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She wished she were happy. God, she wished she were. How easy had she not had it before? Happiness made everything seem so trivial, so extraordinarily simple. Going back to work again had been like breathing oxygen after months in a dark sea. Using her mind, her brilliant, unexercised mind, was just what she needed. She was happy then. She was no longer just Mummy, she was Hermione, a thriving attorney.
Perhaps it was the fact that he had vanished for the past four years, but Draco Malfoy was taller than she remembered, and certainly more memorable. He stood out like a sore thumb, even amongst a seaful of blonde women and men in wizarding robes. Hermione watched as he put an arm around Asteria and clenched her shoulder comfortingly, his expression somehow sombre, or attentive. Asteria buried her face against his neck.
She was real; Asteria was real. A woman just like Hermione. A mother. What was more, she was beautiful, charming, kind. There were no apparent flaws – no hideousness that Draco need run away from. There was no excuse that Hermione could turn to.
Draco was suddenly aware that he was not breathing. A sharp pain in his palms told him that he had dug his nails into his skin. His whole body was screaming in protest at his tense position, his thighs clenched and jaw square. He threw his shoulders back slowly in an attempt to soothe himself.
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?
He realized that they had not spoken since the war. What could he possibly say? He felt his first words should be important, somehow, they should mark the occasion. They could never be casual. Draco battled with himself. Her cold self-sufficiency annoyed him. He should not be the one believing this to be a moment worth thinking about. He approached the window Granger was leaning against, the one offering a perspective into the room where twenty or so babies were sleeping peacefully behind the glass. He pointed at the small crib furthest to the left.
For it did infuriate her, to see Malfoy standing on Ministry ground when he had no business to be here. He had not earned the right to have a decent job, to be paid and respected like those who had fought on the good side of the war. That awful war, which had cost so many lives, and had ended so short time ago. When she thought of Fred, Tonks, Remus, Sirius – her heart swelled and she swallowed the bile in her throat, forcing the sadness into anger. It was a method that always worked.
The truth was that Hermione could not run away. No airplane could take her far enough from her sins. She was carrying a baby that could be Draco’s, and she was married to a man who thought it was his. Neither of them would let her leave. Nor did she want them to. She wanted to cling on to someone who rocked her back and forth while they told her that everything would be all right. Assuming responsibility for her choices had always been easy, because her choices had never been wrong before. And they were wrong now.
Point of No Return
She should walk away. It would be so easy to do. They had been staring at each other for longer than necessary, longer than plausible, and it was becoming more difficult by the second to accept that nothing was happening.
The voice was so filled with venom and pain that for a moment, Hermione did not recognize it. She turned around and met Draco’s anguished eyes, his face paler than ever. He was looking very smart and prim in a black suit and white shirt, and his hair was combed carefully back. But for all his neat appearance and carefully studied reflection, Hermione felt the chaos wrecking inside him.
Something wildly happy filled Draco’s heart and he did not understand why; but the fact that she had acknowledged their sin was suddenly blissfully satisfying. Now that she had admitted to sinning, the sinner seemed all the more alluring. He could cast her in that frame of mind again, the one where her rage and her uncontrollable nature became one with his confusion and his desire to quench that animal thirst. It came on shockingly suddenly; it was such an immediate lust that he almost felt a bit dizzy.
She did not count the minutes, but she knew that her suspicion must be confirmed when another pain hit her, so sharply this time that she swore a little. Her breathing shallow, Hermione forced herself to stay calm, even though her heart was fluttering in panic and her mind was protesting fiercely against what was happening.
Why does G keep up the studying? Why does G have her hair like that? Does she know? Would she do the same? Why does G do it? Why does G think? Why can G be so clever when she is so tainted?
When Hermione reached the ensuite bathroom, she felt wretched. Her whole body was drenched in sweat as if she had just run a mile at top speed. There seemed to be something pulsing in the middle of her chest and her heart would surely jump out of her throat any minute. She couldn’t honestly be thinking of doing this. She couldn’t. This - right now - would change everything.
Asteria opened her mouth to say something again, but all Hermione could think, feel and see was how much Draco staring at her: it was as if something was boring into every pore of her skin and doubling her heart rate. She felt the heat rise to her face as she chanced a glance at him. The moment their eyes met, they both had to look away, and she took a deep breath, willing herself to stay calm.
They stood underneath a bus stop for a moment, looking up at the house that had been advertised. It looked nothing like the picture in the Muggle paper, but perhaps that was just the effect of the weather. Draco glanced sideways at Hermione, who was looking up at the property with a weird expression on her face. He could not read it, which was a first: Hermione had lately been like an open book to him.
Hermione let Mrs Wolsey carry on, thoughts cramming her brain unpleasantly. Draco had kept the apartment even after she had dismissed him. Had he thought she would come back to him? Had he waited for her, perhaps several nights in a row, in the dingy studio that they had rented secretly? The image of this lonesome Draco Malfoy, sitting on their bed of sins, formed, unbidden, in her mind. She suddenly wanted to cry. She suddenly wanted to kiss him.
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