I'd drown my beliefs
To have you be in peace
True Love Waits, Radiohead
‘You’re so distracted tonight, Draco.’
Asteria was watching her husband worriedly from across the dining table, her feet resting on a chair as she played with her food. Draco’s gaze had been fixed on his wine while Asteria chatted about trivial things. He looked up.
‘Am I? Sorry,’ he said quietly.
‘That’s all right,’ Asteria answered reflectively, ‘I suppose you’ve had a bad day.’
It disconcerted her, to see him like this. His eyes were stuck on the wine again and he was barely eating. What bothered him? She hated not being part of everything in his life. She shouldn’t be excluded.
If Draco had been able to hear her thoughts, he would have guarded himself more efficiently. As it was, he was completely engrossed in what he had seen earlier that day.
It wasn’t that he thought Granger was beautiful. That wasn’t it at all. He was not one of those men who changed their minds easily about women. He had decided a very long time ago that Hermione simply was not his type of woman, and had left it at that. Reflections on her attractiveness had therefore never been necessary. But somehow, hiding behind that curtain, he had seen her in a different light. It was not a new light, for it was familiar. He had spent all afternoon trying to figure out how so, and he had reached the answer following an hour’s silent contemplation: Malfoy Manor.
Yes, that was the first time he had seen her in that light. Vulnerable, broken, submissive to her own pain. Back then he had been too much in shock to consider anything else but Bellatrix’s thirst of blood toward a girl his age: this time, he had had long minutes to fully evaluate her vulnerability.
It was surely the utter contrast of know-it-all Granger basked in vulnerability that had made him find her so alluring. It could not be anything else. He had been at the same school with her for six years without ever seeing her that way.
And now he couldn’t get it out of his mind.
It was maddening. It was physical, so physical, nothing more. Draco should feel guilt, but he didn’t: he should feel disgusted for having such thoughts when he was married to a woman eight months pregnant. But Hermione’s beads of perspiration running down her long, sweaty neck had no way of escaping him.
That was it too. Her physicality, that desirable physicality that she had hidden for so long. Revealing it only when she was alone was so typical of her. Heaven forbid she should be considered a woman alone! No, Granger was Granger: lawyer, wife, activist – never just woman.
Asteria was the opposite. She embraced her femininity. She used her softness, her sexiness, her fragrance for what they were meant for: attraction. Granger would never use her charms for attraction. Then why, by Merlin, did he feel this physical impulse for her so suddenly, this unwanted physical impulse for a woman he truly despised.
‘Are you sure you’re all right?’
Draco sighed and wrenched his thoughts away from Granger with difficulty. He rubbed his face and forced a smile.
‘Yes, my darling. I’m fine.’
Browsing through magazines had never been Hermione’s thing. There was a number of seemingly interesting articles in Witch Weekly, but none contained any truths that Hermione yearned to uncover, tips she felt she needed to reveal her ‘Inner Beauty’ or advice she would have taken to raise her child to become environmentally aware.
She preferred observing the witches around her. Most had calm faces – there was an occasional hand that shook, or a twitch of the eyebrow, but otherwise nothing too alarming. Hermione, herself, was not nearly as anxious as she knew Ron was. After a week of hot flashes, nausea, and dizziness every now and again, her husband had forced her to go see a Healer. Hermione had only bent to his will to please him; she was fairly sure it was nothing other than a nasty bout of flu – Lisa had had one a few weeks ago.
The thing that really annoyed her now, as she waited for results to come back, was the fact that this was making her late for Draco. It had taken enough to summon up the courage to admit that she must end this wretched affair without needing to convince herself to meet him at another time due to her lateness, forever postponing the inevitable.
For it was inevitable. She didn’t know what she had been thinking when she started seeing him. Their short, passionate meetings would take them nowhere. Her physical pleasure with him could, ultimately, lead to nothing but guilt.
