLs… Poor kids.”
   
    “Maybe Hermione’s baby will be reading up about her during Charms in another thirteen years or so,” Harry added, Ron laughing loudly.
   
    “Oh my god,” Hermione said in shock.
   
    “What?” they both asked in unison, more alarmed than usual at her outburst.
   
    “I just realized: my baby is going to be famous. It will be like Harry! Never let alone, always whispered about and gossiped about in the halls! I’ll be its freaky mother who was the only one in a million years to have some ancient spell actually work on her. We’ll be a freak show!”
   
    She suddenly raised her hands to both sides of her head, her forehead wrinkled in worry.
   
    “Hermione, come on,” Ron began consolingly, “Your baby is not going to be a freak. At least not as big a one as Harry.”
   
    “Hey!”
   
    “You know it’s true!”
   
    “Yeah… you’re probably right.”
   
    “But what if they do have to read about me in Charms? That’s mortifying for a child!”
   
    “Well, first of all, I doubt they’ll be learning about stuff like this… We never did,” Harry began reassuringly, “And, second of all, would it really be that bad?”
   
    “Of course it would be that bad!” Hermione said, her voice rising higher. “Can you imagine having your whole class read about how your mother got pregnant with you, not the normal way, but by some ancient magic spell? Having them know that she had you when she was seventeen and that you didn’t have a father?”
   
    Hermione swallowed hard. A lump had formed in her throat as she spewed out all her worries.
   
    “I keep telling myself that I don’t have any reason to be embarrassed,” she continued in a whisper, “but I still feel like I do. Like it’s a dishonorable thing that I’m pregnant. I mean… my baby won’t have a father and despite the fact that I didn’t get ‘knocked up’, it still feels bad that I’m going to be raising it alone.”
   
    By the time she finished talking, her lip was shaking and she was clenching her teeth so as not to cry.
   
    “Merlin, Hermione,” Ron began, his eyebrows knitted in concern, “Me and Harry will be the baby’s dads. You don’t have to do this alone.”
   
    “Oh, Ron!” Hermione said, finally breaking down and hugging him.
   
    “Yeah, Hermione,” Harry said, patting her knee, “don’t even worry about it. Did you really think we’d abandon you in this?”
   
    “Well, I don’t know…” she sniffled, “I didn’t think you’d want to have a baby around all the time. It’s not like it’s going to be any fun.”
   
    “Don’t be stupid!” Ron said, exasperated. “We wouldn’t just stop being your friend because you had a baby to take care of! That’s ridiculous!”
   
    “I know,” Hermione said, looking down and smiling to herself, “I guess it was pretty ridiculous of me… I just wasn’t thinking. But thank you, guys. I appreciate you being here so much.”
   
    She hugged them both and they rolled their eyes at her sentimentality.
   
    “Yeah, well, we’ll be there for anything you need,” Harry said. “We’ll even be there in the delivery room if you need us!”
   
    “Well, I don’t expect that,” Hermione said, shocked at his offer. “Especially Ron… Aren’t you a bit squeamish around blood?”
   
     “Yeah, I might skip out on that part…” Ron replied.
   
    “I don’t think I’m going to need that much help though,” Hermione said, “throughout the rest of the pregnancy, I mean.”
   
    “Well, you’ll be the Head Girl so you’re going to have your private dorm. That’ll be nice, right? No Lavender or Parvati poking around and getting in your business,” Harry added.
   
    “Yeah,” said Hermione, suddenly morose, “but I don’t know who the Head Boy is yet and I’ll be having to share the dorm with him. Don’t you think Dumbledore would have told you by now if it was one of you?”
   
    “I would have thought he would have,” Ron said angrily. “How can he put someone else in the position when he knows about this?” He gestured to Hermione’s stomach emphatically.
   
    “Well, if it’s not one of you, then the next best thing would be Ernie, I suppose,” Hermione continued.
   
    “I guess,” spat Ron, still upset.
   
    “As long as it’s not a Slytherin then we’re fine,” said Harry.
   
    “I don’t think there’s much chance of that,” Hermione said thoughtfully. “There’s really only Malfoy or Zabini. I doubt Dumbledore would pick either, knowing my past history with both of them.”
   
    “He’d better not,” Ron threatened sharing an odd glance with Harry.
   
    “I’m sure it will end up alright,” Hermione said, getting up from her spot on the roof, “I trust Dumbledore – He wouldn’t choose someone who wasn’t right for the job.”

* * *


   
        Unfortunately for Hermione, Albus Dumbledore had a very different idea of what made a person “right for the job.”
   
    As he left the Burrow that evening, repeatedly declining Mrs. Weasley’s invitation to stay for dinner, he made a spur-of-the-moment decision to pay a call on a certain other Hogwarts student.
   
    Ever since Hermione had visited him in his office a few nights previous, he had been stewing over the decision he knew he would sooner or later have to make: who was to be named Head Boy.
   
    Of course, there were the obvious names in mind – Harry, Ron, Ernie – but something in his gut told him that none of these were right.
   
    Dumbledore had never before admitted it, but there was a certain factor to picking the Head Boy and Girl that was completely separate from their various academic and leadership capabilities and, in some ways, more important. This factor happened to be chemistry, and without it, Dumbledore knew the Head Boy and Girl would simply not work.
 
    The trick to this whole problem was actually pinpointing what exactly gave a couple chemistry.

    Dumbledore could never give a name to what exactly he was looking for; he usually just knew when he saw it. And right now, he knew that Hermione Granger and either of her two best friends was not what he was looking for. 

    He had, of course, second-guessed himself upon coming to this conclusion. Appointing either Harry or Ron to the position did seem like the obvious decision – especially considering Hermione’s current predicament – but, in the end, he stood firmly by his first decision that they were not the ones for the job.

    Now he did have to admit, as he walked steadily down the cobblestone streets towards the second student’s home, that it did sound utterly preposterous to appoint this boy over Potter or Weasley. For one, he and Miss Granger had never gotten along. One might even venture to say that they were, at times, outright hostile to one another.

    Then why is it that I can’t seem to completely disregard him? Why do I have it stuck in my mind that he’s the one for the job?

   
    He had reached the house he had been looking for now, and he raised his wand arm to gain admittance through the gate.
   
    “Of course, you’ll have to guide and even, perhaps, choose.”

   
    Astrid’s words floated through his mind as he strode up the house’s sloping drive. Yes, in Hermione’s case he was the one to choose… there was no denying that. Of course, it wasn’t set in stone that his choice would end up being the one. But proximity often ruled supreme in situations such as theirs…  
   
    How am I to make a decision as important as this? I can’t be the one responsible for this girl’s future! And this boy’s!

   
    He had reached the front door now, and as these last few harried thoughts passed through his head, he knocked thrice upon the broad oak door.
   
    I will just see how this meeting goes… how he receives the information. I must be upfront with him – he has to know the truth.
   
    “Headmaster,” a startled voice rang out as the door opened to reveal Albus Dumbledore standing upon the stoop.
   
    “Good evening, Draco,” Dumbledore said with a feeble smile. “Would you mind letting me in? There are a few things we need to discuss.” 

    ~*~

A/N: Please leave a review! Getting reviews (both positive and negative) is my real motivation for writing. Anything you have to say is appreciated. Thanks! :]



Chapter 7: Dumbledore's Surprise
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~*~




Two Weeks Later…




    Uhhh… too early, Hermione thought weakly as she waved her arm around wildly at the end table next to her bed, trying desperately to hit the trilling alarm clock. Rubbing her eyes vigorously she threw off the duvet and swung her legs over the side of the bed, sighing with the prospect of having to get herself ready.
   
    She could already hear commotion coming from the downstairs and a faint smell of coffee and sausage met her nose, telling her that breakfast was already in the works.
   
    She shuffled across the wooden floor of Ginny’s room towards her trunk and noticed that her roommate’s bed was vacant already. Of course, she just couldn’t wake me because I’m delicate now and need my rest, she thought with a touch of contempt.
   
    Throwing open the trunk’s heavy lid, she pulled out a thick knitted sweater and a pair of jeans. She studied her profile with scrutiny as she pulled the clothes on, making very sure that the small bulge in her lower stomach was completely concealed.
   
    “Oi! Stop admiring yourself, we’re going to be late,” Ginny said as she stormed through the door. “Not that that was unexpected…”
   
    “I’m not admiring myself!” Hermione said in defense. “Just… tell me, can you notice my stomach through this sweater?”
   
    “I don’t notice anything different about your stomach when you’re wearing a tank top!” Ginny said, laughing at Hermione’s concern. “Honestly, your supposed ‘stomach’ must be just a figment of your imagination because no one else can see it!”
   
    “No it’s not. I should know, shouldn’t I?” Hermione replied tersely.
   
    “Whatever you say… Have you seen my blue scarf?” she asked, throwing various articles of clothing madly around.
   
    “No, but-”
   
    “BREAKFAST’S READY!” came Mrs. Weasley’s hollering voice, reverberating throughout the house.
   
    “Thank Merlin, I’m starving,” Ginny said, forgetting her search a skipping towards the door.
   
    Hermione sighed and followed her lead down the stairs and into the warm, buzzing kitchen.
   
    Harry and Ron were already shoveling food into their mouths when Hermione joined them at the end of the table.
   
    “Hermione,” Harry began after swallowing a massive amount of food and following it with a swig of orange juice, “have you heard any word from Dumbledore?”
   
    “Um, no,” Hermione said, unsure what Harry was expecting from her.
   
    “You know,” said Ron thickly through a mouthful of scrambled egg, “about who’s Head Boy.”
   
    “Oh,” Hermione said, her eyes wide, “no… Dumbledore hasn’t said anything to me.”
   
    Harry and Ron exchanged looks with each other that Hermione couldn’t quite read. She personally wasn’t keen to get into the topic with the two of them for she had a pretty accurate suspicion that if Dumbledore hadn’t contacted them, that meant that neither one was Head Boy. Honestly, she didn’t have a clue as to who would be a better pick for the job, but clearly Dumbledore had thought someone was.
   
    “You two should stop worrying about it,” said Ginny suddenly, plopping herself down next to Harry. “It’s not going to be a big deal if someone else is Head Boy. Sure they’ll have to share a common room, but Hermione’s going to spend all her time in Gryffindor’s anyhow.”
   
    “But, why would Dumbledore do it?” Harry asked, clearly irked.
   
    “I dunno,” Ginny replied nonchalantly. “He has his reasons I suppose.”
   
    “Well it’s bloody ridiculous, if you ask me!” Ron piped in after managing to swallow a whole sausage link.
   
    “No one asked you…” Ginny mumbled under her breath. Ron ignored her.
   
    “I mean, who would be better for the position? Especially when Hermione’s like this?” he continued.
   
    “Usually, the Headmaster doesn’t pick two students from the same house,” Hermione added. “And you would know that if you had read Hogwarts: A History.”
   
    “What about my parents?” Harry asked indignantly. “They were Head Boy and Girl and they were both from Gryffindor!”
   
    “Well, obviously there are always exceptions…”
   
    “I just don’t understand Dumbledore. He makes no bloody sense!” Ron shouted obstinately.
   
    “Yes, well, I have to finish packing,” Hermione said, wiping her mouth and gathering up her plate and glass, happy to have a reason to get away from this particular conversation.
   
    At the sink Mrs. Weasley was organizing a mad procession of dishwashing with the tip of her wand.
   
    “Just put it there next to the serving dish, Hermione dear,” she said somewhat agitatedly. “Oh, wait, don’t go so fast, I have something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”
   
    “Oh? What is it?” Hermione asked.
   
    “I just wanted to make sure that you know that Arthur and I will do anything to help you once the baby comes,” she said looking her straight in the eye. “Even if you want to come and stay here for a month or two while the baby is still young, we would be more than thrilled to have you.”
   
    “Oh,” said Hermione, quite thrown off-guard. “Well, thank you so much, it really means a lot to me, but I don’t plan on leaving school once I have the baby.”
   
     “But, dear,” Mrs. Weasley began, her eyebrows crinkling in worry. “You’ll never be able to manage a newborn and your schoolwork all at once. It’s too much! You must let me help you – I could even come to Hogwarts!”
   
    “Honestly, I appreciate the offer, but I just can’t think about any of that right now. I know I’m going to need help, and I am so grateful to you for offering it, but I can’t make any final decisions about it now. It’s too early.”
   
    “Alright, dear, I understand… But promise me you’ll think about it!”   
   
    “Of course! Thank you.”
   
    “Not at all, dear. No go and finish packing! I want to head out by 10:00!”
   
    Hermione nodded and walked back up the stairs to Ginny’s bedroom. Most of her things were already nestled orderly within her trunk, but there were a few odds and ends about the room that needed to be found and packed away.
   
    As she was carefully stacking up a jumbled pile of spellbooks into her arms, a bubbly Fleur entered the room. Ever since the start of her pregnancy, she had been simply beside herself with giddiness and tranquility. Frankly, it made Hermione just a little bit sick.
   
    “Oh, ‘Ermione,” Fleur said in her usual throaty manner, “I am so sad to see you go!”
   
    “Oh, well, yes, I’m going to miss you too, Fleur,” Hermione said, standing up to receive her hug.
   
    “Our babies will be born around the same time, yes?” Fleur asked, beaming and putting a hand on Hermione’s stomach.
   
    “About a month apart I think,” Hermione said uncomfortably. It was so odd having people think it was quite fine to just reach out and grope your stomach.
   
    “Eet would be so fun to be pregnant together! But you have to be off at school…” Fleur said, pouting her lips.
   
    “Yes, well, it is a shame…”
   
    “So, I have gotten you a little gift!” Fleur exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear. She hurried over to the door and picked up a box just out of Hermione’s sight.
   
    “Oh, you really didn’t have to!” Hermione exclaimed as Fleur handed her the gift. “I mean, I haven’t gotten you anything.”
   
    “Psh, no matter. Open eet!” Fleur responded excitedly.
   
    Hermione sighed and then slowly began to remove the pastel paper. Inside the box was a lot of shimmering tissue paper and then…
   
    “Eet’s a camera!” Fleur said with giddy. “So you can take pictures of you and the baby!”
   
    “Oh! Thank you so much, Fleur,” Hermione said, surprised by the thoughtfulness of the gift. “Really, this is excellent.”
   
    “You are welcome,” Fleur answered, beaming happily. “Be sure to send us all pictures!”
   
    “I will, most definitely.”
   
    Suddenly Harry and Ron barged into the room announcing that they were leaving in ten minutes.
   
    “Is Ginny’s stuff packed?” Harry asked.
   
    “Uh, yeah, I think so. Just let me put these last few things in mine and then I’ll be done.”
   
    She placed the spellbooks and a last few items of clothing on top of the rest of her things and then fastened the lid closed.

    As she walked out of the Burrow for the last time that summer, she tucked the camera safely in her bag. She couldn’t help but think, When I come back here next, I’ll be the size of a whale! 
 

***




    “Hurry up, you lot! We’ve only got two minutes!” Mrs. Weasley yelled behind her as they hurried through King’s Cross.

    One by one they charged at the solid brick barrier between platforms nine and ten, pushing through the magical divide to Platform 9 3/4.

    Mr. and Mrs. Weasley said their last goodbyes as quickly as possible seeing as the scarlet train was spouting huge amounts of steam in preparation to head off.

    “Hermione, dear, please write!” Mrs. Weasley said emphatically one last time as she clutched Hermione into a tight embrace, “We want to hear how you’re doing from you, not from Dumbledore.” 

    “I’ll try to write as often as I can,” she tried to reassure, glancing back at the steam engine to make sure it wasn’t setting out yet.

    “And you’ll consider my offer?” Mrs. Weasley asked, holding onto both of her arms until she got an answer.

    “Yes, I promise,” Hermione said.

    “Well, alright dear, you better go… Hurry now! The train’s heading off!”
Hermione waved to them one last time and then jumped onto the train where Harry, Ron and Ginny were waiting.

    Last goodbye on Platform 9 3/4, she thought to herself. How different she was now, heading off to her seventh year, from back when she was heading off to her first.
   
    Parentless, pregnant and sevens years older…
   
    The train ride seemed to fly by unusually quickly, probably because of Hermione’s desire to savor it.
   
    Harry, Ron and Ginny kept mostly quiet, but Hermione could sense the tension from their conversation earlier that morning. She knew she hadn’t deferred it completely and, based solely upon the extreme shade of red of Ron’s face that morning at the breakfast table, she knew the two of them were bound to bring it up shortly.
   
    As if on cue, Ron looked up from the game of wizard’s chess he was playing with Harry (a feat, in itself, miraculous) and opened his mouth to pester Hermione again.

    “I know what you’re going to say, Ron, but I have nothing to tell you,” she said, after meeting his glance over her copy of The Daily Prophet.

    “How could you possibly know what I am going to say?” Ron asked, surprised.

    “I know how you think,” Hermione replied simply.

    “Well, you don’t know me that well, because I was only going to ask you about…er what you’re reading in the Prophet.” He raised his eyebrows smugly at her.

    “Oh, really?” she said. “You paused your chess game just to ask me that?”

    “Well, you were being awfully quiet – ”

    “You were going to ask me about the Head Boy and you know it,” she cut in.

    “Well, Hermione, how am I supposed to not?” he gave in, outraged.

    “I don’t know anything, Ron. I don’t know how many more times I can tell you this.”

    “How could Dumbledore have not told you?” he pressed on.

    “I don’t know… Dumbledore obviously isn’t the most predictable person.”

    “You must have your suspicions on who it is!” he continued.

    “No… not really,” she said, putting the paper in front of her face.

    “If it’s Ernie…” Ron said threateningly.

    “Oh, it can’t be Ernie,” spoke up Ginny from her corner. “I’m pretty sure I have a good idea who it must be.”

    “Well, spit it out then,” snapped Ron. Hermione shot Ginny a shut-up-now sort of look.

    “It’s obvious isn’t it?” said Ginny absent-mindedly, ignoring Hermione’s glare, “It’s Malfoy.”

    Ron pounded his fist on the chessboard sending the marble pieces scurrying away and shouting in anger.

    “Ron!” Hermione screamed in surprise.

    “If it’s him I swear – I swear I’ll – ”

    “You swear you’ll do what? Stutter at him?” Ginny asked maliciously from her corner.
Ron got up, his face burning the color of a hot coal for the second time that day, and stormed out of the compartment. The sliding glass door vibrated violently after he slammed it shut behind him.

    “Don’t worry over him, Hermione,” Ginny said emotionlessly, obviously used to her brother’s outbursts of rage. “He won’t do anything even if he wants to.”
   
    “Do you really think it’s Malfoy?” Hermione asked, looking her friend straight in the eye.

    Ginny sighed and looked at her with an expression that said, “well, isn’t it obvious?”
 
    Hermione exhaled deeply and raised her eyes upward in exasperation.

    This was going to be an eventful year.


* * *




    “Firs’ years! This way firs’ years!” called a familiar voice on the train platform in Hogsmeade.

    Throngs of Hogwarts students bustled about the platform, now clad in their black school robes for the welcome back feast.

    Hermione was busy rolling her trunk along the stone platform, carrying Crookshanks’ whicker basket in the crook of her arm, when she heard her name being called after her in a booming voice.

    “’Ermione!”

    She turned to see Hagrid wading through the see of alarmed students toward her.

    “Oh, ‘Ermione, I’m happy to see yeh!” he said tearfully, leaning down to pull her into a bone-crunching embrace.

    “Oh! Hagrid, please, be careful!” she said, somewhat frightened as she felt her stomach contract.

    “I’m sorry!” he said suddenly, pulling back in panic.

    “It’s alright,” she said giving him a warm smile. “Don’t you have to get along with the first years?”

    “Righ’, Righ’,” he said looking around at the nervous little first years standing around him uncertainly. “I’ve just go’ to give you this firs’…”

    He reached inside one of the many outer pockets of his moleskin overcoat and pulled out a small, folded piece of parchment from within.

    “This is from the Headmaster,” he said with a wink.

    “Oh, right. Thanks, Hagrid!” she said, picking up her things again.
He waved her goodbye and then proceeded with the timid first years down to the water’s edge where they would make the journey by boat into Hogwarts.

    Up at the castle, Hermione joined her friends at Gryffindor’s long table in the Great Hall. Ron was still visibly fuming, and right when Hermione was about to scold him for being a baby, she followed his line of vision.

    Draco Malfoy, tall, blonde and as prideful as ever, had just walked into the hall surrounded by his usual pack. Hermione watched him with more scrutiny than she usually doled out in his presence. In the back of her mind lurked the thought, and here is the prat Dumbledore has decided to pair me with for the rest of the year.

    Malfoy walked with the regal grace of a prince although Hermione knew he was far from it. Towards the end of the war, the remaining Malfoys – that is Draco and his mother Narcissa – had sought out Dumbledore for refuge and forgiveness.
   
    Supposedly, according to gossip spread throughout the Order, Draco and his mother had no further desire to remain loyal to Voldemort after Lucius’ demise and thus went to Dumbledore for protection.

    Hermione wasn’t entirely sure how much of the story she should believe for different sources tended to say different things. She had heard versions ranging from Malfoy taking an Unbreakable Vow with Dumbledore to Malfoy severing off his wand hand to show his committal to the Order.

    She hadn’t really believed the latter to begin with, but now she could see in person that it was not true. Malfoy was in full possession of all limbs and appendages. Hermione also noticed that his attitude certainly hadn’t changed either. His countenance was fiercely impassive and his posture positively aristocratic. His lips however, displayed a hint of his usual trademark smirk, and Hermione didn’t know if she was imagining it, but she thought she saw a shadow of a wink sent in her direction as he walked by.

    The welcome feast went by without much ado, and soon enough, Hermione found herself standing up with the rest of the crowd, preparing to exit the Great Hall. It was then that she remembered the note from Dumbledore that was now stuffed inside one of the pockets of her robes. Quickly extracting it, she tapped it with her wand to unseal it and read the short message.

    Miss Granger -
   
    Please meet me in my office after the feast for an introduction to the new Head Boy and a tour of your new living quarters.

   

    Making a sharp turn, she changed her course from going up with the rest of the Gryffindors to Gryffindor tower, to heading in the direction of the Headmaster’s office on the seventh floor.

    It wasn’t long before she heard a rustling coming from an upcoming tapestry as she walked along a corridor on the sixth floor, and saw Draco Malfoy’s blond head duck out from behind it.

    Her heart felt like a piece of lead, weighing her down as she watched him climb out from behind the tapestry and continue walking down the corridor maybe twenty yards in front of her.

    It has to be true then, she thought anxiously, fixing her eyes upon his silvery blond head. Why else would he be walking here at this time if Dumbledore hadn’t given him an identical note?

    Her thoughts were laced with fury as her anger towards Dumbledore built.

    “What are you doing here, Malfoy?” she called out, trying to sound cool and calm, but knowing that her anger had easily slipped into her tone of voice.

    Draco halted his steps and cocked an eyebrow in interest before turning around to face her.

    “Well, well, well,” he said with a smirk. “Fancy seeing you here, Granger.”

    “Oh, ha-ha,” she said mockingly, “You know perfectly well why I’m here.”

    “Do I?” he said, not willing to play her game.

    “Don’t pretend that you don’t,” she said contemptuously as she walked forward to where he was standing. “You’re going to see Dumbledore.”

    Draco looked down at her with an odd sort of expression on his face.

    “Do you ever get anything wrong, Granger?” he asked her in a tone that she knew was mocking.

    “No, as a matter of fact, I don’t,” she replied back with sarcasm dripping from her every syllable.

    Draco turned to walk now and Hermione had no choice but to follow; it would be odd, after all, to not considering she now knew they were heading for the same destination.

    “So, Hermione ‘goody-goody’ Granger is made Head Girl,” Draco mused aloud, “No surprises there…”

    “Yeah, and Draco “arsehole” Malfoy is made Head Boy,” mimicked Hermione,
   
    “Wait… quite a big surprise there.”

    “You’re funny, Granger,” said Malfoy, his mouth twitching with something he was clearly dying to say.

    “Wish I could say the same for you, Malfoy,” she replied, relieved that the stone griffin guarding the entrance to Dumbledore’s office was now in view.

    “Well, you know,” he said, slowing down as they neared the tall statue and tapping it with his wand so that it sprang to life and began circling steadily upwards, “I expected you to be a bit more moody and out of sorts. Pregnancy, I’ve heard, can do that to some people.”

    He narrowed his eyes a bit and gave her a full-fledged toothy grin before stepping onto the ascending steps and disappearing from view.

    Hermione’s eyes felt like they just might bulge out of their sockets.

    Taking a deep shuddering breath and pinching her eyes tightly closed, she stepped onto the stairs in Malfoy’s wake.



~*~

A/N: Thanks for reading the chapter! Now, it would be simply amazing if you would take a few more minutes to leave me a review so I can hear what you think... Getting your feedback really helps me come up with new ideas to put into my stories and keep you entertained! :]



Chapter 8: Not So Pleasant Goodnights
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1 minute later...




    Hermione stormed angrily through the polished oak door leading to Dumbledore’s office, ready to blow a gasket, only to find Malfoy and Dumbledore sitting calmly, having a cup of tea. 
  
   “Professor!” she shouted, thoroughly incensed that they were being so docile. “What is the meaning of this?”
   
    Malfoy snorted a little bit as he took a sip of tea, reveling in Hermione’s hysteria.
   
    Hermione just glared at him.
   
    “I’m sorry, Miss Granger,” said Dumbledore, a look of amused bewilderment playing across his features, “I’m not sure as to what you are referring.”
   
    “This!” said Hermione, forgetting all proper decorum when speaking to her professor and waving her hand animatedly in Malfoy’s direction, “Why is he here? And why does he know?”
   
    “Mr. Malfoy?” asked Dumbledore politely. “Well, I thought you would have guessed by now, but he is Head Boy.”
   
    “I know he is Head Boy,” Hermione growled, angry with everyone for treating her like a dimwit. “My question is, why is he Head Boy, Headmaster?”
   
    “Well, I believed him to be the best one for the job,” said Dumbledore simply. “Won’t you have a seat, Miss Granger?”
   
    Hermione took a few deep breaths and strode over to the chair next to Malfoy, plopping herself into it and strictly avoiding making eye contact with him.
   
    “Professor,” she began when no one else said anything, “Please explain to me why Malfoy here seems to be privy to all the little details of my private life.”
   
    “Ah, I see what you’re getting at,” the Headmaster said, his eyes twinkling, “But Miss Granger, it could not be avoided.”
   
    “Of course it could be avoided!” Hermione said, her voice very shrill. “One option could have been… Oh, I don’t know, how about not appoint him as Head Boy!”
   
    “Miss Granger, you and Mr. Malfoy were set in my mind as Head Boy and Girl since last May. I did not make this decision based on your situation.”
   
    “But, shouldn’t it have come into account?” Hermione asked, suddenly teary-eyed. “Harry or Ron would have been perfect!”
   
    “I’ll thank you to not compare me to Weasel and Scarhead,” Draco drawled sardonically.
   
    “You should consider yourself lucky to be compared to them! They’re twice the amount of man you are,” Hermione snapped.
   
    “Mr. Malfoy, Miss Granger, please,” said Dumbledore raising his hands before Draco could let out a retort, “I am not about to change my mind now about this matter, so you can both save your breath trying to convince me otherwise. You two were my first choices for Head Boy and Girl and I hope you can prove to me that you are worthy of my decision.
   
    “I am very much aware that you are not the best of friends, but frankly I think the both of you are above letting that interfere with the job you have before you.”
   
    Hermione looked angrily down at the ground.
   
    How could Malfoy have been his first choice? What about Harry? Harry has always been Dumbledore’s favorite, why wouldn’t he have picked him?
   
    “On another note, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore spoke pointedly, causing Hermione to raise her head to meet his gaze, “The disillusionment charm I will be placing upon your stomach will not be able to work continuously throughout the day; by nightfall it will have worn off and, therefore, I think it wise that Mr. Malfoy knows of your condition. It will make it easier on the both of you.”
   
    “A disillusionment charm?” Hermione asked, piqued, “But you won’t be able to recast it every morning, and I won’t be able to cast it upon myself –”
   
    “Another benefit of Mr. Malfoy’s awareness,” Dumbledore said with a smile. “Once the charm becomes necessary – in another few weeks I should think – then I will teach Mr. Malfoy how to properly cast it so that he will be able to do it for you every morning.”
   
    “I am going to be relying on him to perform the charm?” Hermione asked, mouth agape.
   
    “Mr. Malfoy has every incentive to remain accountable, I assure you.”
   
    Hermione looked dubiously over at Malfoy, who sat gracefully slumped in his chair, looking thoroughly bored.
   
    “What, Granger?” he asked, catching her eye, “I’m not going to forget on purpose, for Merlin’s sake. What reason would I have to do that?”
   
    “Oh, I don’t know, perhaps the fact that you’ve hated me for the last six years we’ve known each other, and have made that fact known to me on several memorable occasions.”
   
    “Yeah, well, despite that fact, I’m not about to throw away my title just to expose you,” Malfoy said with a sneer.
   
    “I assure you, Miss Granger, Mr. Malfoy has every reason to keep your secret,” Dumbledore said, glancing between the two of them.
   
    Hermione sat with her arms crossed for a moment longer, her eyes closed to control her thoughts.
   
    It wasn’t any use anymore to be angry, but she couldn’t shake the feelings of utter abandonment and disappointment that Dumbledore had not confided in her and had disregarded her sense of safety in her current condition. Why had he thought of Malfoy in the first place? It made little to no sense that Harry was not his first pick, but Malfoy as the alternative? That was utterly absurd.
   
    Realizing that they were now all sitting in silence, apparently waiting for her to speak, she looked up.
   
    “Well, I don’t know what else I’m supposed to say here. The damage is done, I suppose,” she said, not fighting to hide the hint of contempt in her voice. “Is there anything else you wished to speak to us about, Professor?”
   
    “No, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said, almost sadly, “There was nothing else, except – ah! I almost forgot: I have to show you your rooms.”
   
    The old man stood up with surprising agility and walked toward the fireplace.
   
    “Come along,” he said, happy to put an end to the dismal subject they had been formerly discussing.
   
    Hermione and Draco stood up warily. Neither of them were much looking forward to seeing the rooms they would now be occupying… side by side with one another.
   
    Dumbledore pinched a bit of Floo powder from the carved wooden box atop his mantle and threw it into the waning flames. They burst into green and he stepped into them, shouting ‘Head Dormitory’.
   
    Hermione and Draco followed and found themselves in a pleasant enough common room, decked out in both Gryffindor and Slytherin colors.
   
    “And here it is,” Dumbledore said dramatically, “the ever-popular Head common room. I hope it suits your needs.”
   
    “Yes, it’s lovely,” said Hermione, for the first time that evening, giving him a smile.
   
    “It’s adequate,” Draco said looking down his nose at the various furnishings.
   
    Hermione shot him a glare.
   
    “Right, right,” said Dumbledore with a chuckle at the Heads’ reactions, “Well, your bedrooms are up the stairs and on either side of the landing. Hermione, you are on the left, Draco, the right.”
   
    “Thank you, Professor,” Hermione said, keen to leave the both of them and go up to her room.

    “Well, I’ll leave you be. Please remember that the patrol schedules need deciding and I would also suggest that you determine a weekly time when the both of you have a Head meeting – make sure you’re on the same page with everything,” Dumbledore said with a wink.
   
    “Yes, we’ll get right on that,” Draco said, the Headmaster didn’t catch the sarcasm in his voice as he stepped into the green flames again and disappeared from the common room.
   
    “Right, well, Malfoy, although I assure you this evening has been fun, I think I’ll retreat to my room now,” Hermione said the moment she found herself alone with the boy.
   
    “Oh, of course, Granger,” Draco said with feigned concern, “We wouldn’t want your poor pregnant bones standing for too long.”
   
    “I’ll thank you to stop with all this pregnant stuff,” Hermione snapped back at him. “I don’t need that from you on top of everything else. And I don’t need your false pity. ”
   
    “Well, sorry for caring! I’ll be sure not to do that in the future – ”
   
    “Don’t even give me that, Malfoy! Don’t try to pull off your disguised taunting as actually being concerned with my wellbeing. I won’t fall for it.” 
   
