Hermione watched the girl as she stuck her tongue out, lost in her book, and thought, not for the first time, that only the Malfoys would have white blonde hair that wasn't a recessive trait. Trust their arrogance to extend down into their very DNA. In temperament the child was hers. She'd raised her alone, and both nurture and nature had combined to create a girl who echoed her mother in her interests, her talents, her very personality.
She looked, however, just like Draco. Nearly white hair fell in a straight line over pale skin and grey eyes. If she'd looked like her mother maybe it would have been easier, maybe Ron would have been able to forgive one night of drunken, devil-may-care sex. Or maybe not. Hermione supposed it didn't matter. He and Lavender had their hoard of loud, ginger hooligans who pushed one another off brooms while hooting with laughter, and she had one quiet girl who only pulled her nose out of a book to issue barked orders that other children ignored.
Imogen Granger hadn't had a lot of friends at primary, and Hermione suspected that would continue at Hogwarts. She'd almost hoped the girl wouldn't get a letter, that she'd be a squib and thus spared her father's legacy.
"It'll be fine," Harry said. He pulled a chair up and joined her at her table at the ice cream parlour, cone in each hand. "She'll be fine. You worry too much."
Hermione took the cone he handed her but her eyes never left her daughter. She'd spent eleven years avoiding bringing the girl into public, worried that hair would brand her as surely as her father had been branded on his arm. The Weasleys bit their tongues and pretended Draco had never existed and that Imogen was the result of some kind of spontaneous, virgin birth which had oddly coincided with Ron and Hermione's break up. Harry loved her because she was Hermione's. The rest of their world was unlikely to be as kind.
Plus, of course, now Draco would find out.
She'd never told him. She would have, she supposed, if he hadn't grimaced the morning after their tryst, if he hadn't said alcohol made men do foolish things and he hoped she didn't think this meant anything. She might have, if he hadn't seen her at about five months gone and said she'd been getting fat and was that why Weasley had dumped her ugly arse? She'd even written him half a letter once, filled with angry, hateful comments about how he had the most beautiful daughter a person could want and that he'd missed everything - everything - because he was such a rotten, miserable prat and couldn't manage to say one nice thing ever, not even after a night of sex, and she hoped he was alone and unhappy and lonely and that no one ever so much as owled him and she hadn't been fat!
She'd burnt it at that point.
She really had no idea what he'd been up to. Maybe he was married. Maybe he had a son, some perfect little Malfoy to carry on his family's awful legacy of hate and intolerance. Maybe he spent every afternoon teaching his legitimate child how to fly, steady hands holding him on a child's broom until the child he'd wanted could soar across the back lawn of that horrible Manor, shrieking with joy that he'd done it.
Harry had tried to teach Imogen to fly. It had not gone well.
"It will be fine," Harry said again. "She's her mother's daughter. She'll take to Hogwarts the same way you did. We'll probably have to go pry her out of the library come spring."
"She's also her father's daughter," Hermione said as softly as she could so Imogen, who often appeared to be absorbed in books while she eavesdropped on adults, wouldn't overhear. "People may be… unpleasant"
"Then she can tell them off," Harry said. "She called Rose a stuck-up flatiron last weekend."
"What does that even mean?" Hermione asked. "A flatiron?"
Harry just shrugged. Kids came up with the dumbest ways to insult each other as far as he could tell, and Imogen gave back as good as she got. "Eat that," he said, "before it all melts."
. . . . . . . . . .
Draco caught sight of the bushy hair and wished there were a way he could turn and go the other direction without being obvious about it. He hardly ever left the Manor and hadn't since the war and it would figure that the one day he decided to go to Diagon Alley, Hermione Granger would be there.
He'd meant to write to her. He had. When he'd woken up and seen her there in his bed, hand tucked under one cheek and knees pulled up, he'd panicked. This wasn't a woman who'd ever want him. Whatever had happened, however she'd made such a series of bad decisions she'd ended up here, wasn't likely to happen again. He'd opened his mouth and rejected her before she could do the same to him, and it was only when he saw the flare of hurt in her eyes, a flare she'd covered so quickly most men would have missed it, that he realized the arsehole in the room was him.
By then, of course, it had been too late. She'd pulled her clothes on and assured him that he didn't need to worry his pretty, pureblood head that she'd come 'round begging for more of his attention, attention that hadn't been all that magnificent, since they were being blunt.