It terrified her how much she wanted him. She never knew it could be that way, to want someone so badly. She had always had Ron – well, apart from that business with Lavender, Hermione thought wryly. But she had been too young then to be properly conscious of her own sexuality. There had never been any struggle with Ron. It was the struggle that created the passion, and that struggle with Draco was only too passionate. After having a child, after becoming a mother, to be desired again – and by a man she had formerly hated – was so engaging. Yes, that was what she had thought at first.
She had not foreseen the nights of yearning, the uncalculated lust that simply drove her into his arms. Such physical power was frightening. Hermione, cool, calm, steady Hermione, had always used her head in situations. How could it be that there existed a power of nature so strong to rob her completely of herself?
Hermione found herself looking at the other women in the bright, cheerful room. Did these housewives have her life? Did they support a mask of innocence, shedding it when they reached their lovers? It hardly seemed possible. Hermione must be alone in that respect.
‘Mrs Weasley? Healer Robins is ready for you now.’
Hermione got up and followed the Healer trainee out of the waiting room and into her Healer’s office. Demelza Robins was sitting down behind her desk, having removed her Healer’s robes and resting her chin on her hands. Her face bore a smile.
Demelza had only been a Healer for a year, but, as an old Quidditch teammate of Harry, Ginny and Ron’s, the Weasleys and the Potters had decided to stick by her. She was a bright witch and had never given a wrong diagnosis. She had been a trainee at the time of Rose’s birth, and had helped deliver her with the greatest pride and joy.
‘Afternoon, Hermione,’ Demelza said, as Hermione took her seat. Hermione smiled. ‘Well, I’m pretty glad to say that there’s nothing very wrong with you.’
Hermione let out a sigh she did not know she had been withholding.
‘Thank you, Demelza,’ Hermione breathed. Realizing how firm her hold on her purse had been, she loosened her grip. ‘Ron will be so relieved. He worries too much.’
‘Well, I think you can easily go back home now with good news,’ Demelza answered, her smile widening. ‘You’re going to have another baby.’
Hermione knew there were moments in time which slowed, which simply revolved in midair until something happened to pick up the pace. This was not one of those moments. Instead of hearing the words in a deep voice, she heard them high-tuned, repeated and repeated and repeated… Her lunch rose to her throat and she felt a sharp pain in her palms when she realized that she was boring her nails into them. With difficulty, she swallowed the bile and focused on Demelza as if she were the only graspable thing in the room.
Her voice was no more than a low murmur. Hermione cleared her throat and tried again. She wished she hadn’t. The slightest motion of her throat and she felt the lunch returning to where it shouldn’t be.
‘You seem so surprised, Hermione!’ Demelza laughed, standing up and walking towards her. She sat on the desk. ‘Surely you must have guessed? This isn’t your first baby.’
‘No, I – I –‘ Hermione said wildly, looking around the room as if trying to find something to contradict Demelza. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Positive. But this is good news, Hermione! You didn’t want Rose to be an only child?’
Hermione buried her face in her hands, wishing she could make Demelza understand.
‘Rose was an accident, Demelza!’ she moaned through her fingers. ‘An accident. She came at the worst of times. And now I’ve finally established some sort of routine with her – now I’ve finally been able to go back to work – Demelza, I actually led the prosecution of a criminal trial last week, actually led it – and now you’re telling me I’m going to have to give that all up? Again?’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, Hermione,’ Demelza said, laying a hand on her shoulder. ‘Working women have babies, too. And you can’t expect Ron not to give a hand. It’s his baby too, after all.’
Hermione quickly stifled a groan. God! Was it his baby? Was it? Please let it be. She could not contemplate anything else. Could not contemplate giving birth to a blond baby Malfoy. That couldn’t be. The image itself was absurd. Why am I being punished?
No, it couldn’t be Malfoy’s. It took love to make babies, it took marriage, she tried telling herself. Don’t be such a fucking idiot, Hermione. It takes one action.
Oh, she knew she would be punished. All those thoughts she had pushed away when Draco had bit her neck, run his hands over her arms, undressed her – how they all came crashing down on her now.
What the hell would she do.