    “You know, I think you’ve become even wittier now that you’re pregnant,” Draco said whilst smirking.
   
    “Stop it! If I hear the P-word come out of your mouth one more time – ”
   
    “Merlin, will you calm down?” Malfoy asked with exasperation. “I mean, I know you’re preg – ”
   
    Hermione charged at him, pummeling her fists into his chest and pushing him over the back of the sofa.

    Draco had seemed mildly amused when she had lunged for him, but now that he was being tackled and beaten he couldn’t deny feeling slightly incensed.

    “Oi, get off me, Granger!” he bellowed, trying to grab her flying fists and still manage to not topple over the sofa.

    “I warned you, ferret! You just don’t – seem – to – take – me – seriously,” she said, punctuating each word with the landing of her fist on his chest.

    “Alright, alright, I won’t say it!” he yelled.

    Unfortunately, it was too late. For at that moment, Hermione chose to kick him straight in the knee, causing him to lose his footing and topple dramatically over the edge of the sofa…
   
    Pulling Hermione with him.
   
    “Malfoy!” she screamed furiously, spitting out the hair that was trapped in her mouth and trying to right herself again.
   
    “I said ‘alright’, woman! What else do you want from me?” Draco asked, straightening his clothes and massaging his kicked knee as he stood up.
   
    She let out a groan of frustration, waving her arms around madly as she tried to disentangle herself from the cushions.
   
    “Here,” Draco said begrudgingly, reaching down his hand to pull her out. “Don’t say I never do anything to help you, Granger.”
   
    Hermione glared at him as he pulled her up.
   
    “Yeah, thanks,” she said shortly.
   
    “You are ever-so-welcome.”
   
    Hermione took a deep breath to hold back another sarcastic retort.
   
    “I’m going to bed now before you get the chance to say anything else to provoke me,” she said, trying to project an image of dignity.
   
    “Sounds wonderful. I’ll just go upstairs and fix myself a pain-relieving potion so I can go to sleep,” he said dramatically whilst rubbing his chest.
   
    “Do whatever you like,” she said indifferently as she walked up the stairs, “I’m going to bed.”
   
    “Yes well I suggest you ponder your complete lack of maternal instincts when you think over the pain you’ve inflicted on me tonight,” he called after her retreating form. 
   
    “Bloody wench,” he mumbled to himself after her door slammed, “It’s not my fault she got herself knocked up by some dying woman...” 



~*~

A/N: Hope you enjoyed this rather small installment, there is more to come. Please leave a review now that you've finished reading. Any thoughts are much appreciated!



Chapter 9: A Close Call
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The next day…



    “Uhhh,” Hermione moaned as the trill of her alarm clock resounded off the walls of her new bedroom.
    She clenched her eyes for a moment, sat up and banged her hand against the obnoxious bells.
    As usual, her stomach seemed to churn with morning sickness as she slid out of her warm, comfortable bed and headed over to the bathroom.
    “Looking lovely, darling,” she said to herself with a grimace as she examined her pallid reflection in the mirror.
    Her eyes sported extremely attractive dark circles beneath them on account of not being able to get to sleep at a decent hour the night before.
    Sighing in resignation, she looked away from the mirror and walked over to the freestanding bathtub sitting in the middle of the room. She turned the taps all the way and a burst of rose-scented water came shooting forward, bubbling and steaming appealingly as it hit the bottom of the tub.
    She walked back over to the sink again as the tub slowly filled with its aromatic bubbles. As she reached for her toothbrush, she hunched over as a new wave of nausea hit her.
    Merlin almighty! When will this morning sickness go away? Haven’t I bloody suffered enough?
    As if on cue, she dropped the brush and dashed to the toilet as the nausea became insuppressible.
    As she heaved the meager contents of her stomach into the toilet bowl, she thought, What a charming way to start the first day of my seventh year: not only pregnant, but pregnant and barfing!

* * *



   
    What is that god-awful noise!
    Draco Malfoy awoke with a start as the sound of screeching pipes echoed around his room.
    “Bloody Granger,” he mumbled, throwing off his sheets in one fluid movement and throwing his legs over the side of the bed.
    He sat there with his elbows on his knees, he head in his hands, for a few moments as he fully woke up. Finally, he stood, stretching his arms above him and scratching his stomach before sauntering off to the bathroom.
    “Well, hello,” he said arrogantly as he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror. He ran a hand through his hair, and fluxed his biceps for a moment in pure self-indulgence.
    Tearing himself away from the mirror, he walked over to the shower, reached a hand in and turned the taps so that steaming hot water fell like rain from the showerhead.
    Pulling his arm out, he tucked two thumbs under the waistband of his shorts and pulled them straight off.
    It was at this moment, standing stark naked with only one foot still inside his boxers, that Draco Malfoy heard a intriguing noise coming from the other side of the wall.
    He kicked them aside and walked over to the wall, cupping his hand around his ear and putting his head to the wall.
    Oh, Merlin, it’s Granger retching!  He realized suddenly, jumping away from the wall.
    He looked at the wall with contempt as he walked back over to the shower as though he blamed it for allowing him to listen to the fruits of Hermione’s morning sickness.
    Bloody hell, he thought as he stepped beneath the jet of water, that is something I did not need to hear… She needs to learn to keep her bloody morning sickness to herself, Merlin.
    Draco reached for the bar of pearly white soap and began to rub it all over, creating a fluffy white lather.
    Of course, I’m not going to be able to avoid her what with Dumbledore on my case… How he thinks she’s not going to notice I don’t bloody know. I reckon she’ll catch on in about two hours… She’ll be on my case about it by tonight, no doubt … and she’ll be a bloody pain about it too; I can see it coming already.
   
* * *




    Hermione grabbed her heavy-laden book-bag as she hurried out of her bedroom door. She skipped down the stairs, pulling her wild curls up into a ponytail at the top of her head.
    “Running late to breakfast are we, Head Girl?” came a drawling voice from the sitting room as Hermione flew past.
    “No, Malfoy,” Hermione replied snidely as she halted before the portrait hole, “I’m just running for the fun of it.”
    “Well, you know it’s not bad to get a little exercise… try to stay trim before you blimp out –” Draco said, getting up from the sofa, and demonstrating with his hands just how ‘blimped out’ Hermione would be.
    She shot him her most fearsome glare. 
    “And may I ask what you are still doing here, Head Boy?” she asked, clearly irritated.
    “Just catching up on my correspondences,” he said with an air that he knew he was telling a obvious lie.
    “I’m sure,” she retorted, turning on the spot to exit the common room through the portrait hole.
    “Hold on there, Granger,” Draco called, climbing out after her, “We’re going to the same place after all.”
    Hermione gave him a disbelieving look, quite astonished that Draco Malfoy of all people seemed to be suggesting that they walk down to breakfast together.
    “You are honestly saying we should walk together?” she asked him, eyebrows raised so high they practically disappeared into her hairline.
    “It’s not like I’m asking you to bloody marry me! Merlin, Granger, don’t have a cow!”
    “I’m not! I’m not! Forget I said anything,” she said, hands raised in the air as she continued walking down to breakfast, Malfoy at her side.
    The walk passed by without much ado, and, for the most part, in silence, but as they neared the Great Hall, Hermione remembered something she did need to say to him.
    “Oh, Malfoy! I nearly forgot, we need to meet to discuss the patrol schedules. Does tonight work for you?”
    “I’m free as a bird, Granger,” Draco replied sarcastically.
    “Alright, then,” Hermione said with a grimace, “Meet outside the Room of Requirement on the seventh floor at seven o’clock sharp.”
    “I’m waiting with bated breath,” Malfoy said dramatically.
    Hermione gave him a warning look and then brushed past into the cacophony of the Great Hall.

* * *




“ – class will be extremely important seeing as a higher level of education in Transfiguration is required in many fields of work. I suggest you take this class seriously. If you do not you will face the consequences of fail – ”
    “Hermione.”
    Hermione turned her neck ever so slightly, her hand still moving steadily across the paper as she took down every word of McGonagall’s lecture. Ron was leaning forward at his desk, holding out a folded piece of parchment for her.
    She looked shiftily back at McGonagall and then reached back to grab it when the old professor turned to write something on the chalkboard.
   
    So, is it Ernie then? What did Dumbledore have to say?

    Hermione scowled as she looked down at Ron’s scrawl. How was she going to put this?

    No, it’s not Ernie, it’s Malfoy. Dumbledore didn’t offer a very satisfactory explanation… but apparently Malfoy knows all about you-know-what.

    She tossed the folded paper over her shoulder casually and heard it hit the wooden top of Ron’s desk. Hermione braced herself, not knowing what to expect from their reactions.
    “ – Of course at least six additional training years will be required if you desire a career in Healing; however – ”
    “AHWHAT?” Ron bellowed. Hermione sank down in her seat.
    “Is there something wrong, Mr. Weasley?” Professor McGonagall asked, her usual stern expression in place.
    “Uh, nothing Professor… six years? Really? Just gave me a bit of shock,” Ron said hastily. Hermione imagined his ears turning the color of fresh beets.
    “Yes, Mr. Weasley, six years. I wasn’t aware you were interested in Healing, but nevertheless, could you please keep your excitement to yourself from now on?”
    “Yes, Professor,” Ron mumbled in response.
    As McGonagall got back to her lecture, Hermione could hear Ron tearing apart another piece of parchment and she groaned mentally in thought of what his reply might say.
   
    You’ve got to be joking, Hermione, and, if you are, it’s a bloody cruel joke.

    Hermione rolled her eyes and then wrote, underneath his line:

    No, not joking, unfortunately. Did you let Harry read?
   
    There was a small strangling sound and Hermione pictured Ron holding back another outburst as his worst fears were officially confirmed.
   
    This is Harry – Are you positive Dumbledore really chose him? Malfoy might have him under the Imperius curse or maybe just a Confunding charm…

    Hermione put her forehead in her hands before replying. Dumbledore being confunded by Malfoy! Honestly!

    No, I’m positive it was 100% Dumbledore’s decision… But, honestly boys, there’s nothing we can do about it now, so please, just drop it.

    There was a small squabble going on behind her now and she peeped over her should slightly to see them fighting for the quill.

    NO, WE WILL NOT “DROP IT”! This is IMPORTANT, Hermione! What’s the bloody matter with Dumbledore? Something’s got to be wrong for him to choose effing MALFOY as Head Boy.
    Hermione let out an irritated sigh as she scribbled her retort.

    You know what? I’ve told you everything I know, so you can either accept it or leave me alone and discuss it amongst yourselves. I’m through with this subject.

    As she threw the paper one last time over her shoulder, she happened to look over to the other side of the room only to meet eyes with the very person she was currently fed up with discussing: Malfoy.
    He shot her a cocky smirk and with that one look he was able to completely convey that he knew they were talking about him, that he was pleased he got such a reaction, and that he was also pleased that she was getting so irritated with her friends over him.
    Bloody bastard.
    She glared back at him coldly, narrowing her eyes as he pretended to be highly affronted.
    Luckily, the bell rang just then, signaling the end of class and Hermione shot out of her seat and grabbed her things. As she walked out the door, she glowered at Harry, Ron and Malfoy, very sick of all three of them at the moment.

* * *




    The rest of the day passed by without much upheaval… not counting that which Hermione committed in the girl’s toilet after lunch.
    Finally, it was time for the last class of the day, and the seventh years seemed to all arrive early for Charms, perhaps in hopes that the sooner they got there the sooner the tiring day would be over.
    Hermione walked lethargically into the classroom, her heavy book bag slung over her right shoulder and an expression over utter fatigue etched into her features.
    The room was warm and seemed almost static with the voices of her carefree classmates as they happily spent the last few minutes before the bell chatting to one another.
    As she wove amongst the clusters of desks to find an empty one for herself, somebody ran into her hard from the side. She stumbled sideways with the person and felt an awkward hand land on her stomach. Quite suddenly her heart skipped a beat.
    “Oh! So sorry, Hermione!” shrieked a startled Lavender Brown, steadying them both. Hermione didn’t miss the flicker of malicious excitement flash past Lavender’s eyes and she knew immediately there was going to be a problem.
    For a second, she let her eyes slide past Lavender’s and they landed almost immediately on Draco Malfoy’s smirking countenance, a few meters behind them. She watched as his lips twitched almost unnoticeably and a silver wisp of light emitted from the wand he had hidden beneath his arm. Reverting back to Lavender, she stood shocked as she witnessed Lavender’s clear blue eyes gleam an opaque, pearly white as her memory was modified.
    “Um, sorry, Hermione,” she said awkwardly as she looked down confusedly at the minimal space between them.
    “Oh, it’s alright,” Hermione said quickly, still a bit startled by the whole ordeal. She sidestepped Lavender clumsily and then hurried over to a seat by the window before anyone else got the chance to run into her.
    As she sat down, she looked cautiously over at Malfoy who was still standing against the wall. He gave her a smirk, which read “I’ll let you thank me later for that” and then strode over to the clump of desks occupied entirely by the Slytherins.
    Hermione scowled and turned around in her seat. She could already tell Malfoy was going to be an extraordinary pain tonight when they had their meeting.

* * *



   
    Hermione glanced down at the thin, silver watch she wore on her wrist and picked up her speed as she realized she was already a minute later for her meeting with Malfoy.
    Hermione wasn’t ever the one to be late to a meeting, but here she was racing down the seventh floor corridor, searching for the familiar stretch of wall that concealed the hidden door to the room of requirement.
    The reason for her racing was simple. She had told Malfoy to meet her at seven o’clock, half an hour after dinner. Unfortunately, she had decided to go back to her room to change her clothes before meeting him. She had put on her loosest sweater, hoping that it would effectively conceal her bump from Malfoy’s prying eyes and keep his thoughts on track. She realized now, that if she wasn’t going to be teased over her pregnancy, she was going to be bothered for being late. Most likely, however, it would be the two combined.
    Finally she approached the wall opposite the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy and slowed down her pace. She closed her eyes and paced in front of the wall three times, thinking, I need a place to meet with Draco Malfoy.
    When she opened her eyes, the door had appeared and she walked toward it wondering if Malfoy was already inside.
    “About time you showed up, Granger,” Malfoy said snidely as he pushed the door open in her face.
    “Malfoy!” Hermione shrieked, startled at his abrupt appearance. “Merlin! Could you give a little warning?”
    “Of course not, Granger! What would be the fun in that?” He then stepped back from the door and ushered her inside.
    The room that had been conjured was dark and, Hermione was glad to see, appeared very business-like. There was a plush looking carpet situated in front of the fire and Hermione gestured to it when she said, “I guess we should sit over there… it will give us more light”
    She walked over and sat herself down cross-legged upon the rug, swinging her bag around to her front so she could pull out the patrol tables she had already drawn up. Malfoy followed her lead and sat across from her.
    “Alright Malfoy, let’s get straight to business. I’ve already drawn up the patrol tables and I’m fairly 100% sure they’ll work out perfectly, but I suppose you can take a look at them and tell me if you think there should be any changes – ”
    “So Granger, tell me, did you wear that god-awful, lumpy sweater tonight hoping that I wouldn’t bring up what happened with Lavender earlier today?”
    Hermione dropped a few papers in her stack as he said this. Why must he be so bloody observant? Boys aren’t supposed to notice those kinds of things!
    “I wore it, not that it’s any of your business, because I was hoping you would let this meeting be strictly professional.”
    He chuckled a little bit as she said this.
    “It was a sharp save, you’ve got to admit.”
    Hermione glared at him.
    “Yes… almost too sharp, like you were expecting it … Were you?”
    “Was I what?”
    “Waiting for someone to do something like that?”
    “No!”
    “How were you so quick then?”
    “Hey, why are you attacking me about it? I would think you’d be pleased Brown isn’t skittering around telling all her brainless little friends her suspicions. Unless that’s what you want, the whole school talking about you?”
    “Of course it’s not what I want!”
    “Alright then, why are you getting so upset that I saved your arse?”
    “I’m not upset, I just think it’s … curious that you were so prepared,” she said with eyebrows raised. Malfoy looked into the fire as she said this, his expression unreadable. There was a considerable silent pause.
    “Since we’re on the topic, Malfoy, I have a question to ask you,” Hermione said abruptly, cutting through the silence. 
    “Well, ask away, Granger,” Draco replied, sounding resigned. 
    “What’s gotten in to you this year? Why are you so different?”
    “Different?” He asked, pretending to look greatly puzzled, “Are you talking about my hair, because it did get quite a bit lighter from the sun this summer…”
    “Don’t be ridiculous, Malfoy. I’m talking about the fact that after six years of torment and – ”
    “And me calling you Mudblood every chance I got, why am I suddenly being so cordial?”
    “I’m not sure I would say cordial, but, yeah, essentially.”
    “You are a nosy witch, aren’t you, Granger?” Malfoy said with a laugh.
    Hermione shrugged.
    “Well, if you must know, and I know you must, at the end of last year I made a decision, on behalf of my mother and I, to pledge my allegiance to Dumbledore in exchange for a certain amount of protection.”
    Hermione looked at him intently, digesting the information.
    “You’re telling me Dumbledore was willing to forgive the infamous Malfoys simply because you, a sixteen year old boy, decided he didn’t much fancy following You-Know-Who anymore?”
    “Naturally, I remain in his debt, but we’ve presently got that semi-sorted out.”
    “Do you now?” Hermione asked quickly, suspicion mounting. “That debt wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with –” Hermione gave a peculiar look down at her stomach, but Draco just chose to grin and ignore her.
    “What are these tables you’ve got here? Don’t tell me you’ve already drawn up the patrol schedules?”
    “Of course I have, and I’ve already told you about them. You just never listen to –”
    “And I suppose you thought it was perfectly OK to draw them up without consulting me?”
    “You and I both know you are the world’s greatest procrastinator, Malfoy. I was not about to wait around for you to help me.”
    “I guess I’ll give you that. Let me just see them for a second…”
    He reached over and snatched them from her lap, holding them near the fire so that he could read.
    “Hmm, alright, alright,” he said as he tapped the parchment with his wand. “Just a few changes.”
    He grinned wolfishly as he handed them out to Hermione and she ripped them from his hands.
    “Malfoy!” she exclaimed after getting a good look at them. “You’ve put us together for every single patrol date!”
    “Well, Granger, you don’t honestly expect me to patrol with some snot-nosed fifth year, do you?” he asked rhetorically, standing up and giving an impressive yawn. “Crazy as it sounds, I would much rather have you for my partner, Granger. You really are not all that dull.”
    He gave her a presumptuous wink and then stalked out of the room, his bag tossed lightly over his shoulder.
    Hermione sat and stared a few moments at the place his head had been mere seconds before.
    Then, she too stood up and grabbed her things, all the while thinking, Malfoy needs to stop getting the last word. This is getting ridiculous.


~*~



A/N: This one was a bit longer like I promised! The next one though is going to be BIG if everything goes according to my outline... You will also be seeing some more Hermione/Draco action as I know people are waiting to see. Please keep reading and reviewing! I love hearing your opinions!


Chapter 10: More Than Civil Behavior
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


Four days later…



~*~



    The first week of term had ended without much ado and it was now the first Saturday and consequently the first Hogsmeade weekend as well.
    Hermione had a busy day set ahead of her and as she pulled on a few layers of sweaters to cut the chill of the crisp September air, she looked over her calendar with today’s agenda.

    9:30 AM – Meet Harry, Ron and Ginny in Entrance Hall to walk to Hogsmeade.
    11:45 AM – Appointment with Astrid at St. Mungo’s (Floo from the Three Broomsticks)
    10:00 PM – Start Patrol with Malfoy

     Well, at least the first two will be tolerable… The last one though…

    Since their initial Head meeting four nights ago, Draco and Hermione hadn’t spoken once except in passing. Hermione didn’t want to jinx it, but she sincerely hoped this was how it was going to be between them from now on. Truth be told, she didn’t really need another factor in her life to complicate things any further. And complicate things Malfoy was positively guaranteed to do.
   
    Yes, I’d be simply peachy keen if Malfoy decided to keep to himself for the rest of the year and leave me alone, Hermione thought hopefully as she hurried down the stairs to the portrait hole.

    “Where are you off to?” came Malfoy’s voice from the corner of the common room.
    Hermione bit her lip in frustration. Knew it was too good to last…
    “Err, you know, Hogsmeade for some shopping,” she replied casually, turning to look at him.
    “Planning to stay out all day, then?” he continued quickly before she had the chance to turn away.
    “Well, I have an appointment with the Healer that will be… watching me throughout this whole, um, pregnancy, this afternoon as well,” Hermione answered awkwardly.
    “Oh, so you’ll be Flooing to St. Mungo’s from Hogsmeade?” Draco chipped in, standing up.
    “Yes… May I ask why this is of such particular interest to you, Malfoy?”
    “Just wondering where you’ll be in case you’re late to our patrol date tonight, Granger,” he replied snidely.
    “I see…” Hermione said skeptically, eyeing him as she pulled on her coat. “Well, see you later then, Malfoy. I’ll be sure not to be late.”
    “Oh and Granger!”
    Hermione halted mid-step, now thoroughly annoyed, “Yes?”
    “Make sure no one sees you using the Floo –”
    “I know, Malfoy!”

* * *



    The air around Hogwarts was unusually crisp for early September, but the midmorning sun served as a reminder of the waning summer months.
    Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny were walking down Hogwarts’ sloped, cobbled drive towards Hogsmeade, reveling in their first day off after a challenging first week.

    “So, Hermione,” Ron started with a slightly malicious grin, “tell us what it’s like living with the ferret.”
    Hermione sighed; she knew this was coming sooner or later. The boys had avoided interrogating her all week –she did give them that – but she knew their silence would not last forever.
    “Well, surprisingly, there’s not really anything to tell,” she said honestly. “Malfoy and I have hardly spoken a word to each other all week.”
    “Figures!” said Ron loudly and quickly as Harry let out a snort. “He just thinks he’s too good for you!”
    “Uh, I’m pretty sure that’s not it,” Hermione replied, confused at the boys’ reaction.
    “Yeah, he thinks he’s too pure to talk to the mudblood!” Harry added, looking irked.
    “Boys! Honestly, you’re trying to make something out of nothing!” Hermione argued in vain.
    “I could really kill him!” Ron shouted, his ears turning red.
    Ginny pulled Hermione’s elbow before she could interject further and whispered near her ear, “Just ignore them! They would have responded this way no matter what you told them – they’ve been planning on asking you all week.”
    “Have they really?” Hermione asked with a laugh.
    “Yeah, and you’re lucky you didn’t have to be there during their epic conversations about it around the fire every night this week!”
    “Oh, Lord, I’m sorry.”
    “Yeah, well, you should be saying thank you.”
    “Really?” Hermione laughed, “And why is that?”
    “Well, it’s thanks to me that they’ve been this rational today.”
    “You call this rational?” Hermione asked, amused.
    “In comparison to their other ideas, this is positively demure.”
    “Oh, goodness, do I even want to know?”
    “Probably not, but I’ll give you the highlights:  a crate of blast-ended skrewts, some rope and a new Weasley Wizard Wheezes product called the Undefeatable Towering Inferno.”
    “Interesting,” said Hermione slowly. “I presume they were all various ends Malfoy was bound to meet if he had done something to me?”
    “Actually they were all part of the same end,” Ginny said lightly.
    “Oh, well then, thank you for being there to persuade the boys not to commit manslaughter.”
    “Anytime.”
   
    The four continued their trek to Hogsmeade, Harry and Ron discussing Malfoy, and Hermione and Ginny discussing boy stupidity just in general. They didn’t have any big plans for Hogsmeade that day, but were planning on doing a little shopping and sitting around before Hermione had to leave for her appointment at St. Mungo’s.
    The Three Broomsticks was packed with Hogwarts’ students as was usual for a Saturday. They meandered in to the dimly lit, but cheerful pub and split up, the girls going to search for a table and the boys going to get the drinks.
   
    “So,” said Ginny as soon as Harry and Ron walked out of earshot, “Tell me what it’s really like to be living next to Malfoy.”
    “What makes you think I wasn’t telling the truth before?” Hermione asked, laughing at Ginny’s audacity.
    “Oh come on! You think I’m going to believe you haven’t said one word to each other when you’re practically living in his lap?”
    “Well it is true…”
    “Not a single word?”
    “Well, of course a few words in passing, but that’s seriously it!”
    “I don’t believe it.”
    “I don’t see why not…”
    “Malfoy doesn’t keep his opinions to himself, that’s why not.”
    “Well he was being kind of weird this morning…”
    “Yeah?” Ginny urged her to continue enthusiastically.
    “Yeah… he was being all awkward about me taking the Floo. Worried or something. It was strange…”
    “Seriously?” Ginny asked, hardly able to contain her smile.
    “Yeah, why?”
    “Well, it seems like our Malfoy has a little soft spot for pregnant women.”
    “What? No!”
    “Well, why else would he be acting like that?” Ginny asked defensively.
    “I don’t know… he was just trying to get in my business.”
    “Oh, okay. Tell me what he said word for word.”
    “Oh, I don’t remember…”
    “Yes you do, come on!”
    “He was just pretending to be all interested in my plans. Like, he asked me what I was planning to do and if I’d be using the Floo and then he went on to try to warn me not to get spotted by anyone!”
    “Hah! Just like I suspected – he’s being protective of you.”
    “What?” Hermione exclaimed in shock. “Why would he do a thing like that?”
    “Because!” Ginny began in her matter-of-fact voice, “You’re pregnant, you’ve got a baby somewhere inside there,” she said, wiggling her fingers at Hermione’s stomach, “and you’re single, making Malfoy feel responsible for your protection.”
    “And that’s your official prognosis?”
    “Don’t be snide. There is something deeply psychological about this situation and Malfoy is responding with the classic alpha male approach.”
    “Oh and that would be protect the weak and vulnerable female carrying the young?”
    “Precisely,” Ginny said with a smug grin.
    “That’s ridiculous. Malfoy sees me as nothing more than the girl he’s loathed for six years on pureblood principle. It’s preposterous to think there’s anything else there… your psychology just does not apply.”
    “It’s alright, denial is the first step.”
    “Oh, Merlin!”
    “I’m not joking, Hermione,” Ginny continued, fully serious, “Malfoy must think he’s being your… manly defender or something. Mark my words, his little paranoia about your whereabouts today will not be the end of his concern for you.”
    “Well, we’re just going to have to wait and see about that,” Hermione cut in, standing up and swinging her coat around her shoulders again, “As for right now, I’ve got an appointment to make…”
    “Well, be careful no one sees you taking the Floo,” Ginny said with a wink.
    Hermione scowled at her.

* * *


    It had been arranged previously that Hermione would be able to Floo directly into Astrid Vance’s surgery for every scheduled appointment so as to ensure that her pregnancy remain a secret for as long as possible.
    Hermione coughed a little as she stepped out of the sooty grate and onto the shining checkered floors of the examination room.
    She had been through three scheduled appointments as of now and the surgery was becoming more and more familiar which each visit.
    Astrid was becoming familiar as well. Hermione was learning to genuinely like the woman despite the fact that having to see her was a constant reminder of the difficult situation she was in. She was getting used to it, but no one could expect her to fully embrace being pregnant any time soon.
    “Hermione, dear!” Astrid called from her adjoining office, getting up from her desk and striding into the surgery. “Sorry, I was just catching up on some paperwork.”
    “Oh, no problem,” Hermione said readily.
    “Well why don’t we got started right away then,” Astrid said with a smile as she ushered Hermione over to the examination table. “How has your morning sickness been since your last visit?”
    “Um, well, it hasn’t gone away yet,” Hermione said, clearly annoyed by the fact, “Could you give me any sort of approximation of when it will?”
    “I really wish I could say something definite, but morning sickness is just one of those things that changes with every woman and every baby. Those who do experience it usually find that it lets up by the end of the first trimester.”
    “So I have another… two weeks of this?” Hermione exclaimed. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to suffer through it…”
    “Well you never know, it may end sooner for you, it’s all depending.”
    “Yes, and it might end later as well.”
    Astrid chuckled, “Just be happy with the fact that your morning sickness lives up to its name. I’ve had plenty of women who can’t get themselves out of the bathroom all day.”
    Hermione gulped.
    “Exactly,” Astrid said with a knowing grin, “Now, do you have any other physical complaints besides the morning sickness?”
    “Hmm, not really…” Hermione said, thoughtfully, “I’m just very tired all throughout the day. This week has been really hard to get used to my school schedule again. I’ve just wanted to nap every afternoon after lunch.”
    “Yes, that’s perfectly normal and it’s also a good thing to be getting rest. The baby demands a large amount of your strength and energy, so try to take naps whenever you can fit them in. I know you are a very diligent student, but you must understand that this is important too.”
    “Yeah, I just need to get used to my schedule, that’s all.”
    “Maybe I could have a word with Dumbledore about your classes… see if he could fix your schedule to make it more lenient.”
    “Oh, please don’t! I need to do everything this year that I would have done if I hadn’t become pregnant,” Hermione pleaded suddenly. “Please, I know it’s not going to be easy, but if I don’t want to resent this pregnancy, or worse, this baby, then I really need to live my life as normally as I can. I have always had a demanding schedule and I really can’t give that up.”
    “Alright,” Astrid said contemplatively, “I respect that decision. I just want you to be very aware of your body’s needs. You can’t be pushing yourself so hard all the time.”
    “Of course.”
    “Ok,” Astrid said slowly, looking at Hermione’s chart, “Well, besides fatigue, are there any other complaints?”
    “Oh, well, yes, there is one other thing… it’s quite awkward though.”
    “Hermione, I’m your Healer. Trust me, there is nothing I haven’t heard before.”
    “Yeah… it’s just my… breasts are extremely sore right now and they already feel like they’re growing. I don’t know, I didn’t think they would grow until after the baby came.”
    “Oh no, the breasts usually start growing late in the first trimester so you’re right on schedule.”
    “And it’s supposed to hurt this bad?”
    “Unfortunately, yes. Your body is producing a lot more hormones than usual, which incidentally causes the breasts to grow quite rapidly. My best advice is to buy a maternity bra now and learn a good garment adjusting charm so you can expand its size as you need to.”
    “Alright, thanks… Is there anything I can do to help with the pain?”
    “I’ll give you a potion that helps with growing pains, but it’s officially meant to help pain in the bones and muscles, not soft tissue, so I can’t guarantee it will help you tremendously.”
    “It’s worth a shot.”
    “Alright, if that’s all, then I guess I’ll just have a look at the baby and see how it’s doing,” she said, walking over to the counter along the wall to deposit her clipboard.
    On cue, Hermione leaned back on the table and rolled up her sweater so that the small bump on her stomach was fully exposed.
    “Well you’re definitely getting bigger!” Astrid exclaimed, conjuring a magical measuring tape with her wand and flicking it around Hermione’s middle. “90 cm on the dot.”
    “Yeah, I’ve been thinking it must have been getting bigger because my back has been hurting more.”
    “Yes, indeed! You’ve grown six cm from our visit two weeks ago.”
    “Is that more than normal for this stage, or what?” Hermione asked curiously.
    “It’s very healthy, I would say. For your natural size and stature I’d think 90 cm was right on target,” Astrid said as she carefully prodded Hermione’s stomach.
    “Yeah, I was thinking about asking Dumbledore quite soon for the daily concealment charm. It’s getting harder and harder to wear clothes that will hide my belly.”
    “That’s probably a good idea because from this point on your belly is going to be growing much more significantly every week.”
    “Great…” Hermione responded, less than enthusiastically.
    Astrid smiled knowingly at her, “I’m going to perform the translucency charm now, so be prepared.”
    Hermione felt the usual cold wave roll over her skin and she leaned up a bit to catch site of her suddenly visible inner parts. This part of the routine examination never got old with her. Suddenly being able to see your intestines wasn’t something a person could get used to very easily.
    Astrid waved her wand again and the front-most organs became clear as well, bringing the small uterus into focus.
    “And there we are,” she said, using her wand to manipulate the image.
    “Everything OK?” Hermione asked. This part always made her nervous.
    “Everything looks just beautiful,” Astrid said reassuringly. “It’ll be a few weeks yet until I can determine the sex of the baby.”
    “Oh, I’m not sure I’m going to want to know…”
    “Really?” she said, looking quite surprised. “I usually find that the younger the mother is, the more anxious she is to know what she’s having.”
    “I don’t know… I’m not really sure I want to find out so soon.”
    “That’s perfectly fine. I won’t say a sound if that’s what you really want.”
    “Yeah, let’s just see how things go. I might change my mind for all I know.”
    “And you have every right to!”
    There were a few more moments of silence as Astrid carefully wrote things down on the chart and Hermione sat patiently, chewing the side of her cheek.
    Finally, Astrid breathed a sigh of finality and said, “Well that’s all for today.”
    Hermione sat up, filled with happiness that she had managed to pull through another week without killing her baby and rolled down her sweater over her still clear stomach.
    “Thanks so much, Astrid,” she said gratefully. “Umm, would you mind if I asked you a slightly personal question.”
    Astrid turned away from what she was doing and looked Hermione in the eye, “Go ahead.”
    “Do you have any children?”
    “No,” Astrid said slowly, “No, I do not.”
    Hermione nodded.
    “Could I ask you a question, Hermione?”
    “Yeah.”
    “Do you have a boyfriend?”
    “No, I don’t have one of those either,” Hermione said smiling good-humoredly.
    “Don’t be afraid to get ‘one of those’,” Astrid told her.
    “I find it hard to believe that I’m going to have any guy pursuing me when I’ve got a baby on board,” Hermione responded skeptically.
    “Oh, you’d be surprised what some men find attractive,” Astrid said with a small wink.
    Hermione thought back to Ginny analysis of Draco’s protective behavior. Is he doing this because he finds my pregnancy attractive?
    She shook her head and looked back at Astrid again.
    “Well, I better get going, don’t want to miss dinner…”
    “Alright, see you next week, Hermione,” Astrid called after her as she moved into the fire.
    “Yeah, see you next week.”

