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xxvi.

Let’s craft the only thing we know into surprise 

August second.
2006.

When Hermione pushed open the door to Flourish and Blotts that morning, she was a little more than exhausted.  She went right past a customer who recognized her and was trying to ask a question, and she stomped through the aisles into the back room where she tossed her lunch in the little fridge and collapsed at her desk, letting her head fall into her hands.  She heard the door open, but she didn’t bother to look up.

“How is everything?” Anna asked quietly, massaging her shoulders.

“A fucking mess,” Hermione muttered darkly, and Anna didn’t say another word as she continued to rub the tension out of her friend’s shoulders.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” she asked when Hermione straightened and got up.

“I don’t know.”

“’Mione,” she sighed, a small smile touching her lips, “You look a wreck.”

Hermione looked down at herself; she wasn’t lying.  In her stress this morning, she’d absentmindedly gotten dressed, and so the result was lace-like black floral tights, a knee-length (it rose to her mid-thigh because of her ever-growing belly) white dress with bird-like grey flowers on it, a grey cardigan, and black Doc Marten boots.  She’d just wanted to be comfortable.

“I know.  Look, I just want to get through this shift and go back to Mungo’s.”

Anna frowned, “Do you really think you should be going back there?  You need to rest.”

“I don’t need to rest,” Hermione snapped angrily, “I’m not going to be able to relax until he wakes up.”

It had been just over a week since the attack, and Draco still remained unconscious.  Ginny, for all her strength, had only been let out of Mungo’s yesterday.

“So, one of the new girls, Briony, has been in this morning, and…”

But whatever else Anna was saying, she couldn’t hear.  For some reason, her legs kept moving, and her feet pushed her through the aisles and toward a cart of books they’d received that needed to be put away, and she even managed to greet a customer with a smile, but it was as though she’d gone deaf.

Briony.

The name rung in her ears, and she smiled.  Her eyes were flooded with memories, and she watched them flick by, and she was happy.  They had grown so much in those little visits, in those short months.  She was distantly aware of Anna trying to gather her attention, but she was lost, and she closed her eyes, smiling wider.  She would give anything to go back to that time, just that moment, curled in his arms and listening to his soft voice whisper words.

“Hermione!” Anna finally shouted, and she turned to her, “Where did you just go?”

“Sixth year,” she laughed, shaking her head, “When Draco and I first met.  He used to read me this Muggle book, Atonement, and there was a character in there named Briony.”

“Wow, really?  Hm,” she paused for only a fraction of a second before continuing, “Anyway, since you weren’t listening, Briony was in this morning, and she should be leaving in an hour or so.  She’s been really great.  She’s a little older than our usual start-at-seventeen, too, so that’s good.  I think Ayshlin is coming in later, too.”

“We hired someone named Ayshlin?  Wait, why did we hire so many people?”

“Look, I know you’ve had a stressful week, but we started deciding we needed more people for when the babies came, like, last month.”

“I’m sorry,” Hermione sighed, “My head just isn’t clear.  Things just need to settle down.”

“I know.  Look, want to come over after we close for a quick cup of tea?  We can chat just like the old days and you can just relax and be at ease.”

“You know, that actually sounds like a really great idea.  Thanks, Anna.”

“Hey, anytime.  I know you need to de-stress a little.”

Hermione just laughed before pushing her cart into the aisles.

-- 

August seventh.
2006.

Hermione awoke surrounded by soft, silky black sheets.  They’d decided on black, grey, and a soft blue for their bedroom.  The sheets were black, the comforter an Old English styled grey and blue pattern, and the hangings were the same blue.  Though they never used them, Hermione still liked the comfort and safety of them.  Their curtains were white, the only thing in the room that was, other than the plush white carpet that covered one half of the room; it extended from the door, along Hermione’s side of the bed, and all the way to the other side of the room, lining the closet and touching the wall beneath the window.

She was wearing one of Draco’s old, quite large t-shirts, and she loved how soft the cotton was, how there were small rips and holes here and there, how it still smelled of him.  Her sleepy smile and morning stretches were disrupted, however, as Mimmy and Pip suddenly appeared with a loud crack, both tumbling over their words.  Hermione sat up slowly, holding out her hands for them to stop.  When she pointed to Mimmy, Pip pouted.

“A healer is downstairs for Mrs. Malfoy.”

Hermione’s eyes widened immediately, and she pushed herself out of bed as fast as she could.  She flew right out of the room without even thinking, and she was about to descend the foyer stairs when the healer laughed and held up a hand.

“Don’t come all the way down here; you’ll just end up going back upstairs,” he said with a small smile from the bottom of the staircase, “I came to inform you that your husband has awoken and is quite adamant about seeing you.”

“Is he okay?” she demanded, taking the first two steps.

“Mrs. Malfoy,” he warned, “Please.  Go get changed, and I’ll escort you to St. Mungo’s.”

She relented after a moment, and Mimmy and Pip helped her around the room, gathering her clothes for her as she went to brush her teeth and fix her hair.  When she returned, she smiled.  They’d picked out a blue-grey skirt with a mess of hundreds of black polka dots that, normally, would have rested at her knees.  She donned a white tank top, pulled the skirt over her belly as it was originally intended as high-waisted, tugged on a light tan, thick cardigan, and she was just slipping on socks when Mimmy disappeared and Pip went to get her shoes.

