All things being equal, Tinker the house-elf would rather have been using magic, but Mrs Draco had once told him that doing things by hand (the Muggle way) was a Labour of Love...
Tinker consulted his Muggle Plan, thinking that, if the Instructions were anything to go by, Muggles must use up an awful lot of Love.
Tinker measured the piece of wood, carefully marking eight inches with a thick Muggle PENCIL then, tucking the PENCIL behind his ear, he stretched out his hand and, leaning as far away as possible (and closing his eyes), he pressed the button on his Muggle TAPE MEASURE, and flinched as the thin metal blade whipped back into the silver box.
Tinker hoped that Mrs Draco would like her Christmas present—
Tinker unbuckled his TOOL BELT and hurried to see what Mr Draco wanted.
“Quick,” said Mr Draco, “fetch me that Jott and Tittle's bag!”
He jerked his head in the general direction of the potion supplies cupboard and Tinker, climbing up on a convenient chair, quickly found a large paper bag, labelled
Jott and Tittle
Fine Potion Supplies
and, in much smaller letters, Est 1843.
Tinker brought the bag to his young master.
Mr Draco, leaning over a bubbling cauldron, was carefully stirring its contents in a smooth, figure-of-eight motion. Tinker deduced that the potion was temperamental.
“Open the bag,” said Mr Draco.
Tinker opened it, releasing a small cloud of fine, brown powder.
“A quarter pound of freshly-ground pine cones,” said Mr Draco. “Add the lot.”
Fighting back a sneeze, Tinker watched Mr Draco's hand and, the moment Mr Draco's stirring rod moved towards the other side of the cauldron, Tinker tipped in the powder. It fell in one, big lump, and...
“Fuck,” said Mr Draco, whilst he and Tinker were dancing about, slapping out the flames, “fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK!”
“There you are!”
It had taken Hermione a good twenty minutes to find her husband in the maze known as Malfoy Manor, and now she was running late. “Don't forget,” she said, “I'm seeing Harry—what on earth has happened to your hair?”
“Hair?” said Draco, nonchalantly. “I, um”—he shrugged his shoulders—“I thought it was time for a trim.”
“Just at the front?”
“The fringe was falling in my eyes.”
Hermione transferred her cloak, briefcase, and her little, beaded bag to one hand, reached up with the other, and ran her fingers over her husband's short, rough, and strangely tinted stubble. “Hmmm,” she said.
She rubbed a thumb across his eyebrow. “Did you trim this as well?”
Her husband shrugged again.
“Never mind,” she said, knowing from experience that it was pointless to keep quizzing Draco when he was 'up to something', and settling instead for repairing the damage: “I'll pick up some of Ron's Miracle Hair-Gro at lunchtime.”
She came up on tip-toe to give him a goodbye kiss, and things quickly escalated into something that would have spontaneously combusted a woman who hadn't already built up a tolerance to Draco Malfoy's kisses.
“You shouldn't have left my bed so early, mister,” Hermione growled. “I've got to go to work now—but,” she added, in a loud whisper, “watch out when I get home!”
With a massive effort, she pulled herself free and all but ran to the fireplace, calling “Don't forget I'm seeing Harry tonight, to tell him the good news, so I may be a bit later than usual,” and adding “Bye, Tinker!” to the house-elf lurking in the corner.
But as the green flames were wooshing her to the Ministry, Hermione found herself wondering. Was it just her imagination, or did Draco really smell of smoke? And was she seeing things, or were the tips of Tinker's ears really singed?
“Library,” said Mr Draco, the moment Mrs Draco had disappeared.
Tinker had been hoping to sneak up to his room and spend more time working on his Labour of Love, but he trotted obediently behind his young master (noting the way Mr Draco's robes billowed out behind him as he walked, just like Mr Lucius Malfoy's).
Tinker spent the next few hours fetching various books (which might be old but, thanks to Tinker's tight ship, were certainly not dusty) from the shelves, whilst Mr Draco pored over them, muttering to himself as he made notes on a sheet of parchment.
“Hmm,” said Mr Draco, at last, “maybe I should have added the pine cones slowly.” He hmm'd again. “Or maybe the powder was stale...”
Mr Draco tapped his forefinger against his lips.
(Tinker, noticing that his own forefinger was tapping against his own lips, hastily clasped his hands behind his back).
“Whatever,” said Mr Draco, finally. “What I need is more pine cones. Fresh from the forest.”
Mr Draco didn't need to say any more.
