**** HERMIONE ****
I heard the quiet humming coming from across the hall. I smiled and sat up; Draco's side of the bed was empty, again, and I knew he was in the nursery with our baby daughter.
We'd been lucky; she was the perfect baby. She hardly fussed, slept soundly and only cried when she was hungry. And her tiny cry hadn't gotten any louder, just a quiet mewling noise that made her sound like a kitten. But that tiny cry woke Draco almost before it started, and he was usually out of bed before I had the chance to go to her.
I tip-toed across the hall, pausing in the doorway and watching the scene before me. Charlotte was curled in a tiny ball on Draco's bare chest, her little head tucked under his chin, and he was humming softly and rocking her gently. His big hands enveloped her tiny body, and I knew it was why she calmed instantly with him; she felt safe in those hands.
I loved watching him with her. The sullen, broody schoolboy had changed into a gentle, rational man. He was still direct and to the point when he was at work, and his temper still flared on occasion, but with Charlotte he had become quiet and calm.
He had become her Daddy.
And he was completely enamoured with her. He was so gentle and sweet, talking non-stop to her in the rare moments she was awake, and taking her upstairs in her rocker so he could play the piano for her. And often I would find him simply staring at her as she slept. Our little girl had turned him into a sappy shell of his former self, and I just loved him all the more for it.
And if I was honest, seeing him bare-chested with our tiny daughter in his arms had me wanting to be pregnant all over again.
He looked up and his eyes met mine, smiling and beckoning me over.
"Hi," I said quietly and stood on my toes to kiss him.
"Hi," He kissed me back and wrapped one arm around me, and I ran my hand down our daughter's back.
We stood wrapped together for a few minutes - my little family - as we did often, until she blinked her eyes opened, her wide, brown eyes quietly watching me. But as soon as she realised it was me, she let out a tiny cry. Her daddy was fine for cuddles, but she knew when I was close.
Her tiny hands balled into fists and she squirmed restlessly against his chest, her little legs pulling up and she let out another quiet cry. I felt my already tight breasts grow even heavier, and my milk letting down at the tiny, whimpered sound. It was something that I hadn't anticipated – her cry having this effect. It had been a bizarre sensation the first time it had happened; a warm, tingling feeling that was as odd as it was natural.
I took her from him and pressing my nose to her head breathed her in. It was something else I hadn't been prepared for – her clean, baby smell. It was seared into me, and I was sure that if I was blindfolded in a room full of babies, I would instantly know she was mine.
She had my dark eyes and hair, and I hated to admit it, but I was silently pleased. Ginny's two boys looked exactly like Harry, and I had convinced myself throughout my pregnancy that our child – regardless of whether it was a boy or a girl - would have Draco's blonde hair and grey eyes. So seeing my own eyes in the little face that looked back at me was my own guilty pleasure.
"Sorry," I whispered, "I interrupted you."
He laughed, "There's only so much I can do. You're the one she wants."
I sat in the rocking chair, positioning her to feed her. "That's only because I'm where the food is."
"It's more than that, Mummy," he kissed my forehead, "She adores you, you know that."
"She's a month old; she adores anyone who gives her cuddles."
"That's true." He agreed and then sat in the window seat beside us, resting his elbows on his knees and leaning his chin on his hands. His eyes were heavy, and he looked exhausted.
He'd taken two weeks off and we had been living our blissful little existence, on our blissfully quiet cliff, just the three of us. Of course, we'd had plenty of visitors, and Narcissa had stayed for a few nights in our first week at home to help out. She'd been a godsend, keeping both me and Draco calm, telling us not to jump at every sound our new daughter made. But it had fallen on deaf ears with Draco. Every whimper, every snuffle, every movement, he was there, hovering over her or rocking her gently.
I tried to dissuade him, but gave up. This was his little girl, and I knew there was no point in getting between them. But he still had a company to run, and being tired and cranky with clients wouldn't bode well for him.
"Draco, go back to bed. You have to work, and you don't need to fall asleep at your desk."
He waved his hand dismissively at me, "Erica will wake me if I do."
"Draco," I reached out and touched his knee, "I love that you're doing this, but it's not worth it if you can't function properly."
"What about you?" He covered my hand with his, "You're easily as exhausted as I am."
"Yes, but I don't have to work. I'm home all day with her and I can sleep when she does." I countered and he scowled.
"I hate when you're right."
"You should be used to it by now."
He stood and leaned over me. I tilted my head back and smiled up at him, and he smirked. "Three more weeks, and that arse of yours will be covered with my hand print for that smart remark."