So he'd meant to write and apologize, but he hadn't because how does one phrase, 'Sorry I was such an arse after we spent the night screwing one another's brains out' in such a way to not offend? It seemed impossible. Then he'd seen her, months later, and, rather than make things better, he'd tried to find out whether the rumors that she and Weasley had ended things were true, and had done it in the worst way imaginable.
He'd avoided her ever since.
He squared his shoulders and walked briskly in the direction he'd been headed, past the ice cream shop to the bookstore. He'd just nod his head at her, and at Potter, and be on his way like a civil adult.
Then the girl sitting with Granger looked up from her book and the light hit her hair and he stopped and stared into his own eyes.
"What the fuck is this?" came out of his mouth, continuing his long tradition of always saying the absolute worst thing possible when he was around Hermione Granger.
. . . . . . . . .
"What the fuck is this?"
Hermione almost pulled her wand. Draco Malfoy had come up behind her and, naturally, the first words out of his mouth - the first words he ever said to his daughter - made her want to kill him.
"Get bent, Malfoy," Harry said. He'd half-stood in his seat and turned, as if he could put himself between Imogen and her father. "No one wants you here."
Draco just put a hand on Harry's shoulder and shoved him to the side and stared more intently at the pointy girl staring back at him. She thrust her jaw out in a mannerism Hermione knew echoed her own, but which made the tiniest of smiles begin to emerge on Draco Malfoy's equally pointy face. He pulled his eyes off his daughter just long enough to throw Hermione a look of furious malice and hurt.
"I should have told you," she began.
He had turned away from her again and held his hand out to Imogen. "I'm Draco Malfoy," he said. "You must be going to Hogwarts this year."
Imogen crossed her arms and didn't take the proffered hand, a rejection that didn't seem to faze Draco at all. He just pulled out a seat and sat down.
"How do you know how old I am?" Imogen demanded.
"I'm quite good at sums," Draco said and Hermione flinched. "Do you know which House you want to be Sorted into?"
Imogen looked at Hermione, uncertain for perhaps the first time in her young life and Hermione sighed. "Imogen," she said, "It's fine. He's your… Mr. Malfoy is an old friend."
"One your mother lost touch with," Draco said. "Or perhaps all the owls just went astray."
"They did not," Hermione said.
Imogen interrupted their brewing fight with a long and involved run down of the strengths and weaknesses of each House and which she thought she would be best suited for. Draco listened as though each word were water on the parched soil of his soul, and when Imogen concluded that she thought either Ravenclaw or Slytherin would be optimal, Hermione saw his throat bob with a convulsive little twitch and guilt began to gnaw at her.
"Which broom has your mother bought you?" Draco inquired, all courtesy, and that guilt grew as Imogen predictably announced that first years weren't permitted to have brooms and, besides, she didn't like flying.
"Well, if Hermione was your teacher, I'm not surprised," Draco said. "She never could fly worth a lick." Harry coughed and Draco glanced up at him. "You?" Draco asked. The fury and jealousy under his calm words would have ignited any fire. "You were the one to try to teach my… teach this girl to fly?" He turned very slowly to Hermione and she had to brace herself to keep from shrinking back under the force of that glare. "How interesting," Draco said. "I hadn't taken you for quite that much of a… quite that vindictive."
"We parted badly," Hermione said, her own tone a warning. "I've never discussed any of our past with Imogen."
Draco turned back to his daughter. "Right," he said. "Imogen, what a beautiful name. Imogen Granger, I suppose?"
"Imogen Lyra Granger," the girl confirmed. "Lyra's a - "
"A constellation," Draco said. "I know." He closed his eyes for a moment and seemed to be trying to compose himself. When he opened them, they glinted a bit too much. "You gave her a constellation name, Hermione."
Hermione jerked her head up and down. "It… I thought it would make… it seemed right," she said. She'd spent months looking at names, writing down and crossing out star and constellation names until she'd been so angry she'd made holes in the paper with her quills. She hadn't even known why she was so angry, but when the nurse handed her the baby and asked her what the name was, she'd said Imogen Lyra without thinking and that had been that.
Draco collected himself. "Well, Imogen Lyra," he said, "I hope your mother will allow me to buy you a broom and see if I'm a bit better at flying lessons than Potter. He was a bit of a wild talent, so maybe breaking how to control a broom down for a beginner didn't come easily to him."
