AN: Warning, this chapter gets a little sappy. LOL
Chapter Fifty Four
Draco cast an uneasy glance at Ron at the door to the infirmary, Scorpius cradled in his arms. And he thought he'd been surprised by what he felt toward Ron. He shook his head looking down at the tiny life he held. He didn't think he would want to live without Ron, but even that feeling was eclipsed by what he felt for his son. It was overwhelming and more than a little frightening. Shaking himself free from its grip, he looked back over at Ron, who had remained silent, letting him work through it all. He smiled and handed the child to him. "I think it might be better if Scorpius doesn't come in with me, at least at first," he said quietly. "I'm not sure if Hermione will want to see him yet, if at all."
Ron nodded. "Go do your thing, make sure the world knows he's yours."
Draco grinned, then, feeling a little giddy at that. "Ours," he replied, ducking into the infirmary before Ron could say anything in response. If Ron said anything Gryffindorishly sappy--
Like you hadn't already,
--he wasn't certain he could maintain a proper Slytherin demeanor.
You mean you might cry like a girl.
Draco ignored the thought, focusing instead on the girl he'd come to see. Hermione was sitting up in bed, looking incredible for not only just having given birth, but having almost died as well. "Glad to see you doing so well," he said as he approached, his increasing nervousness all but completely hidden -- or so he hoped. He'd never been as good at that as his--
She finished what she was chewing and grinned at him. "I'm doing okay," she replied. "I've slept enough for an entire week today alone. That thought by itself is enough to make me want to get out of bed and do cartwheels."
Chuckling, Draco hopped up onto the bed next to hers. "You ready to do this?" he asked, then glanced down. "Do you still want to do this?" he continued hesitantly, his heart clenching in his chest at the thought that, having seen the child, she might not want to give him up after all. Not that he could blame her for not wanting to, but he thought he just might go back to hating her if she didn't go through with it. The thought alone hurt more than he could stand. He already loved Scorpius. He didn't want him to be his half-brother, raised by someone else. Draco wanted him to be his son.
Hermione nodded, still smiling, and something tight and dark relaxed inside him. Reaching into the small table beside the bed, she pulled a hefty stack of parchments out from the drawer. Taking a quill from on top the table, she looked back over at him. "Have you named him yet?"
He nodded. "Ron and I did it together."
"Well?" she asked when he didn't continue.
"Scorpius Arthur Weasley-Malfoy," he said.
Her smile widened instantly. "I bet Arthur got a kick out of that!" she exclaimed.
Draco ducked his head sheepishly. "He doesn't know yet," he replied.
Draco shrugged, uncomfortable. "Both Ron and I figured it should wait until it was all legal-like. We-- Ron -- didn't want to get his father's hopes up, only to have them dashed if it didn't work out."
Hermione frowned, her eyes boring into his. "Why would you think I would back out?" she demanded huffily.
Again he shrugged, not wanting to give Hermione ideas, but knew he had to be honest. If he didn't, the bloody Gryffindor might back out on principle. He still didn't completely understand Gryffindor reasoning, and really didn't want to take the chance. "Deciding to give him up before holding him is completely different than actually doing it after holding him," he admitted softly. "Believe me, I know."
He frown deepened. "He didn't tell you?" she demanded, seeming angry now.
"Who tell me what?" he asked, confused.
Hermione sighed, shaking her head. "I thought I was going to die down there, Draco," she said, her expression sad.
Draco's eyes widened. That would have been frightening.
"I made what I thought was a deathbed declaration. "I told Professor Snape to make sure the world knew I wanted my child to be with you, to be your son through adoption."
Draco jaw dropped in shock. "That means--"
"He's already yours by magical vow."
Swallowing past the sudden restriction in his throat, Draco nodded slowly. It was mind boggling. He had a son!
Smiling, eyes dancing -- at his reaction, Draco could only presume -- Hermione signed the upper most parchment with a flourish, handing both the parchment and the quill to him afterward. "It'll be official the moment you sign it," she said. "He'll be yours, legally, as well as magically."
Hand shaking, he noted absently, Draco freshly dipped the quill and signed the parchment himself. The moment he did so, it glowed, rolled up -- magically sealing itself -- and disappeared with a quiet pop.
"All done," Hermione said firmly. "Now, I want you to bring my honorary nephew in to meet me properly," she said, grinning. "I wasn't in quite the frame of mind to appreciate meeting him before."
Surprised, Draco snapped his head up to stare at her. "Are you sure?" he asked.
