Sitting in a bleak hospital waiting room, pretending no news was the same as good news, while her heart continued to tear itself into tiny pieces with each minute that passed; Hermione Granger-Malfoy let herself wonder how her life had descended into such madness.
Everything had seemed fine on the surface, not a hint of peril on the horizon; her life was everything she could have dreamed and more, a perfect fairy tale.
There was so much to be grateful for; She had her (rather unexpected) husband Draco, who loved and cherished her more than life itself, she had her miracle children, Scorpius and Rosalind (Scorp and Rosie for short, because honestly attempting the twins’ names together was a nightmare), both intelligent, bright sparks that brought countless joys to her life, and she had another on the way (not that she’d told anyone yet, it was too soon)…
But apparently life saw fit to cast a sinister shadow over the happiness she had fought tooth and nail to earn, and it was looking more and more like she’d be robbed of a happy ending.
The love of her life lay motionless on a gurney somewhere, barely clinging to life, while she prayed and wept; trying to comprehend, parent to parent, how Lucius could live with himself if his only son died.
Hermione didn’t like to count herself as naïve, but when Draco hesitantly informed her his father was being released from Azkaban early, on parole for good behaviour, she had been genuinely happy for him, it had been years since he had spoken to his father and she knew as hard as he tried to deny it that he still missed him. As complicated as their relationship was, she saw his release as an opportunity for him to heal. How wrong she had been… So incredibly foolish.
Narcissa had been the one to caution her; taking her aside after dinner and quietly explaining that just because she had been able to let go of her prejudice and love her daughter-in-law as if she were her own, didn’t mean her husband would do the same.
Hermione had stubbornly replied that everyone deserved a second chance. She never considered how much it might cost her.
How she wished she had heeded Narcissa’s warning.
Hermione had the morning of Lucius’ release planned right down to the most minute of details; she privately contacted the warden, requesting the Aurors escort him to the Manor, where he would meet Narcissa and Draco first; she understood that after so many years cut off from the world and his family, they would be his priority .
Once they were somewhat reacquainted and feeling settled, then she could ease into introducing herself.
Having spent much of his sentence in solitary (as the warden had so kindly informed her), she was well aware news of her relationship, subsequent engagement and marriage to Draco may not have reached him.
Nor would news of their half-blood children.
That one was bound to be a point of tension between them… Well, two, soon to be three points. Half-blood still wasn’t pure. She was certain her father in law wouldn't be pleased they had well and truly fucked up the purity of his family tree in the most literal sense.
Still, she hoped he would be willing to overlook it in favour of rejoining his family and meeting his grandchildren (a privilege her own parents would never have). After all, if Draco and Narcissa could accept her, blood status and all, why couldn’t Lucius?
Occasionally, it still amazed her that Draco had changed so much; it didn’t cross her mind often but sometimes he would kiss her awake with such aching tenderness, or she would catch him reading to Scorp and Rosie, imitating voices and all, and her heart would melt (most of the time it would also lead to some very passionate lovemaking, seeing him so soft and loving did things to her).
If she had put any stock in divination, being madly in love with and happily married to her former arch-nemesis was the last thing she could have predicted when he strolled into the Department of Magical Law Enforcement one morning, bearing the same offer they had all received from Kingsley. Naturally, at the time she assumed he was being booked for something; until Harry walked over, offered him a hand to shake and proudly announced that anyone who attempted to mess with the Ex-death eater would be the first to find out how well he could cast the bat bogey hex Ginny recently taught him.
The answer was ‘poorly’. McLaggen had been the unlucky subject after attempting to crucio Draco during a duel; landing himself in St Mungos for a week after the hex failed to wear off.
It wasn’t long after that Harry was promoted, and suddenly, the only person he trusted enough to do their job and watch the surly Slytherin’s back while on assignment was her. For the first three months, she barely said a word to him, six and they were on speaking terms (even if it mostly consisted of arguments), seven months working together and he saved her life, changing everything in the process.
Trapped in an oubliette, with no wands and her badly injured, a significant gash spanning her thigh; things looked grim, but he refused to give up. After he bound her wound tightly with makeshift bandages and gave her his robe to stop her shivering (blood loss was a bitch) there was little else to do but talk to keep her conscious until help arrived.
After that, something unspoken had simmered between them; suddenly, they got along like a house on fire, she understood his dry, sarcastic humour, he applauded her spectacular wit; Then there were the awkward encounters by the kettle (their hands touched one time for Merlin’s sake! Okay maybe more than once and definitely on purpose) or in each other’s offices (she was certain that on at least one of those occasions they had both been considering the pros and cons of fucking on a desk) … It made for great office gossip, but really it was the furtive, enamoured glances that fuelled the rumour mill.
It took a weekend spent together in her office, after Harry grew tired of their constant denial and locked them in until they ‘sorted things out with an orgasm or ten,’ for her to admit it; Of course she loathed the fact Harry had been right, not to mention her very comfy couch had been completely ruined multiple times (nothing a little magic couldn’t fix, but still, every time she walked past it, the damn thing taunted her with steamy reminders).