Mimmy returned seconds later with her purse, Atonement, and a wide smile.  Hermione was nearly brought to tears as she took the two things, tucking the book away in her purse.  She knew that the two house elves had frequently heard her talking about how special the book was to her, especially because it was the copy Draco had always used, the copy he left her, and the copy she took from the library at Hogwarts.

When she exited her room, Pip appeared with her shoes, and she thanked him softly.  He’d brought her black Doc Marten boots, though she didn’t care that it looked a little off with the rest of her outfit.  They were comfortable and kept her back from hurting, and she just wanted to leave.

When they arrived, Hermione was brought immediately to Draco’s room where he was sitting with his back to the headboard, his grey eyes closed.  Hermione rushed over to him as he straightened and turned his gaze to her.  Relief washed over his features, and he cupped her face as she stopped beside him.

“You’re okay,” he whispered, and Hermione let out a tearful laugh.

His thumb caressed her cheek, and she smiled wide, disbelieving.  After a minute, Draco looked to the healer.

“When can I leave?” he asked, his voice tight.

“I’d like to run a few tests, but, now that you’re awake, and since you’ve been here so long, long enough to heal, I’d say before the night is young.”

Draco nodded once, and the healer left as he returned his eyes to Hermione.

“I dreamt about you,” he whispered, one thumb tracing her lips, “They told me what happened.  Harry came by a few times, I guess.  He’s put together a few teams who are going to check the old spots.  My parents have increased the protection around their house.  It will be nigh impossible to get in there, especially now that they’ve cut off the Floo to their house.  I want to do the same thing.  I can’t have you in danger.  That was a specific attack, Hermione.  They were targeting us.”

“We can’t cut the Floo Network,” she sighed, shaking her head, “I can’t apparate, and if something happens, I need to be able to get here.”

Draco sighed, but he knew she was right.

“They told me it’s been nearly two weeks.”

“We thought you wouldn’t wake.  I was so scared,” she admitted, and then her face lit up, “Ginny had her baby.  His name is Albus Severus.  Anna and I have seen him a couple times.  He’s beautiful.  James is so excited to have a little brother.”

“We should pay them a visit.”

Hermione nodded in agreement and was about to speak again when the same healer that had worked with Hermione walked in.

“Emily,” Draco greeted with a smile, “How are you?”

“Better than you.  Good morning, Hermione.  Don’t look too worried.  You’ll be leaving in an hour at most.  I just need to check him over.”

Emily worked quickly, and, good to her wood, she was getting them all set at the front desk before long.

“I want you to take it easy and use this,” she said as a cane appeared from her wand, “until you feel comfortable without it.  Come see me in three weeks or earlier if you’re still in pain.  I want you to take the rest of the week off from work, and you can judge your comfort and pain level for Monday.  Otherwise, you’re all set.”

Emily saw them off with a smile, and they were just stepping out of their fireplace when there was a knock on the door.  Hermione went to get it as Draco made his way into the kitchen, his stomach grumbling in hunger.  Standing in the doorway was the Minister, appointed almost immediately after the war was Rufus Scrimgeour’s son, Aeos*, then barely twenty, now twenty-eight; behind him stood Harry.

“To what do we owe this honor?” Hermione asked, catching Harry’s eye; he smiled.

“We were informed of your husband’s departure from St. Mungo’s.  We would like to speak with him,” Aeos said in a soft, kind voice.

Hermione nodded, showing them in, and Draco was just sitting at the island when they walked in.

“Aeos, Harry,” he greeted, and there was a moment of tense silence before Harry sighed.

“Draco, I’m sorry to bombard you already, but we need to get your account as soon as possible.  Is there somewhere we could take this?  And feel free to bring your lunch.”

“The deck would be good.  Would you like tea or lemonade?” Hermione asked, turning to Harry and the minister.

Once all was settled, Draco brought them out to the deck where they sat in the sun and Draco ate his sandwich while the other two sat in silence.  They only began talking when Hermione returned, and Harry brought out a quick quotes quill that floated alongside him.  Their conversation lasted nearly two hours, and, when they stood to leave, Aeos spoke quickly with Harry before thanking them and leaving.

“Thank you,” Harry sighed, “I really wish we didn’t have to do this today, but you know how it is.  We’ve finished searching the old spots, too, and there were no traces, though I didn’t think there would be.  oh, also,” Harry paused, shaking his head with a large smile on his face, “Your mother, Draco, came to my office a few days ago, all frantic and shaking.  I guess Dolohov tried to take her, and she nearly killed him.  She’d heard about what happened, obviously, and your father wasn’t home, but she went insane.  In the end, she locked him in that old dungeon, and he’s in Azkaban now.”

“My mother?” Draco asked in disbelief.

“She was quite angry.  She almost followed me back to the Ministry to make sure he would be seen off properly.”

“Wow.  I never would have expected that.”

When stillness fell then, Harry stood, “I better be going.  I need to get back to Ginny.  Aeos deemed it necessary I be here, but I really hate leaving her right now.”

“Give her my best, and tell her I’ll be popping by soon.”

“Congratulations,” Draco added, shaking Harry’s hand, “You must be so proud.”

“I am,” Harry nodded, beaming.

After a few more pleasantries, they showed him to the door, and Draco just pulled Hermione into his arms when they were alone.

“I think we should spend the rest of the day in bed.  I just want to hold you,” he whispered, and she couldn’t help but smile as she agreed.

--

Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling.  Lyrics from Set Down Your Glass belong to Snow Patrol.

*Aeos is pronounced Aye-ohs (a long o and soft s).

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