Tinker put on his duffel coat, his warm, woollen socks, and his fur-lined boots, folded his new Muggle CARRIER BAG and put it in his pocket and, leaving by the kitchen door, tramped through the yard and out into the grounds.
It was a crisp, white, misty-breath sort of day. Tinker climbed onto the stile, paused to smell the Country Air (as Mrs Draco always advised), and (not especially impressed) jumped down the other side.
Malfoy Manor was bordered to the North by a forest of ancient oaks, elms, and birches but, beyond that, on the far side of the Big Muggle Road, the Muggles had planted lots of Scots Pines. That was where Tinker was headed.
Half an hour later, having reached the Big Muggle Road, Tinker was forced to rethink his Plan. He'd been intending to Apparate to the other side of the road but now, watching the Muggle carriages scream past in both directions, like huge, angry Doxies, he could see that if he got things even a little bit wrong, he'd be spending the rest of his days clinging to the front of a carriage.
If he was lucky.
Tinker wished he'd brought Mr Draco's broom.
He climbed through the fence into the Muggle World and, eyes narrowed against the muddy spray, watched the traffic until he spotted an oncoming gap. Mentally, he counted: One... Two... Three...
Tinker ran across the road as fast as his little legs could carry him.
“Last night, I had an idea,” said Hermione. She was standing in one corner of her dark little office, somewhere in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic, beside a large flip-chart on a wooden stand.
“I think,” she said, “that we should turn everything around, and start”—she opened the flip-chart with a tap of her wand—“with the result.”
Anthony Goldstein, her (only) colleague in the tiny, under-funded Department of Werewolf Conservation and Protection, stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Yes,” he said, at last. “Yes, that's good. Hit them right between the eyes with the catastrophic fall in numbers, then back it up with our evidence.”
“And then give them our recommendations,” Hermione finished.
She cast a Sorting Charm, and they watched the pages of the flip-chart rearrange themselves.
“Right,” she said, “basically, I think we've done it, Anthony. And we've still got two days left to rehearse it.”
Safe in the pine forest, Tinker waited until he'd got his breath back, then set about gathering pine cones.
The forest was quiet and calm, and, between the tree trunks and the pretty clumps of orangey-brown bracken, the ground was covered in a soft carpet of sweet-smelling needles. It was surprisingly pleasant work, and Tinker was enjoying himself...
The hairs on the back of Tinker's neck suddenly stood on end.
“Hello,” said a strange voice.
Slowly, cautiously, Tinker turned to face its owner.
It was a small Muggle, not much bigger than himself, dressed from top to bottom in the brightest of pinks, and crowned with a bush of pale, curly hair.
Thinking he must be seeing things, Tinker pinched himself but, “Hello,” the small Muggle said again. “What are you doing?”
“I'm collecting pine cones,” said Tinker, nervously.
“Because Mr Draco wants them.”
“Are you Mr Draco's teddy?” The small Muggle had picked up a pine cone, and she came closer, and dropped it into Tinker's CARRIER BAG.
“No, I'm...” Tinker began, then thought better of it. “Yes,” he said.
“My teddy's got fur,” said the small Muggle matter-of-factly, crouching down beside Tinker and scooping up another pine cone. She put it in Tinker's CARRIER BAG. “My granddad's bald but he's old. Are you old?”
Tinker wasn't sure whether he was old or not in Muggle years, and by the time he'd thought of a reply, the small Muggle had started singing:
“If you go down to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise...”
Together, Tinker and the small Muggle took turns putting pine cones into Tinker's CARRIER BAG, until Tinker's CARRIER BAG was almost full, and Tinker had learned the chorus to the small Muggle's strange song:
“Picnic time for teddy bears!
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today...”
Tinker had just begun to enjoy himself again, when some sixth sense warned him of a real danger, and his house-elf instincts told him to flop down on the ground, lie still, and try to look lifeless.
“Emily?!” said a new voice.
“Look, Mummy,” said Tinker's friend (the small Muggle). “He says he's Mr Draco's teddy!”
“Don't touch it, Emily,” said Mummy. “You don't know where it's been. Come away from it now; we're going home.”
Motionless on the ground, Tinker felt the small Muggle's soft and slightly sticky fingers press something into his hand. “It's Good Luck,” she whispered. Then, “Bye bye, Mr Draco's teddy,” she said, loudly.
Out of the corner of one big, staring eye, Tinker watched Emily (the small Muggle) and Mummy (the big Muggle) disappear into the trees and, after a few moments more (to be on the safe side), Tinker sat up, and examined his Good Luck.