Theirs had been a long road; Hogwarts and hatred to married bliss was quite the impossible leap, but they had managed in spite of those that sought to tear them down for exemplifying true unity.
She had honestly believed Lucius couldn’t possibly be worse than the likes of Rita Skeeter, with her scathing articles about the Golden Girl debasing herself for death eater scum to get her hands on the Malfoy fortune, or any number of other ridiculous reasons the bitch concocted. And when those didn’t get the reactions she hoped for, what else could she do but switch sides; suddenly the headlines read along the lines of ‘Sole Malfoy Heir Sullies Generations of Pure Blood with Common Granger’.
They had survived that and all the public opinions that came with it; the witches that tutted disapprovingly when they walked by hand in hand, the wizards that spat at them in the street, the name-calling (from both sides) … It should have left them vulnerable, weak and unstable but instead, it became part of what they built their love on; defying the odds by any means.
For every cruel word spoken, they supported each other with kindness and compliments, reassuring each other until harsh words no longer had any bite or meaning.
They took it all with grace, and eventually people came to accept it; when their engagement was announced a few years later, it was all people discussed for weeks; suddenly their relationship and impending marriage was the talk and toast of wizarding society, the papers had a kindly interest in them and the naysayers slipped back into the shadows.
In many ways, she had expected Lucius would be the same; Stubborn and perhaps hurtful to start, but eventually wise enough to understand and accept that things weren’t about to change just because he disagreed.
Now she would have to live with the fact her hubris and optimism might leave her widowed and her children fatherless far too young.
Fresh tears slipped down her cheeks immediately at the thought and she sobbed bitterly until Narcissa’s gentle, well-manicured hand came to rest on her shoulder, rubbing soothing circles until she quieted.
“Hermione dear, Ginevra sent an owl, Scorp and Rosie are all tucked in for the night, apparently they were rather excited to sleepover with James, she said they’ve been running about the house making all kinds of mischief…”
“I don’t doubt it-” She sniffled, a small smile ghosting across her features at the mention of her children, safe and sound. However, the relief was only fleeting, her guilt consumed her instantly. “I hope they get to sleep alright without Draco to read to them.”
“Now, now dear. Don’t cry, what is it you always tell the children? Crying never gets you anywhere”
“B-but what do I do? I feel so helpless just sitting here while he-” her lip began to quiver “I can’t bear to lose him…”
“Neither can I dear but let me tell you something; that boy is stronger than you know, from his very conception he’s been a fighter. Do you know how many children I lost before Draco came along, why I never had more?”
“I lost six, and carrying him was no walk in the park either, he had to fight me to survive long enough to take his first breath… You know, it’s funny, all I could think when Draco was born was that seven really was the most magical number… But I digress; it might seem cold of me to be this collected but I know deep in my heart he will pull through, what else could he do, he’s certainly too stubborn to let himself die and miss the arrival of your next bundle of joy.”
“He knows about that!?”
“My dear, you are not exactly subtle, he’s simply too polite to tell you he suspects; your hands have been glued to your stomach for weeks now and you have that soft look about you, the same one you had with the twins. Mother to mother, it’s not hard to tell you’ve been keeping a very happy secret.”
“Do you think that’s why h-he- Why he stepped in front of it?”
“I have no doubt-”
There was a beat of silence between them, as they eyed yet another doctor passing by without news. Once he was out of sight, they breathed a mutual sigh of relief and continued their conversation.
“-It would also explain the stupidity of it; honestly he didn’t even reach for his wand.”
“I was wondering about the same thing!”
Narcissa smiled, rolling her eyes.
“For all that training you both had to do as Aurors, he really didn’t learn much did he?”
Hermione couldn’t help her brief, wet chuckle as her eyes welled yet again. For all her guilt, Draco had been protecting her and the life he instinctively knew she carried; if he had done nothing she would be in his place and their child would certainly have been lost…
“Still, I shouldn’t have let things go so far.”
“Hermione, there was nothing you could have done.”
“Yes, there was; you warned me and I didn’t listen.”
“You had your heart in the right place, dear. You wanted us to be a family again and I must admit, so did I; your faith inspired both of us. I don’t fault you for it, nor would Draco, the only one to blame for this is Lucius.”
“I know, but I can’t stop myself understanding why he reacted so… Violently. If I were in his shoes, I-”
“Hermione, you cannot let yourself dwell like this, it's all too easy to lose yourself in it. Take a deep breath, try to clear your thoughts a little.”
She did as Narcissa bid, for the first time since Lucius arrived that morning, she inhaled deeply, her lungs bursting with air until she decided it was time to let go. Surprisingly it worked.
“Thank you.” She placed her hand gently over Narcissa’s only to be surprised when she took it tightly in her grasp.
“I’m afraid too.”
They remained like that for some time, leaning on each other for support until eventually, Hermione dozed off, with Narcissa stroking her hair the way her mother used to, in the hopes of quieting the nightmares caused by the day.