* * *



    10:00. Where is he? Hermione thought as she paced up and down in the Head’s common room.
    At that moment a door opened upstairs and Hermione quickly plopped down in one of the chairs and picked up a book to look busy.
    Malfoy jogged down the stairs and clapped his hands together when he reached the bottom.
    “Well, Granger?” he said, eyebrows raised expectantly, “Are we going?”
    “Yeah… one second,” Hermione said, pretending to sound extremely engrossed in her reading.
    “OK, although I’m sure…” he bent down to look at the cover of her book, “Common Cures for the Common Cold is endlessly fascinating, I really think our patrol date is a little bit more important.”
    Hermione snapped the book shut. “Excuse me, but I was not the one who was late.”
    “Yes, but you are the one holding us up now,” Malfoy replied with a goading smile.
    “Let’s go,” she growled, grabbing her lumpy sweater and pulling it on as she made her way to the portrait hole.
    They were walking down the torch-lit, seventh floor corridor when Malfoy decided it was safe to initiate conversation again.
    “So, tell me, Granger,” he began, “How many books have you checked out of the library about this whole Phasma Eturnus thing you’ve got going on? My bet is on upwards of 25.”
    Hermione smiled, “Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but no books, Malfoy.”
    Malfoy stopped and grabbed her shoulder to halt her progress down the hall, “What? Hermione Granger, world-renowned bookworm has failed to – to – to research?”
    Hermione raised her eyebrows and started walking again.
    “I just didn’t think it would be healthy to look into it myself,” she said nonchalantly.
    “Oh really? And how do you plan to find out about it then?” he asked her skeptically.
    “Well, I do see a Healer every week. She’s a trained professional and I’m sure she can tell me everything I possibly need to know about what’s going on with me.”
    “Wow.”
    “What? Why ‘wow’?”
    “It’s just a little shocking that you of all people are willing to put so much stock in someone else’s knowledge… I don’t know, but you’ve just never been the person to not get personally involved.”
    “Well I am personally involved. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I’ve got the thing living inside of me – you can’t get much more personal then that.”
    “That is not what I was talking about,” Malfoy said, laughing at her choice of words.
    “And on another note, I have put complete faith in my healer. She runs thorough checks on me every time I see her. She knows what she’s doing.”
    “Well I’m glad you’re so confident,” Malfoy said, eager to shut her up on the subject. “Hey, by the way, what exactly do you do every time you see her?”
    “What?” Hermione asked, a bit started, “Oh, I don’t know… things.”
    “Like what?” he asked again.
    “Why do you want to know?” she asked him suspiciously.
    “I’m curious. Indulge me.”
    She sighed, “Well, she asks if I have any complaints, and I tell her –”
    “Like what sort of things?” Malfoy interjected.
    “That’s personal, Malfoy!”
    “Come on, Granger. It’s not a big deal!”
    “Well, I don’t know, like back aches and morning sickness and stuff.”
    “Mmhm, and what else does she do?”
    “Well, then she asks me to lie back so she can look at my stomach.”
    “She just looks at it?”
    “Um, well, first she does this spell to make my skin… clear.”
    “Clear?” he exclaimed excitedly, “Cool! And she can see all your organs and stuff?”
    “Yeah…” Hermione said, laughing a little at Malfoy’s boyish excitement.
    “Wait. Is it still clear?” he asked suddenly.
    “Um, I don’t know, it usually lasts for quite a while…”
    “Can I see it?” he asked eagerly.
    “What? No!” she responded.
    “Oh, come on, Granger!” he said in his most charming voice. “Just a peek?”
    With those words he grabbed the bottom of her sweater slyly and got himself a glimpse of her clear skin.
    “MALFOY!” she hollered, pushing him away.
    “Oh, come on! Let me have a proper look, it won’t do you any harm!”
    “NO.”
    “Why not? Just one look!”
    “NO!”
    “Please, Granger?”
    “Stop it, Malfoy.”
    “A minute tops! Please?”
    “Will you leave me alone?”
    “Not until you show me.”
    Hermione stopped and turned to face him, placing her hands on her hips authoritatively.
    “If I give you one look will you promise not to bother me about it ever again?”
    “Absolutely,” he said excitedly.
    She waited a few more seconds before saying, “Fine. But we can’t do it out here in the open.”
    “Granger, it’s 10:00 PM. Who’s going to come waltzing down the corridor to spot us?”
    “My rules, Malfoy,” she said as she walked away in search of a more secretive location.
    Finally, they came upon the stairs up to the Astronomy Tower and Hermione signaled for Draco to follow behind her.
    In the moonlit landing at the top of the curving staircase, Hermione turned rapidly to face him once again.
    “Alright, before I show you, you have to promise me something,” she began nervously.
    “Granger,” he moaned warily.    
    “Just one thing,” she said quickly. “You have to promise not to find it disgusting.”
    He looked at her carefully, “I promise, Granger. I’m sure your guts are beautiful.”
    “Malfoy!”
    “Ok, Ok,” he said, “Now do you want to lift up your shirt or shall I do the honors?”
    She glared at him and then began to slowly roll up her shirt.
    “Whoa,” Malfoy said in awe as he kneeled down so that his face was level with her stomach.
    “I know it’s horrible…”
    Malfoy looked irritably up at her, “It’s not, Granger.”
    She sighed uncomfortably, “Usually she does something to move all the organs and stuff away and pull the baby into focus.”
    Draco looked fascinated by her stomach. He picked up one of his hands and placed it on her skin.
    She inhaled sharply.
    “Sorry. Are my hands cold?”
    “Yes,” she replied bluntly.
    He laughed and then got distracted by her stomach once more crying, “Hey, look!”
    Hermione looked down, startled by his outburst. The baby had come into focus again and lay amorphously below Draco’s fingers.
    “How did you do it?” she asked in awe.
    “I don’t really think I did anything… It just happened.”
    “Nothing can ‘just happen’, Malfoy,” she retorted.
    “Well, I don’t know, Granger! Maybe the baby just likes me!”
    “Hah, fat chance.”
    “Fine then, come up with a better explanation.”
    She rolled her eyes, choosing to ignore him and they both fell into silence as they stared at the lightly pulsing picture in front of them.
    “I’m never going to get used to seeing that,” she said quietly.
    “Oh, you will, Granger. Especially when it starts to look more like a real baby.”
    “I don’t know, I think that will be even scarier.”
    “Scary to see the child growing inside of you before it’s brought out into this world? I think that’s more along the lines of amazing.”
    “Why are you doing this, Malfoy?”
    “What am I doing, Granger?”
    “I don’t know... you’re being civil, nice even.”
    “Is that shocking to you?”
    “Well, coming from you, yeah, I would say it’s shocking.”
    “Oh, Granger,” he said with a sigh, standing up and slowly rolling down her sweater, “You should have never underestimated Draco Malfoy. I think you’ll see that I’m full of surprises.”

~*~


   

A/N: The tenth chapter is finally here. And now that you've read it, you can scroll down a little farther and leave a lovely little comment so I'm motivated to write chapter 11! Hahaha blackmailing for reviews, slightly unethical, but I am desperate. Thank yooouu!


   

Chapter 11: Falling
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

September 19th

~*~



    Hermione lay anxiously in her bed, eyes flittering slightly as she willed herself to keep them closed. Not much longer, she thought with mounting agitation.
    The alarm trilled.
    Hermione sat up immediately, eyes wide and expectant, hair tousled from sleep.
    Today was September nineteenth – the day she had looked forward to every year since she had understood the reason to anticipate it. Today was her birthday. Her eighteenth birthday. It was a benchmark, a milestone, a new era of her life.
    Then why don’t I feel any different? She thought helplessly.
    Hermione crawled out from under the covers and scooched down to the foot of the bed. There they were: A lovely, colorful pile of gifts.
    She rested her hand absent-mindedly on her stomach, drumming her fingers across its slope.
    Why am I not happy? She asked herself, almost angrily. Why can’t I just be happy that I’ve turned 18? Happy like every other normal teenager!
    But, of course, the answer to these questions lay just beneath her flicking fingertips.
    Staring down at her burgeoning belly, Hermione said, “We, both of us, are going to be happy this day. You because, well, I should be a much better equipped mother at eighteen rather than seventeen. And me, because… well, the same reason really.”
    The alarm trilled again, for Hermione had never turned it off, and she hopped promptly out of bed to do so.
    The next order of business was obviously the presents lying unopened at the foot of the bed. It simply wouldn’t do to not open them now… I’ll be talking to Harry, Ron and Ginny this morning and they’ll want to know what I think of them…
    Happy with the excuse for her self-indulgence, she plopped herself in the midst of her gifts, and grabbed the nearest box.
    The first  was a brilliant shade of pink with an orange ribbon, and she recognized Ginny’s loopy letters in the note on the underside of the lid. She smiled at the emphatic birthday message as her right hand searched through the piles of crinkled tissue paper.
    Finally, her fingers closed around soft fabric and she pulled to the surface a cloudy grey chenille sweater.
    Maternity sized, no doubt, Hermione thought as she pulled off her own pajama shirt and put it on.
    Standing in front of the mirror, she put her hands on her hips and let her stomach stick out.  
    Oh, lord, she thought, groaning out loud. I’ll need to ask Dumbledore for that concealment charm soon. There’s no way people aren’t going to notice this!
    She sighed and amended her mental to-do list to include this latest task before walking back to the heap of presents.
    The next two were from Harry and Ron who gave her a book on leisure potion brewing and a leather-bound diary respectively.
    Typical, she thought, picturing the boys heading straight for the book and paper supply store to purchase her gifts.
    The next box was large and wrapped in twine. On the top was a note in a familiar scrawl and Hermione beamed as she read Hagrid’s well wishes.
    Inside was his traditional birthday cake. Hermione swooped one finger through the buttery, pink frosting and licked it off with relish.
    Being able to eat cake before breakfast was undoubtedly the true purpose for celebrating a birthday.
    As she put the cake box carefully aside, she reached for her final gift: a box wrapped neatly in periwinkle blue paper. The small card attached to it was signed ‘Molly Weasley’ and Hermione’s interest was immediately piqued for Mrs. Weasley had never sent a birthday present before.
    Carefully tearing the corner of the package, she ripped of the paper and shook off the lid. More tissue paper awaited her on the inside and as she sifted through it, she couldn’t help but wonder what could have compelled Mrs. Weasley to buy her a gift this year…
    Oh. No.
    Hermione stared down in minute horror at what lay in her hands.
    It can’t be.
    She slowly stood up, letting her gift unfold itself before her.
    Fat pants. She has bought me fat pants.
    Hermione let the damnable article of clothing fall to the ground in all of its elastic wonder as she sulked morosely back to her bed.
    Who was I kidding? This isn’t going to be able to be a normal birthday. I’m getting fat pants as a present for god’s sake!
    Heaving an enormous sigh, she grudgingly slid out of bed and trudged off to the bathroom to get ready for school, kicking Mrs. Weasley’s well-meant gift under her bed and out of sight. 

* * *



    “Oh, Miss Granger, this is for you,” said Professor Vector off-handedly, peering down at the name written across the seal of a tightly furled scroll.  
    Hermione got up from her desk and walked over to retrieve it. Once the note was in her hands, she tapped the seal with her wand to unravel it.
    As she had expected, it was from Dumbledore, calling her out of class for the meeting she had requested by owl earlier that morning.
    She caught the Professor’s eye, as he was in the middle of a demonstration, and pointed towards the door to signify that she had to leave.
    He nodded and got straight back drawing a complex mathematical sequence upon the chalkboard and Hermione swung her book bag over her shoulder and walked out of the classroom.
    The reason she needed to talk to Professor Dumbledore was simple. And it was currently stretching out her school shirt, and making her normally loose-fitting robes feel a bit constricting.
    She needed that concealment charm before another Lavender Brown incident occurred, for she had a feeling that if anyone happened to touch her stomach now, they wouldn’t be able to hold themselves back from shrieking in amazement and blabbing instantaneously to the entire school.
    Yes, Dumbledore would simply have to accommodate her. There was really only one problem: How was she going to convince him not to involve Malfoy?
    Hermione had reached the stone gargoyle guarding the stairs to the Headmaster’s office, and spoke the password he had included in his note agitatedly.
    How can I persuade him to find another way for the concealment charm to be performed without sounding like a silly schoolgirl?
    She had rounded the top step and was now reaching out for the gleaming brass knocker, but no sooner had her fingertips grazed the smooth metal, the door sprang dutifully open.
   
    “Ah, good afternoon, Miss Granger,” said the Headmaster cheerfully from behind his desk. “Please, sit down and help yourself to a bisquit.”
   
    Hermione took a deep breath in.
   
    “Professor.”
   
    “Yes, Miss Granger?”
   
    “You invited him again?” She exhaled sharply through her teeth and gave a fleeting look to the blond-headed boy sitting in the armchair next to the one she was currently supposed to be inhabiting.
   
    “Well, Miss Granger, you expressed quite vehemently that you required the concealment charm as soon as possible; I assumed that it would be proactive to request for Mr. Malfoy to join us. He is, after all, the one who will be performing the charm.”
   
    “I suppose,” grumbled Hermione under her breath as she sat down next to Malfoy.
   
    “If you don’t want me here, I’ll leave,” said Malfoy coolly, fixing her with his usual icy stare.
   
    Hermione met his gaze and, oddly enough, detected something akin to frustration in his steely eyes.
   
    Thoroughly confused, she turned once again to the Headmaster and said, “Alright, let’s get on with it then. I don’t want to miss more of Arithmancy than is absolutely necessary.”
   
    “Right, right, Miss Granger,” said Dumbledore with his usual amused smile, “Now you both must listen carefully because the concealment charm I am teaching you today is both complex and dangerous.”
   
    “Dangerous?” asked Draco.
   
    “Yeah, what exactly do you mean by dangerous?” continued Hermione.
   
    “Naturally, all spells have an element of risk to them,” the Headmaster responded collectedly, “And, considering your state, Miss Granger, any spell to be performed on you has a heightened level of risk.”
   
    “Yes, I understand that, but what could possibly happen if, if things go wrong?” Hermione asked.
   
    “Miss Granger, you know what the normal risks are when performing concealment charms. They unfortunately do not change in your case.”
   
    Hermione knitted her brows as her mind quickly recalled the lurid images in her transfiguration textbook. People whose concealed appendages had managed to attach themselves to various incorrect locations on their bodies.
   
    “But what will happen to the….”
   
    “Baby?” Dumbledore finished for her. “There has only been one case of this occurring and, unfortunately, the baby was lost.”
   
    Hermione’s lips tightened.
   
    An awkward silence proceeded where the Head Boy and Girl sat quietly, each lost in their own thoughts, lamenting their forced responsibility.
   
    “Are you sure you still want to go through with this, Miss Granger?” the Headmaster asked kindly.
   
    Hermione snapped to focus.
   
    “Yes,” she said sharply, “I’m not ready to face the entire school with this.”   
   
    “Alright then,” he said with a nod, “I suggest we start now then.”
   
    Dumbledore pushed away from his desk and rose spryly to his full height. Walking towards the standing chalkboard in the corner of the room, he motioned for them to turn their chairs.
   
    “The charm I will be teaching you today is known as Ora Dissimulo,” the Headmaster began with a twinkle, “There are a vast number of concealment charms to choose from, but this one will be most useful to us for it allows the caster to set a perimeter, thus containing the charm within a certain portion of a person’s body.”
   
    “So Malfoy will be able to cast the charm solely on my stomach and then it will… vanish?”
   
    “The concealment works as a sort of reversal – your stomach will essentially shrink back in on itself.”
   
    “And what’s supposed to happen to the baby?” asked Hermione skeptically.
   
    “You should think about it like a shrinking charm for that’s a much better description of what will be happening.”
   
    “So you’re saying,” Malfoy began, “that what I’ll really be doing is shrinking her stomach back to normal size?”
   
    “More like you’ll be shrinking her womb.”
   
    Malfoy’s cheeks turned the briefest tint of pink and he leaned back in his chair.
   
    “Professor, are you positive this will be safe?” Hermione asked, worried about Malfoy’s obvious lack of enthusiasm. She wasn’t entirely sure she wanted him to be performing the charm if he was so worked up.
   
    “The both of you are making this into a much more difficult process than it need be,” the Headmaster said with a chuckle. “When it comes down to it, the spell itself is rather simple.”
   
    “Maybe,” began Hermione, glancing cautiously at Malfoy, “Maybe you should just demonstrate it once so we know what we’re getting in to.”
   
    Dumbledore followed her gaze to Malfoy’s troubled profile and nodded.
   
    “That’s probably a wise idea, Miss Granger. Why don’t we go up here where there’s a little bit more space,” he walked up the few steps behind his desk and into an alcove where there was a large rug and a reading chair. “Yes, this should do.”
   
    “Er, why exactly do we need space, Professor?” asked Hermione.
   
    “It’s best if the person who is receiving the spell lies flat on their back,” said the Headmaster, “That may sound odd now, but once we start the process, you’ll understand why it’s more practical.”
   
    “Alright, I guess I’ll lie down then,” Hermione said with a shrug, lowering herself to the ground.
   
    “Very good,” said Dumbledore, kneeling down, “Now, Mr. Malfoy, here comes your part.”
   
    Draco nodded and followed suit, kneeling on the other side of Hermione.
   
    “Miss Granger, I’m very sorry to have to ask this, but it’s required that we cast the charm on skin only and so I’m going to have to ask you to roll up your blouse,” Dumbledore said with sincere apology.
   
    “Oh, it’s perfectly alright,” said Hermione, a little pink, “I sort of guessed that would be necessary.”
   
    After Hermione had bunched up her school top so that the round, curve of her belly was in plain sight, Dumbledore pulled out his wand and instructed Draco to do the same.
   
    “Now, Mr. Malfoy, the incantation for this charm is Ora Dissimulo as you may have already guessed.”
   
    “Ora Dissimulo,” Malfoy practiced saying.
   
    “Right, so what you’ll have to do is say the incantation and then draw a clean circle with your wand around Miss Granger’s belly.”
   
    “That’s all?” Hermione asked, picking her head off the floor.
   
    “Yes, that’s absolutely it!” said the Headmaster with a reassuring smile at Draco.
   
    “Alright,” he said slowly, “Maybe, could you do it first so I could see?”
   
    Dumbledore nodded, “Are you ready, Miss Granger?”
   
    “Yeah, go ahead, sir.”
   
    Dumbledore cleared his throat, “Ora Dissimulo!”
   
    The point of his wand glowed with a small pinprick of silver as he lowered it to Hermione skin, tracing one continuous circle.
   
    Hermione peered down just in time to watch her stomach recede back on itself. It was as if Polyjuice potion had been applied, but only to one specific segment of her body.
   
    “Simple as that,” said Dumbledore, placing his hands on his knees. “I’ll just reverse it so that you can try, Mr. Malfoy.”
   
    Dumbledore then lazily waved his wand, casting his silent reversal, and Hermione felt her stomach pop out as if she had just slipped out of a particularly binding pair of pants.
   
   
    “Are you ready, Malfoy?” she asked him uncertainly.
   
    “Well I definitely won’t be if you keep asking me that,” he snapped, concentrating on her belly.
   
    “Fine, just focus,” Hermione huffed.
   
    Dumbledore smiled to himself.
   
    Malfoy pursed his lips and breathed in deeply through his nose, “Ora Dissimulo!”
   
    He lowered his glowing wand-tip to the point on Hermione’s abdomen about five inches above her bellybutton and began to trace a light circle all the way around until he had met his starting point once more. Hermione felt the expected sensation and watched as the skin of her stomach gurgled back to what it had looked like a few months earlier.
   
    Malfoy exhaled sharply.
   
    “Well done!” exclaimed the Headmaster. “Now this charm should last until midnight.”
   
    “It has a Cinderella effect does it?” Hermione asked.
   
    Malfoy looked at her awkwardly.
   
    “What on earth are you talking about?”
   
    “It’s a Muggle fairytale, Mr. Malfoy,” Dumbledore hastened to explain. “A servant girl is given the garb of a princess for a night, but the fantasy wears off by the strike of twelve. Am I right, Miss Granger?”
   
    “Yeah, completely,” said Hermione, shooting Malfoy a disgruntled look.
   
    “Well, anyway,” continued the Headmaster, “It will be at midnight that our particular charm wears off, so I suggest you try to stay clear of anyone at this time if you don’t want them asking questions.”
   
    “Yeah, that would pose a few awkward questions,” mumbled Hermione.
   
    “But, besides that, you no longer have to worry about anyone noticing.”
   
    “Hear that, Granger? That means we can finally burn that hideous lumpy sweater you’ve been favoring so often!”
   
    Hermione smacked his shoulder as she got to her feet.
   
    “Ouch,” Malfoy said in feigned anguish. “Do you see what I have to put up with, Professor?”
   
    “From what I see, you deserved it, Mr. Malfoy. Now, off to class, both of you!”

* * *



    “–Happy birthdaaaaay, dear Hermioneeeeeee! Happy birthday to you!!!”
   
    Hermione beamed at the three friends kneeling in her common room, circling a candlelit cake with her picture gracing the frosted top.
   
    “Oh, guys, you didn’t have to!”
   
    “Shhh! Make a wish!” Ginny instructed.
   
    Hermione walked over to them and got to her knees, no doubt in her mind what she needed to wish for this year.
   
    She gave a dramatic puff and the melting pink candles extinguished in spiraling ribbons of smoke.
   
    “Happy birthday!” they all shouted in unison once more.
   
    “You know, you guys really managed to surprise me! How did you even get in here?”
   
    “We asked McGonagall for the password,” said Harry.
   
    “And I suppose she thought it was sweet, considering my condition and all,” Hermione grumbled, pulling her feet from underneath her so she wouldn’t have to rest on her knees.
   
    “Hey, don’t complain, you’ve got cake,” admonished Ron with a stern waggle of his frosting-tipped finger.
   
    Hermione laughed and Ginny handed her a plate with a fat slice sitting gloriously atop it.
   
    “Now I won’t just be pregnant fat, I’ll be fat-fat!” she said, staring at the giant wedge in awe.
   
    “Oh, shut up!” said Ginny throwing a cushion at her, “You can hardly even tell that you’re pregnant at all!”
   
    “Well I should hope not!” Hermione said, smiling at their puzzled faces. “Dumbledore taught us how to do the concealment charm this afternoon.”
   
    “Really?” said Ginny, thoroughly interested and appraising Hermione stomach with newfound curiosity.
   
    “By ‘us’, you mean – ” Harry began to ask.
   
    “Malfoy and I,” finished Hermione in a tone that she hoped conveyed annoyance with a touch of disgust.
   
    Ron and Harry exchanged glances.
   
    “I know you two don’t like it – and I don’t either, don’t get me wrong – but he’s the one living here, so I have to deal with it.”
   
    “Yeah, but what if we set up a secret meeting spot that we agreed to meet at every morning before breakfast?” Ron implored.
   
    “Yes, and what about the days that you decide to skip breakfast altogether? What am I supposed to do then?”
   
    The boys looked disgruntled as they stabbed into their cake.
   
    “Well, I think it’s fine, Hermione,” Ginny piped up.
   
    “Thanks, Gin.”
   
    “I mean, Malfoy’s got a better mark in Transfiguration than the two of you combined!”
   
    Hermione buried her head in her hands as a piece of chocolate cake with pink frosting found its way to Ginny’s forehead.
   
    She was about to intervene as the two redheaded siblings, both sporting faces the color of fuchsia, lunged for the cake, but at that very moment, the portrait swung open and Draco Malfoy sauntered in.
   
    Everyone, including Malfoy, froze.
   
    “Well, don’t let me ruin the party,” the Slytherin said coldly, treating Hermione to a particularly harsh glare.
   
    “Yes, run along upstairs, ferret, you’re not wanted here,” Harry said back, matching Draco’s icy tone.
   
    Malfoy took three long strides till he was standing directly above Harry.
   
    “Potter, I’ll remind you, since it seems to have slipped Granger’s mind, that this is my common room. Not yours, mine.”
   
    Harry rose and tried his best to stare Malfoy in the eye though he was a good four inches shorter.
   
    “We’re here for Hermione, it’s her common room too,” he said through clenched teeth.
   
    Malfoy sucked in his breath and puffed out his chest.
   
    Hermione took this as her cue to stand up.
   
    “Harry, please, it’s getting late. Maybe you should all just head back to Gryffindor tower.”
   
    Harry and Malfoy didn’t take their eyes off of each other.
   
    Ginny, wiping frosting from her brow, heaved an enormous fake yawn.
   
    “Boy am I tired!” she said, standing up and stretching her arms. “Come on, Potter. If you want a goodnight snog, you’ll walk me back.”
   
    Hermione kicked Ron in the butt and gave him a threatening look.
   
    “Yeah, Harry, let’s go. Wouldn't want you to miss an opportunity to molest my little sister!”
   
    Ginny rolled her eyes at him and grabbed Harry’s arm, steering him away from Malfoy.
   
    “Alright, toodleloo Hermione! Happy 18th!” Ginny called as she marched the two boys out of the common room.
   
    The portrait slammed behind them.
   
    There were a few moments of silence before Hermione turned to face Malfoy again. He hadn’t moved from the spot where he had been confronting Harry.
   
    “You know, sometimes I just can’t believe you,” she said angrily, walking towards him. “Usually, you’re just fine around me. You don’t even call me mudblood anymore. But then, the minute they’re in the room, it’s like we’re all back in third year again!”
   
    “So, are you saying that you’d be just over the moon if I brought Crabbe, Goyle and Pansy in here without telling you?”
   
    Hermione eyes hardened, “No I wouldn’t be over the moon, but I wouldn’t come in here and throw a tantrum.”
   
    “That’s not even what it was!” He yelled incredulously. “I merely asked Potter if he remembered whose common room this was after all – he was the one that got indignant!”
   
    “Oh it hardly matters who started it! It’s the fact that you took the bait, that you came walking over here, puffing out your chest, trying to be a big man.”
   
    “I did not puff out my chest.”
   
    “You most certainly did,” said Hermione, taking a moment to pantomime the encounter for him to see.
   
    “You’re ridiculous.”
   
    “No, you’re ridiculous, Malfoy. You’re the bigger man, you didn’t have to sink to his level and yet you did!”
   
    “Oh I’m the bigger man, am I?”
   
    “Shut up.”
   
    Malfoy looked like a proud canary, fluffing his feathers.
   
    Hermione exhales in aggravation and stalks over to the sofa, hands supporting her lower back.
   
    Malfoy smiled to himself as he removed his cloak, slinging it across a chair and helped himself to a piece of cake before taking the seat next to Hermione.
   
    “So, what’s wrong with you?” he asked gruffly through a mouthful of cake.
   
    “What?” she asked in an offended tone.
   
    He nodded towards her hands, still supporting her back despite her seated position.
   
    She sighed and closed her eyes, “Well, typically Malfoy, when someone is holding onto their lower back it is because it’s being an aching pain.”
   
     “Yes, thank you for that, but why? Why is it hurting?”
   
    Hermione looked over at him skeptically, “I’m pregnant. Have you forgotten?”
   
    “So, is the baby kicking you in the back or something?”
   
    Hermione stared at him.
   
    “What?”
   
    “The baby does not kick yet, Malfoy.”
   
    “Sorry! You don’t need to get all offended by a question.”
   
    “Well you would think you would know this, were you really that sheltered?”
   
    Malfoy shrugged.
   
    “My back hurts because of the extra weight I have to carry and because I’m walking all weirdly now.”
   
    “Hmm…” said Malfoy, nodding his head.
   
    Hermione looked around awkwardly.
   
    “Granger?”
   
    “What, Malfoy?”
   
    “I am going to do something right now that you will probably find surprising.”
   
    “Um… What?” she asked, scooting a bit away from him.
   
    “I, being the gallant gentlemen that I am,” Hermione snorted, “Am going to ask you if you want a back rub.”
   
    Silence.
   
    “Well?” he said expectantly.
   
    “Malfoy, you’re an insufferable kiss-ass,” she said, laughing.
   
    “I’m trying to be kind, Granger,” he said over her laughter, “It could be your birthday present if you like.”
   
    She stopped laughing, “You’re serious?”
   
    “Yes.”
   
    “Well, huh, alright then,” she said, watching him for any hint that he was only pulling her leg.
   
    “Granger,” he said after a few moments of her staring at him suspiciously, “you’re going to have to turn around or something if this is going to happen.”
   
    “Oh, right, yeah, I guess I’ll lie down then.”
   
    “Probably a good idea.”
   
    Draco moved off the sofa so she could lie down and then knelt down beside her, lifting up the back of her shirt and placing his fingertips where she had previously been clutching.
   
    “Bloody hell, Malfoy!” she said with a sharp intake of breath, “I don’t know if I want a massage – you’re hands feel half dead.”
   
    “Sorry, poor circulation,” he said, grinning, “But of course you want a massage, Granger, if that look of pain on your face was anything to go by.”
   
    “Oh, shut up.”
   
    “That’s no way to treat the man giving you such a charming and selfless present.”
   
    She rolled her eyes into the cushions.
   
    A few moments passed in silence as Malfoy slowly rubbed her back.
   
    “So,” he began, deciding to initiate conversation again, “Do you really think I’m the bigger man, Granger?”
   
    “Oh good lord. I really don’t know if I want this selfless present if I’m going to have to listen to your conceited prattle!”
   
    “Come on, Granger! You’re the one who said it!”
   
    “Yeah, so what if I did?”
   
    “You know, just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you’re going to get away with being purposely vague and illusive.”
   
    “Actually, I believe you’ll find that’s exactly what it means,” Hermione goaded.
   
    “Well, not with me.”
   
    “Really? And what do you plan to do about it?” she asked dramatically, twisting her torso and propping herself on one arm so that she could look him squarely in the eye.
   
    “Well I believe you are the one in the position of vulnerability as of now, so it would seem that I could do just about anything.”

    “And what would you dare to do?”

    He looked at her mischievously, a daring glint in his eye, and placed one hand, light as a feather, on the side of her stomach, causing the most minute and infuriating tickling sensation.

    “You wouldn’t dare,” she said, her whole body tensing up.

    “Do you really want to test it?”

    “You wouldn’t do it. I know you won’t.”

    He moved two fingers lightly across the responsive skin and she squirmed violently, practically throwing him off her.