It was four little, heart-shaped leaves, joined on a single stem.
Tinker wasn't sure how the Good Luck might work, but he put it in his pocket for future experiment. Then, picking up his CARRIER BAG, Tinker went back to the Big Muggle Road, where (luckily) a gap opened up just in time to let him scurry across safely.
Back in the Potions Room, Tinker tipped the pine cones out of his CARRIER BAG and began the long, tiring task of grinding them up, one-by-one, with a pestle and mortar.
“Right,” said Mr Draco, putting on his goggles, “just half this time.”
Tinker put on his own goggles, picked up the dish of precious pine cone powder and, though his arms were still tired and a bit shaky from grinding, he carefully tipped half of it into the bubbling cauldron.
Mr Draco stirred the potion. “So far,” he breathed, “so...”
“Fuck,” said Mr Draco, whilst he and Tinker were cowering beneath the work bench, and the cauldron was bouncing and twirling above them, “fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK.”
Hermione had never felt so sexy in all her life.
For the past few days, everything—saying good bye to Draco in the morning, thinking of Draco at work, having dinner with Draco (and his parents!) in the evening—everything seemed to turn her on.
At lunchtime, when she'd popped into Diagon Alley to buy Draco's hair potion, she'd also sneaked into Madam Malkin's and treated herself to some sexy new lingerie, and now she was lying on the bed like Mata Hari, showing off her bosom in a deeply-plunging push-up bra and her curvy bottom in tiny thong.
“Come here,” she said, huskily.
Draco, busy undressing, turned in surprise.
“Come here,” she repeated, reaching for the hair potion, “and drink this for me.”
Obediently, Draco uncorked the vial and downed the potion in one, and Hermione watched his lovely, pale hair grow back again.
“That's my Draco,” she said, taking the empty vial from his hand, and tossing it away.
She lay back and stretched out her arms, and—still half-dressed—Draco climbed onto the bed and, settling one knee either side of her, straddled her.
“You are absolutely sure about this?” he said, with uncharacteristic caution.
Holding his gaze, Hermione reached up to open his fly, and his body's reaction to her touch gave her a delicious foretaste of was in store for her.
“Ravish me, Draco,” she said.
With a heavy sigh, Tinker read the tiny Warnings label on the TUBE again, then (following its advice) warmed a spoon over a candle flame and, slipping the tip between his glued fingers, carefully tried to prise them apart.
He was learning first hand that doing things the Muggle way was a Labour, so he was fairly confident that Mrs Draco was right about the Love.
Hermione awoke smiling.
She'd fallen asleep lying on top of her husband, and now she could feel something delightfully hard pressing into her belly. She slid her knees down beside his hips, and pushed herself up on her hands, so she was sitting on him.
“Wake up, Draco,” she murmured, rocking herself back and forth. “Mmmmmm...” She arched her back.
“You trying to kill me?” he grumbled.
“Most wizards would give their wand hand for a witch who'd wake them like this,” she said, smiling.
“Most wizards,” replied Draco, through a yawn, “wouldn't already have shagged their witch twice last night.”
“Only one and a half times, actually,” Hermione corrected, leaning in and kissing his mouth. “You fell asleep... Come on, Malfoy,” she teased, kissing him again, with a potent mix of lust and tenderness, “we've got nearly an hour till I have to get up and ready for work. Show me what you're made of.”
“Pine cones,” said Mr Draco. “One spoonful.”
Tinker thought his young master sounded very tired from all the potion brewing, but it was hard to be certain because he and Mr Draco were each wearing a stiff, canvas helmet, which not only muffled Mr Draco's voice but also crumpled Tinker's ears against his head...
Pulling on his big, canvas gauntlets, Tinker made a mental note to give Mr Draco some chicken soup for his lunch, to build his strength up.
Tinker peered through his helmet's misty lenses, and chased the tiny measuring spoon with his clumsy gloved fingers until he managed to get hold of it and dip it into the dish of pine cone powder.
“Careful,” said Mr Draco.
Tinker sprinkled the powder into the steaming potion.
“Good,” said Mr Draco, stirring smoothly. “Now another one.”
Tinker added another spoonful.
Mr Draco stirred. “Good,” he said. “Now let's try two.”
Tinker dipped the spoon into the powder, and...
“Fuck,” said Mr Draco, whilst he and Tinker were dashing for the door, dodging blobs of flying potion, “fuck, fuck, fuck, FUCK. I thought I had it that time.”