Hermione unlocked the door and walked inside, wondering if Draco was there. She had wandered London for the better part of an hour. When she had left Demelza, she had already been 45 minutes later for Draco. If he had any sense, he would have left by now.
She allowed herself a moment to admire her surroundings. As good as romantic hideaways were, theirs was surely the best. They had found their little gem in a quiet part of London, a tiny studio meant for students which cost minimal because of some trouble the landlord had had with her last tenant. It had been the most bizarre feeling, talking to the landlord while she and Draco posed as newlyweds with a very small income. The landlord was an old grandmother who fell for sloppy romantic tales, and so she let it to them. Staying there with Draco was a different kind of happiness for Hermione – one that she had never thought she would be content with.
‘Thank Merlin you’re all right,’ she heard Draco say, and saw him emerging from the kitchen area, his face concerned. ‘I was really worried, where have you been?’
Perhaps it was the warmth in his expression, or the sincerity, Hermione did not know; perhaps it was simply the fact that for an hour, she had tried to gather enough courage to tell him that things were over, that she was going back to Ron, without ever sharing the fact that she was pregnant and the baby might be his; perhaps it was the notion that she was lost, helpless and had no idea what to do; whatever it was, she broke down.
She felt arms around her, her wet face pressed against a hard chest and his soothing whispers as he got her to her feet and led her to the bed.
‘What happened, Hermione?’ he said, smoothing her hair back. ‘Tell me.’
‘I can’t tell you,’ she cried, acknowledging that this was the truth. The only way to make him let her go was to conceal. ‘I can’t.’
‘You’d better, Hermione,’ he said in a low voice, tainted with some anger. ‘You can’t just break down like this and leave me in the dark.’
She threw her arms around him and pressed him against her, knowing that she could not see his face as she spoke to him of unforgivable words.
‘I'm sorry, Draco, I'm sorry, I love you,’ she said, burying her face in his shoulder.
‘I love you too,’ he said softly. ‘What is this about?’
She was a Gryffindor. Her strength had been chosen over her intelligence. So why, oh why, could she not be strong now? Why could she not look him in the eyes and tell him that she must choose Ron?
Instead, unbelievably, she found herself saying, ‘I’m pregnant.’
She got to her feet to avoid Draco’s expression, not wanting to know what it was. Hermione slid out of his arms easily, his body language shocked. Several long moments past in torturing silence. Then, suddenly, she felt his hands on her shoulders and his breath on her ear.
‘All right then,’ he whispered, ‘then that’s it. You’re staying with me.’
She could have slapped him for such ignorance. Hermione wrenched around to face him. He seemed surprised at her outrage.
‘I don’t even know if it’s yours!’ she shouted, removing her coat and throwing it to the ground. She understood they would be there for a while. ‘It’s probably not!’ Was that hope in her voice?
‘Don’t be ridiculous, Hermione,’ Draco answered.
‘Just like the Healer,’ she exclaimed angrily, ‘’Don’t be ridiculous, Hermione, of course everything will be all right, Hermione.’ I don’t want to have a baby right now. It’s all wrong, it’s all bad timing, I can’t possibly –‘
His lips came crashing on hers and she was silenced. His hand was holding her chin to angle her face the right way and the tension vanished, the anger evaporated.
‘Shut up, Hermione,’ he whispered once they parted, his lips inches from hers. ‘You are pregnant, I am the father, and that is life.’ He released her chin and trailed a finger across her face. ‘I’m going to take care of you now.’
A different vision suddenly invaded Hermione, one she had never even contemplated: she, Rose, Draco and a newborn, huddled together reading bedtime stories. Her heart beat excitedly.
‘And if it isn’t yours?’ she whispered.
Draco did not react.
‘I’m going to take care of you,’ he repeated, and then he kissed her again.
Scorpius’ due birth date had been July 3rd, but it was July 6th when his screams finally erupted into the delivery room. Draco watched his wife lovingly as Healer Robins placed his son into her arms. It was true, he had underestimated this moment. He had not believed the sappy tales of life-changing feelings, but what he felt now was certainly close to life-changing. This new little creature had entered his world and coloured it in a million different nuances.