    “Malfoy!” she pleaded as he pinned her down again and began to tickle her mercilessly. “Please – please – stop!”

    “Do promise to stop eluding all my questions?” he asked, laughing at all of her ridiculous faces.

    “Yes – whatever you want – I promise,” she gasped.

    “Do I have your word?”

    “Oh my God! Yes – you have – my word!”

    He took his hands away and grinned wolfishly at her as she caught her breath.

    “I don’t give idle threats, Granger.”

    “Like hell you don’t,” she said, pushing him on his chest.

    “Well you were sitting there playing the pregnancy card!” he yelled

    “Shouldn’t I be able to?” she nearly screamed, getting up from the sofa and walking halfway across the room.

    “To a certain extent,” he said carefully and quietly.

    “Oh really,” she mocked, “And I suppose you’re the one who decides to what extent I’m allowed to be pregnant.”

    Malfoy clenched his jaw, figuring now was not the time to retort.

    “You know what,” she began, her eyes stinging uncomfortably, “I would really much rather have you just – just leave me alone. I – I’m going through enough. I don’t need you too.”
   
    She looked at the ground.

    “Well,” said Draco, standing up awkwardly, “I guess… If that’s what you want.”

    “Why wouldn’t it be what I want?” she screamed.

    “I don’t know! I wasn’t questioning it!” he said defensively, holding his hands in the air.
   
    Hermione stared at him. Her face was hot from yelling. Him standing there like she was holding her wand on him.
   
    She lost it. The back of her throat seemed to break like a dam letting a strangled cry escape, her eyes following suit, releasing a torrent of fat, salty tears.
   
    Draco slowly lowered his arms, his eyes wide in confusion as he watched her waddle pitifully over to the window seat. What the HELL have I done now?
   
    Watching her carefully for any signs of a fresh outburst, he took a few tentative steps in her direction. When she didn’t look up but only sobbed harder, he went all the way and took the seat next to her.
   
    “Uh, Granger?” he asked. He had to raise his voice quite loud to be heard above her sobbing. “Granger?”
   
    No response.
   
    “Look, Granger, I’m really sorry if I’ve offended you or something.”
   
    “It’s–not–you,” she managed to get out.
   
    He furrowed his brows, more confused than ever, “Well, what is it then?”
   
    “I don’t know. I’m – in – a – disaster,” she sobbed.
   
    “You mean because you’re pregnant?” he questioned.
   
    A fresh break of tears poured down her ruddy cheeks.
   
    “But, Granger, it’s not all bad! I mean you won’t be pregnant forever, right?”
   
    “Then – I’ll – have – a – BABY!” she said, anger beginning to taint her words.
   
    “Well, yeah… but it will be all cute and chubby and you’ll love it!” he said, his optimism surprising even him.
   
    “I don’t want to,” she said, quietly for a change and raising her head to look him in the eye. “I don’t want to.”
   
    He looked at her for a few seconds.

    “Why not?” he managed to ask.
 
    She swallowed at the lump in her throat and slid a hand underneath her eyes to clear away the stray tears.

    “Well, I’m scared.”

    “How can you be scared,” he asked uncertainly. “It’s your child.”

    “It doesn’t feel like mine,” she said quickly, nervously, “I mean, it’s not really mine, right?”

    “It’s yours now.”

    She sighed, exasperated, “But, it’s all wrong. It wasn’t supposed to happen this way!”

    “Well, yeah, you’re right about that.”

    “This is supposed to happen after I fall in love. Babies come after you fall in love, after you get married… after you graduate.”

    “But, this is different, Granger. This isn’t how it normally happens, but that doesn’t make it less… right.”

    “I’ve never been in love, Malfoy,” she said unblinkingly.

    He stared back at her, uneasy. Yeah, well, me neither.
   
    “How can a baby be the first thing I ever love?”

    Several moments passed as they sat there staring at one another, Hermione’s question hanging like a knife between them.
   
    “Honestly, Granger,” he started, his voice low, “I don’t know how it can happen this way, but I don’t doubt for a second that it will happen. You will love that baby. I know you. You will.”

    “Can you promise me?” she implored.

    “Yeah, yes, I can promise you that.”

    She closed her damp eyes and exhaled a sigh of relief.

    “Thank you, Malfoy,” she said, grabbing the sides of his face and bringing him close to her so that she could kiss him on the forehead. “Thank you.”

    She pushed herself up from the window ledge and walked off to the stairs, up to her room. The door clicked.
   
    Malfoy sat in silence next to the rain-splattered window for a few more minutes. He rubbed his hands through his hair and then rested them on the place she had kissed him.

    He shut his eyes.

    Dammit, you can’t do this, Draco. You’re falling, I can see it, you’re falling.    

~*~

A/N: Well, well,well, after possibly a month or more of waiting I've somehow managed to finish this cursed segment of my story. I know many of you lovely, lovely people are frustrated with the unfathomably long wait, but, rejoice it is here! Please, take the time to tell me what you think. Is it utter crap? Is it your new favorite chapter? I want to know, good and bad. Love! Don't hate me forever, please!



Chapter 12: Mistrust and Misdemeanors
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

September 26th

~*~


    Hermione nervously flicked her thumb against the metal tip of her Eagle feather quill. The fingers of her left hand beat out a consistent, rhythmic strum across the desktop in the dank Potions classroom. Her eyes were locked straight ahead, unblinking, on a subject that was certainly not Professor Snape lecturing on the modern day use of wormwood.

    No, today’s object of Hermione’s unflinching attention was the back of a head. A blond, gelled-to-perfection head, but a head nonetheless.

    Draco Malfoy’s head was all Hermione had seemed able to concentrate on for the last hour and ten minutes of their Double Potions lesson and the flicking fingers, gouged lips and unwavering glower seemed to indicate that she was not too happy about this fact.
   
    If he would just say SOMETHING about last Friday – I mean, he obviously has to remember, so why won’t he talk about it?
   
    Her eyes bugged out a little bit at this last thought.
   
    Clearly, he must think I’m a lunatic. I did cry after all. How horrible is that? Crying. A pregnant woman crying. It’s so cliché I can hardly stand it!

    Professor Snape was now maneuvering through his aisles of students like a looming hawk, contemplating which would be the easiest prey. Hermione wrenched her eyes away from the back of Malfoy’s neck and forced them to focus on the unnaturally blank parchment sitting upon her desk. She began to furiously scribble nonsense about potion making, hoping she wouldn’t catch Snape’s attention.
 
    But what I don’t understand is why he’s avoiding me. If anything, I would assume he would use this as yet another opportunity to mercilessly mock me for my shortcomings. Crying is huge ammo – why doesn’t he use it to torment me?
    Snape was comfortably away from her now and Hermione resumed the familiar ritual of strumming, chewing and staring.
   
    And HOW, may I ask, has he managed to completely avoid seeing me in hallways, in between classes, in our SHARED dormitory? It’s impossible. Is he not sleeping there or something?

    Hermione’s stomach growled obnoxiously as it was nearing noon and she looked down, reminded instantly of the ultimate reason she was currently irate with Draco Malfoy.

    How DARE he disappear when he’s supposed to be performing the stupid concealment charm for me? Sure, I’m used to hiding the bloody watermelon, but he agreed to help me. Dumbledore made him agree. Who does he think he is?
    The clang of the bell resounded around the stone walls of the potion classroom.

    “Have two feet of parchment on the magical components of wormwood on my desk by Monday,” Snape drawled monotonously as the class rushed to collect their things.

    Hermione haphazardly swiped the contents of her desk into her open book-bag, all the while keeping a roving eye on Draco Malfoy as he gathered up his things.

    This is it; I’m not letting him shrink out of sight this time.
    Malfoy casually strode towards the door, bag slung effortlessly over his shoulder, his head held high like a good little aristocratic gentleman.

    Hermione snorted at the sight of him, but didn’t once lose track of his blond head as the crowd slowly poured out of the classroom and into the dungeon passage leading up to the entrance hall.

    Hermione lazily allowed the throng of students to float her up the stairs, but once she emerged in the gleaming marble of the entrance hall, her eyes zeroed in on the one who was taking a diversion up the grand staircase.

    Trying her best at “stealthy”, she followed him up the stairs at an unsuspicious distance.

    He walked with his usual confidence down the deserted corridors – I’ve always wondered if that straight-back was just a front he put on… But the boy seems truly incapable of slumping.

    Malfoy continued to tread purposefully past suits of armor and alcoves housing busts of long-dead witches and wizards, both of which Hermione found useful to periodically hide behind when she thought he’d heard one of her footsteps.

    Eventually they reached the place Hermione had suspected they might be heading: the Library. She gave him a two-minute head start before trailing behind him once again and pushing through the swinging double doors.

    The library was fairly deserted since most people were off at lunch. This would normally be considered a good thing when trying to locate a person between the stacks, but, unfortunately for Hermione, the place seemed to be deserted of Malfoy as well.

    She meandered erratically amongst the shelves, randomly picking up books to look busy if she happened to get caught.

    A good ten minutes passed and Hermione was convinced she’d combed every nook and cranny of the godforsaken hall thrice over. She stood, slightly out of breath, with both palms resting on the checkout counter, disbelief etched in her features.

    “Looking for someone, Granger?”

    Hermione nearly jumped clear out of her skin, spinning around and backing painfully into the edge of the counter to come face to face with the boy she was currently out of breath searching for.
    “What are you doing here?” she demanded.

    “I was about to ask you the same question, funny enough.”
   
    “Well, I was checking out some books, obviously,” she snootily retorted.

    “Really?” he looked her up and down, “Well have you hidden them somewhere about your person?”

    She blushed. “No… The real question is: what are you doing here? You’re never in the library.”

    ‘Yes, well, I found myself in need of some information and figured the library would be the most logical place to find it.” He tapped the books held tightly between his upper arm and side.

    “What information is this?” Hermione asked, eyeing the concealed literature.
   
    “Oh, nothing of interest to you, Granger,” he said with blatantly forced casualness, grabbing Hermione’s arm and steering her towards the door.

    “What? How do you know it won’t be of interest to me?” Hermione responded, growing increasingly more annoyed, “And let go of my arm!”

    “Because you told me so, and I just thought, if you wanted to talk, we should find a better place to do it.”
   
    She narrowed her eyes as they stepped out into the quiet corridor, “Malfoy, what aren’t you telling me?”

    “Nothing,” he said emphatically, “Did you follow me here?”
   
    “No!” Hermione bristled at the suggestion, “And I can tell you aren’t telling me something.”
   
    “I’ve told you everything you need to know, what I’m truly curious about is what you’re doing in the library when you clearly have no desire to check out any books and lunch is on.”
   
    “If you must know, they didn’t have the book I wanted – How about you show me the books you’ve got there?”
   
    “Oh, they’re not important. You know, I’m quite flattered, Granger. I knew you wouldn’t be able to ignore me forever, but this is much sooner than I expected for you to cave.”
   
    “They are import – Wait. Me? Ignoring you? You must be slightly touched in the head if you think that, Malfoy, because you’ve been ignoring me!”

    “You’re delusional, you haven’t so much as looked at me all week.”

    “I have so!”

    Draco smirked, satisfied, and nodded.

    “Oh!” Hermione gasped, “You tricky beast!”

    “Oh, Granger, be nice!”
   
    “No, you are! Now tell me why you’ve been avoiding me!”
   
    “I haven’t, honest.”
   
    “I don’t believe you when you say you’re being honest,” she snarked.

    “Well, clearly you have trust issues that you’ve got to work out,” he said with mock sweetness.

    There was a moment of silence between them as they stared each other down.

    “Where have you been sleeping the past week?” she questioned, deadpan.
   
    “Is this any of your business?” he asked, affronted.
   
    “Well, yes, I would say it’s my business when you’re supposed to be performing a highly important charm on me every morning and you’re nowhere to be found.” She gave him a punishing glare.

    “I – Sorry, Granger, I really didn’t remember.”
   
    “Didn’t you?” she snapped. “Well, I suppose it would be easy for you to forget something that isn’t permanently attached to your navel like a grotesque beach ball!”
   
    “Granger, if it’s any consolation, that’s astounding imagery and I promise to never forget about you again.”

    “Oh you bet you won’t forget about me. I’ll be the one pounding down your door every morning at six from this day on. Be ready.”
   
    She gave him a final menacing look before turning on her heel and storming back down the hallway, making sure that, this time around, each footstep fell with a resounding and highly satisfying boom.

* * *



    Later that evening, Hermione found herself sitting in the comfortable winged armchair opposite Astrid Vance’s desk following her custom weekly appointment.

    She gazed distractedly out the paned window. The hopeful setting sun had managed to break through the fierce grey clouds that had occupied the sky all day. Hermione ran two fingers slowly along the underside of her stomach, right beneath the hem of sweater, trying to feel the translucency.

    All it felt like was skin.
   
    “So, Hermione,” Astrid said suddenly, walking back into the office with a tray of tea, “I thought we could talk about matters besides your physical well-being this visit, seeing as it is the end of your first trimester.”
   
    Hermione snapped back to attention, folding her hands neatly in her lap.
   
    “Oh, um, yeah… what do you mean?”

    Astrid smiled at her, sitting back in her chair, “Well, I am curious to know if your opinion of your pregnancy has changed these last few weeks?”

    Hermione blinked a few times.

    “My opinion of my pregnancy?”

    “Yes. It’s just that you’ve never come across as being particularly enthused by the concept. I was wondering if anything has changed.”

    She pursed her lips slightly, thinking.

    “Well… I don’t know if you recall, Astrid, but this baby is not mine. I did not choose to become pregnant. All of this happened without my knowledge or consent, so, I’m deeply sorry if my… disgruntled attitude makes you uncomfortable, but I have yet to form the so-called ‘all encompassing’ bond with this fetus and, until that happens, I choose to remain happily resentful.”

Astrid’s eyes widened slightly and she took a sip of tea.

“It sounds as though you’ve been thinking about this a lot.”

Hermione took a slow breath in, “Yes, well, it’s hard to come up with something equally complex to dwell on. Frankly, everything else pales in comparison.”

“Is that so?” Astrid said quietly, almost to herself.

Hermione resumed looking out the window.

“Hermione, do you talk to anyone else about the pregnancy? Anyone your own age?”

She rolled her lips between her teeth, staring at the sky.

“Every now and again,” she said, emotionless, “Not many people know.”

“Whom do you talk to?”

“Well,” she began, not making eye contact, “You met Ginny, right?”

    “Is Ginny the only one you share things with, Hermione?”

    “Are all of these questions really necessary, Astrid?”

    Astrid took another sip of tea.

    “I’m only asking,” she said, choosing her words cautiously, “Because this is such an abnormal situation and, to be completely honest, you’ve seemed a bit on edge today.”

    Hermione laced her fingers together tightly, looking down before answering.

    “Astrid, I’m perfectly fine,” she said with a taut smile.

    Astrid leaned across the desk as if about to divulge a secret, “I don’t believe you.”

* * *



    BANG, BANG, BANG.

    Hermione stood, hand on hip, outside Draco’s door early Saturday morning.

    “Malfoy, wake uuuup!” she goaded through the closed door, “You promised!”

    There was rustling, then a loud thud followed by a muffled stream of curses as Draco made his way to the door.

    “What’d you want?” he asked groggily, rubbing his eyes and holding the door open only a fraction.

    “Have you really forgotten again?”

    He squinted at her blankly, forehead resting on the doorframe.

    “Malfoy! The charm! The concealment charm!” She turned sideways and stuck out her stomach, hopefully emphasizing the necessity.

    Malfoy just stood there with his mouth open slightly.

    “Ok, tell you what,” Hermione began bossily, “I’ll give you FIVE minutes to wake up and prepare yourself. After that, you are performing the god forsaken charm if I have to hold your wand up for you!”

    With that she pushed him back in his room and pulled the door closed sharply.

    Exactly five minutes later, Malfoy ambled into the Head Girl’s room to find her lying peacefully on the ground, palms pressed together and breathing deeply.

    He coughed in amusement, “Am I interrupting something?”

    Hermione let out a final exhale and sat up, “Not at all. Are you sufficiently prepared?”

    “If you mean, am I prepared enough to not kill your baby, then, yes,” he replied with a crooked grin.

    “Very well, let’s get this over with,” she said shortly, hoisting herself to her feet and walking across the room.

    “Er, Granger, where are you going? I think you were fine where you were.”

    “Oh, well I have to ask you for another small favor,” she said, standing on the bottom shelf of her armoire as she groped blindly around the top shelf with her right hand.

    “Oh really?” Malfoy asked grumpily, “And what makes you think I’ll say yes?”
   
    “Oh don’t get your knickers in a twist, Malfoy. It’ll only take a second!” It appeared she had located the item she was looking for as she was now walking back across the room with a small brown box.

    “What’s that?” Malfoy asked uncomfortably.

    Hermione rifled through the tissue paper and brought out the item in question with gusto, “It’s a camera!”
   
    Malfoy gave her a look that clearly said ‘Are you completely mad?’

    “It’s a present from Fleur Delacour,” she said with a sigh, “I’m supposed to be documenting my gestation so that I may look back on it fondly in years to come.”

    “That’s what they’ve told you, is it?” Malfoy asked, skeptically eyeing the camera.
   
    “Yes and since I’ve officially finished my first trimester, I figure I won’t have many more excuses to not send pictures.”

    “I think I see what you’re getting at,” he said, stroking his chin.

    “Well, you know, now that you’ll be performing the concealment charm on me everyday, I though I should take a picture of what I look like… er, unconcealed.”
   
    “Aha, and that’s where I come in!”
   
    “See, it’s not a big deal. Just a few quick clicks and we’re done!”

    “Mmhm,” Malfoy mumbled.

    “So, will you do it?”
   
    “On one condition.”

    She sighed and rolled her eyes, “What’s that?”

    “You have to look happy.”
   
    “Excuse me! Who says I wouldn’t look happy?”

    “Well Miss ‘I-resent-my-pregnancy’, I believe you’re the one who told me that.”

    Hermione clenched her jaw and thrust the camera into Malfoy’s hands, stalking away to stand in front of the nearest blank wall.

    “Just take it, will you,” she ordered, plastering her face with an incredibly forced smile.

    “Not so fast, I don’t like the background, it’s boring. Why don’t you sit over by the window?”

    “Malfoy, come on, this is ridic–”

    “Hey, you’re the one who’s asking for a favor,” Malfoy reminded her with a grin.

    Hermione stomped over to the window and plopped herself down on the window seat.

    “Eh, turn a little bit to the side and stick your stomach out,” Malfoy directed, forming a rectangle with the thumbs and forefingers of his two hands.

    “Malfoy, this does not have to be a huge production. Will you please just take the picture?”

    “I’ll take it as soon as you manage to look genuinely happy,” he goaded from behind the lens.

    Hermione rolled her eyes a final time and took a calming breath before she turned to face the camera, pulling on a dazzling grin.

    Draco clicked away rapidly, pretending to be a fanatic photographer.

    “Ok, that’s enough,” Hermione said with a laugh after a dozen or so pictures.

    “Well, you’re lucky I’m such a great photographer… you didn’t give me much to work with.”

    Hermione smacked his arm.
   
    “Right, you’re practically a professional… Now can we please do the charm?”

    “Yes, princess! I’m so sorry I’ve held up our schedule with all of my unnecessary distractions!”

    “Just shut up, Malfoy,” she responded, annoyed, as she lowered herself to the ground.

    “Alright,” said Malfoy, rolling up his sleeves for effect as he kneeled next to her, “Let’s see if I can remember everything now…”

    “Don’t you joke about something like that!”
   
    “Lighten up, Granger, and, please, roll up your shirt.”

    Hermione looked nettled but did as he asked.

    “Ok, sorry if you’re ticklish,” he said with a grin before lowering his wand and tracing one continuous circle around her raised abdomen, saying, “Ora Dissimulo!” 
   
    There was that unfamiliar sensation and the next thing Hermione knew, it was like she wasn’t pregnant at all.

    Draco watched her with an odd sort of look on his face as she stood up quickly and easily, spinning in circles on the wood floor with her stocking feet.
 
    “Oh, I could get used to this,” she said, flitting over to the armoire and admiring herself in the mirror.

    “Well, you’re welcome,” Draco said, hovering near the door.

    “Yeah, thank you, Malfoy,” she said distractedly, looking at him through the mirror.

    “Don’t forget we have patrol in Hogsmeade this afternoon, Granger,” she nodded, still smiling at herself and he said, under his breath, “If you can manage to touch back on reality some time soon.”

* * *



    In late September, Hogsmeade was at the height of its charm. Every thatch-roofed cottage sat basking in the copper glow of the slowly setting sun. Roses were blooming fully – heavy, vibrant petals overflowing picket fences and littering sidewalks. Every Hogwarts student third year and above found themselves incapable of saying no to a carefree afternoon in the village. Students wound in and out of the many pubs and shops, chattering happily and laughing with their friends.

    Strolling lazily down a Hogsmeade side street were two duty-bound students looking shockingly sullen compared to the beauty of the day around them.
   
    “Have we walked down the alley coming up yet?” Malfoy asked dully.
   
    Hermione yawned, “Probably.”

    He squinted at the approaching set of bins and then at the dusty brick walls of the buildings pushing up on either side of them.

    “You know, I reckon we’ve just been walking down the very same blasted street for the last two hours,” he said angrily, landing a kick on the brick wall to his left.

    “Yeah, well, I suppose it’s better than having something to deal with,” Hermione said, hardly sounding convinced by her words.

    Malfoy laughed, “Come on, Granger, come up with something at least you can believe!”
   
    She gave him an annoyed look. “Well, I don’t know what to tell you! You’re acting like a child!”

    “I’m bored!” he said, throwing his arms in the air. “This is ridiculous!”

    Hermione rolled her eyes, but even she had to admit that she could easily fall asleep as they made their monotonous patrol loop around the village.

    “Could we at least sit down somewhere, Granger? I can’t stand walking when there’s nowhere to go!”
   
    “Haven’t you ever heard to take pleasure in the journey, not the destination?”
   
    “Hah, I don’t believe that crap,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “Why don’t we go sit by the fountain on the main street?”

    “We’re supposed to be patrolling ALL of Hogsmeade, Malfoy,” Hermione bossed.

    “Oh come ON! If anything’s going to happen it’ll be out there anyway. No one from Hogwarts comes down these stupid alleys,” Malfoy said, desperate to get out in the open again.

    Hermione knew Malfoy was only saying this because he was sick and tired of the patrol and that, in fact, if there was anything going on that they would have to worry about, it would most likely be happening in one of these abandoned alleys.

    But… then again, she couldn’t help but agree that this was probably the most boring patrol she’d ever been on. The fact that it was a glorious sunshiny day did not help matters in the slightest.

    “I suppose that would be alright,” she said reluctantly.

    Malfoy punched the air with a grin and let out a triumphant, “Yes!”

    “You are such a child,” Hermione said, crossing her arms but incapable of suppressing a grin at Malfoy’s exuberance.

    Malfoy sprinted the length of the alley and then ran a few circles around Hermione, pushing her back to hurry her towards the entrance.

    Out in the sunshine, the two Heads blinked and squinted at the brightness around them. They slowly meandered towards the center of the main street, spotting the simple yet historical stone fountain. The fountain sported an alluring bench that circled around its edge, providing a perfect place to sit when you happened to be a Head exhausted from your pointless patrol… or, you know, something like that.

    Hermione plopped herself down ungainly, tilting her knees out and resting her hands on her (supposedly flat) stomach. Draco observed her with a mischievous grin before sitting down himself.

    “Granger?” he began, turning towards her.

    “What now, Malfoy? Is there something wrong with this spot as well?”

    “No, no, I was just wondering if you were in the right frame of mind for a little constructive criticism.”

    Hermione pursed her lips. “What do you have to say?” she asked, fixing him with a forbidding stare.

    “Er, well, I just thought you would appreciate knowing that you look ridiculous sitting like that.”

    “Excuse me!” Hermione shouted, affronted, snapping her legs together and sitting upright.

    “It’s just pretty obvious that you’re pregnant,” Malfoy whispered.

    “That’s just because you know!” Hermione said, wrinkling her brows.

    “Well you’ve got your legs out like this,” he said, demonstrating elaborately.

    “Oh, shut up!” she shrieked, snapping her knees shut and hitting his arm with her fist as a blush crept into her cheeks.

    “I thought you would appreciate knowing!” he replied, hands in the air.

    “Yeah, thanks so much,” she growled, crossing her arms and looking pointedly away.

    “Merlin, someone is not in a good mood…”

    Hermione scowled at him before turning her nose up snootily in the other direction.

    There are a million things I would rather be doing at this moment, she thought in impatient boredom. In fact, I have shopping I could be doing here instead of wasting my time on this useless patrol! Didn’t Astrid only just advise me to buy one of those maternity bra things? A tinge of pink colored Hermione’s cheeks as she thought of this slightly embarrassing necessity. It would be such a better use of time to get that done now, but she couldn’t possibly do it with Malfoy on her tail. She’d sooner die.

    Glancing slyly over at Malfoy, she was met with the image of a boy at the height of boredom. His brows were so pitifully furrowed, his eyes so pathetically sorrowful that she could almost laugh. This would be too easy.

    “Hey, Malfoy, I have a proposal,” she started cautiously.

    Malfoy’s head snapped around to look at her.

    “A proposal, Granger?”

    “We both know this patrol is unnecessary,” she began, closely watching his expression. “In fact, I doubt anyone would even notice if we, say, abandoned our posts!”

    Malfoy looked at her dubiously, scarcely daring to believe he was hearing her right.

    “So, I guess what I’m suggesting is that we go our separate ways for an hour – I’m sure you have things to do just as I do – and then meet back here to catch up.”

    Malfoy raised his eyebrows skeptically.

    “Where is this coming from, Granger? You always stick by your rules!”

    “Hey I am not just a mindless follower, Malfoy,” Hermione said, offended. “I don’t follow rules for rules’ sake. I have things to do and I would like to get them done today! I’m only being practical.”

    “What are you talking about?” he cried incredulously, “You always follow rules for the rules’ sake!”

    “Whatever,” she replied dismissively. “I’ll meet you back here in one hour sharp!”

    Hermione got up and walked swiftly away, waving cheerily behind her at the baffled Draco.


    I wonder what she’s up to, pondered a curious Draco Malfoy. After Hermione had walked so suddenly away, abandoning her prized duty, Draco was left very curious indeed as to what could inspire in her such a blatant rebellion.

    Now, walking approximately fifty paces behind her, he was about to find out.

    He had tailed her through the moderately crowded main street, relying on groups of giggly third years to conceal him if she happened to turn around.

    Where is she going? Why did she want to get away from me so badly? Draco narrowed his eyes and slipped quickly behind a trash bin to hide from Hermione who had just unexpectedly turned around.

    Ack the things Granger makes me do, thought Draco miserably as the stench of rotting garbage overcame him. He peeked sneakily from behind the bin to see Hermione receding into the distance and then shot up quickly to follow her lead.

    She began to slow her usually purposeful stride as she approached a small pink storefront. Draco clung to the wall of an adjoining alley as she paused before going in. He squinted, hoping to be able to make out the sign, but it was still too far.

    As she walked in and he began to move closer, two fifth year girls emerged with bright pink shopping bags spouting out silvery tissue paper, giggling girlishly to one another. They both blushed and hurried off in laughter upon seeing Draco, but not before he could make out what was written on the sides of their bags.

Lavinia’s Lingerie

Draco’s jaw dropped a fraction of an inch. Hermione Granger was buying lingerie? That was her oh-so-secret mission? What had this world come to?

    Suddenly, Draco found his urgency to follow her quelled. He lowered himself haphazardly onto a park bench, his mind blown.

    Granger, Hermione Granger, is purchasing… lingerie. He gulped, a light sweat lacing his brow. A million thoughts were racing through his mind; quickly, he pinched his eyes shut.

    Oh no, no, no I will not be thinking of Granger like that. No, no. He clutched the iron arm of the bench with such intensity his knuckles turned white.

    Minutes passed as Draco sat in stunned silence. Finally, he thought, Well, I must be practical here. I did promise Dumbledore I would keep her safe wherever she went. I’m not really doing much good sitting outside here like a fool… Perhaps I should move closer.

    With that, Draco picked himself up off the bench and ambled cautiously towards the shop. As he reached the window, he allowed himself a quick peek in. Hermione was nowhere in sight.

    Well where the bloody hell has she gone off to? Draco thought, annoyed. Looking up and down the street once or twice, he took a resigned breath and pushed his way into the shop.

    A few witches gave him odd looks as he towered in the doorway, looking severely unsettled. Hermione was not one of him.

    Going back to his stealth mode, Draco walked quickly over to a rack of merchandise, flipping agitatedly through the many ruffled brassieres and underpants, not looking at a single one.

    He had searched carefully through all corners of the store and had not found Hermione anywhere. Standing up straight, completely baffled as to where she had gone, Draco found Hermione.

    “Oh my god,” he said very slowly in the tone of a man watching a tornado make its way steadily closer to his home.

    Hermione, standing in a fitting room with a sales witch and wearing nothing but a new lacy bra, screamed as she saw his pale, blond head in the mirror.

    “DRACO MALFOY! WHY?!” She turned around, gave him a horrified glare and wrenched the curtain closed, knocking the poor sales witch out of her way. “GET OUT OF HERE!”

    Draco didn’t have to be told twice. He bolted from the shop and didn’t stop running until he reached the gates into Hogwarts.

    Slowing to a walk, he pushed the sweat off his forehead and stared up at the sky. His fingers lingered on the space between his eyebrows and quite suddenly he roared, “Dammit!” and kicked wildly at the air in front of him.

    Positively fuming, he walked with disturbing precision back up the castle’s sloping drive, a look of menace playing about his steely gray eyes. You will not succumb this easily, Malfoy.


A/N: Hey there, readers. Uh, guess who's back? After a very, very, very long hiatus, I'm determined to finish this story once more. Realistically, I know most people no longer care what happens here, but, since I'm writing it, I figure I might as well post. Honestly, I'm very sorry if my ridiculous absence has offended you or angered you in some way - Life got in the way, that's all I can say. Hopefully you get some enjoyment for what I post here! 

By the way, half of this chapter was written in May 2008 and half in May 2009.... so, sorry if there's any apparent disjointedness!

Oh, and feedback of any sort would be the best thing ever. Thanks
=)

Chapter 13: It's A Date
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October 24th

~*~





“So, Hermione, I believe you’ve been informed as to why you’ve been recommended to see me – ”

“Yes, but I don’t believe it’s a very good explanation,” interjected Hermione.

After a slightly peculiar interaction with her Healer, Astrid Vance, during her prior visit, Hermione had received a letter recommending she pay visit to one Norman Tottle, a Healer specializing in unusual mental stress. Astrid believed Hermione needed assistance in coping with her unique predicament.

“I believe Astrid told me you were short with her and appeared, on a whole, incredibly frustrated,” blathered Norman Tottle as he looked through his spectacles at what she supposed was her “chart”.

“Yes, well, I was a little frustrated at that point,” conceded Hermione. “Are you really trying to tell me it’s wrong for me to be frustrated at times with what I’m going through?”

“Well, no – ”

“Because you do realize that I am miraculously carrying another woman’s child and, oh, by the way, I’m only eighteen? Do you realize that?” Hermione’s voice had grown quite high-pitched with her mounting irritation.

Mr. Tottle sighed, “I guess I can understand what Astrid was saying.”

Hermione blushed and furrowed her brows.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Tottle,” she began pragmatically, “Really, I am. You just have to understand where I’m coming from. I don’t much feel like being talked down to at the moment. And that’s all I feel I’m getting… from everyone.”

“Even from your friends, Miss Granger?” he asked curiously, “How many, may I ask, know about your pregnancy?”

“Well there’s Harry, Ron and Ginny… Ginny’s fine – a good kick of reality – but Ron and Harry give a new meaning to the word over-protective.”

“And those are the only fellow students who know?” prompted Mr. Tottle.

“No, there’s also Malfoy,” Hermione added shortly.

“And? How does he treat you?”

Hermione thought about that question for a second. “Normally, I suppose. Like he’s always treated me… but different somehow.”

“How did he treat you before?”