I laughed, startling the baby. She pulled away from me with a tiny cry. "Shh, shh," I whispered, touching my nipple to her top lip and directing her back to me. "Sorry little one, but your Daddy is being an arse."
"Don't listen to her, Charlotte." He bent down and kissed Charlotte's pudgy cheek, "Mummy loves when it Daddy's an arse."
I brushed my hand over his head, "Go to bed. You're delirious."
He leaned his face closer to me, his lips hovering over mine, "You know it's true."
I pressed my hand to his chest, "Please don't tease me, not when we can't do anything."
"Sorry." He kissed my forehead and stroked my cheek, "That was thoughtless of me."
"You're tired, I forgive you." I brushed my fingers longingly across his chest and sighed, "Go to bed."
He kissed me again and headed for the door.
"And put a shirt on!"
I heard him chuckle as he left the room.
I sighed and looked down at Charlotte as she snuffled against me. I smiled at my little girl.
I had loved being pregnant with her. Loved feeling her move, loved watching her little feet and hands press out against my skin. And to be honest, I had been totally shocked. My reluctance to start a family was such a ridiculous thought now that she was here, I felt like slapping myself. One look at this perfect little person and my fears of having to give up my life and my dreams for someone else seemed to be the most blindingly stupid thing my mind had come up with to date.
I had already fallen in love with her the second those tiny pink lines appeared on that plastic stick. I fell in love with her when I felt the first flutters of her existence, when I saw the first hospital pictures of her. But the moment she was placed on my chest, I knew. My love for her was boundless and I would give up the world for her.
And Draco had been more than I could have ever imagined. I thought I had prepared myself, but when that first real contraction hit, the one that lasted for more than just a few seconds, I knew I really wasn't prepared. Nothing on the planet could prepare a person for that. The pain had been immense and it seemed to be on a loop, coming and going, over and over again, and the thought that it would never stop terrified me.
But Draco had been there, silent when I couldn't stand the sound of his voice; encouraging and supportive when I let him back in. And his face when our daughters' head first appeared out of me had been one of complete awe. His queasiness having vanished, and his look of awe changed to that of sheer joy when he reached down and touched the top of her little head.
I'd felt guilty that I had all but excluded him. I had retreated into my own head, and blocked out everything around me, including him. But it had been easier to cope when I concentrated on my pain without distraction. He had assured me that my guilt was ridiculous, that I'd done nothing wrong and had only done exactly what I had needed to get myself through.
And now that she was home with us, this tiny little girl had become the sole focus of our lives. Every day I still found myself completely astounded that she was here, and that she was mine and Draco's. She was so perfect, and so adorable, and I loved these quiet moments with her. Whether she was sleeping curled against me, or feeding, or just staring up at me as I stared back at her, I loved that it was just the two of us. And it was the reason I had given up trying to make Draco not fuss over her. I knew that if he felt just a smidgen of what I felt, it would have been torture for him to leave her every day.
I brushed my fingertips across the fine hair on her head, "Your Daddy is an arse." I whispered and her little fingers raked over my skin. I lifted her hand and pressed my lips to her fingers, "But we still love him."
After three days of non-stop storms, the rain had finally cleared. The air was fresh and the sun was out, but the wind was like ice as I stood on the beach.
My pink beanie was pulled tightly over my ears, and the baby strapped to my chest was bundled to within an inch of her life. Her tiny beanie matched mine – a very thoughtful and much loved gift from Molly – and I had my coat wrapped snugly around her.
"This is our beach, baby girl," I told her and leaned closer, adding in a whisper, "Only good things happen on our beach."
I'd been itching to bring her down here, and while I knew she had no clues where she was, I still wanted to her to feel the air and hear the sea. She had kicked and pushed against me every time I made my way down here when I was pregnant with her. Like me, she had seemed to love the sounds of the crashing waves, so I wanted to see if her reactions were still the same.
"It's been almost four years," I told her, "Four years since I arrived here, and do you know why I came here? I was miserable. I was lonely and sad and hated the world. Nothing in my life was good, and I came here to hide away from everything."
I looked up at the high cliff, seeing the stairs that led to the cottage I had first moved into and smiled. My first night there had been hell. Between the complete silence of being alone and the torrential storm that had been raging outside, I had barely slept. I barely slept that entire first week.
