Draco huffed. “Please, will you just stop crying for a moment and go the f—Ow! Da—Oh, for f—Pork!”
There was a momentary stunned silence, but then, his son began wailing even louder. Draco groaned and began frantically rocking the baby as he did another turn about the room. Damn Hermione’s Anti-cursing Jinx! He stared at the clock—3:00 a.m. They’d been trying to get Ealdraed to stop his whimpering and fretting for the past seven hours. He’d taken over from Hermione at midnight; she hadn’t even offered a token protest. Until two days ago, his son had always been cooperative about bedtimes, sleeping soundly through the night. Draco grumpily wondered if Pansy had somehow put a curse on them; she’d been quite put out to learn what an easy time of parenting he and Hermione were having. None of the books were of any help, according to his wife, and neither of their mothers nor Molly could offer any insight as to why their son was so adamantly against repose. Some old Muggle illness called colic had been brought up, but none of the so-called remedies had any effect besides increasing Hermione’s anxiety at each failed solution. They were all baffled. If this continued, they might have to consult a Healer. Hermione was loath to potentially expose the baby to germs before his immune system kicked in, so they’d have to incur the extra expense of a home visit, which in itself was no hardship but meant they’d have to tidy up the house beforehand. Perhaps he could get his father to offer to pay—it would give the added benefit of his mum insisting on loaning them a house-elf…
“Why aren’t you asleep yet, Reddie?” A yawning Hermione appeared at his elbow and kissed their son on the forehead. Ealdraed complained to his mummy in his own incomprehensible language. “Well, you’re not being very obliging, so you can’t blame Daddy for being cross. He’s tired from staying up with you. Are you hungry, hatchling?”
Hermione settled with the baby into the rocking chair and tried to coax him to take some milk. He refused to suckle. She sighed. “Are you sure a Calming Draught is too potent for him?” It was a definite sign of desperation that Hermione even broached the subject. Draco nodded wearily. She sighed again. “I don’t want to cause him harm, but if he continues this relentless crying, he’s going to hurt himself. How is it possible that he hasn’t exhausted himself after all this time? And spare me the insinuations of the legendary Malfoy prowess.”
“Not funny, Malfoy.”
Draco collapsed into the love-seat and Levitated his wife and son into his lap. He kissed her temple. “Not trying to be, but if the sprog keeps this up, I’m tempted to Silence him.”
“You know the Healer forbade casting any spells on him.”
“I know. I guess we’ve stumbled upon the real reason our magical population is so small.”
Hermione gave a tired chuckle. Ealdraed seemed to sense that he was being mocked and put out a fresh wave of protestation. His parents sighed. Draco resumed rocking. Hermione began humming “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”. The volume of distress decreased but did not completely cease.
The baby’s vocal sulking finally stopped around half-five, when he’d gotten hungry from all the physical exertion.
Unfortunately, after replenishing his energy, he was ready to play.
“We’re not here to cause trouble, Malfoy,” Harry assured him.
“Yeah. We’re taking the sprog off your hands for the day. Mum told us what happened last night at dinner. We figured a day spent with the Weasley younglings will tire him out enough that he’ll need to sleep through the night,” Ron added.
Draco stepped aside and waved them in. They stamped the snow off their boots before removing them. Harry didn’t bother divesting himself of his winter gear as he went to pack the essentials while Ron told Hermione the plan. She kissed them both.
As Draco saw them off, he muttered, “Thanks.”
“Oh, don’t mention it. Just do us a favour, Malfoy: try a new brand of cold cream. The one you’re using is clearly not working. Restoring your fantastic good looks’ll be payment enough for us.” Ron grinned in response to Draco’s scowl. “And stop doing that: with your body so overworked, your facial muscles just might stay that way.”
“You and Hermione take some Dreamless Sleep before your nap, Malfoy. We’ll be back around seven.”
When Harry and Ron dropped the baby off, Ealdraed seemed quite happy to be home and reunited with his parents. He enjoyed his bath as usual, though he didn’t seem interested in playing with his toys.
Sadly, as soon as he was dressed in his sleeper, he began to fuss.