“So, to summarise,” said Hermione, bringing the presentation to a close, “the Department of Werewolf Conservation and Protection makes three recommendations. One—”
The feeling came over her without any warning.
She ran out of the rehearsal, leaving a very worried Anthony calling after her.
Tinker's Plan suggested two different colour schemes, but Tinker didn't know which one was going to be right, so he'd bought both colours, and mixed them together in his Muggle PAINT KETTLE.
The result was...
Well, Tinker couldn't quite put a name to the new colour, but it was too late to worry about that now, because he'd already applied two thin coats, as instructed in the Instructions, and carefully picked out all the thick, black hairs his Muggle PAINT BRUSH kept leaving behind. And, as soon as both coats had dried, he'd used the template provided on his Plan to paint a line of little daisies all around the edge, and a bigger daisy at the top end.
He touched one of the daisies lightly, and scrutinised the tip of his finger for any sign of wet paint.
His finger seemed clean, so he touched the daisy again, a bit harder and with all of his fingers, just to make sure.
The daisy was certainly dry, but pushing the side had started the whole thing moving, rocking jerkily on its curved feet and making a slightly sinister, grinding sort of noise (which reminded Tinker of the sounds that sometimes came from that locked room in the West Wing that nobody talked about).
Tinker folded his arms and surveyed his Labour of Love, critically.
The sides weren't as straight as he would have liked, and the colour was a bit unusual, and the daisies didn't quite match up to the ones in the picture on the front of his Plan...
Tinker considered using Magic to straighten things up.
But what if that spoiled all the Love he'd put into it?
Deciding he'd better not risk it, Tinker wrapped his Labour of Love in brightly coloured paper, Apparated it down to the Drawing Room, and put it under the Christmas Tree.
“Is this normal?” said Draco.
“Mmmmm?” Hermione was busy worshipping her husband's body.
“I mean,” said Draco, grasping her head and holding it still, “you've always been up for it—thank Merlin—but since we found out that you—you know—you've been, well, you're getting more and more... I assume you've been reading up about it? Is it normal? What's happening to you?”
“I'm feeling sexy,” said Hermione. She sat up, pulled off her nightdress and cast it aside and, bringing her hands up to gather her hair on top of her head, she arched her back to show off her curves. “Are you really complaining?” she asked, huskily.
Draco's reply was entirely non-verbal.
“I'll try it one more time,” said Mr Draco. “And if this batch blows up, fuck it.”
Mr Draco set the cauldron on the heat, added ten drops of Rose Oil and five handfuls of shredded Dittany, and gently sweated the mixture. When the base was ready, he worked in a pint of Dragon Liver Oil, adding it one drop at a time and stirring it clockwise, until the Dittany had completely transformed. Then, changing to a figure-of-eight stirring motion, he added a wine glassful of some thick, pearly-white substance (which Tinker didn't recognise), followed by a good handful of fresh peat.
Stirring continuously, Mr Draco slowly brought the potion to the boil.
Tinker, waiting to play his part, watched nervously.
“Pine cones,” said Mr Draco, at last.
Tinker picked up the dish but, as he reached for the cauldron, an Idea popped into his head.
Tinker dug into his pocket and found Emily's Good Luck and, without Mr Draco seeing, Tinker crumbled the four little, heart-shaped leaves into the pine cone powder before tipping the whole lot into the cauldron...
“You're sure you're okay?” said Anthony Goldstein. “Because you still look a bit queasy to me.”
Hermione had just come back from another dash to the Ladies' loo. She smiled at her colleague. “I'm absolutely fine,” she said. “Better than fine, in fact.”
“All right... But I will persuade them to postpone the presentation if you’re ill,” he insisted. “It was rotten of the Wizengamot to ask us to do it on Christmas Eve, anyway.”
“Thanks, Anthony,” said Hermione, genuinely touched by his concern, “but I’ll be okay now, honestly. Besides,” she added, taking up her wand and shrinking the flip-chart for easy carrying, “after all the months we've spent on this thing, I really want to get it done. Werewolves are counting on us.”
“Well, if you're sure,” said Anthony, holding the door open for her. “You know, I think it's those weird snacks you keep eating. Seriously, I've never seen anyone dip pickles in custard before.”
“I've got something special for you,” said Draco, that evening, as they were climbing the stairs to bed.