‘He’s the most beautiful baby in the world, isn’t he, Healer Robins?’ Asteria breathed, completely disregarding the Healer trainee as she wiped her forehead. Demelza smiled.
‘He’s perfect,’ she answered, ‘and you did beautifully, Mrs Malfoy. We’re going to wheel you back into your private ward now – if you could give your husband little Scorpius, I’m sure there are some expectant grandparents waiting outside.’
Asteria parted with her son half-heartedly. Draco’s previous qualms about holding something so fragile vanished the moment his squirming boy relaxed in his arms. This little baby was a piece of him. He was Draco’s. He was a picture of innocence. There was no cruelty, no violence, no threat here: this miracle was a clean slate with no convictions. Draco had participated in the making of this amazing part of life, and that part of life was, for now, perfection. He felt a swelling in his heart and knew, as he had never quite believed before, that such a thing as unconditional love did exist.
Narcissa and the Greengrasses were waiting outside. Hyperion was rubbing his knuckles and Cinxia was strained. Narcissa alone seemed calm.
‘Oh, Draco!’ squealed Cinxia as he emerged, rocking Scorpius to and fro. She ran toward him and stroked the baby’s head. Narcissa smiled and got to her feet, approaching them. ‘He’s so handsome.’
‘How’s my baby girl?’ Hyperion inquired anxiously, peering at Scorpius as if he would provide an answer.
‘She’s perfect, just perfect, Hyperion,’ Draco grinned. ‘She was amazing.’
Hyperion let out a shaky laugh and approached the baby. Draco thought he had never seen him this nervous. Narcissa was still smiling calmly, watching Cinxia as she cooed over her grandson.
‘Isn’t he perfect, Mother?’ Draco asked her. Narcissa nodded, her smile widening.
‘I’d say he takes after Hyperion,’ Cinxia laughed, ‘look at those hands! He’s the spitting image of you, darling.’
‘Always knew my baby girl would do a good job at it,’ Hyperion grinned heartily, patting Scorpius on the head as if he were a dog. ‘Asteria is good at everything. She takes after her father.’
Draco could have killed Hyperion for ruining a moment like this. This moment was not, and should not be, about him, but about Scorpius. He made up an excuse to return to Asteria, eager that the parents should share their son, and hopefully so away from Hyperion.
Asteria was resting when he re-entered her ward. They were lucky in that they were not sharing it with anyone else; the second bed had been occupied by a recovering mother the other night, but was now empty. Draco carefully handed Scorpius to his mother and sat down in the nearest chair.
Life surely could not get any better than this. He had never seen Asteria so radiant, nor so tired. She could not take her eyes off Scorpius.
‘I could never do what you just did the past twelve hours,’ Draco sighed, leaning back in the chair. Asteria laughed.
‘My mother once told me that as soon as the child is delivered, you forget all about the pain. Maybe that’s true, because all that feels like absolutely nothing right now.’
‘Healer Robins said you were a right little trooper.’
‘She’s exaggerating. The trainee told me that there was never an easier birth. I suppose little Scorpius just couldn’t wait to pop out, now, could he?’
Asteria laughed as Scorpius flexed his fingers, squirming in his mother’s arms. Draco pulled his blanket down further over his feet. He still could not understand how tiny they were.
‘I was thinking we might call him Hyperion as a middle name,’ Asteria continued. ‘It would be such a nice gesture, don’t you think?’
Draco fell silent. Interpreting the silence wrongly, Asteria quickly added, ‘Oh, we’ll call the next one Lucius, of course. Or Narcissa if she’s a girl.’
Draco resisted the urge to fight. Instead he laughed. The trainee had come in to take Scorpius into the children’s nursery. The parents watched her wrap Scorpius more firmly and carry him out.
‘Next one?’ Draco said, smiling. Asteria grabbed his collar and pulled him closer, pausing at his lips.
‘Next one,’ she repeated, and kissed him.
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