Hermione opened it and just barely suppressed a whine.
Luna smiled brightly and handed over a large bag containing colourfully wrapped gifts. “Hello, Hermione. You really shouldn’t drink so many Pepper-Ups. I find meditation more effective in maintaining stamina for long periods. I also found that—”
“Please, come in, Luna.” Hermione silently counted—very slowly—to ten as she shut the door. She hung her guest’s coat in the small closet and led her into the sitting room.
Draco visibly deflated when he realized who their visitor was. “How are you, La Luna? Would you like some tea?” He was about to hand Ealdraed to Hermione when Luna declined.
“I have a solution to your problem. The method is dependent on Ealdraed’s behaviour since yesterday. You can’t give corn kernels to a Hippogriff and expect it to be happy. How long are his naps?”
“At most an hour long at a time the past three days. He had two of them yesterday. That’s right, isn’t it, Draco? Yes, he only had one nap the day before. The durations have been getting shorter since this started a week ago. And he’s more and more cranky when awake, though he hasn’t lost any weight or shown any of the other symptoms Healer Duquesnay said to look for.”
“He’s got the severe form, then, poor dear. You will need to recreate as much of the conditions in utero as possible. Just holding him against you under a blanket won’t be enough.”
“But… how do we—Are you saying we have to somehow be submerged under water? How do we breathe?”
“I suppose we could use a Bubble-Head Charm. Do you think we could modify it so it envelopes my entire body? I don’t think Reddie would be comfortable with the charm over his head.”
“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” Luna said. “A gentle rocking motion while flying produces the same effect. But make sure he’s covered with a blanket to keep him warm and in the dark.”
“Well, seems we’ve found another use for the sleigh.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “But what’s the cause of the incessant crying?”
“Oh, babies haven’t adjusted to the constant stimulation from their environment. It builds up during the day, and their brains don’t know how to filter it or calm themselves down. If you’ve been trying to pacify him with lullabies and pacing, that’s more stimuli. It also doesn’t help that Ealdraed is sensing your frustration.”
Draco groaned. “So, this whole time, all I needed to do was sit still and cast a Silencio around the room?”
Luna nodded. “Sensory deprivation. It makes the heartbeats louder. And if you fell asleep first, he’d soon be soothed by the steady rhythm.”
Hermione sighed. “Thank you, Luna.”
After dinner, Hermione bathed her son while Draco saw to preparing the sleigh. She dressed Ealdraed in his sleeper before tucking him securely within the folds of her coat and putting a warm throw over top.
The snow crunched under her boots as she walked the short distance to the vehicle. As she climbed in, she heard the faint strains of the GSO’s “Winter Wonderland” album. She snuggled into Draco’s embrace and heard him mutter spells to create an invisible and warm roof over them. She felt him trigger the sleigh’s levitating charms.
They breathed a sigh of relief when they heard nothing but silence after fifteen minutes of travel.
“We should’ve figured this out sooner,” Draco murmured, “given that the hatchling was conceived on one such trip. Ow!”
“There are other ways to re-create an environment similar to that of the womb.”
“Granted, but his mummy derived such pleasure from this particular method—once she got over the fear, of course.”
“How many times do I have to tell you that these sorts of behavioural traits don’t get passed down genetically? He’d had to have experienced it for himself. And, if you’ll recall, someone and his parents wouldn’t allow me to ride in this sleigh as soon as I realized I was pregnant. At that point, Reddie wasn’t sufficiently developed to respond to any external stimuli.”
The baby cooed at the sound of his name. Hermione patted him. “Now, stop vexing me. I’m supposed to be lulled to sleep so that he will, too.”
Draco grinned at her and kissed her soundly. He wrapped his arms tighter around his loves as Hermione nestled comfortably against him. She fell into deep slumber within a half-hour. After another half-hour, Draco risked a peek under the throw and found his sprog also sound asleep. He caressed the exposed tuft of blond hair before replacing the throw and let the vehicle float above the wintery landscape for another hour. When fatigue started creeping in, he softly landed in the back garden and carried them inside and up to his old rooms.