“And what would that be?” Hermione asked, silkily. She'd made another extravagant lunchtime trip to Madam Malkin's, and had been wearing her new and, frankly, obscene lingerie under her modest evening robes all through dinner, conversing with her mother and father-in-law as though butter wouldn't melt. It had been an exquisite form of torture, and now all she wanted was to get her husband safely behind a locked door, rip off his clothes, and do him.
At least twice.
The moment they were in the bedroom, she reached for Draco, but he, dodging her hands, whipped a small jar from his pocket and, with a flourish, presented it to her.
Hermione frowned. “What's this?”
“Essence of Gaia,” said Draco, proudly. “Mother Earth Potion. An absolute bitch to brew!” He handed her the jar. “I was going to save it till tomorrow, but—honestly—I had so much trouble making it, I couldn't wait. Call it an early Christmas present because your presentation went so well.”
Almost as curious as she was turned on, Hermione unscrewed the lid and dipped a finger in the jar. The potion was a pale, opalescent pink, strangely hot to the touch, and smelled of rich, fertile earth.
“We'll need to rub it in every night, without fail,” said Draco, closing his hands round hers. “But it guarantees you your figure back—absolutely perfect, with no sagging tits or stretch marks. Father brewed it for Mother when she was expecting me.”
Hermione handed the jar back to her husband, and stepping away from him to give him a better view, she unbuttoned her robes and let them fall to the floor, showing him her body—still, at the moment, slender at the waist and flat at the stomach but with ripe, voluptuous breasts, lifted and displayed to perfection in a sexy under-cupped bra.
“Yes,” said her husband, swallowing hard, “well, maybe I can tweak it so it gives you those back...”
Smiling, Hermione sat down on the bed. “I don't want you to think,” she said, “that I'm not grateful, Draco—I really am—but right now, at this moment”—she spread her legs and let him see her crotchless panties—“I feel like I've got this great hungry space, here, and I just want you to fuck my brains out.”
“Mmmm, you've missed a bit,” said Hermione.
She was lying on her back, naked, whilst Draco, equally naked, knelt beside her, gently kneading his potion into her breasts and belly. A nine month course of treatment was going to be heavenly.
“Where've I missed?” he asked, frowning.
She reached out and took his hand, and brought it between her legs. “This bit, here,” she said.
With Draco’s parents away visiting, Hermione and her husband were enjoying a traditional Christmas together—though somewhat quieter and, at least on Hermione's part, less self-indulgent than usual—sitting before a roaring fire, surrounded by mountains of torn wrapping paper and piles of lovely presents.
“Just one left,” said Hermione.
Draco crawled under the Christmas Tree, and read out the label:
“To Mrs Draco
“...and three kisses.”
“Oh...” Hermione bit her lip. “He really shouldn't have...”
“But he did,” said Draco, backing out with the large and heavy-looking parcel, and setting it at her feet. “Best open it.”
Hermione had hardly seen Tinker during the previous busy week and, amidst the joy of finding herself pregnant, and the happy anticipation of parenthood with Draco—looking forward to seeing a small human, who was part of him and part of her, grow up, and develop his or her own personality—amidst all of that, there had been a little, niggling worry that Tinker might be finding it hard to adjust to the idea of having a baby in the family, that he might fear the baby would push him out of their affections, but when she undid the bow, and tore off the wrapping paper—
It was a wooden cradle, painted in a purpley-puce colour, with a frieze of small, slightly drunken daisies on the sides, and a larger, slightly more drunken daisy on the headboard. Nothing about it was quite straight, and a pronounced kink in one of its curved feet gave it a very erratic rocking motion, but to Hermione it was the most beautiful, wonderful cradle in the whole world.
“TINKER,” she cried, bringing the startled house-elf running, cloth-in-hand, ready to clean up whatever mess had been made, “TINKER, I LOVE IT!!”
With Mr and Mrs Draco safely in bed, and all his chores completed for the day, Tinker went up to his room.
Earlier, after putting his Muggle TOOL BELT, with all his Muggle TOOLS, back in his Muggle CARRIER BAG and shutting them away in the cupboard, Tinker had screwed up his Muggle Plan and thrown it into the waste paper bin.
Now, sitting in bed, Tinker was having another Idea and, after a few moments' thought, he got up and retrieved his Plan.
If all went well, and Tinker had (accidentally) overheard Mrs Draco telling Mr Draco that all would go well (and had bumped his head against the wall, three times, afterwards), Tinker might need to build Mrs Draco's baby some more Labours of Love in the future.
Hmmm, Tinker thought, smoothing the creases out of his Plan and perusing the advertisements on the back, maybe this little wooden house...