Imogen glanced at her mother and Hermione's fingers tightened on the ice cream she still had in her hand. The cone broke under the pressure and the treat, mostly melted by that point, slid down and landed in her lap. She swore and reached for a napkin but Draco had his wand out. "Let me," he said, and with a quick flick the mess was gone. Even her fingers weren't sticky any longer. "You've let me do so little," he said. "This would be the least - the very least - I could help you with."
"We parted badly," she said again.
"Not that badly," Draco said. "Nothing counts as that badly." He took an obvious breath. "So… broom shopping?"
Hermione wanted to say no. She wanted to say he was a curse, a bad idea that had had consequences she couldn't have anticipated, a man who'd never been able to so much as be polite except for one night he'd gone out of his way to try to make her regret. She wanted to tell him, as Harry had, to get bent, that no one wanted him here. Instead she said, "Not the newest Nimbus. That's too much for a child."
Draco sagged for the briefest of moments, then put an arrogant smirk on his face. "Not for this one," he said. "But we can start more slowly if you insist."
"Slow is good," Hermione said. "I can do slow." I think, she added in her mind. Maybe.
Draco looked at her for a long moment and, as those grey eyes studied her, she remembered why she'd allowed herself to follow him home all those years ago. "Then we'll do slow," he said. He held his hand out to Imogen. "Shall I spoil you with a broom?"
She put her book away and tucked her hand inside his. Hermione sat, frozen, until Draco turned to her and said, hope and resentment and anger and fear all warring in his tone, "Well, aren't you coming?" She sprang to her feet and took the arm Draco held out to her, half expecting him to yank it away and laugh at her for trusting him even the tiniest bit. Instead, as Harry watched bemusedly from the table, Draco led them both down the street and to the finest broom store in the whole of Diagon Alley, keeping a tale going of a horrible, possibly made up, mishap he'd had on a broom at eleven, coaxing a delighted laugh from Imogen and a tight smile from Hermione.
As he held the door for them both, Draco glanced down at her hand. "Still unmarried?" he asked at the sight of her ringless finger.
She nodded. Single mothers weren't a hot commodity on the dating market, and she had neither time nor interest to find someone who would be as much of a father as a partner. "I know a good place we could have dinner after we put her on the train," Draco said.
"Slowly," Hermione said in warning.
"You took eleven years from me," Draco said. "Let me… I will be a part of the rest, Hermione, like it or not. That means we will have to get along."
"We can have dinner after I put her on the train," Hermione conceded.
"After we put her on the train," Draco corrected, one eye on the girl fingering expensive brooms with an awed look on her face.
"We," Hermione said. "Fine." Her mind seemed to have gone numb and she couldn't decide if she wished she hadn't picked that day to go shopping or whether she was glad he was taking this so well.
"Could you bring photo albums?" he asked. "If you have any?"
Hermione had to turn away from the expression on his face. "I'm sorry," she said. She thought of all the times she'd put a quill to paper and then just not sent the letter, not even put down words and regret joined the guilt eating at her. She had been unfair. "It was wrong not to tell - "
Draco set a hand on her shoulder and stopped her. "Just let me… let me try," he said. "I know you had reasons. I'm not… but let me - "
"I'll bring pictures," Hermione said. She took a deep breath. "Or you could come over and look through them all. There's more than I could possibly carry to a restaurant."
Draco Malfoy looked at her with raw gratitude before he sprang away to explain to his daughter that the broom she was eyeing was much too much for anyone but a professional athlete and she'd have to wait at least until she was thirteen to have that one, but maybe this one over here would be a good broom to learn on, not some dinky thing meant for toddlers but not too much for a beginner either. Hermione watched the two blond heads together and swallowed against that lump in her throat that just wouldn't go away. This would be good, she told herself. She could foster a relationship between her daughter and her father and that would be all it would be. She almost had herself convinced of that when Draco waved her over, a smile on his mouth that made her heart do something odd in her chest.
She told herself she was just glad this was going well.
That was all it was.
Even when he slipped a hand around her waist, his fingers tentative as they rested above her hip, she insisted in the privacy of her mind that he was the father of her child. He'd be a good father, she could tell already. And that would be it. She'd never fall for Draco Malfoy. She wouldn't
. . . . . . . . . .
A/N - Thank you for all your lovely thoughts. I don't plan to ever expand the actual story - it really is a one shot - but I did do a bullet point outline of what it would be if I expanded it, which is on tumblr at colubrina DOT tumblr DOT com /post/149271194886/the-a-constellation-name-bullet-point-outline-ill