"And then I found our beach." Charlotte made a squeaking sound and squirmed, her eyes wide as I talked to her. "I came down here every day and walked across the sand, and stared out at the water, and I threw about a million pebbles into the sea. I wasn't crazy or anything, I was just throwing my old life away and finding a new one." I laughed, realising how insane that sounded. "Maybe I was a bit crazy."
I wrapped my coat more tightly around us as a gust of wind whipped across the shore. "And then do you know what happened? Your daddy found me."
I closed my eyes, remembering that day. Of all the people that could have found me, it had to be Draco Malfoy. Stupid, sodding Draco Malfoy.
"But he wasn't nasty or unkind. He was perfect," I kissed the top of her beanie-covered head, "But don't tell him I said that, his ego is big enough."
I chuckled to myself and began to walk along the sand.
I still loved to walk barefoot and feel the wet sand between my toes; I still loved to feel the sting of the wind on my face and taste the salt air in my lungs. We'd made love on this beach several times, when the weather was warmer and the sun had dipped below the horizon.
I felt my cheeks heat up at the memory of the first time. We'd been sitting against the cliffs, wrapped in a blanket, a small fire lit in the sand, simply talking and enjoying the cooler, mid-summer evening, when he began to kiss my shoulder and neck. And before long, we we're naked under the blanket, his face buried in my neck, and his cock even deeper inside me.
I'd glamoured us, of course - at least I did that first time - and as romantic as beach sex sounds, sand gets into places it really doesn't belong. But that didn't stop us; the sex in the shower afterwards was always just as good.
I'd reached the rocky outcrop, and turned back around, to see one of my favourite sights. Draco was coming towards us on his last loop as he ran along the sand. His smile was wide as he approached us, slowing to a jog and then a walk, meeting us at the bottom of the stairs beneath the small cottage that I occupied when I first came here.
"Hey you two," He said, tugging my coat back slightly and kissing our daughter's pink cheek. "Finally made it down here, yeah?"
"She insisted." I said wrapping my coat back around her, covering all but the top of her pink beanie.
"Oh, really?" He drawled, and then kissed my cheek, "Or did you just want to see my arse in these pants?"
"Your ego is unbelievable," I rolled my eyes, and then grinned, "But yes, of course I did."
He turned around, "Does that meet your approval?"
"Not bad." I said and ran my hand over one cheek and then slapped him lightly. He raised one eyebrow at me, but I ignored him, "You let me sleep."
"You were so tired, you didn't even move when I got up to her this morning."
I glanced down at the baby, "She was fussier than normal last night. I got up a few more times than usual."
He frowned and gently placed his hand on her head, "Is she sick?"
I shook my head, "No, she's fine. Probably just having an off night. We all have them."
He looked at her for a few more seconds before looking back at me, "So, what's her verdict? Loves it? Hates it?"
I shrugged. I knew she'd dropped off to sleep, she'd slowly gotten heavier as her little body relaxed. "Indifference, I think."
"Give her time, she'll grow into it."
"I have no doubts," I laughed, and then squatted down to pick up a tiny pebble that I had spotted. I rolled it in my fingers and smiled when I reached for Draco to help me to stand again.
"Alright?" He asked looking at the tiny stone I had retrieved from the sand.
I nodded, gripping his hand tightly. "Draco, that first day that you saw me, before you even knew it was me?" He nodded and a small smile curled his mouth at what I assumed was the memory of seeing his new neighbour destroying his solitude. "I never told you what I was doing when I came down here the very first time."
"No, I just assumed my weird new neighbour was having some crazy 'find my inner goddess' moment."
I laughed, "No, nothing like that." I paused, "Well, not really. I was down here wondering just how I had gotten here. My life was so shitty, and I hated the world and everyone in it. And then I picked up a tiny pebble and tossed it into the sea, asking for something beautiful in return."
A wide smile spread across his face. "Did you get it?"
I looked at the pebble in my hand, did I get my something beautiful? Was he kidding?
I put the stone in my pocket, the sea wasn't getting this one. I had already asked for enough, and I had received more than I could have ever wanted.
"Did I get my something beautiful?" I wrapped my arm tightly around my little girl and pulled him into my side, and smiled and nodded at the expectant look on his face, "I got it in spades."
And this journey has come to an end.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, dear readers for all of your kind words and thoughts, and mostly for patience. I know the frustration as a reader, eagerly waiting the next instalment, so all of you sticking with this and not giving up, means a great deal to me.
As I said, another story is already in the works, and from that story are the makings of a smutty little one-shot I might get out more quickly :)
Thank you again, and hopefully I'll see you all again real soon xx