“Oh,” snorted Hermione, “Well, we were never the greatest of friends. In fact, it wouldn’t be too dramatic to call us enemies for many years. His pet name for me used to be ‘Mudblood’; isn’t that lovely?”

Norman Tottle raised his eyebrows for her to continue.

“But that stopped this year,” she continued, “Now he just teases me. It’s not too bad though. I get in my own jabs at him so it’s alright.”

“So Mr. Malfoy doesn’t bother you about your pregnancy like, er, Harry and Ron?” asked Mr. Tottle, referring to his notes.

“Yeah,” said Hermione absently, “He doesn’t bother me one bit…”

* * *





As the thirty-first drew nearer, Hogwarts found itself in the midst of Halloween preparation. As Head Boy and Girl, Draco and Hermione were in charge of such things as decorating the Great Hall, supervising the Halloween feast organization, and making sure Hagrid didn’t overdue it on the bats and pumpkins.

The Great Hall was quite a sight to be seen. It was Friday afternoon, one week from Halloween, and both Heads could be found standing atop the House tables, directing fellow prefects as they magically maneuvered decorations.

“A little higher, Stewart,” implored Hermione from her perch as a young Ravenclaw levitated a cluster of orange candles in the air.

“Bloody hell, Summers! What do you think you’re doing?! Higher!” roared Draco from another table.

Hermione turned around sharply to glare at him. He gave her a cheeky smile and she turned swiftly away once more.

The two hadn’t spoken once since the incident in Hogsmeade. Hermione wasn’t feeling very forgiving. He had seen her in her undergarments after all. She shuddered at the memory of it.

Climbing carefully down from the table, Hermione walked over to a large box of autumn leaves she had had collected for decorating purposes.

“You’re not speaking to me, I take it,” whispered Malfoy behind her.

She inhaled sharply. “No, I am not, and it’s working out quite wonderfully so why don’t we keep it up?”

“Come on, Granger, I’m sorry,” he pleaded. “All this silence is infuriating!”

“Well, to me, it’s refreshing,” she said wickedly, throwing him one of his usual smirks.

“Oh, don’t play that card! I know you miss me –”

“I most certainly do not!” she cried.

“Yes, you do. And you know it was an accident! I didn’t plan for it to end up like that… for me to see you –”

“Stop,” she said, closing her eyes and holding up a hand, “I would rather not relive the embarrassment.”

She grabbed a handful of leaves and stalked off. Malfoy, ever persistent, followed her.

“You have nothing to be embarrassed about, really,” he spoke smoothly in her ear. “Now, don’t get your knickers in a twist, but I’d just like to say you looked pretty damn good, in my opinion.”

Hermione turned a vibrant shade of scarlet and spun around.

“If you think you can just come smooth talking your way out of the doghouse, you’re very wrong!”

Malfoy smiled crookedly, “Glad this is all behind us. See you later, Granger.”

Hermione squinted incredulously at his receding form and was about to yell after him when Ginny sidled up to her.

“What was that all about?” she asked pointedly.

Still staring angrily after Malfoy, Hermione sighed, “Nothing.”

“That definitely did not look like nothing,” Ginny continued with a mischievous grin. “Come on, Hermione, you can tell me.”

“Not now,” she said quietly, her cheeks pink, “How about you sleep over at my dormitory tonight. I’ll tell you then.”

“Sounds good to me!” replied Ginny cheerfully, “I’ll be over later.”

Hermione nodded as she walked away and then began throwing bunches of her autumn leaves roughly across the tables, fuming at Draco’s behavior.

“Hermione,” said a breathless Parvati Patil, hurrying towards the Head Girl, “I’ve been meaning to tell you something… Oh, hello, Draco.”

Hermione, curious as to what she was about to be made privy to, shot Draco an annoyed glare.

He merely smirked, satisfied.

“Well I was just going to tell you both that, on Halloween, Lavender and I are planning to host a party in the Room of Requirement,” said Parvati with a devious smile. “I hoped you two would agree to come. It’s going to be a smash.”

Hermione opened her mouth to say something, but Draco cut across.

“We’ll be there,” replied Draco silkily, giving Parvati a wink.

“Excellent. The festivities begin at eleven o’clock,” she said, flashing him a smile. “Oh, and don’t forget to wear a costume.”

With that she turned sharply and sashayed away.

“Draco! This is not a good idea!” hissed Hermione the moment her fellow Gryffindor was out of earshot. “We are the Heads. We should report the party to McGonagall.”

“Ooh someone sounds scared,” said Draco, clucking his tongue mockingly.

“I’m not scared,” she replied, blushing at the accusation, “I merely don’t think it’s prudent of us, considering our positions, to promote such blatant rule-breaking!”

“Come off it, a Halloween party is hardly ‘blatant rule-breaking.’”

“It most certainly is!” she replied, quite a bit shriller than she had intended.

Draco surveyed her, eyebrows raised in apparent amusement. “Look, Granger, you’ve got to let loose every once in a while. You can’t always be the ‘Head Girl’ or no one will respect you!”

Hermione’s lips pinched together furiously as, once again, he walked casually away.


Later on that same October evening, Hermione and Ginny were found sprawled out on the Head Girl’s bedroom floor, in front of the large, crackling fire. Ginny had taken it upon herself to pay a visit to the kitchens before heading up and thus arrived with a basket filled with warm plates of nutty fudge, peanut brittle and a thermos of hot cocoa.

They had sat contentedly for a few hours, gossiping about their various classmates and whatnot, staying far away from the topics of conversation that went any deeper.

“Hermione,” began Ginny, somewhat cautiously as she took another bite of fudge, “You haven’t said a word about what’s been going on in your life all evening… I feel like such a bore!”

“Hardly,” Hermione snorted. “It’s actually nice to not have to think about my life for once.”

“Well, sorry love, but I’m going to force you,” said Ginny quite unapologetically. “How are your visits with that Healer going?”

“Fine, I suppose,” Hermione said heavily, “I’ve been recommended to see a psychologist.”

“Ooh dear, what have you done?” Ginny replied with a smile.

“Hah, well I suppose I haven’t started the whole warm, gooey motherly stage yet and they’re wondering why.”

“Hmmph,” snorted Ginny. “I would be perfectly fine if you skipped that stage altogether!”

“Not a problem with me…”

“Have you seen this psychologist yet?

“Yes, yesterday afternoon,” Hermione replied off-handedly. “He was oddly interested in my relationship with Malfoy, to be honest. We talked more about that than the baby!”

“Interesting,” said Ginny, her eyes watching Hermione’s expression.

“I suppose…”

“Speaking of Malfoy, he must be performing that charm for you because it’s absolutely impossible to tell if you’re pregnant!”

“He is, but,” she scooted over to get a look at the clock on the mantel, “Yeah, the charm will wear off in about half a minute.”

Ginny followed her gaze, “So it’s gone by midnight every night?”

“Yes indeed.” And, with her words, her stomach gave a great pop as her waistline expanded, leaving her with a belly plump with pregnancy.

“Oh my!” cooed Ginny, moving closer to place both hands on Hermione’s middle. “There’s a baby in there!”

“Well done, Ginny, you sure catch on fast,” mocked Hermione with a smile.

“Sorry I just haven’t seen you like this in so long,” she replied, her eyes still staring adoringly at Hermione’s belly button.

“Stop looking at me like that, it’s unnerving!”

“Hermione, you really look lovely like this, I don’t understand why you need the charm…”

“What am I supposed to do just show up to breakfast one day with my belly fully distended? People would go crazy!”

“Well, you’d have to tell them obviously…”

“No, that’s all too much of a mess. I’m much happier in hiding.”

“But what if you want to do something past midnight? What happens then?”

“What like the Halloween party Parvati and Lavender are planning?” Hermione asked sadly.

“Yeah, precisely like that!” Ginny exclaimed, then, seeing Hermione’s face, turned quiet. “Aw Hermione have you already thought about that?”

“Yeah, and I don’t see how I’ll be able to go. Malfoy was calling me out for being a chicken earlier, but, it’s not even that really, it’s this.” She looked pointedly down at her swollen belly.

“Hmm,” mumbled Ginny, thinking, “Well, hey, your stomach really isn’t all that big just yet! It would be easy to think of a costume that would conceal your bump!”

“Oh yes,” said Hermione in feigned delight, “How about I go as a nice Halloween jack o’lantern? Boys will be lining up to dance with me, the magical gourd!”

“Stop it! Just because your costume can’t be form-fitting doesn’t mean it can’t be sexy.”

With a wicked grin on her face, Ginny got up and bounced excitedly over to Hermione’s wardrobe.


On the other side of the dormitory, Draco Malfoy lay in bed, his long legs stretched out in front of him and a large book propped up on his chest.

He had been reading avidly every moment he had to himself, careful not to let anyone, especially Granger, get a look at what he had chosen as reading material.

It was Saturday evening and he had been mulling over this particular tomb for the better part of two hours. His eyes were weary and slightly bloodshot, his back ached from lying stationary for so long.

A tinkle of girlish laughter passed, muffled, through the castle wall. Draco, his ears perking up at the sound like a hound on the hunt and his lips twitching into a smile, sprang up from his bed and strode quickly to the door and across the landing to Hermione’s.

Not bothering to knock and announce himself, Draco gave the knob a turn and burst cheerily into the room.

“You ladies are creating quite a racket, you know,” he said suavely, eyeing Hermione as she lay sprawled across the floor.

“Malfoy what makes you think you can simply barge into my room unannounced? Get out of here!”

“I was just wondering what’s so funny, you seem to be quite amused if your howling cackles are anything to judge by.”

“We were just discussing the Halloween party, if you must know. And I’m still not sure whether we as the Head Boy and Girl should condone it.”

“Merlin you are no fun,” Malfoy sighed. “Of course we’re condoning it! We’re going!”

Ginny’s eyes darted between the two of them, a grin spreading across her face.

“Oh you think you can decide, just like that?” Hermione stated, incensed.

“It’ll be good for you,” replied Draco, matter-of-factly.

“It won’t be GOOD for me if my concealment charm wears off at midnight and the party has only just started!”

Draco shrugged, nonplussed.

“Think up a more concealing costume. It’s not like you were going to show up there in some strappy, revealing number anyway!” Draco snorted.

“That’s a bit presumptuous!” Hermione declared, aghast.

“Oh, whatever, Granger. Just go. It’ll be fine. I’ll have your back if that makes you feel better.” He smiled cockily.

“I don’t know if it does…” Hermione said, looking skeptical.

Malfoy walked over to them and scooped up a chunk of fudge. Straightening up, he said, “You’re going. Meet me in the common room at 11:00 – we’ll arrive fashionably late.”

With a wink he sauntered out, snapping the door shut behind him.

Hermione turned agitatedly towards Ginny, whose jaw was on the floor. “What?” she asked, confused as to her expression.

Ginny smiled. “You don’t even realize it, but you just got yourself a date with Draco Malfoy.”

~*~





A/N: Hi, everyone! Here's the next chapter, as promised. Please, please leave a review - any feedback you can give me helps. Thank you all for remaining so loyal to this story!

Chapter 14: Flutters of Realization
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October 31st



~*~


      
    The Great Hall was bedecked in its usual Halloween regalia. Bats flapped and fluttered about the enchanted ceiling, pumpkins glowed eerily from the walls and tables, candles burning orange and black hovered in clusters around the room, and the Hogwarts ghosts swooped enthusiastically between the four House tables.

    The traditional feast had begun, and students sat chatting happily with their housemates and gorging themselves on fabulous pies and puddings.

    “Reckon Parvati and Lavender will get away with the party?” Ron asked thickly through his mouthful of potatoes.

    “Don’t see why not,” said Ginny, scooping up a mouthful of tomato soup. “The teachers won’t be able to locate the Room of Requirement.”

    Hermione opened her mouth to voice her disapproval, but Harry cut in first.

    “So what are we all going as? It’s a costume party, right?” he asked quickly.

     “I’m going as Galvin Gudgeon, the seeker for the Cannons,” said Ron impressively.

    “How original, Ronald,” replied Ginny snootily, “I’m going as the lead singer of the Weird Sisters.”
   
    Ron opened his mouth to retort, but Harry once again cut across saying, “And I’m going as a Werewolf – how lovely!”

     The boys both looked at Hermione, waiting for her to chime in with what she was dressing up as, when it dawned on them.

    “Oi, Hermione, you are planning to go, aren’t you? How are you going to hide…” Ron trailed off, giving her midsection a nod.
   
     Hermione took a bite of pumpkin pie, looking thoroughly nonchalant, and said, “Don’t worry about it, I have it all under control and I’ll be at the party.”

    The boys grinned. “That’s the spirit, Hermione,” said Harry, raising his glass to her.

    “Our little Head Girl,” cried Ron, wiping a false tear away from his cheek, “She makes me so proud.”
   

    After the feast, the four of them retreated to their various dormitories to don their costumes. Hermione was standing in front of her wardrobe mirror, examining her currently flat stomach from different angles.

    “You may be normal now, you tricky beast,” she muttered, “but by midnight you’ll jump out again.”

    Sighing in resignation, she pulled off her black Hogwarts robes and walked over to her four-poster where her costume sat waiting. As she carefully arranged it about her, she heard a door slam on the other side of the landing, and footsteps echoing across.

    “Three, two, one,” she mouthed and Draco burst into the room.

    “Honestly, Malfoy, is there any point in having a door at all if you’re just going to barge on through it whenever you like?”

    He smirked at her playfully, “Well if that’s how you feel, I’m sure we can arrange –”
    Hermione stopped him with a very McGonagall-like stare.

    “Changing subjects then!” he responded enthusiastically. “I must say, Granger, you have outdone yourself.”

    “And what is that supposed to mean?” she asked skeptically.

    “You look… ravishing,” he said with a wicked smile. “You’re a Grecian goddess, I assume?”

    “Very good, Malfoy,” said Hermione, her cheeks rosy pink. “There’s no mistaking what you are… although I must say you bare a strong resemblance to in real life anyway…”

    Draco bared his teeth and, sweeping her towards him, placed his mouth a fraction of an inch from her exposed neck. “How I vould love to take a bit of your succulent flesh,” he drawled in what she supposed was his attempt at a Transylvanian accent.


    “Draco!”

    “Oh come off it, Granger,” he said with a smile, pulling away, “That’s my pick-up line for the rest of the evening. Think it’ll work?”

    “I suppose so,” Hermione admitted, hurrying over to the bathroom to finish her hair.

    “Granger, it’s almost eleven! Aren’t you ready?” he called impatiently, taking a seat on her neatly made bed.

    “Maybe I would be if you hadn’t come in here with your vampire distractions!”

    Draco smiled to himself, “I know you want to impress the Weasel and all, but honestly, it won’t take much!”

    Hermione stuck her head out of the bathroom to glare at him, “I am NOT trying to impress Ron!”
   
    “Sure,” Malfoy scoffed.

    “I’m not! Why don’t you go back to your room? You’re no use to me here.”

    Draco got up and made his way to the bathroom door, looking at his watch, “Granger, it’s eleven now, let’s go!”

    Walking into the bathroom, he grabbed Hermione, who was touching up her hair, around the waist and dragged her back into the main room.
   
    “Let me go, Malfoy, or I’ll jinx you back to Transylvania!”

    “Granger, Granger,” he said calmly, spinning her around to face him, “You look great. Can we please go now?”

    Hermione sighed and then, reluctantly, nodded her head.


    The Room of Requirement had been petitioned by the older students of Hogwarts to give them a room in which they could throw a fabulous party all without drawing the attention of any teachers. As a result, the room transfigured into a large circular hall, lit by an iridescent dance floor and chandeliers of glittering orange candles.

    It seemed as if every student fifth year and above was milling about the large space, some completely unrecognizable due to their crazy costumes.

    Draco led Hermione in, fashionably ten minutes late as planned. His face was pulled into his default mask of superiority, but hers was having trouble hiding her mounting anxiety concerning the evening.

    Parvati rushed over to them, cat ears poking out of her shiny black hair, and drawn-on whiskers fanning out across her cheeks. “Draco, Hermione,” she called enthusiastically, pulling Hermione into a fast hug.

    Hermione thanked the gods it wasn’t midnight yet – she’d have to make sure no hugs happened afterwards.

    “So glad you two could make it,” Parvati chirped with a tiny hiccup.

Hermione looked down and saw a fruity pink cocktail in Parvati’s hand.

“Are you drinking?” she shrieked incredulously.

“Shh it’s only a little cherry soda with a dash of firewhiskey! I’m of age, you know!”

“I hardly think –”

But before she could exclaim her disapproval, Parvati had moved on to welcome the next wave of arrivals.

“Draco, she’s drinking!”

“What did you expect, Granger?” he asked with a wink. “This is a ‘secret’ party for a reason after all.”

“But – but, we’re in school! It’s wrong! And there are underage students here!”

“And what? You never had a little swig of Ogden’s finest when you were underage?” he asked with a laugh.

Seeing Hermione’s aghast expression, however, told him she hadn’t.

“Well, I’ll tell you what, if we see anyone drinking who’s underage, we’ll send them straight back up to their dorms.”

Hermione, still disgruntled, made to say something else, but Draco cut her off, “Oh look there’s the other two-thirds of the golden trio. Why don’t we go say hello, I’d hate to not give them the chance to berate me.”

Draco placed both hands on her back and steered her in the direction of Ron and Harry who were hovering at the edge of the room.

“Hermione!” shouted Ron over the thumping music. “You look great! Can hardly tell you’re you know what!”

Draco rolled his eyes. Before Hermione could tell him she was still under the concealment charm, Ginny sidled up to them, fully outfitted in witch rocker attire.

“Hey boys and girls are you ready to get this party started?” she prompted excitedly.

Hermione looked sheepishly around as Ginny began a very zealous dance move. Harry grabbed her around the middle and the both of them made their way over to the crowded dance floor.

Draco moved over to the wall and leaned against it, watching the party lay out before him with an expression of mild interest. Hermione stood awkwardly halfway into the room, swaying noncommittally to the music, trying desperately to belong. Ron had spotted Luna, his date, and had hurried over to her, leaving Hermione alone with Draco.

Eyeing her amusedly, he called out, “Granger, honestly, have you ever been to a party before?”

Seeming glad that he had spoken and given her a reason to rush over to the wall and stand next to him, she replied timidly, “No. Never.”

Taken aback at her candid response (he had fully expected her to bite his head off), Draco looked at her with something that could possibly have been sympathy.

“Hah,” he said, recovering, “Well you’re making it quite obvious! And you don’t want to do that. Just play it cool like me.”

“This is cool?” she questioned, observing his graceful slouch against the party room’s wall. “You just look apathetic.”

“Exactly, Granger,” he said with a knowing smile. “You’ve got to make people think that there are a thousand things you’d rather be doing.”

“That’s rude!”

“No – it’s cool,” he replied, winking at her.

“Fine,” she began, hesitantly, “How’s this?”

She had balanced an elbow on her other crossed arm, her hand lolled out haphazardly, a look of sheer boredom falling into place on her face.

“Wow, Granger! I have to say, you just might be a natural at this.”

Hermione smiled to herself in apparent glee. Just then, a new song started playing and Draco’s face lit up in recognition.

“Well, we’ve got to dance to this one, come on then,” he said matter-of-factly.

Hermione, a bit startled at his sudden interest in music and dancing, said, “Oh, but Draco, look at the time! It’s nearly midnight…”

“Well were you planning to leave? No. So come on let’s dance – no one will notice out there.” He gestured over to the throng of people swarming around the dance floor.

Not entirely assured, Hermione followed him over to the congregation of dancers apprehensively. She didn’t much like the looks of how her fellow classmates were dancing with one another. It was all so… explicit. She was sure she couldn’t do something like that at all.

While she was bemoaning her own lack of dancing experience, Draco had taken initiative and pulled her into the crowd. Hermione was acutely aware of how close they were standing together. Smirking at her, Draco began to casually bob around. He looked so silly and unusual that Hermione let out a laugh, which only spurred him to dance even more extravagantly. Amidst a fit of giggles, the clock struck midnight and, with a pop inaudible over the blaring music, Hermione’s pregnant stomach shot out and bumped Draco in the groin. She looked up at him, her eyebrows wrinkling together in horror. Draco, completely unfazed, gave her a look of reproach and wagged his finger at her admonishingly. Then placing both hands on her sides, he began to sway her to the music, pulling her right up against him.

They danced like that for a long while, both lost in the music and the feeling of utter abandon. No one seemed to notice or care that the Head Boy and Girl, notorious enemies from Slytherin and Gryffindor, were dancing like they actually might be fond of one another.

That is, no one seemed to notice or care until they finally took a break from the sweaty horde on the dance floor and went to stand by the wall once again.

“Draco!” came a piercing, hostile cry. Pansy Parkinson was stomping towards them.

“Didn’t know you were coming,” she spat.

“Hello, Pansy dear,” Draco replied coolly.

“Thought you’d bless us with your presence, did you?” she retorted in a low hiss.

“Naturally,” he said with a roll of his silver eyes.

“Who are you here with then?” she demanded, her gaze traveling instantly over to Hermione, standing a few careful feet away.

Surely not her.”

Hermione bristled, her face reddening.

“Well she is Head Girl, and I am Head Boy,” Draco responded shortly, looking off into the distance and not into Pansy’s eyes.

“Your standards have lowered tragically, Draco,” Pansy snapped vindictively. “And she has certainly let herself go… not that she was much to start with.” Her eyes flicked down to Hermione’s swollen middle.
 
Hermione’s cheeks blazed furiously.

Before either of them could retort, however, Pansy turned on her heel and slunk angrily away.

Hermione turned on Draco. “Yeah thanks for having my back there, mate,” she snarled, her cheeks positively burning and her eyes narrowed in rage.

Pushing him aside, she too stormed away.

Where are the bathrooms, this place has got to have bathrooms, she thought impatiently. To her left, an archway materialized out of nowhere and she hurried through to find two doors marked ‘Witch’ and ‘Wizard.’

Finally alone, she clutched the sink and burst into angry tears. She hated Draco, she hated him. Here she was thinking he was fine, he was even nice sometimes, but no, he was still the same mudblood loathing coward as he used to be.

At these thoughts, a wrench of pain shocked through her stomach, causing her to double over. The pain came again and again and she soon found herself crumpled on the floor in agony, completely helpless.

There was a knocking at the door.

“Granger!” came a rough voice, “Hermione?”

She tried feebly to answer, but her voice caught as she had to grit her teeth against the stabbing pains.

After a moment’s deliberation, Draco charged in, looking around frantically before finally casting his eyes downward to the mound of white fabric that was Hermione.

He rushed silently to her side, carefully rolled her over, and put an ear to her heart.

“Granger, what happened? Can you hear me?”

“Yes,” she croaked. “I just got this horrible pain in my stomach. It coming in waves over and over.”

“I need to get you out of here,” he said desperately.

“How? People will ask questions,” she moaned.

Draco didn’t seem to be bothered by that though, for he had knelt down and picked Hermione up in one fell swoop.

“Draco!”

“Quiet. If people ask questions, you slipped on some water and twisted your ankle.”

He pointed his wand at the door and it flew open with a resounding bang. Luckily for them, the partygoers were much more concerned with their dance moves than the antics of the two Heads. Draco managed to carry Hermione through the circular room without so much as one curious head turning in their direction.

It wasn’t until they reached the safety and solitude of the deserted seventh floor, however, that either of them truly breathed.

Nonetheless, without stopping, Draco skidded around the corner and broke out into a sprint, running in the direction of their dormitories.

Hermione was keeping her eyes tightly shut, her arms slung instinctively around his neck. She was concentrating on fighting the pain, but soon realized that the persistent stabs were no longer cutting into her. She opened her eyes a fraction to look up at Draco’s face. He had a set sort of look of determination about him – she couldn’t help but notice, however, that a vein in his temple was pulsating beneath his pale skin.

“Draco, the pain’s gone,” she said flatly.

He didn’t respond. They were hurtling down their corridor now, approaching the entrance to the dormitories.

“Codswallop!” he roared, the portrait flying open and him careening inside.

“Draco, stop! The pain’s gone!”

He was looking around frantically in their common room for a place to put her. Apparently settling on the sofa, he rushed over and carefully laid her down.

“Draco, really,” implored Hermione, “the pain is gone.”

He was panting, kneeling next to her.

“What?! I just carried you at a run across this whole bloody school!”

“I know,” said Hermione sheepishly, “thanks.”

Draco heaved himself up onto the sofa and collapsed. “Don’t mention it,” he murmured.

Hermione sighed, placing both hands on her belly and closing her eyes.

“I really can’t possibly think what went wron – Oh!” she cried suddenly, her eyes snapping open.

“What is it? The pain again?” asked Draco quickly, swiveling to face her.

Hermione just stared straight ahead, her hands pressed gently on her belly.

“Hermione!” he yelled, a trace of worry in his voice.

“No, it’s not the pain,” she said calmly. Then, grabbing Draco’s left hand, she pulled it into place on her navel.

He looked at her like she was a crazy person for a moment and then he felt it. It was like a ripple under her skin – a flutter of tiny little kicks.

“It’s moving... the baby,” she said quietly. “It’s real.”

~*~



A/N: Hello faithful readers! Another chapter up (Sorry for the delays, I posted once the queue had reopened, but there was a problem with my story summary... banner image link was posted twice. Ugh!). Please tell me what you think - I love reading ANYTHING you have to say. =)

Chapter 15: Secrets Stumbled Upon
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

November 21st

~*~




    Everything changed after that Halloween. Those tiny, barely discernable movements managed to jolt Hermione like nothing else had. Suddenly, the baby became her baby, and the concept of her impending motherhood finally managed to seep beneath the hard, steel exterior she had placed guard on her heart.

    Despite the countless appointments with her Healer, the long talks with Dumbledore, her friends, even Draco, the concept of the baby had remained firmly theoretical. Now, with the little pattering kicks drumming across the inside of her midsection, her baby was a physical reality. And, most importantly, it was hers.

    With her newfound acceptance blossoming happily, Hermione found her life falling into a pleasant, comfortable routine once more. That had been, perhaps, what she had resented the baby the most for: her loss of simplicity and routine. When she had learned of her pregnancy, her life became unpredictable and confusing. Nothing had been familiar; all she seemingly had in front of her was a great expanse of unknown. But those kicks, those kicks anchored her. Once more, she had found her reality and finally she was ready to embrace it.

    Now each day unfolded in blissful consistency. She awakened from dreams no longer wrought with fear, panic and turmoil. She assessed her day’s schedule, showered, dressed, and, ever patiently relentless, knocked on the Head Boy’s door.

    Draco Malfoy had been observing Hermione from afar during the weeks following the incident on Halloween, watching her abrupt change in attitude with nothing short of reverence. Of course, he would never admit that to anyone. It was hard enough to admit it to himself…

    Every morning he dutifully performed her concealment charm. Considering the fact that they were guaranteed to spend at least five minutes a day together, it was downright impressive how little they had managed to say to one another over the time. The charm was performed in relative silence. They spoke only when it was absolutely necessary, but usually retreated back to comfortably ignoring one another’s presence.

    After that night, Hermione had declined to speak to Draco for the rest of the weekend. She barely left her room, preferring to stay in bed, her stomach unconcealed, to sort through all of her teeming thoughts.

    Draco followed suit. It would be a horrible lie to say he had been unaffected by the events of the 31st. No, he had been quite relieved when Hermione had shown no signs of wanting to talk – he didn’t think he was quite ready for that.

    Instead, he too retreated to his room. However, comfortable routine was not what befell him. Pacing his Saturday and Sunday away, Draco spent his sleepless nights drowned in confusion. He had been so sure, so calm and capable, and yet now he was nothing if not doubtful and indecisive.

    That Monday, he observed her carefully from a distance. She was new. She had a look on her face he was sure he had never seen before; he was familiar with all of her looks. This one was poised and sanguine – something he had not detected in her expression in months, if ever.

    He was… intimidated by this Hermione Granger. He didn’t know how to speak to her, to treat her. And with the extended bout of silence following the incident, it was far easier to remain silent than start up conversation again.

    And so they remained silent. Draco lost as to how to approach her, Hermione indifferent to being approached.

    On Friday the 21st, however, their silence was, quite suddenly, interrupted.

    It began with two nondescript notes arriving in front of each of them at the breakfast table. Professor McGonagall was requesting they meet her before morning lessons as she had something to share with them both. Hermione wondered vaguely what her Head of House could want to say; Draco grumbled impatiently with the thought of having to be in the same room as her for another five minutes out of his day.

    As it turned out, the Professor had something rather important to inform them of.

    “Miss Granger, Mr. Malfoy,” she began, eyeing them each from above her lowered spectacles. “This December, Hogwarts will be throwing its first Wintertime Waltz in celebration of not only the Dark Lord’s defeat, but a newly free wizarding world. We will be extending invitations to our international friends from Durmstrang and Beauxbaton and, obviously, this has the makings to be a very momentous event.”

    She paused as if waiting for a response.

    “Erm, that sounds excellent, Professor,” said Hermione uncertainly. Draco nodded his head ever so slightly.

    “Indeed, well, as Head Boy and Girl, you both will play significant roles in the preparation for this evening. You are the representatives of Hogwarts’ students and, with our international guests present, it is paramount that you make a strong impression.”

    “What exactly does ‘making a strong impression’ entail?” asked Draco skeptically.

    “This is an opportunity for you two to learn to work together. So, naturally, you’ll be in charge of the decorations, the preparation of the castle, the menu, and, of course,” her eyes flashed, “you will lead the ball.”

    Draco coughed, “And what does that mean?”

    “Come now, Mr. Malfoy,” she said sternly, checking her watch, “Don’t ask me unnecessary questions. You two should be off to class now. I’ve got my first years in but a minute’s time.”

    She hurried to her feet, ushering the thoroughly confused Heads out her office door.

    “Oh and the date will be the twentieth of December,” called McGonagall down the corridor as she rushed off to her classroom. “Professor Dumbledore will be announcing it to the school tonight.”

    The Heads stared absently at her retreating form, both a bit shocked by this sudden demanding addition to their lives.

    “Come on, Granger,” said Draco gruffly. “We’re going to be late for Arithmancy…”

    The two sprinted up four flights of stairs and down the fifth floor corridor, stumbling into the classroom and taking the last two seats at the back just as the bell trilled.

    Hermione was breathing quickly, her cheeks flushed as she pulled out her notes and a quill. Draco leaned back in his chair, desk empty as Professor Vector drew a large number seven on the blackboard and began her lecture on its magical significance.

    Glancing sideways at Hermione’s rigid form as she began scribbling down notes, Draco wrinkled his brow.

    Draco, you’re being ridiculous. What are you afraid of her or something? A Slytherin afraid of a Gryffindor? You’re pathetic. Do something!

    Steeling another glance, he reached into his bag and pulled out a loose sheet of parchment and his handsome eagle feather quill. On the pretense of taking notes, he wrote out a few lines and, waiting for Professor Vector’s back to be turned, lobbed the note over onto Hermione’s desk.

    She stared at it for a moment, shocked after being so abruptly interrupted from her enthusiastic note taking. Understanding what it must be, she stole a look over at Draco. He was, amazingly, bent diligently over his own parchment – a rare sight indeed.

    Looking back at the note, she unfolded it and took in its few lines.

    So, a ball. Any clue what this “leading” business is supposed to mean?

    Hermione raised her brows at the casualness of his tone. It was as if the weeks of ignoring one another’s existence had never even happened…

    Picking up her own quill she scratched her reply and tossed it hastily back to Draco. 

    Well it’s obvious isn’t it? It’ll be just like the Yule Ball was… you know, people leading the ball. Honestly, Malfoy, you DO ask unnecessary questions!

    Draco could just hear the words coming out of Hermione’s mouth, prissy and waspish. He grinned slightly and reached for his quill.

    Excuse me, Granger. I forgot – you’ve done that before. Krum, wasn’t it?

    Oh, like he doesn’t remember perfectly, she thought, giving a derisive snort.

    Yes, Krum. Very good, Malfoy. You must have gone with Parkinson no doubt. Can’t say much for your taste… not a very pleasant girl, is she?
 

