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.
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 =)
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