    Draco smiled remembering how Pansy’s face had been contorted with rage at the Halloween party. Yes, “pleasant” wouldn’t exactly be the most fitting word…

    Oh, come on, Granger. Give the girl a break, she was only jealous. And rightly so.

    Hermione glared at him.

    I’ve been jealous before, but I’ve never gone and verbally abused someone in public. She’s psychotic. And plus, I don’t know what she was even so worked up about…

    Draco’s eyes flashed, a grin spreading across his face as he read.

    OBVIOUSLY, she was jealous because she worships me and I haven’t given her the time of day in months. Also, I was there with another girl (hint, hint, you) and, I expect, she realized you looked better than her.

    Hermione’s eyes went very wide. He thought she had looked better than Pansy? How was she supposed to respond to that?

    Oh, I looked better did I? What a load of rubbish. Your silver tongue won’t work on me, Malfoy. I’m not a member of your blithering fan club, I’ll remind you.

    He poked his tongue into the side of his cheek to stop himself from laughing. He had gotten her all hot and bothered. Perfect.

    Someone needs to learn to take a compliment gracefully. You are leagues above her in the looks department, Granger. I wonder how you’re going to respond to that one…
   
    Hermione’s mouth tightened and she shot a look up at Draco. He had turned in his seat to face her, smirking. She was sure he was baiting her, waiting for the perfect opportunity to humiliate her. She was determined not to give it to him.

    I know how to receive compliments that are genuine, Malfoy. I’m sorry to say, my willingness to fall for your “niceties” is limited.

    He raised his brows at her. The parchment was already half-filled with their quick scrawls – hers precise and loopy, his heavy and slanting. He was astounded at how easy it had been to start up conversation again. He felt himself falling back into his usual cocky self-assuredness.

    Tut, tut, Granger. And here I was, earnestly trying to express my admiration… You are too calculating for your own good. Maybe next time you will be more receptive.
   
    Hermione stared at his words, quizzical. What did he mean “next time”?

    What do you mean “next time”, Malfoy?

    He smiled at her confusion. Now they were getting somewhere.

    And supposedly I’m the one who asks daft questions! I trust you were present in our meeting with McGonagall? Wintertime Waltz? Ring any bells?
   
    Hermione shot him a look of reproach.

    Yes, I was there, Malfoy. What has that got to do with you “expressing your admiration” or whatever ridiculous thing it was that you said?

    She was getting frustrated now. He noted with satisfaction that her cheeks were once again tinged with pink.

    Well, I’m guessing the Wintertime Waltz will require more formal attire than a school uniform… I’m merely looking forward to seeing what you look like when you put in a TAD bit more effort.

    She opened her mouth in indignation, looking furiously over at him. He was grinning, putting a finger to his mouth to shush her mockingly.

    You are vile. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing if a nice pair of dress robes will mask the innate ugliness of your person. My Galleons are on no…

    Draco grinned even broader, glancing back at her. She had turned her face resolutely forward on the pretence of taking more notes.

    Now, now. Those are harsh words, Miss Granger! And here I am trying my very hardest to be nice…


    Hermione gnashed her teeth.

    You are so full of it. Trying to be nice, were you? For your information, nice doesn’t normally encompass insulting someone’s personal appearance.

    Draco could barely suppress his burgeoning smile. He had gotten her right flustered.

    Hmm, well, as I remember it, I tried repeatedly to compliment your appearance, but you wrote me off. For someone who thinks they know about being nice, you certainly don’t put it to practice very often.

    Taking a deep, calming breath, Hermione picked up her quill. The ferocity with which she wrote, however, betrayed her façade of calm.

    You know what?! I am tired of this! What do you want? Why are even TALKING to me? You’ve been avoiding me since Halloween.

    Finally, they were getting somewhere, thought Draco happily.

    I merely thought continued silence wouldn’t be conducive to planning this blasted event. Do you not agree?

    She bit her lip, torn between wanting to disagree with Malfoy just for the sake of it and knowing that he was absolutely right. Oh how she hated when he was right.

    I do… so then why are you riling me up like this?

    Draco sighed and rolled his eyes at her.

    I was trying to give you a compliment and you CHOSE to blow everything out of proportion! Really, all I even wanted to do was ask you to be my partner for the ball.

    Hermione stared unseeingly at the words on the parchment, not knowing how to respond.

    Be your partner?
She wrote lamely.

    He eyed her concise words and stole another half-glance in her direction.

    Well since we’re “leading the ball”, it would be expected. And plus, I know about the baby.


    Hermione bit her lip indecisively. He was right; it would work out most naturally for them to go together…

    I suppose all that is true…

    He read her shy words and looked up to find her staring at him intently. Smirking, he mouthed silently, “Be my date?”

    Looking furtively around as if all eyes had suddenly turned to watch the silent happenings in the last row, she finally met his gaze and gave a small yet resolute nod.

***



December 19th



   
    The next month passed far too quickly for either of the Heads’ taste.

    After the announcement of the ball, Hogwarts was swept not only in a flurry of powdery snow but in the incessant whisperings and chatter concerning the Wintertime Waltz.

    On top of their piles of NEWT level coursework, Hermione and Draco were expected to see to a host of new duties brought on by the upcoming event. Letters of invitation to the international schools of magic were composed, entertainment options for the evening were auditioned and booked, dinner menus were carefully planned, and decoration committees dutifully organized.

    Once they finally reached the last week of term, both Heads were positively depleted in exhaustion. Unbeknownst to Hermione, however, Draco often “forgot” to inform her when extra tasks popped up unexpectedly. As he performed her concealment charm each morning, he was reminded constantly of her ever-expanding belly and decided his conscience felt immeasurably lighter knowing he was at least doing more work than her. Seeing her shadowy eyes and watching her hold her protesting back at end of the day was enough to guilt trip anyone. Even a Slytherin. 

    On the last Friday of term, Hermione pulled herself away from the decorations committee early. The Great Hall was slowly dressing in its standard Christmas attire – twelve towering firs placed evenly along the stone walls, enchanted snow falling from the starry ceiling, garlands of holly strung with fairy lights draping the high windows – but the real decorations would be happening tomorrow before the gilded doors opened for the start of the ball. Now, however, Hermione had something else quite more important to do.

    Traipsing up the stairs to her dormitory, Hermione stopped at an icy window overlooking the lake. These past week had flown by without a pause for thought – something she was most grateful for. But now the thing that was causing all of the busyness and distraction was finally upon them; the ball was tomorrow evening.
   
    Hermione sighed as she peered through the glittering ice, pushing all of her mental to-do lists far back into the recesses of her mind. The distractions of the past weeks had been keeping her sane. They allowed her to forget about her pregnancy and the great change it would soon bring to her life. They filled her moments so that all she could do in between was study, eat and sleep. They afforded her a break from overanalyzing her interactions with Malfoy…

    The thought of Malfoy brought her back to her senses. Malfoy. He was who she was looking for now. They had business to get on with.

    Tearing herself away from the window, she climbed a few more flights of stairs until she reached the corridor housing the entrance to the Heads’ Dormitory.

    “There you are!” came his impatient drawl as she climbed through the portrait hole. “You’re late.”

    “The decorations committee was having a problem with the enchanted snow,” she said exasperatedly.
   
    “Bunch of incompetent little snots, aren’t they?” sighed Draco from his chair by the fire.

    “I’ll just get my coat then,” said Hermione, giving him a disapproving look.

    Having been so thoroughly consumed with the business of preparing for the ball, both Draco and Hermione had quite forgotten their need of new dress robes until a few days ago. In fact, it had given Hermione quite a start when, during their Wednesday Charms lesson, she absentmindedly overhead Lavender and Parvati discussing what they would be wearing in giggles of excitement. Promptly after the lesson, she had located Draco and nearly exploded at him for not reminding her. After successfully calming her down, they agreed to visit Hogsmeade on Friday evening. It was indeed cutting it a bit close, but the busy Heads simply had no other options.

    Hogsmeade was nestled under a thick blanket of snow when they arrived in the village a half hour later. Draco had forced extra sweaters on Hermione before declaring her suitable to walk through the cold, and they both sported wooly hats, scarves and gloves to insulate them from the frosty air.

    It was early evening and the sky was growing steadily darker, but the streets of Hogsmeade were still alive with bustling Christmas shoppers.

    “Oh we’re just never going to find anything good,” moaned Hermione. “How could we have forgotten about it until so late?”

    “I don’t know, but I do know your moaning and groaning is certainly not going to help anything along,” replied Draco tersely.

    “I swear, giving us a month to plan this whole thing was sadistic,” harped Hermione for the umpteenth time. “I’ve still got a million things to do…”

    “You know what?” said Draco, turning to her, “What you need to do is forget about your million things. You won’t be able to accomplish them tonight anyways so just forget them and relax.”

    She opened her mouth to argue or, more likely, whine some more, but Draco gave her a stern look and she promptly held her tongue.

    “So,” she began a few minutes later as they continued their stroll down the main street, “Perhaps we could pop into Gladrags and then get a spot of dinner?”

    Draco glanced sideways at her and grinned, “Sounds like a plan, Granger.”

    With the newly instated calm, their shopping went by surprisingly easy. Hermione tried on five or so garments before choosing on a long, carmine-colored silk gown with a sweetheart neckline. She tried it on privately, indulging the little girl in her and spinning around to see the skirt sweep after her gracefully.
 
    “What I don’t get to see yet?” Draco teased as she emerged with her dress on its hanger. “Afraid I’m going to copy your outfit, are you?”

    She gave him a goading look before handing over the appropriate number of galleons and sickles to the Saleswitch.

    Draco himself decided on an expensive set of inky black dress robes, simple yet luxurious. He had his picked out at least half an hour before Hermione reappeared from her dressing room, spending the whole time complaining impatiently of his boredom.

    As they left the shop, however, Draco became cheerful, playfully trying to persuade Hermione to trade outfits with him.

    “Come on, Granger!” he whined. “Let me be the prettier one for once!”

    “Oh shut your mouth, Malfoy,” Hermione said with forced seriousness, a smile peeking around the corners of her lips.

    The two strolled languidly up the main street, stopping occasionally to watch particularly impressive magical window displays. After crowds began to thin and the sky grew gradually darker, Hermione finally became aware of her now obviously empty stomach.

    “Hmm we should probably get a bite to eat here – we’ve missed dinner,” she said, nervously looking around as if expecting to see every shop on the street suddenly closed.

    “You’ve got a point,” Draco mused, “Massimo’s?”

    “Beg pardon?”

    “Oh, come on, Granger,” he said, grabbing her arm and steering her in the opposite direction.

    In another five minutes they had reached a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant that Hermione had never seen before. The large single paned window was fogged in and as they opened the door a great wave of wonderful warmth hit their pink faces.

    The restaurant was empty save for one young couple closeted in the farthest corner, tickling one another nauseatingly. The heavily mustached owner grunted at their arrival and flourished his hand towards the open tables, indicating that they were free to sit wherever they liked.

    Draco sauntered over to his preferred table, Hermione at his heels.

    “Why have I never heard of this place?” Hermione interrogated once they had taken their seats.

    “Don’t look properly, I suppose,” Draco said with a grin. “I recommend the lasagna.”

    Hermione appraised him beadily, but then resigned to look down at her menu.

    The food arrived magically within minutes of them ordering, and, after a few moments in which they hungrily devoured their food, Draco looked up and said, “So, Granger, excited for tomorrow?”

    Hermione swallowed a humongous bite and looked at him incredulously, “Excited? There’s no room for excitement! Do you realize all we still have left to do?”

    “Ah ah ah!” said Draco, wagging his finger menacingly, “No to-do lists!”

    Hermione glowered, “It’s true. There’s too much worry to be excited.”

    “Ah, well, think about when the ball has finally begun and there’s nothing else to do in preparation,” he said, spinning spaghetti around his fork, “will you be excited then?”

    Hermione pinched her lips in thought, taking a sip of her gillywater, “Well…”

    “Yeah, Granger?” prompted Draco eagerly.

    “Well,” said Hermione, her cheeks pinker now than they had been out in the cold, “I admit, I am quite looking forward to putting on that dress.”

    Draco grinned.

    “How positively girlish of you, Granger,” he said teasingly.

    “And so what?” she replied, indignant, “I can be girlish, can’t I?”

    “Of course you can,” Draco answered, a goading smile on his lips.

    Hermione looked at him suspiciously as she cut another bite of lasagna.

    “And what about you, Malfoy? What are you excited for?”

    “Who me?” he asked, pretending to be startled at being posed the question.

    Hermione raised her eyebrows.

    “Well, Granger, I for one am looking forward to hitting the dance floor.” Hermione’s blush grew deeper. “Once the ladies of Hogwarts see that not only am I wickedly handsome but also a talented dancer, well, I’ll simply be irresistible, won’t I?”

    Hermione gagged – Draco pretended not to notice and continued eating.

    “Yes, do let me know when the fan club has been fully formed and Eloise Midgen is president. You two would be positively precious together.”

    It was now Draco’s turn to gag.

    “Play nice, Granger,” he sputtered, taking a sip of water to recover.

    “I will if you will, Malfoy,” she quickly retorted.

    They ate in silence for a few more moments.

    “Granger, can I ask you a question?” Draco began, breaking the silence and laying down his knife and fork.

    Hermione looked up at him, knowing from his expression that this question was not going to be more light-hearted teasing.

    “I suppose… can’t guarantee I’ll answer it though.”

    “I was just wondering if you ever planned to tell people about your pregnancy. Do your really want to rely on the concealment charm forever?”

    Hermione leaned back in her chair thoughtfully. What did she want to do? Would she really want to continue concealing herself when she was fit to bursting in March? And what about once the baby was born? What would she tell people then?

    “I haven’t thought about what it would be like if people knew…” she replied truthfully.

    Draco watched her, “I’m sure there will be people who won’t believe what happened, but are they really worth caring about?”

    Hermione shrugged, “I suppose I don’t care about anyone’s opinion of me, it’s just the hassle it will be to get the truth out. It’s not like I can just show up to Transfiguration one day with an obvious baby bump – for one, it would probably give poor Parvati and Lavender heart attacks.”

    Draco smirked, “Yes, you are quite a sight these days.” – she gave him a withering look – “But what if, I don’t know, you asked Dumbledore if he could help you go about it?”

    “Maybe… but what would he do? Address the whole school at dinner one evening?”

    “Or the Heads of Houses could do it,” he suggested. “And of course you’ve got Potty, Weasel and the Weaselette to back you up. And, well, me…”

    Hermione raised her eyebrows at him, “How kind, Draco.”

    “Full of surprises, I am,” he mumbled, winking.

    By now they had cleaned their plates of the delicious meal and the rotund mustached man was bustling over with the check.

    “Don’t worry about it, Granger,” said Draco pulling some gold swiftly from his moneybag as Hermione fuddled around within her cloak. “Think of it as a Christmas treat.”

    Hermione looked a bit startled at this unprecedented gesture, but soon recovered herself enough to give hurried thanks.

    Soon they were hurrying back up the high street toward Hogwarts’ flanked gates, heads bent against the aggressive wind. Inside the castle, the decoration committee was still charging on with their inexperienced attempt at adorning the castle halls.

    “Good lord it’s already past nine,” grumbled Draco. “You would think fifth years could manage a simple sticking charm at this point…”

    Hermione moaned as the chaos she had so effectively forgotten closed in on her again, “I suppose we should help –”

    “No, no, I’ll do it,” said Draco authoritatively. “Could you just take our things upstairs? I’ll have this wrapped up as soon as I can.”

    Hermione didn’t much like being bossed around, but her heels were complaining loudly after the long walk from Hogsmeade and her warm bed did sound quite irresistible after battling through the cold…

    “I suppose I could do that,” she said slowly, hoping she came off as suitably miffed.

    Draco smiled and handed her the bag containing his dress robes before walking off to shout at the apparently incompetent fifth year prefects.

    Up in the dormitory, Hermione pushed open Draco’s bedroom door with her hip and stalked on in. She tutted at the sight of his unmade bed and desk overflowing with crumpled parchment and half empty ink bottles, but resigned to lay down his purchases on the rumpled sheets nonetheless.

    As she dropped the bag unceremoniously onto the mattress, it toppled over, a pair of black dress socks rolling out and taking refuge under the bed.

    Giving a sigh of annoyance, she dropped her own things and lowered herself to her knees to grope under the bed and amongst the dust bunnies.

    She found the socks quickly, but upon pulling her arm back out, her hand brushed against something else. A book. Letting her curiosity get the better of her, she pulled it out from its hiding place to get a good look at the cover.

    The Unexplored Magic: Phasma Eturnus

    All thoughts halted in the shock at reading the words in front of her. Her jaw dropped, her eyes grew wide. She remembered for the first time in weeks how she had followed Draco to the library and how he had hidden the books he had checked out from her. Books. Plural.

    Scrambling to look under the bed once more, she was greeted with the sight of at least twenty tombs stacked neatly, each bearing titles having to do with the unknown magic that had managed to so profoundly change her life.

    She leaned against the nightstand, taking it all in. What did he mean by it? Why did he care?

    Utterly confused and realizing that the ‘he’ in question could be back any moment, Hermione gathered up her things and walked out of Draco’s room.

    One thing was certain, whatever he had been in the past, Draco Malfoy was a changed man.

Chapter 16: The Wintertime Waltz
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

December 20th

~*~



    “No, no, no!” Hermione shouted, frantically pointing at a large bowl of blue fruit sitting on the Hogwarts kitchen’s counter.  “Dobby, didn’t I say rhubarb crumble for dessert?!”

    “Oh, yes, Miss! Dobby is sorry, Miss!” Dobby whisked away the offending bowl of blueberries in an instant, turning his protuberant green eyes expectantly on Hermione.

    It was 5:30 on the night of the Wintertime Waltz. Hermione was, certifiably, going bonkers.

House-elves bustled busily around the kitchen preparing the night’s feast and casting a wary eye on Hermione who had already barged in three times. Dobby was set the task of dealing with her.

“Miss, please, we elves have things under control!” squeaked Dobby imploringly.  

    “Yes, yes, I know,” Hermione said, nervously wiping the sheen of sweat from her forehead. “It’s just that this all has to be perfect, Dobby.”

    “Dobby knows this, Miss. You must trust, Dobby!”

    Hermione’s brow wrinkled and her cheeks pinked, “Oh, I do trust you, Dobby –”

    “Hermione Granger!” Draco bellowed, storming into the kitchens.

    “They had blueberries!” Hermione cried instantly in her defense.

    Draco ---– already sporting a crisp white button-down, pressed black trousers, and his crimson tie hanging undone around his collar – marched over to her and grabbed her arm.

    “You are done, Granger. Do you realize you only have thirty minutes to get ready?”

    “What makes you think I’ll need longer?” Hermione demanded, hand on hip.

    Draco sighed. “Yes, yes, you look lovely already, but, if you haven’t noticed, you’re sweating off your makeup!”

    Hermione clenched her jaw and quickly picked up a spoon to examine her reflection in.

    “Dammit,” she mumbled under her breath.

    “Alright, we’re leaving,” Draco commanded, steering her towards the portrait hole.

    “Goodbye, Miss!” Dobby said with a smile. The house-elves seemed to exhale a collective sigh of relief as the two Heads finally abandoned their kitchen.


    “Malfoy, do not nag me! I will be ready in time!” Hermione called angrily down the stairs, slamming her bedroom door behind her.

    Sighing against the closed door and staring at the chaos of her bedroom, she wasn’t so sure.

    “Oh god, oh god, oh god,” she muttered, rushing around to collect her clothes for the night. “I look a complete mess!”

    Hurrying into the bathroom, she appraised herself for a moment and then went straight to work on subduing her unruly mane. Three flicks of her wand later and her curls were pulled back into a simple yet elegant knot at the back of her head.

    “Now for the face,” she grumbled, splashing herself with cool water. She applied her makeup as quickly as her inexperienced hand was able, swishing a powdery brush across her forehead and cheekbones, flicking mascara over her brown eyelashes and dusting her cheeks with blush. The next step was harder as she hardly ever bothered with such silly things as eye-shadow, liner, or lipstick.

    “Granger, you look ridiculous.”

    Hermione dropped her kohl pencil in shock and turned angrily to look at him.

    “How many times am I going to have ask you to NOT enter my rooms unannounced before I have to physically maim you?”

    “Well, I did knock, but it seems you had the water running so you didn’t hear me,” Draco explained with an infuriating smirk. “Now what on earth are you doing to your face?”

    “Applying eyeliner! What does it look like?” Hermione growled.

    “I don’t know, some sort of self-mutilation maybe?” Draco mimed squinting and stabbing himself in the eye for her.

    “Oh shut up and let me concentrate,” she snarled, turning back to the mirror.

    “Someone’s cranky,” Draco mumbled, turning back to her room.

    Hermione appeared in the doorframe after a few moments of tense silence, and huffed agitatedly seeing that he was still there. Her crimson frock was hanging over the open door to her wardrobe and she proceeded to stomp over to it.

    “It’s been lovely chatting, Drakey, but I really would like some privacy to change, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble,” Hermione requested, sarcastically sweet.

    Smiling, Draco raised one hand to cover his eyes.

    Hermione gave him a withering look as he peeped between his fingers and he slouched out the door, tapping the face of his wristwatch and shaking his head at her.

    Placing two fingers to each temple, Hermione closed her eyes and rubbed in forceful circles. Preparation for the Waltz felt like an infinite loop of tasks and to-dos; right now, all Hermione wanted was to curl up under the covers and hide from it all.

    Opening her eyes, the red dress stared her down. She breathed a sigh of defeat. Nope, no hiding now. I’ve come this far and now it’s time to put on the dress.
    She quickly stripped off her clothes and pulled the silky gown from its hanger. Pulling the smooth fabric over her hips, relief washed over her and she realized it would all soon be over. 

    Glancing at the clock on her mantle she jumped realizing she had but ten minutes left and then quickly crooked her elbow around trying to zip up the back.

    “Blast,” she muttered. “…Draco!”

    “What is it now, woman?”

    “Help me with my dress?”

    “Well you come over here then!”

    Hermione rolled her eyes and scurried across the hall, arms pinned to her sides to avoid any indecent exposure.

    “I can’t quite reach the back,” she mumbled briefly in explanation.

    He just grinned and motioned for her to turn around.

    “Alright, Granger, suck it in!”

    Hermione pulled in her breath and the zipper slid easily upwards.

    “There you go,” he said patting her back awkwardly. “You look sufficiently suffocated now.”

    “Thanks a heap,” she shot back, appraising herself in the mirror. “Ugh, good thing I’m properly concealed. This dress would burst at the seams with my belly.”

     “Hmm well perhaps you should have bought a larger size and gone unconcealed!” he replied, raising his eyebrows at her.

    “You’re quite right… I can’t think of a better time or place to announce to the world that I’m pregnant by ancient magical means!”

    “You’ve got to bite the bullet one of these days, Granger,” he said, combing back his blond strands. “What do you plan to do once the baby comes? Go into hiding?”

    “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that yet… and frankly, I don’t want to. Not just now, at least.”    

Draco looked at her through the mirror, sighing in resignation. “Fine then. While you’re here, could you help me with my tie and cufflinks?”

    “I suppose I could make time for that…”

    He smirked at her and walked over to his wardrobe.

    Glancing idly about his tidy room, Hermione was confronted with the sight of his large, green and silver bedecked four-poster, underneath which she had oh-so-recently discovered perhaps every book ever written on that ancient magical means…

    She looked quickly away. This is not the time or place to talk about that.

    Malfoy approached again, golden cufflinks in hand. “Something wrong?”

    “No!” she replied a little too quickly. “Well, yes, actually. Malfoy, be honest, have you been practicing for our opening waltz?”

    He narrowed his eyes at her for a brief second and then, smiling wolfishly, swooped an arm around her back and began spinning her in effortless circles.

    “How’s this, Granger? Up to your standards?”

    She rolled her eyes at him, “I guess you have been practicing then.”

    “But of course.”

    He twirled her around the room a few times, even daring to lower her into an audacious dip. As he snapped her back up, her nose was inches from the pulse point of his jaw. She breathed in and caught the scent of his aftershave, musky and marvelous…

    “Okay, Malfoy, you’ve made your point… Save something for the dance floor.”



    The entrance hall was a humming sea of faces – students, teachers and guests. Spirited laughter rang off the old stone walls as the done-up party goers mingled before the opening of the Great Hall’s doors.

    Draco had managed to push Hermione out of the portrait hole just in time – they were only just walking down the marble stairs at 6:01.
    “Okay, Malfoy, smile graciously,” Hermione said between her teeth as they glided carefully down the stairs, arm in arm.

    “Try not to look like you’ve got a small sapling halfway up your –”

    Hermione stamped hard on his toe as they reached the last step.

    “Feisty, I see,” he said, grimacing in pain. “Alright go socialize with your fan club over there. I’ll ask McGonagall if we should open the doors.”

    He was gone before she could protest and so she turned intending to do just as he suggested. Harry and Ron were huddled together in a corner by the front doors, both waving enthusiastically at her to join them.

    “Hi boys,” she said, cheerily enough as she approached them.

    “Quite some show you’ve got going here, Hermione,” Harry said, smiling at her. “I’ve gotten a sneak peak of the Great Hall and it looks brilliant.”

    “Oh do you think so? I was so worried all the gold and silver was going to be too much…”

    “Ah come off it,” said Ron, looking at her like she was crazy. “Only you could’ve pulled it all off.”

    Hermione blushed a little and hastened to change the subject, “So where are Ginny and Luna?”

    “God knows,” Ron sighed, throwing up his hands.

    “Probably off in the girl’s room,” guessed Harry. “They’re going to be upset they didn’t get to see you before the first dance.”

    “Oh no, are the doors opening?” Hermione shrieked as a fresh wave of panic rose within her.

    “That’s what it looks like. Deep breaths, ‘Mione. It’ll be over before you know it!”

    “Yeah and if ferret boy tries to pull anything, we’ll get him,” Ron grumbled menacingly, reaching inside his coat to hold his wand.

    The boys moved away into the crowd that was slowly melting through the Great Hall’s open doors. Hermione could here ‘Ooh’s and ‘Ahh’s as the mass of people finally made it inside. Her stomach steadied a little knowing that the decorations, at least, were being noticed and appreciated.

    She slinked over to the side of the doorway to wait for Draco. The two of them would be the last guests to enter the hall, and, when they did, it would be to musical accompaniment. Hermione gulped.

    Finally, he was heading towards her and only a few remaining stragglers were being ushered into the hall. He looked even taller in his black tuxedo, his shoulders broader, his legs longer. Hermione scarcely knew how she would be able to manage to hang onto him during their dance.

    He held out his hand with an assuring smile, however his eyes looked curious and questioning. Had he noticed her looking?

    Waiting before the once again closed doors to the Great Hall, they could hear the music begin for their entrance and waltz. Just as the doors slowly cracked open, Draco leant down so that his lips were hardly a centimeter from her earlobe.

    “Be careful, Granger. I know I’m dashing, but any more looks like that and you’ll have people thinking you’ve gone and fallen in love with me.”

    The silver bedecked room was upon them and a smirking Draco led an utterly dumbstruck Hermione onto the glimmering dance floor.



     “Friends, colleagues, esteemed guests,” began Dumbledore, beaming around at the hall filled with people, “Welcome to Hogwarts’ first annual Wintertime Waltz. Our world’s time of living in shadows and fear is now over, our demon banished. Let this new era be filled with equal amounts life, light and celebration. Happy holidays!”

    The crowd applauded, cheering jubilantly as the feast began.

    Draco and Hermione had collapsed into their seats at the head table after finishing their opening waltz, very grateful for the Headmaster’s prompt speechmaking.

    “And here’s to you two, Miss Granger and Mister Malfoy,” spoke Dumbledore over the chatter at their table, giving them both a warm smile. “Many thanks for giving us such a wonderful evening of celebration.”

    They both smiled humbly as their table toasted them, and soon Dumbledore went back to his animated conversation with Professor Olafson, the Headmaster at Durmstrang.
     
    “I agree, Granger, here’s to us,” Draco said softly, producing two flutes filled with pale gold liquid from thin air.

    “Malfoy, is that alcohol?” Hermione whispered sharply.

    “They’re only cider, you worrywart,” he assured, grinning at her look of shock and handing her one to clink. “To us.”

    “To us,” she agreed, taking a sip.

    The dinner sailed by without a hitch and, before Hermione realized it, Draco was leading her out to the dance floor again, this time thankfully amongst many other couples.

    The whirled gracefully to the orchestra’s more upbeat tempo, Draco playfully changing direction whenever he saw fit and earning him small shrieks of shock from Hermione.

    Dancing, Hermione realized, had hardly been the object of her nerves earlier. It was the being watched by a roomful of people part that had her stomach doubling itself over in knots. Dancing with Draco was actually fun in away, pleasurable. He wore the most charming smile as he twirled her effortlessly around the floor -– like he was conducting her own personal roller-coaster, delighting in every shriek he got out of her.

    They danced happily like that for a few songs before Harry interrupted, asking if Malfoy would mind sacrificing his partner for a bit. Hermione had to stamp on his foot again because, for a moment, he looked as though he were going to deny him. He grudgingly agreed, pinching her side in retaliation and stalking away only to be immediately besieged with dance requests from a horde of younger girls.

    “You didn’t have to do that, Harry,” Hermione snapped, watching Malfoy’s retreating form.

    “What did you want to be dancing with the ferret, Hermione?” he asked with a feigned innocence.

    “What? No, of course not. Don’t be silly,” she said, pulling herself closer to hide her blushing face over his shoulder.

    Smiling to himself, Harry added, “You two did look like you were having a good time…”

    Hermione coughed spastically.

    “You alright, ‘Mione?”

    “Quite alright, yes. And no! We weren’t having a good time! No!”

    “Oh?” he asked, bemused. “So why were you so put out by me cutting in?”

    “Put out? What! That’s completely ludicrous! I was merely… being polite. Thought he might still be in earshot or something.”

    Harry pressed his lips together, trying very hard not to laugh. Hermione was quite comical when she tried so pathetically to lie.

    “I see. My mistake then.”

    The song came to an end and, giving Harry an awkward hug, Hermione mumbled, “Er, sorry, but I’ve got to go check the thing, er… yeah.”

    Walking absentmindedly in no direction in particular, Hermione felt a hand close around her forearm as she passed a large sparkling fir.

    “Hi!” said Ginny brightly, pulling Hermione around, “You look gorrrrgeous.”

    “Oh, thanks, Ginny,” replied Hermione, laughing nervously and looking around to see if Harry had followed. “So do you.”

    “Side tracked?” grinned Ginny. “Come, let’s pop into the loo and powder our noses.”

    Hermione felt herself suddenly being wheeled in the direction of the girls’ lavatory and, once inside, deposited on plush pink poof.

    “The ball is really lovely, Hermione,” complimented Ginny earnestly, appraising her reflection in the long mirrors above the sinks.

    “Uhuh, thanks,” said Hermione, craning her neck to look out the door as a pair of Beauxbatons girls stumbled in giggling.

    “And that first dance,” exclaimed Ginny as she twirled around to face her. “Positively electric.”

    Hermione stared at her, blood infusing her cheeks traitorously. “Um, what? What do you mean?”

    “I mean the chemistry was tangible. Everyone was practically holding their breaths!”

    Hermione stared some more. “No…” she said slowly, “It was just a normal dance. Nothing special.”

    “Oh, sweetie, that was no ordinary dance.”

    “Of course it was! I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

    Ginny smiled, “It was like watching something explicit and sexy. Yes, I would say there was an irrevocable sexuality to it.”

    Hermione nearly fell off her poof. “WHAT?”

    “You two were lost in each other… it was captivating.”

    “You’re off your rocker,” exclaimed Hermione shakily, rising to her feet.

    “I’m just telling you what I saw,” continued Ginny, smiling deviously at her through the mirror as she fixed her hair. “I can’t say I was that shocked…”

    “Urgh stop! I’ve – I’ve got to be going.”

    “You’re probably right! Go find Malfoy… those rose bushes in the courtyard are really excellent –”

    Hermione cut her off, pushing her way out the swinging lavatory door.

    Exhaling deeply as she walked hurriedly back into the Great Hall, she kept her head on a constant swivel, looking frantically right and left for the people she wanted to avoid. Harry, Ron, Ginny… Hmm since when have my best friends been the ones I try to steer clear of? The slick blond head of a rather tall figure appeared over the crowd. That’s why.

    She didn’t know if Draco had spotted her, but she knew for certain that if he did, there was a possibility he would ask for another dance, and there was no way she was going to let that happen again. “Positively electric” was still ringing in her ears.

    Pushing her way through the crowds in an effort to find a safe-haven, someone caught her elbow. Oh no, who is it this time?

    “Viktor!”

    “Herm-own-ninny!”

    Hermione was positively gobsmakced as she gave her old beaux a hug.

    “I can’t believe I didn’t think I’d see you here!”

    “Professor Olafson invited me as his personal guest – I, of course, vanted to see Hogwarts again.”

    Hermione blushed lightly, “Well it is so good to see you, Viktor.”

    “Ah, Krum!” It seemed as if Malfoy had spotted them. “Wonderful you could make it!”

    “Oh, hello, Malfoy,” Viktor replied, courteously enough. His face betrayed him though – he looked more than a little upset at having been interrupted.

    “Did you know Viktor was coming, Draco?” Hermione asked sternly.

    “Yes, yes. Didn’t I tell you? Olafson wrote about it more than a week ago.”

    “You must have forgotten to mention it,” she said, giving him a beady stare.

    “Sorry, Granger,” he smiled back at her. “Didn’t realize it would be a problem.”

    She opened her mouth to deliver a no doubt snappy retort, but Krum, who had been staring absentmindedly at the sea of dancers, grabbed her hand and asked, “Herm-own-ninny, vould you dance with me?”

    “Ah, well, yes, I suppose,” she said quickly, taken aback.

    He smiled at her and turned away to lead her out onto the dance floor. Hermione looked back, prepared to give Draco a glare, but was surprised by the expression that greeted her. He stood unmoving, his mouth a stoic line. His eyes, however, usually so grey and guarded, flashed dangerously. Seeing her eyes on his, he turned sharply and blended into the crowd.

    The dance with Viktor went slowly, Hermione’s mind on other things. The Bulgarian chatted happily about his life, his Quidditch career, his sister’s new baby, his recent trip to Dubai. Hermione’s eyes were trained over his shoulder, nodding and smiling occasionally at his stories.

    After a moment of silence between them, he said, “I am sorry, Herm-own-ninny. I have been doing all the talking. Tell me about your life – what is new here in Britain?”

    “Oh,” Hermione smiled, laughing nervously. “Not much has changed since you were here last, Viktor. Unless you count the defeat of the Dark Lord…”

    Viktor laughed, “Of course, I know all about that… tell me about you.”

    “Oh, well,” I’m actually pregnant right now by means of an ancient, barely explored magic. “Of course I’m up to my ears in homework! I’m taking EIGHT N.E.W.T’s, isn’t that insane?”

    Viktor smiled indulgently at her, “I’m sure it’s not too much for you. You vere always so brilliant.”

    Hermione blushed and looked away. “Well, that on top of all these Head Girl duties and I figure they’ll have to wheel me out of here come June. I’m bound to collapse!” She smiled slightly to herself at the irony of that statement… They will indeed have to wheel me out of here.

    “I doubt that very much,” said Viktor slowly. “You are stronger than you think.”

    Hermione blushed again. “Thank you, Viktor,” she said quietly.

    The song ended and the throng of dancers stopped to clap for the orchestra.

    “Vell, Herm-own-ninny, I vill hopefully see you again someday. I vill let you go now though – I know you must have things to do.” Smiling at her, he kissed her once on each cheek and walked away, slightly duck-footed and hunchbacked as ever.

    Hermione sighed, lost for the smallest moment in the simplicity of Viktor Krum.

    Her reverie ended, however, when she realized she was now standing unaccompanied in the middle of the dance floor. She hastened away between the ever-swirling couples and made her way towards the doors to the entrance hall.

    Finally, room to breathe. The hall was quiet, only a few whispering twosomes sat secluded in the shadows offered by the marble stairs. Hermione ignored them and followed the beckoning of outside air that floated pleasantly through open front doors.

    Pearl-bright snow veiled the lawns of Hogwarts, capped the swaying firs in the forbidden forest, and dripped diamond-like swords from the castle’s parapets.

    Hermione clicked her heels down the cold stone steps and meandered about the magically warmed rose garden. The web of warming charms extended all the way to the lake and so Hermione set her course, strolling leisurely, her crimson dress whispering across the icy grass as she admired the wintry beauty of the grounds.

    She approached the dock and the barren beech tree. The lake had always made her nervous with its silent depths, but she liked it even less with its seal of hard ice. Carefully, she stepped out onto the dock, her weight making the wooden planks creak. At the very tip she closed her eyes and made a pose as though she were about to dive.

    “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, Granger.”

    She jumped so badly she nearly fell onto the slick ice.

    “Malfoy!” her voice echoed unpleasantly through the quiet grounds. “How long have you been standing there?”

    Draco was leaning casually against the side of the beech tree, invisible to her as she walked from the opposite direction.

    “Since long before you decided to intrude.”

    “Sorry, didn’t realize this was Malfoy property all of a sudden…”

    He shot her a look, eyebrows raised. “Now what on earth are you doing out here, Granger? I was under the impression you were suitably entertained for the rest of the evening.”

    She looked at him, questioning.

    “Krum?” he asked snidely.

    She wrinkled her brows, “ What about him?”

    “Don’t play stupid.”

    “Malfoy,” she sighed, “What are you going on about?”

    “Am I mistaken or was he not a past… fling of yours?”

    “Fling? I wouldn’t call it that, I don’t think.” Hermione replied tersely, cheeks reddening.

    “What would you call it then?”

    “I don’t know… it was complicated. Nothing you would understand.”

    Draco’s jaw clenched, “Why wouldn’t I understand?”

    “Because you can’t define relationships by the innocent terms mine and Viktor’s was defined by!” Hermione spat, getting annoyed.

    “And what is that supposed to mean, Granger?”

    Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Viktor was… enamored with me. He was a wonderful companion, pleasant to be around while he was here for the Triwizard, but we didn’t do any of the things I’m sure you would consider necessary for us to be counted as a ‘fling’.”

    “And what sorts of things would those be do you think?”

    Hermione’s face flushed even more. “I would rather not say.”

    Draco’s lips twitched at that statement. “Oh come on, Granger,” he said smoothly, walking closer toward her, “I can take it.”

    “You know perfectly well what I’m talking about!”

    “Maybe…” he smiled wolfishly at her, “But I want to hear you say it.”

    She stared, eyes wide, at him. “I will do no such thing!”

    “So no kissing then?” he asked smugly. “No hand holding, no tender touches, no… intimate acts of any kind?”

    Hermione’s cheeks burned nearly as red as her crimson frock.

    “Or were there?” he asked with a smile.

    “We kissed once,” she admitted coldly, pressing her lips into a clean, hard line.

    “Granger!” Malfoy exclaimed in playful, mocking indignation. “How shameful!”

    Hermione sighed and turned to lean against the dock’s rail, “Oh shut up, Malfoy.”

    He walked over and leaned against the rail next to her, “Kissing, in my book, constitutes a fling, Granger.”

    Hermione exhaled sharply, “Really? I figured you had slightly higher standards as to what counted as a fling.”

    “Whatever do you mean?” he asked, grinning silently to himself as they stared out at the vast frozen lake.

    “I mean you have a – a reputation,” Hermione stuttered.

    Draco stole a sideways glance at her and smirked, “Care to enlighten me?”

    She turned quickly to face him, leaning her bare right elbow against the wooden rail. “Hmm let’s see… Parkinson, Davis, Greengrass, Folsom – Am I missing anyone?” She ticked off the names on her fingers.

    Draco chuckled, “I don’t deny flings, although not with all of them. But the rumors that I can tell by the lovely pink in your cheeks you’ve heard are most definitely… exaggerations.” He smiled widely at the look of astonishment on her face.

    “How exaggerated?” she coughed, eyes as wide as saucers.

    “Oh all the important stuff.”

    Hermione’s mouth fell open and then, after a few moments, turned into a grin.

    “No, you’re lying,” she asserted. “You can’t be a… a…”

    “A what?”

    She watched his eyes carefully. “A virgin.”

    “Oh, you’re right, I’m not!” he confirmed, smirking.

    She punched his arm.

    “So then why did you say ‘All of the important stuff’?”

    “Well, it wasn’t with any of the names you so knowledgably recounted.”

    “But those are all of the Slytherin girls in our year! Except Millicent Bulstrode… Oh don’t tell me it was her!” Hermione grinned wickedly as Draco shot her a look of reproach.

    “No. It wasn’t any girl at Hogwarts. Her name was Louise and we met the summer after third year.”

    “Not at Hogwarts? She wasn’t a witch?!”

    “Will you let me finish, Granger?”

    “Fine, go ahead.”

    “As I was saying, we met after third year during the summer my mother was fed up with England. She took me to visit her cousins in the south of France. Louise was the daughter of their neighbor friends.”

    “So Beauxbatons then…” Hermione mumbled to herself.

    “Yes. So there you have it! My one previous romantic experience.”

    “Very interesting, Malfoy.”

    “Hah, glad I could provide some entertainment for you, Hermione.”

    She looked at him oddly, but smiled as he said her first name. He’d likely said it before, but this time it sounded like an effort. Like he was choosing to say it rather than slipping into saying it and wanted her to do the same for him.

    “Well it’s interesting because it’s so innocent!”

    “Innocent! I was only fourteen!”

    “No, but compared to how I always viewed your… reputation.”

    “Frankly, I’m a little insulted you believed any of that.”

    “Can you blame me?”

    “The rumors were spread by the likes of Pansy Parkinson! You, of all people, should have seen right through them.”

    “Well you did absolutely nothing to deny it,” she countered hotly.
   
    “And nothing to confirm it!”

    “Oh you did plenty to confirm it,” she mumbled, looking the other way.

    He smirked at the back of her head for a second before saying, “Oh did I? How?”

    She huffed, still looking away. “It’s written all over how you carry yourself, how you behave.”

    “What’s written?”

    Hermione pinched her lips and spun sharply around. “Sex!” she shouted, wildly throwing her arms in the air. “The way you walk, the way you talk, the air of gentlemanly charm, everything about you confirms suspicions!”

    Draco stood there looking quite flabbergasted and then promptly doubled over in hysterical laughter.

    Hermione stamped her foot. “What are you laughing at?!”

    “You!” he managed between gulps of air and continued chuckles.

    Hermione mashed her teeth together.
 
    “Ah, hearing you say that, Granger,” he winked at her. “Priceless.”

    “Wonderful. Glad you enjoyed it.” She turned again and walked farther down the dock.

    “Oh, Granger, what’s wrong now?” He walked closer to her. “Hermione?”

    “It’s just so unfair.”

    “What is?” he asked slowly.

    “You,” she said flatly, looking up at him. “You get a rumor like that without even trying. You have girls fantasizing about being with you all because of some stupid rumor they heard. Which happens to be a lie. I based a large portion of my hate and judgment of you on those rumors, and now I find out they’re untrue, and that really you’ve just been this normal boy, innocent and vulnerable.”

    “I wouldn’t call myself vulnerable!”

    She sighed, turning her back on him. “It was so much easier to dislike you when you were the rumor.”

    “Do you want to dislike me?” He asked quietly after a few moments. She could feel the warm cloud of his breath at the back of her neck.

    “It would be easier…” she turned to face him.

    He looked troubled. “I – well, I don’t dislike you.”

    He ran his fingers through his hair, looking everywhere but in her eyes.

    “Since when?”

    “Since when?” he repeated, laughing nervously. It was an odd sound coming from him. He was hardly ever nervous. “I don’t know. You can’t tell me you haven’t noticed it too!”

    “What the sudden lack of animosity?” she said, smiling a little, “The notable absence of foul names?”

    “Yes, those things,” he replied, sharing her smile. “And more.”

    She looked at him openly for a moment, “I, I think we’re friends… Draco.”

    He grinned widely, “Yeah?”

    She nodded, “Yeah.”

    “Huh, never thought that would happen, did we, Granger?”

    “Well I certainly didn’t! Although, I didn’t exactly expect to find myself pregnant during my seventh year and that happened too…”

    “A new era, as our dear Headmaster put it, where all we can expect is the unexpected.”

    Hermione laughed, “That doesn’t even make sense.”

    “Oh, I don’t know… makes sense to me,” he grinned. “Speaking of unexpected, there’s been this thought that has been plaguing me for weeks.”

    “Oh? What kind of thought?” she asked skeptically.

    “More of a desire than a thought,” he said, smiling to himself as he looked out across the lake. “Would you mind if I tried something?”

    She grew quiet, minutely aware of how very close they now were. “Mm-mm,” she mumbled, shaking her head.

    He took a deep breath, looking quite pleased with himself. Then, all of a sudden, his hands were on her lower back, her body flush against him, and… and their lips. Their lips pressed together in one soft, sultry, enveloping kiss. Hermione’s mouth had been slightly open in surprise and she could feel their hot breaths blending together. Her eyes had stayed open from the shock of it, but as his firm hand urged her closer, she allowed them to flutter closed.

    Too soon it seemed, she felt him pull back. She let out a small pleading moan. Opening her eyes, she saw Draco smiling at her, a smile she had never seen before. “If you don’t mind,” he whispered, his words tickling the corner of her mouth, “I was thinking we should do more of this from now on.”

    She smiled and put her hand in his hair to pull him closer, “I think we might be able to arrange that.”

~*~

A/N: Okay. What do you think?!



Chapter 17: Christmas
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


December 21st



~*~



    A round halo of condensation blossomed across the train carriage’s large glass window as Hermione Granger gazed steadily out at the passing landscape. Her lips tingled with peppermint balm and her cheeks pinked from the warmth of the crowded train. A muted bubble seemed to engulf her; she showed no sign of acknowledgement to her surroundings. “If you don’t mind, I was thinking we should do more of this from now on…”

    “Hermione…Hermione!”

    “What?” she said quickly, startled from her reverie and turning to face the rest of the compartment.

    “You looked like you’d gone ga-ga for a moment there,” said Ginny, her freckly brow knitted in consternation. “You okay?”

    “Err, yes, of course, I’m fine.” She straightened up and smoothed her sweater, her fingertips lingering over her stomach, flat and unsuspicious.

    Harry and Ron were partaking in the customary train ride’s chess tournament. Ginny was sitting cross-legged, reading Witch Weekly. Crookshanks was peering deviously from underneath the lid of his whicker basket. And Hermione was caught in a terrific frenzy of emotion as she reviewed, detail by detail, the happenings of the previous night.

    I… we… we kissed. Draco Malfoy and I kissed. 


    She closed her eyes. Her thoughts were an absolute heap of endless tangents and incomplete ideas and emotions. What did she think? She hardly knew herself.

    Somehow, over the course of this rather bizarre school year, Draco Malfoy and I have become friends. And… I suppose before either of us realized even that, we became more than friends. Dear god.

    The kiss the night before had been…oh who was she to deny it? Breathtaking. The kiss had been absolutely breathtakingly wonderful.

    So… if I will admit to that, why the hell did I run?

    And it was true, she had run. Standing there on the dock atop the frozen lake, kissing the handsome Draco Malfoy, something very promptly snapped inside of her. She pulled away, she took a good long look at him, and she turned swiftly and walked away. She didn’t even look back.

    Now she was on the train, heading to the Burrow for a long Christmas holiday and Draco Malfoy was nowhere in sight.

    “Erm, I need to use the loo and stretch my legs for a bit,” she said swiftly, standing up rather unexpectedly.

    “Okay thanks for the update,” Ginny replied, smirking into her magazine. The boys paid no mind.

    Hermione nodded and squeezed her way around the chessboard to the sliding compartment door. The passing hall of the Hogwarts Express was, as usual, filled with giggly students leaning out of their compartments and chatting animatedly about the upcoming holiday. Hermione squeezed between them with some effort, and thanked Merlin she had floo-ed to Dumbledore’s office that morning to ask for her concealment charm. He had seemed curious at first as to why Malfoy hadn’t performed it for her, but she wrote it off as an excuse to say goodbye to the Headmaster before the holidays. He seemed to have bought it.

    Walking as quickly as space would allow, Hermione worked her way up the train in search of an empty compartment. She needed to be alone. Finally, practically to the conductor’s station, she found an unoccupied room and hurried inside. She rushed quickly over to push open the window and take great gulps of winter air.

    “Well. Fancy seeing you here.”

    Hermione spun rapidly around to see the one person she had been avoiding all morning sitting in the corner of her empty carriage.

    “Draco,” she said in surprise, under her breath.

    “Right, I’ll just be going,” he said quietly, mouth set in a rigid line, eyes not making contact with her.

    “No, Draco, wait!” she stuttered, surprising even herself with her initiative. She placed her body in front of the door.

    He sighed, looking away as she made her attempt to block him, “Hermione, come on…”

    “No. You…you shouldn’t leave,” she said feebly. “Please. Don’t leave.”

    For the first time, he looked up into her eyes, testing her resolution. She stared him down.

    “And why shouldn’t I leave?” he asked patiently. “You, after all, always leave on your own accord, it seems.”
    “I – I’m sorry,” she said, her voice cracking a little. “Draco, I… I don’t know why I ran.”

    “You don’t know why?” he said, giving an unconvincing laugh and running his hands through his hair. “Really? Because it seemed quite obvious to me.”

    Her eyebrows crumpled in confusion as she watched him pace around the small compartment. “I really don’t–”

    “Come on, Granger. Don’t try to let me down gently.”

    “Don’t call me ‘Granger,’ Draco!” she retorted, suddenly very confused. “And what do you mean ‘let you down gently’? What are you talking about?”

    “Why else would you have run?” he said, looking at her incredulously. “You realized you don’t fancy me quite the same way and you went running back to the party to dance with Krum or Potter or Merlin knows who!” His cheeks were reddening and he spun to look out the window, turning his back on her and resting his forehead against the cool glass.

    Hermione stood dumbfounded in the doorway, her mouth slightly open in shock. He thinks I don’t like him… he thinks I rejected him.

    She took a few tentative, quiet steps forward until she was standing beside him, looking at his hard profile.

    “I didn’t run because I don’t like you,” she whispered, watching his face for a reaction to her words. “In fact, it was quite the opposite.”

    His eyebrows furrowed ever so slightly and his jaw muscles tightened.

      “Draco?” she began when he made no response.

    He turned quite quickly to face her. “Are you sure you’re not just saying that?”

    She looked up at him in surprise and blushed before saying, “Yes, I’m quite sure I’m not ‘just saying that.’”

    A shadow of a smile flickered across his face and it was her turn to look out the window in embarrassment.

    “I have no idea why you would think such a thing in the first place,” she began very quickly, her voice growing in nervous frustration. “I made it obvious that I liked you! Kissing you like that. I don’t know what I was thinking. That was the problem. I practically threw myself on you–”

    “Hermione?” Draco asked, patiently smiling at her side.

    “Like a wanton hussy! That’s why I ran. Because I was freaking out! You were being all… you and then I was just me, but then we were kissing. And it didn’t make sense! You kissing me. That just doesn’t make sense–”

    “Hermione?” Draco asked again, his grin growing broader as he listened to her rambling.

    “I mean, why would YOU want to kiss ME? Tell me that, wise guy! It makes perfect sense that I ran! And then you thinking I didn’t LIKE you? You really must be crazy if you couldn’t tell that I liked you… I made it painfully, embarrassingly obvious all throughout the night. What with the dancing, and the toasting, and your bloody amazing aftershave! God I was practically holding a sign screaming ‘Draco Malfoy I fancy you!’”

    “HERMIONE!” Draco bellowed, turning her by the shoulders to face him, smiling brilliantly at her.

    “WHAT?!”

    He put his hand gently under her chin and leaned down to kiss her softly again. She stood frozen, arms stiff at her side.

    “That got you to shut up…” he mused, grinning at her.

    She glowered at him for a moment, but this glower soon turned into a smile, and before either of them knew it, they were collapsed on the seats in unstoppable peals of laughter. Every time they looked at each other more laughter burst forth until they were panting, clutching their sides, and leaning against one another weakly.

    “Draco…” she said, her voice tired.

    “Mmm?”

    “I really, really like you.”

    He grinned. “I really, really like you too, Hermione.”

* * *



    As they drove up the winding, snowplowed path Hermione couldn’t help but think the Burrow belonged inside a snowglobe. Grey smoke curled out of its many chimneystacks, snow frosted the rooftop, and light glowed invitingly from within its many windows.

    Mr. Weasley pulled the car around to the front porch and, with a shriek preceding her arrival, Mrs. Weasley came tottering out the front door in her snow boots to greet them all.

    “Oh welcome home!” she cried, pulling Ron and Ginny into an enveloping hug and then Harry and Hermione. “I’m so glad you made it. Arthur! I trust you drove very carefully through this weather?”

    Mr. Weasley had indeed driven carefully – but not precisely without any magical aide.
   
    “Arthur… Are those wheels HOVERING?”

    Harry and Hermione exchanged looks and headed quickly indoors.

    “’Ermione!” came a throaty voice from the stairs. Hermione turned just in time to see an enormous woman with silvery blonde hair heading at her with arms open.

    “Fleur!” she said in surprise. “Wow you look amazing! How much longer till you’re due?”

    “He is due in six weeks,” said Flour, smiling serenely as she put a hand on her stomach. “Bill and I are so excited.”

    “I’m sure,” said Hermione, smiling weakly in return. “A little boy. Wow.”

    “I ‘eard you were ‘aving the concealment charm – but eet is still so strange seeing you like this! You are nearly six months, no?”

    “Six months today, actually,” she replied. She hadn’t thought about it before, but it was odd being concealed. Especially now that she was back at the Burrow. She laid a hand on her flattened stomach, but it felt unnatural setting it there and she quickly removed it.

    “Ah well tomorrow the charm will be gone and we can see what you really look like!” she cried with a glittering smile, before ushering them from the crowded entry into the sitting room.

    The Burrow was the same as ever. Crowded, noisy, and absolutely wonderful. After yelling her share at Mr. Weasley, Mrs. Weasley had stormed into the kitchen and cooked up a delicious meal of roast beef, boiled potatoes and rhubarb crumble for dessert. They sat around the long, scrubbed wood table late into the evening, talking, laughing and playing cards. Hermione said her goodnights just before midnight, and made the slow journey up to Ginny’s bedroom on the first floor.

    She sighed as she closed the door, leaning up against it and closing her eyes. Without opening them, she felt for the pop of her stomach revealing itself, and smiled as she placed her hands on her rounded belly.

    Opening her eyes, she noticed at once that she was not alone in the small bedroom. On the windowsill sat a tall, bronze eagle owl, a square envelope clasped in its beak. She approached it slowly and it blinked its large amber eyes at her. Close enough to read her name on the envelope, she immediately recognized Draco’s hand, and hurried to open it.
   
        H,

       It’s weird not having your right across the corridor from me.  I miss you. What have you done to me?

                                                                                                             D



   
     Hermione read the brief lines through what felt like a thousand times. He missed her. She smiled and pressed the note to her chest and then pulled some loose parchment out of her bag and scrawled her reply.

Draco,

It’s weird thinking you won’t be banging through my bedroom door any moment… I wish you would.

                                                                                                  Hermione


Just as she had finally tied the note to the owl’s left foot and nudged him out the window, Ginny tip-toed into the room.

“Oh you’re still awake!” she cried, “I thought for sure you’d already be in bed.”

“Nope, still up!” said Hermione quickly, hoping she didn’t look too suspicious standing at the open window.

Ginny gave her a funny look. “Any particular reason you’re staring wistfully out the open window?”

“Nope. Nope,” Hermione replied awkwardly, snapping the window shut and bustling about to get her things ready for bed.

Ginny continued to watch her curiously. “Did you just get an owl?”

“What? No! What would make you think that?”

“Well now I know for sure you did,” Ginny laughed. “Hermione, WHAT is going on? You haven’t been telling me anything lately…”

“Nothing,” Hermione said weakly, finally looking her friend in the eye.

Ginny raised her eyebrows. Hermione caved.

“Fine. There may have been an owl,” she admitted sheepishly.

“From who?” asked Ginny, feigning ignorance.

Hermione pinched her lips. “I… I don’t know if I want to tell you that.”

Ginny turned sharply around and started unpacking her things.

    “Ginny,” Hermione pleaded. “Come on.”

    “No, Hermione. Don’t start that with me. All I do is show my undying support for you, even when you don’t ask for it. All I ask is that you share with me any small facet of your life, of what you’re thinking. But, no, you shut me out.”

    The girls got ready for bed silently. Hermione feeling absolutely crestfallen that she had hurt Ginny in such a way, and yet still uncertain if she wanted to let her know about Malfoy. She lay down in the small cot next to Ginny’s bed, staring up at the ceiling in contemplation. Ginny had turned to face the wall, her back to Hermione.

    “Malfoy kissed me,” she said quietly.

    Ginny quickly turned on her back and stared up at the ceiling, “Yeah?”

    “Yeah. And I kissed him back. And… Ginny?”

    “Yeah?”

    “I really like him.”

    Ginny smiled, “I know.”

    “You know?”

    “Yeah, I’ve known for a while.”
   
    “But I didn’t even know!” she said, turning on her side to face Ginny’s profile.

    “Oh, I know. But it was so obvious,” said Ginny, turning on her side too.

    “Do you…” Hermione began hesitantly, “Do you think it’s stupid of me to like him?”

    Ginny wrinkled her brows, “No. Hermione, you of all people know he’s different now.”

    “I know. I couldn’t tell if anyone else could see it.”

    “Well, Harry and Ron can’t – and probably won’t for a long time,” said Ginny matter-of-factly.

    “I really don’t want to have to hide this from them… but I don’t want to tell them either.”

    “I know. Well, there’s no need to tell them now, is there? There’s no harm in waiting a while. Till we’re back at school at least.”

    “That’s true…”

    “I’m just glad you finally told me,” said Ginny smiling. “I was getting sick of having to pretend I didn’t know anything was going on!”

    “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you right away, Gin,” Hermione said earnestly. “I should’ve known you would be brilliant about it all.”

    “Yes, you should have!” she said sternly before breaking out in giggles. “Hey, you didn’t tell me what he wrote?”

    “Mmm?” asked Hermione, feeling pleasantly sleepy again now that she had resolved things with Ginny. “Oh, the owl. He said that he… missed me.”

    Ginny smiled up at the ceiling. “Hermione, I have a good feeling about this.”

    “Me too,” agreed Hermione quietly. And with that, both of the girls snuggled up in their covers and drifted off to sleep.

* * *




    Tap!             

    Hermione wrinkled her brows and hugged her pillow to her.

    Tap!

    “Ginny,” she whispered, still half-asleep. A snore from the next bed told her Ginny was not awake.

    Tap! Tap! 

    She squinted open her eyes and looked about the small, dark bedroom.

    Tap! Tap! Tap!

    She rolled over and noticed a shadow in the window. Suddenly she was wide-awake. Wrapping her covers around her, she slipped out of bed and tip-toed over to the window. Grabbing her wand from Ginny’s desk, she carefully grabbed a portion of the drapes and then, pulling them back swiftly, pointed her wand out at…

    She clapped a hand to her mouth to keep herself from screaming in surprise. Hovering on a broomstick outside Ginny’s bedroom window was Draco Malfoy.

    Hermione dropped her blanket and fumbled quickly with the window latch.

    “You came,” she said quietly, mouth open in shock.

    “This is what you said you wanted,” he said, looking sheepishly at her. Draco wasn’t used to such grand gestures. Especially for a girl. He had never felt inclined to do something like this for someone, and yet, when he had read Hermione’s note, he couldn’t stop himself.

    The corners of Hermione’s mouth slowly turned up into a huge smile, and he felt his face growing quite hot, especially for the wintry air surrounding him.

    “Oh, aren’t you freezing out there?” she asked suddenly, getting over the shock of seeing him and moving onto worrying about practical matters like the weather.

    “Warming spell,” replied Draco with a smirk, and, urging his broom closer to the window ledge, he held his hand out for her to join him.

    “Oh, Merlin, I can’t get on that thing, I’m huge!” she said, panic tingeing her voice as she looked at the 30 foot drop down to the ground.

    “Hermione, would I really let you fall?” he asked, looking at her with eyebrows raised.

    She bit her lip, her mind furiously debating her desire to go with Draco and her desire to never, ever ride on a broomstick ever again.

    “Alright,” she said hesitantly, “just let me go get my coat.”

    “Coats aren’t necessary,” he said with a mischievous smirk. “Plus, I like you in what you’re wearing now.”

    Hermione’s eyes widened and her cheeks burned scarlet as she looked down at her small, white nightgown. “Draco Malfoy!” she scolded in a whisper.

    His grin widened and he reached his arm out to her again.

    Checking to see if Ginny was still fast asleep, Hermione hesitantly climbed onto the window seat and then, firmly holding Draco’s hand, mounted the broom behind him.

    “Wooooah!” said Draco, causing the broom to drop a few feet.

    “Not funny!” she cried, desperately clinging to his waist.

    Smiling back at her and putting a hand on top of her hands, he zoomed off, carrying them over the Weasley’s snow-topped orchard and through the frosty hills of Ottery St. Catchpole. Hermione expected bitter winter winds to be blowing her hair and chapping her lips, but Draco’s warming charm surround them in a bubble of hot air.

    Hermione held tighter to Draco and willed herself to forget her fear of heights and simply take in the sight of snow-covered English village from her place 100 feet in the air.

    They glided noiselessly over the sleepy town centre, looped around the church’s bell tower, darted between chimneys and lampposts, and circled the town’s towering Christmas tree. Moving towards the outskirts, Hermione admired the winding snow-laden lanes, the squat little cottages nestled into the hillside, and the great, white expanses of blanketed pastures.

    After twenty minutes in the air, she began to wonder where Draco was taking her. Leaning forward so that her chin rested on his shoulder, she tickled her lips across his earlobe and whispered, “Are we there yet?”

    Draco squeezed her hands as they lay on his stomach and said back, “Be patient, we’re almost there!”

    And as he said it, they began to swoop lower, approaching a hilltop and a large, towering evergreen. Draco flew them right underneath its lowest branches, landing softly on the protected ground. He dismounted smoothly, Hermione clamoring off quickly while his back was turned. He pulled out his wand from his jacket pocket and, with a few silent flicks, conjured up a blanket and pulled her onto it.

    Hermione lay down next to him, huddling up to his warmth. As much as she tried, she couldn’t get quite as to near to him as she would like – her stomach sat stubbornly in the way.

    “I can’t believe you came,” she whispered, searching his cool grey eyes.

    “I can’t believe you actually woke up,” he joked. “I was tapping on that window for ten minutes before you came to.”

    “Ten minutes! I’m surprised you didn’t wake the whole house.”

    “Well, good thing I picked the right window,” he said with a smile.

    She looked up at him again, and was surprised to see him staring at her. She blushed. “I can’t believe you made me leave without my coat…”

    “Are you cold?” he asked immediately, reaching for his wand.
   
    “ No, no! I’m fine,” she amended quickly, “I just… look ridiculous.”

    “Oh, fishing for compliments now are we, Granger?”

    “What! No!” she said, looking up at him horrified.

    “Too bad,” he said with a grin. “Because I’ve never seen you look so good…”

    Hermione buried her face in his shoulder. “You’re full of it,” she muttered.

    “Oh most definitely not,” he continued, smiling at her reaction. “Whenever I see you in your school uniform from now on I’m afraid I won’t be able to get the image of this lovely little thing out of my head. How it clings to –”

    “OKAY!” she cried, slapping a hand across his mouth. “That’s enough!”

    He kissed her palm. She laughed and poked him in the side. He fended her off and began tickling her mercilessly. She squirmed and kicked and wrestled for freedom and, finally, pinned him to the ground, straddling his stomach and holding his wrists. He smiled up at her.

    “Going to have your way with me now, are you?”

    “Oh you wish,” she said, tossing her hair over to one side and leaning down so her lips just barely brushed his.

    “I do wish,” he replied, closing his eyes and waiting for her to kiss him.

    Hermione smiled gloatingly as she watched him waiting to be kissed. “Hmm, maybe later, not really in the mood – ” she began in feigned indifference, but, before she could finish her sentence, Draco’s eyes snapped open and he easily rolled her over and regained the position of power.

    “You were saying?” he asked as she stared up at him, gobsmacked.

    “No fair!”

    Without hearing another word, he put his hands in her hair and pulled her into a kiss. They kissed passionately, deeply, his hands cradling her neck and her lower back, holding her to him. Her heartbeat thrummed in excitement, her arms wrapped around him instinctively. Quite suddenly, a flurry of small kicks came from her abdomen, rippling across the surface. Draco smiled into her lips and pulled back slightly to look at her.

    “Seems as if someone’s awake,” he said fondly, moving his hand to rest on top of her belly.

    “It must have been my heartbeat,” she said, slightly out of breath. “It’s racing.”

    Draco lowered his ear to her chest and then looked up at her in surprise. “Merlin! I didn’t realize I got you that excited!”

    “Oh shush!” she said, playfully hitting him.

    “Well, that’s enough kissing – I don’t want to overexcite the baby,” he said matter-of-factly, sitting up.

    “Humph. Again, no fair,” grumbled Hermione, turning over on her side and rubbing a hand across her belly.

    Draco watched her intently, smiling when he noticed she wouldn’t make eye contact with him. “Hermione…”

    “What?” she mumbled, still not looking at him.

    “What’s wrong?”

    “Nothing!” she snapped. “Absolutely nothing. I understand you don’t want to touch me. I get it. I spend most of my time with my stomach concealed and now that it’s out, you are reminded that I actually am pregnant and don’t find me desirable anymore. That’s fine!”

    “That’s absolutely not fine!” he said, suppressing laughter at her hasty conclusions. “Why would you be fine with that?”

    “Because I understand. I look disgusting. Fat and disgusting.”

    “Oh Hermione,” he said, shaking his head.

    She rolled over to hide her face from him.

    “Hey! Don’t you turn away.” He scooted next to her and lay down, putting his arm protectively around her belly and his mouth near her ear. “I’ll have you know that I find your sexiness almost maddening. Seeing you each morning has definitely exercised my control, but, quite honestly, some mornings I’ve found it nearly impossible to not ravage you right then and there on my bedroom floor. No one has ever managed to get this response from me. All day long my mind is plagued with thoughts of you and your exquisite curves, your breasts, your perfectly round bum… Don’t ever think I don’t desire you.”

    Hermione’s face went tomato red as she listened to Draco whisper in her ear. As he began kissing her neck, right below her earlobe, she turned onto her back and looked up at him.

    “Really?” she asked quietly.

    “Really,” he replied emphatically. “And god when you blush it just makes it all the worse.”
   
    Hermione raised her hands to her cheeks in embarrassment. “I just… I can’t believe you think that. And you’ve thought that for how long?”

    Draco smiled and looked up in thought, “Well, I noticed something different from the very first night we were at Hogwarts – when you beat me mercilessly and we toppled over the couch together. You were such a charming creature!”

    “You deserved it!”

    “Maybe so,” he conceded with a grin, “But then, I would say it really took form on the night of your birthday.”

    Hermione smiled softly in remembrance, “Really? I was ever-so embarrassed about that night.”

    “Because of the crying?”

    “Yes!” she said, putting a hand to her forehead, “and because you ignored me for a week after!”

    “Ah, I’m sorry about that,” he said contemplatively. “You had been absolutely lovely that night, and that was the problem. That’s the only reason I avoided you.” 
   
    “I thought I had scared you,” she said quietly, “And I thought you were laughing about it with all your Slytherin lackeys!”

    Draco stared at her, shocked and amused. “Granger, Granger! And they say you’re the smartest witch in our year!”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” she snapped.

    “I made a promise to you, and to Dumbledore, that I wouldn’t reveal your pregnancy! How would I be able to tell that particular story to the Slytherins without doing so?”

    “I don’t know… At the time I thought you were above such promises.”

    “Well, in that case, I’m offended!” he said.

    Hermione smiled and kissed him on the nose, “Forgive me?”

    “You make it impossible not to,” he sighed.

    She smiled to herself and let her fingers wander through his silky hair as she thought back to her birthday and the weeks that followed it. She recalled following him to the library that one day after potions. Where he proceeded to check out nearly every book available on Phasma Eturnus… she thought wistfully. Draco still didn’t know she knew about those and she didn’t feel like now was quite the time to broach the subject. They had done their patrol in Hogsmeade that same day – the patrol that led to him tailing her into the lingerie shop. She blushed at the memory of it and didn’t dare bring it up – she didn’t want to give Draco another excuse to talk about her. He’s full of rubbish as it is. The next notable thing to happen had been the Halloween party and there quasi-date. Had that really been his intention?

    “Draco?”

    “Mmm?” he responded lazily, his eyes closed as she played with his hair.

    “When you insisted we go to Parvati and Lavender’s Halloween party, were you asking me on a date?”
   
    He opened his eyes and smiled cunningly to himself. “Maybe.”

    “You were weren’t you?” she cried. “Dammit, Ginny was right.”

    “The Weaselette knew?” he asked, laughing. “Goodness, you really must be daft in you didn’t pick up on it then.”

    “Shush!” she cried, hitting his arm. “You were ever-so casual about it! How was I supposed to know?”

    “Well, there was the whole fact that I asked you to go with me. Made pains to establish that we would be going together.”

    “You certainly did not ask me to go with you! You told me I was going, and, as far as I could tell, we would just be going at the same time not necessarily ‘together’.”

    Draco rolled his eyes, “You just like to make any excuse to not see what’s right in front of you.”

    “Can you blame me?” she asked, pulling his face down to look at her, “Did you ever presume this would happen?”

    “No,” he conceded with a smile, “but I obviously didn’t write it off as an impossibility.”

    “Well, I did,” she admitted, staring up into the great firs’ web of branches. “The last thing I expected going into this year and knowing that I was pregnant was finding… a romantic interest. And you of all people!”

    “What about me?” he asked with feigned incredulity.

    “Oh, don’t give me that,” she responded, giving him a warning look as he tried to look innocently at her. “I mean, my healer told me some men find pregnancy attractive… It’s animal instinct, I suppose, but I never expected that of you.”

    Draco was silent a moment. “You don’t honestly believe the only reason I am pursuing you as ardently as I am is because I’m experiencing an animalistic surge of protectiveness for you and your impending young?”

    “Well, no, not entirely…”

    Draco rolled her over and pinned her to the ground again.

    “Hermione Granger,” he said in an authoritative voice. “My liking you is separate from and unrelated to your pregnancy. I like you, because Merlin we’ve been living practically on top of each other these last few months and, through it all, I’ve learned you are more than just a Gryffindor, a third of the Golden Trio and a goody-two-shoes. You’re this girl who puts me in place, who challenges me, who makes me laugh. You’re this…this person I never allowed myself to see before.”

    Hermione stared up at him, at once incredibly touched by his words and incredibly worried. The fact of the matter was her baby was not just a hypothetical, separate from reality. Her baby was an actuality that they would both have to face. Had Draco considered that? Considered the fact that Hermione was not just one person anymore? She would never really be only one person ever again. She was now, intrinsically, linked to the baby growing inside of her.

    “Why do you look so worried?” asked Draco, smoothing a hand over Hermione’s wrinkled brow and kissing her lips softly.

    “I… I can’t ask you to do this…” she stuttered, pushing lightly against his chest so she could sit up.

    “Do what?” he asked, confused.

    Hermione stood up and walked over to the trunk of the tree, her arms crossed against her chest and her hand pressing to her forehead.

    “This, Draco,” she said quietly, still facing away from him.

    “I don’t understand…”

    “This!” she cried weakly, turning around to face him and gesturing to her stomach. Her eyes were damp. “I can’t ask you to do this. I can’t. You’re only eighteen…”

    “And what does that make you?” he asked softly.

    “That doesn’t matter,” she said swiftly, shaking her head, “this isn’t a choice for me, but it is for you. I can’t let you do it.”

    He stood up and ran an absent-minded hand through his hair before pressing his thumb and forefinger firmly against his brow.

    “And that’s all for you to determine?” he asked, his voice noticeably harsher than before. “I don’t get any say in this? Is that right?”

    “Draco –”

    “Hermione, do you realize what my life has been up until this year?”

    She stared at him silently.

    “It’s been black,” he said, his jaw clenching. “It’s been hate-filled and prejudiced and… empty.”

    For once his face looked open, and the emotion she saw within it felt unbearable.

    “I choose not to live that way ever again, Hermione. You helped me realize that, and, for that, I will never be the same. Do not tell me this is wrong. This is perhaps the only thing in my life that has ever been right.”

    He looked at her determinedly as he spoke, half fearful that she would still reject him. Her face was contorted in thought, creases marring her forehead and brown eyes desperately searching gray ones.

    She stepped forward tentatively, and reached for his hands.

    “I don’t know if I feel right just jumping into this,” she said quietly, entwining her fingers in his. “Could we maybe try… dating first?”

    He smiled as she looked up at him in earnest worry.

    “I would like nothing better than the opportunity to court you, Hermione Granger,” he said with a grin. “I’ll prove it to you… It will be fun.”

~*~




A/N: Hi, guys =) Hope you enjoyed this latest installment after an admittedly long (long, long, long) break. Tell me what you think in the reviews! I'm ever-so-grateful to all of you! You make it such a pleasure to write.


Chapter 18: Revelations
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                                                                  ~*~


Hermione landed in her bed again that night by broomstick. Draco floated them silently though Ginny’s first floor window and glided low until she could slide off easily and crawl under the covers once more. Leaning nearly flat on the handle of his broom, he brushed her hair from her face and laid a soft, tender kiss on her pink lips.

 

“Sleep well,” he whispered quietly, and then, before she could voice a reply, he had gone, leaving only a rippling curtain as sign of his departure.

 

                                                                  * * *

 
The next few days spent at the Burrow passed happily in a wave of holiday good spirits. Meals were spent crammed elbow to elbow along the long kitchen table, Mrs. Weasley’s fabled cooking leaving them all in a happy stupor. The house decorations were overseen by Hermione, Fleur, and Ginny, who gladly ordered the boys around from comfy positions on the sofa. Ginny had taken to miming Fleur’s pregnant waddle and moaning in great exaggeration of her aches and pains, all in an effort to get in on the special treatment of the pregnant duo. Mrs. Weasley did not protest, though Ron complained loudly of having to take up her share of chores. Otherwise, things ran smoothly in their usual frazzled, Weasley manner.


Hermione was very much enjoying and savoring her holiday – keenly aware of it being the last one she would spend “alone.” Even now, though, she didn’t feel truly alone. Unbeknownst to anyone save for Ginny, she was receiving upwards of five letters a day from a handsome eagle owl flying from Wiltshire.

 
Draco had been writing her lovely notes from his desk at Malfoy Manor, sharing with her the drudgery of his day-to-day life there and, more importantly, divulging just how much he missed her. Their correspondence was always at the forefront of each of their thoughts. Narcissa Malfoy saw neither hide nor hair of her son the first few days he was home, eventually taking it upon herself to knock forcefully upon his bedroom door and demand an audience with him. It was much easier to hide one’s whereabouts in the busy Burrow, but that hadn’t stopped the house’s holiday occupants from noticing the apparently very poor state of Hermione’s bladder – the girl was running upstairs to use the loo at least twice in an hour! 

 

Regardless, Draco and Hermione were absolutely reveling in their newfound companionship, which made their Christmas time all the more special and enjoyable.

 

                                                             * * *

                                                     Christmas Eve






“Mind the potatoes, Ginny!” called Mrs. Weasley’s shrill voice from across the kitchen.

 
Christmas dinner was moving along in the Burrow’s cramped kitchen. Ginny had just been doing her spot-on hilarious impression of her mother’s reaction to finding out she was going to be a grandma – exaggerated crying and screeching included. However, the subject of this hilarity was now stomping through to check on the progress of the cooking, and she did not look pleased.


“Don’t worry, Mum, I’m minding them,” said Ginny quickly, masterfully recovering from the recent bout of comedy. She knew better than anyone when and where it was permissible to tread the line with her mother, and now was not the time. The Burrow, already at what one would assume was maximum occupancy with twelve residents, was going to be stuffed to the brim tonight with eight more on their way.


Since the kitchen hadn’t a hope of seating twenty guests at its table, the parlor had been transformed into a makeshift dining room with one long, magically stretched, table covering its length.

 
“I don’t know what I was thinking inviting twenty people for Christmas supper,” cried Mrs. Weasley to the kitchen at large as she peppered the potatoes and ran a hand across her perspiring brow, “I feel like I’m living in a mad house!”

 
As she swiveled around again, no doubt remembering another chore on her mental to-do list, Ginny took over at the stove and chuckled to herself.

 
“What Mum doesn’t understand is that we’re always living in a mad house. Today it’s just a tad over-capacity.”

 

A half hour later, with a sparkling glass of elfin wine in her hand, Mrs. Weasley looked much more comfortable with the state of chaos in her home. The remaining guests had arrived and the sound of happy holiday chatter filled the Burrow with warmth from the floorboards to the eaves.


Unnoticed in the chaos, Hermione had escaped again to Ginny’s bedroom where Valerian waited on the windowsill. The corners of her lips crept up in a small smile when she saw a new roll of parchment tied to his left foot.


Draco. It was all she could think about. Draco writing her letters. Draco showing up at her window. Draco holding her in his arms, kissing her. Draco, Draco, Draco.

 
She hated to admit it, for she was still unsure if what she was doing was right, but he was getting under her skin. He told her that this was what he wanted, and he was proving it, but she still couldn’t shake that niggling feeling that this was all unfair to him. Her belly was getting bigger by the day – a constant reminder of the baby that was soon to be born. This baby was her responsibility and hers alone. What would happen if they got too close, if she got too attached, and then, once the baby was born, he realized he couldn’t handle it? What would happen to them then?


She closed her eyes and squeezed the bridge of her nose where a throbbing ache was beginning to form. 


Suddenly, hurried footsteps could be heard coming up the stairs, and, before she knew it, the bedroom door was opened and Ginny’s head had popped around the corner.


“There you are! Hey, you better come downstairs before people start asking about you,” said her redheaded friend jovially. 


“Oh yeah, sorry, just had a bit of headache. I’ll be down in a second!”

 
She stood up quickly to follow Ginny’s lead downstairs, folding the unopened letter in a neat square and tucking it in her sweater pocket.

 

 
Dinner was abundant and rich, and conversation flowed effortlessly around the Weasley’s table. Hermione sat back in her chair with an easy smile on her face, both hands resting atop the curve of her stomach. Around that table sat the hodgepodge collection of people she had grown to associate with her family, she couldn’t help but smile at the thought of what a wonderful family they were.

 
After the main course had passed and most of the guests sat nursing their drinks, Mr. Weasley stood up to make a toast.

 
“I’m really no good at these sorts of things,” he began, his face flushing pink and his eyes downcast, “but I would just like to say that I feel such immense joy that you are all here with me today. We made it through the hardest of times, and we lost too many, but that we are here now leaves me… leaves me breathless with gratitude.”

 
Everyone smiled genuinely at one another, murmuring their agreement, and Arthur sat down again. It was truly miraculous that so many had survived. Hermione took a moment to regard each of their faces fondly. Her heart swelled as her mind attempted to place and define the uncontrollable feeling of elation.

 
And then her eyes landed on one face in particular and her mind abandoned its attempt, turning instead to panic mode. As she had watched, Fleur’s eyebrows had flown up in sudden surprise and then furrowed in immediate and intense worry. She clutched at Bill’s arm, as Hermione stood up rapidly.

 
“Fleur, what’s happened?” she asked, quickly but calmly.

 
Bill had turned to stare puzzled at his wife and then up at Hermione. Most of the people around the table were noticing as well and growing quiet.

 
“I theenk my water ‘as broke,” Fleur said quietly, her eyes unmoving but reeling with emotion.

 
There was a slight pause between her words and the utter madness that then broke out. Suddenly everyone was on their feet, hurrying about, and panicking. Mrs. Weasley was crying hysterically; Bill was staring at his wife in shock; Mr. Weasley’s head was in the fire, Flooing St. Mungo’s; and all the rest of the house’s occupants seemed to be pacing and panicking… loudly.

 

Hermione rushed to the other side of the table and kneeled quietly next to Fleur.

 
“How do you feel?” she asked instinctively, putting an arm around Fleur’s shoulders.

 
“I am scared for him,” she replied quietly, turning her large blue eyes upwards to meet Hermione’s. “It ees much too soon.”

 
“Everything will be fine, Fleur. He will be just fine,” she placed her hand on top of Fleur’s, which rested protectively across her stomach.  

 
As she gave Fleur one last reassuring look, Bill swooped down beside them.

 
“St. Mungo’s says it’s not too dangerous to Floo and it will get us there the fastest,” he said hurriedly, brushing his hand across his wife’s cheek.

 
“Bill –” she began.

 
“I know,” he said calmly, resting his forehead against hers. “It’s going to be okay; I’ll be right beside you the whole time.”

 
With that, he put one arm under the crook of her knees and the other at her back, lifting her easily out of the chair and over to the fire. The guests had formed a semi-circle around them, watching the couple woefully. Once they had both disappeared in the sudden spurt of green flames, Mrs. Weasley called everyone to order.

 
“Alright everyone, change of plans,” she began shakily but with a smile. “Arthur and I are going to apparate to St. Mungo’s posthaste. Anyone who wishes to join us is most welcome, however it might be a long wait, knowing how these things go! Our home is always open to you if you wish to stay, of course.”

 
“Molly, we’re coming, obviously,” said Tonks with a smile.

 
“You couldn’t pay us to stay home, Mum,” Ron said quietly.

 
Mrs. Weasley pulled her son into a tight embrace.

 
“Well then, let’s get going, everyone!” said an ashen-faced Mr. Weasley, touting Fleur’s overnight bag. “I’ve just sent word to the Delacours. At this rate, they’ll beat us there and they’re coming all the way from Marseille!”

 

                                                                 * * *

St. Mungo’s was teeming with people sporting all manner of holiday-induced afflictions. The lobby was a cacophony of voices as patients attempted to check-in and find their desired floor.


Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny had arrived through the familiar guest entrance into the midst of the Christmas hullabaloo. Hermione took the lead, knowing very well just where the Magical Maternity Ward was located, and ushered them over to the lifts.


The maternity ward was calm compared to the mayhem in the lobby, and they had no trouble locating the Weasley clan.


“Oh, you’ve made it,” sighed Mrs. Weasley. “Fleur’s Healer just arrived and is giving her a primary examination now.”
 

“Mum, will the baby be okay being this early?” asked Ron hesitantly.


Everyone looked apprehensively at Mrs. Weasley.


“I don’t know, Ron,” she said softly. “He was supposed to be another five weeks.”


“He’ll be fine,” Ginny stated matter-of-factly, but her face was white and her hand reached out in search of Harry’s.


They all sat in nervous silence for a long time. The Delacours arrived within the hour and they, along with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, disappeared into Fleur’s delivery room.

 
At eleven Harry suggested they get up to stretch their legs and so the four dragged themselves out of their seats and wandered quietly down the empty hall.


“It wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” Ginny whimpered once they were out of earshot. Harry put his arm around her and nodded his assent.
 

“I don’t know what we’ll do if he’s, you know, not okay,” Ron continued, his eyes staring blankly at the checkered floor.


Hermione took a deep breath. “He’s going to be okay. You can’t start planning for the what-ifs. Give him a chance, please. He’s going to be just fine.”


They had reached another small waiting area at the end of the hall. It was the waiting area off of which stood Astrid’s office.

“Ah, now here’s a familiar place,” Hermione said with a forced smile. The rest looked at her quizzically. “Err, remember?” she said, pointing at her belly.

 
“Oh is this where you go every week?” asked Ron, suddenly quite interested.

 
“This is it,” she replied, walking up to the door inscribed with Astrid’s name. She jiggled the handle half-heartedly, and looked at it in surprise when it turned and opened.

 
“Don’t keep this place very well secured, now do they?” Harry said with a laugh. “Let’s check it out.”

 
Hermione watched from the doorway as the three of them sauntered into the very familiar office of her Healer. Hermione had not been the most exemplary patient as of late. In fact, she had skived off the last few weeks of appointments. She told herself this was only practical considering how busy she had been with preparations for the waltz, but she also knew that she had been quite relieved to do it.

 
“Quite a set-up she’s got here,” commented Ron, admiring the plush examination table and shelves of impressive leather-bound books.

 
“Yes, well, she’s sort of a specialist, after all,” Hermione explained.

 
“Merlin, look at all of these,” sighed Ginny from the bookshelf. “I could spend hours reading here.”

 
“Oh they can’t be that interesting,” said Hermione skeptically. “I’m sure I can find much more to read at Hogwarts.”

 
“But these are so specified,” said Ginny in awe as she tilted her head to read the titles. “I’m fascinated with magical healing… I’m sure they wouldn’t have some of these at Hogwarts.”

 
“It’s not that fascinating…”

 
“Oh look! She’s got a whole shelf on Phasma Eturnus!”



“Wonderful. Can’t we go now?” snapped Hermione.


Ginny eyed her beadily. “I can’t quite figure out why you’re so determined to avoid the subject. Usually we can’t keep you away from the library, but you have shown absolutely no interest in learning about this…”

 
Hermione rolled her eyes. “That is because I already know what all of those books say, Ginny. No one really knows anything about Phasma Eturnus. It is a magical mystery, an enigma lost in history.”

 
“But you haven’t even looked –”

 
“Listen, I can hear people talking down the hall. We had better go,” Hermione pronounced, hurriedly turning on her heel.

 
This hasty exit had not been unjust, for when they arrived back, they found Bill with the Delacours and Weasleys delivering another update to the group.

 
“Our Healer says that, though it’s early, the baby looks to be healthy. There’s actually a chance there won’t be any major complications with his birth.”

 
“Bill, that’s wonderful,” said Tonks jovially, giving him a hug.

 
“Thanks, yeah, we’re so relieved,” he replied with a weak smile. Everyone understood that neither he nor Fleur would be really relieved until they had a healthy baby in their arms. “Right now, Fleur’s contractions are getting closer and closer together. I’ll try to come out and update you as often as I can… Thank you so much for being her for us.”

 
Everyone smiled up at him and offered him their reassurances and best wishes.

 
As he turned to leave, he caught Hermione’s eye and signaled her to follow.

 
“Is everything really okay?” she asked quietly once they had turned the corner.

 
“As far as we know, yeah. I have a favor to ask of you, though.”

 
Hermione raised her eyebrows at him, urging him to continue.

 
“Fleur has been asking for you. It would mean a lot to her to have you by her side right now. Would you be willing?” he implored desperately.

 
“Oh. Of – of course, Bill. If she really wants me there, then I’m there.”

 
He sighed with relief, “Thank you. Come in.”

 
The room was dim and it took Hermione’s eyes a moment to adjust as she entered. Her eyes searched for the bed, but found it empty. Bill, however, knew what to expect and hurried to Fleur who stood serenely by the window. Her long, silvery hair had been tied back off her face, and she was now wearing a white hospital gown. Hermione thought she looked ethereal – nothing like the laboring women she’d seen portrayed in Muggle movies or television growing up.

 
“Darling,” Bill whispered into her ear, kissing her cheek. “How are you doing?”

 
“I am fine, love,” she replied quietly, smiling back at him. “I’m just ‘appy to know he’s okay.”

 
“I’ve brought you someone,” he said turning her attention towards Hermione who still stood shyly at the door.

 
“’Ermione,” she cried suddenly, “Oh thank you for coming ‘ere.”

 
“Of course, Fleur. I’ve been so worried. How are you doing?” she asked, taking the opportunity to move closer.

 
“Well eet comes and goes,” she replied, smiling slightly. Hermione now noticed that there was indeed a sheer film of sweat covering Fleur’s face. “I was ‘oping you would stay with me – we’ve been going through all this together, after all.”

 
“Oh I would be honored to,” said Hermione genuinely.

 
Suddenly Fleur inhaled sharply and her eyes screwed up in obvious pain. She knelt down slightly, holding her stomach to her and squeezing Bill’s hand.

 

The pain seemed to endure for a good half a minute, the whole time of which Hermione stood planted to the spot, eyes wide.

 

“Fleur, darling, they’re lasting much longer now,” Bill said frantically once she had eased up on his hand. “I think I should go get the Healer again for another check.”






“Yes, yes… that was much longer,” she mumbled, moving slowly towards the bed.

 
“I’m going to leave you here with Hermione while I fetch the Healer… It’s going to be fine, love!”

 
Bill raced from the room once she had made it safely into bed, and Hermione moved tentatively forward.
 

 “Fleur?”


“Mmm…?”


“Are you okay? That seemed rather painful.”


“’Ermione, that ‘urt like nothing I ‘ave felt before.”




“Oh Merlin. You’re acting as though everything’s still okay! Shouldn’t you be screaming or something?”

 
“Shush. No. I do not scream,” she said impatiently, wiping her brow. “But, ‘Ermione, this baby is coming very fast. I can feel it. Come, look.”

 
Hermione was puzzled but moved to her side as Fleur rolled her gown up to expose her stomach above the blankets. Hermione clasped a hand to her mouth as she gazed upon a translucent belly, much like her own had been so many times. This time, though, the baby inside was much, much bigger. She looked closely at his little feet curled sweetly against his mother. His head was facing downwards, getting ready to depart from his cozy home and join the world.

 
Fleur was watching Hermione’s face for a reaction.

 
“I’m… speechless, Fleur,” she sighed, sitting gingerly on the side of the bed. “He’s going to be here so soon.”

 
“I know!” she said and then quickly screwed up her face in pain and grasped for Hermione’s hand. Hermione closed her eyes too and concentrated on counting the seconds until Fleur released her deathly grip on her hand.

 
“That was a full minute… Merlin, where’s Bill?” she muttered, slightly panicked.

 
“I don’t know,” Fleur whined, tossing a bit in the bed before gasping and clenching Hermione’s hand again. “Mon dieu!”

 
“Bill!” Hermione hollered frantically, staring down at Fleur in shock. “Bill! Hurry!”

 
Bill came running into the room just then, the Healer close behind him.

 
“What’s wrong? What’s happened? Is she okay? What’s going on?” he stuttered, rushing over to them and putting his hand on Fleur’s forehead.


“She’s just had two contractions one nearly right on top of the other!”

 
“It seems like it’s time, folks,” said the Healer all too cheerfully from the end of the bed. “I’m just going to cast another pain-relieving spell and we’ll get started.” 

 
“Fleur, darling, I’m right here,” Bill cooed next to her ear.

 
Hermione stared at the two of them in a moment of awe and shock, uncertain whether or not she was ready to witness what was about to occur. Suddenly, Fleur reached out and took hold of her hand, gently squeezing it. Hermione looked fearfully up at her eyes and noticed that she looked calm, strong.


“It’s time.”


                                                                  * * *
 

Nearly two hours later, in the wee hours of Christmas morning, baby Leon Arthur Weasley entered the world.

 
A steady procession of the waiting friends and family had filed in to lay eyes upon the tiny baby boy. Bill and Fleur had been delighted to discover that, though early, Leon was perfectly healthy – nineteen inches long, and a whole six and a half pounds.

 
Hermione stood by the windowsill watching as Leon’s grandmothers cried happily over him, as Fleur and Bill stared adoringly into one another’s eyes, as kiss after kiss was planted softly and lovingly on Leon’s forehead.

 
The birth had been…overwhelming. At first she had been frightened to see what Fleur might go through, but once Leon had emerged she felt this incredible rush of emotion and exhilaration. She hadn’t known whether she wanted to laugh or cry so she just sat in a befuddled awe.
 

Now, as she stood on the outskirts of their family’s perfect moment, a new feeling encroached upon her. She thought for a moment it might be jealousy, but that seemed too severe. Really, it was more like a desperate longing. She longed for that beautiful, happy moment at her own baby’s birth. She longed for her baby to be showered with just as much love and affection as little Leon. They looked so wonderfully whole.

 
“’Ermione?” called Fleur, snapping her out of her reverie. “Would you like to ‘old ‘im?”

 
Hermione was silent for a moment and then moved instinctively forward. “Yes, yes please. I would love to.”

 
Fleur smiled and carefully rearranged Leon in his blankets before holding him out to her. Hermione reached forward and pulled the small baby close, cradling him just above her own.

 
Leon yawned hugely as she held him and then smiled slightly, opening his eyes a fraction to peep up at her.
 

“Hello, baby,” she said quietly to him, brushing a fingertip across his silken cheek. “Welcome to the world.”

 
Bill and Fleur were talking quietly to one another now so Hermione took the opportunity to walk Leon over to the window.

 
“It’s a big world out there, little guy,” she cooed. “You’re going to be just fine, though. I already know. You’ve got so many people here to love you.” She bit her lip as she felt the back of her throat clench and her eyes begin to water. “And soon you’ll get to meet my own little one. I think you’ll be good friends.”

 
Wiping the tears from her eyes and taking a deep breath, she turned back to room and delivered Leon back into his mother’s waiting arms.

 
“I’m so happy for you both,” she said earnestly, touching each of their shoulders. “Thank you for letting me be a part of this.”
 

She left the room quietly, leaving the new family to their private bliss. Everyone was celebrating in the waiting room, popping bottles of champagne and toasting Leon, Bill and Fleur, and the ever-expanding Weasley clan. Hermione didn’t quite feel like being surrounded by all of that just yet and so she headed the opposite direction down the hall, toward a bench beneath a tall window.

 
As she sat, still and silent, everything managed to bubble up to the surface. She bowed her head as tears slid hot and fast down her cheeks and her lips trembled. Everything was too much. She hugged her arms around her burgeoning belly and sobbed helplessly. All of a sudden, a rhythmic wave of movement fluttered across her abdomen. She wiped her eyes and looked down at her belly.
 

“My baby,” she said softly. And with those words, the little one kicked some more. Hermione laughed. And once she started she really couldn’t stop.
 

“I love you,” she said softly. “I really, really do.”
 

Then, as she slipped her hands inside the kangaroo pocket of her sweater, her fingers brushed against something she had placed there hours and hours before.


His letter.


She held the unopened letter out in front of her, staring intently at its carefully lined folds. Should she open it? He had written it so many hours ago. What had they even been talking about? She furrowed her brows trying to remember. What if she opened it and it didn’t say just the right things? Her mind was still reeling from all of the night’s incredible emotions, she wasn’t sure she wanted to risk ruining it. He didn’t know what she had been on the verge of experiencing as he wrote it, he couldn’t be blamed if its contents weren’t right for the ending of such a momentous night.

 
She stared at it a moment longer, mind consumed with thoughts of him once more.
 

No, it was absolutely impossible not to; she had to open it.
 

Hermione,

 
I’ve just had the best idea! Once the baby comes, she is going to need space of her own, right? Well, we can convert my room into the nursery! I admit this idea may arguably be deemed “self-serving,” but you can’t deny a nursery would be mighty useful. And can I really be blamed for wanting to get as close as possible to you? You’ve made me this way, my darling.

How is Christmas Eve coming along? Lots of food I should hope. Mother has ordered a feast for just the two of us. A tad wasteful in my opinion – having the leftovers magicked over to the soup kitchen in town. Hope the Muggles have a hankering for some stuffed goose!  

Anyway, I should probably leave you to your festivities. Merlin, I don’t know how much longer I can go without seeing you. Keep New Years open, will you? I have some plans in the making… I’m sure you can only imagine the mischievous grin on my face right now. More later!

 

                                                                    Yours always,

                                                                           Draco

  

Hermione sighed. She began to grin re-reading his words, and then that grin turned into smile and soon enough she was positively beaming.

Maybe all of this wouldn’t be so hard after all. Maybe, just maybe… she wouldn’t have to be all alone.

 

                                                                      ~*~

 

A/N: Eternally sorry for the long waits. This story is never truly abandoned, though. Please give me your thoughts – I treasure any comments or constructive criticisms you have to give!


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