Hermione nodded. "I wanted to wait until after I'd signed the paperwork, but, yes, I'm sure. He was inside me for almost nine months, Draco. I don't hate him, just what he represents. Besides, Ron is one of my best friends, Draco, and you, you're fast moving up the charts. I made my peace with him being part of my life over the last week. As long as he's not my responsibility, I'm happy."
Slightly bemused, Draco nodded decisively. "Okay, then," he said as he hopped off the bed and strode to the door. The moment he opened it, he signalled to Ron to bring Scorpius -- his son -- inside.
Grinning, Ron did, walking straight to Hermione's bedside.
Gamely, Hermione held out her arms and Ron handed Scorpius to her.
To Draco, watching from the other side of the bed, it seemed that her smile became a little strained, but she looked up at Ron, then him, a hint of tears in her eyes.
"He's beautiful," she said softly, then looked back down to the baby in her arms. "You're the first generation of a better world," she whispered to him, as if confiding a profound secret. "Born out of a world of hate and bigotry, you will usher in a world of peace. You certainly helped put the kibosh on a centuries old family feud."
"Hey!" both he and Ron protested.
"I think the two of us had something to do with that," Draco continued, applying all his old pureblood snobbery to the effect.
Hermione laughed. "Yes, you did, but this one cements it. He's officially of both families." She shook her head, then. "Now, one of you take Scorpius here; we've got some things we need to talk about."
After all four of them were settled, Hermione picked the remaining parchments back up, quickly writing something on the first page, then handing them to Ron. Draco couldn't very well hold them; he had Scorpius.
"I've arranged a trust fund for Scorpius," Hermione began, sounding very . . . official all of a sudden. "The principal amount will remain in goblin hands until he turns 30. Until that time, it belongs to no wizard. It technically is on lease to the Goblin nation, at a rate of 10% per annum. Those things that the goblins determine to be family heirlooms, will be held outside that, not earning Scorpius anything, nor the goblins."
Draco could feel his jaw dropping as she spoke. No wonder Professor Snape had accused her of thinking like a Slytherin. This was positively machiavellian. There was no way the ministry could get a hold of it, even if they carried the grudge over to the third generation -- not for thirty years at any rate -- and by then, Scorpius should be able to fight the ministry if it tried anything. Adults had so much more power than children -- or those close enough as makes no nevermind.
"On the third page, you'll find the information that affects the two of you."
"Us?" Draco asked as Ron flipped to the page Hermione had indicated.
She nodded. "Yes," she replied abruptly. "I've arranged a monthly stipend for his care providers," she continued, pausing and smirking before speaking further, "whoever they may be."
Draco frowned. "Save it for Scorpius," he said, shaking his head. "With what Professor Snape was able to save for me, and what I gave to Ron, we'll be more than fine. You couldn't have put that much into it and--"
"Shut up, Draco," Hermione said drily, sending his eyebrow arching up in shock. "I assure you Draco, there is more in there than you think. The totals are on page two, if you wish to look."
Ron flipped back a page. "Bloody hell!" he breathed, saving Draco from the undignified reaction.
"Where'd you get this?" he demanded. "Surely you didn't use this much of your own money?" That didn't make any sense.
She smirked again and he narrowed his eyes in response, suspicious. "You remember that second bag?" she asked pointedly.
Hermione nodded sharply. "Professor Snape gave it to me," she told them. "Well, I certainly didn't want anything to do with it, so I added it to the trust fund. Before that, it didn't have nearly that much in it."
"Sneaky," he praised, honestly impressed. He also caught the fact that some of the funds had come from somewhere other than the bag. He wondered just where, but didn't feel he could ask.
"Professor Snape certainly thought so," she replied, somewhat smugly. "Now, back to page three. As I said, I've arranged a stipend," she continued, going on to explain the monthly amounts until he came of age, and her provisions for his post Hogwarts schooling and living expenses.
Scorpius wasn't even 48 hours old and he was already set for life. Draco smirked. It was poetic justice of the sort that he could truly appreciate.
The three of them remained for another half hour, simply talking, before Madam Pomfrey chased them out.
"Miss Granger needs to rest," Madam Pomfrey told them firmly. "Out."
It only took them a couple of minutes to say their goodbyes and leave Hermione to the tender mercies of the school's mediwitch. Unfortunately, it was a well known fact that she didn't have many.
Severus stepped forward after he was absolutely sure Weasley and his godson were gone for the evening -- and that Poppy had retreated into her office. "Made peace with it, have you?" he asked sceptically, knowing full well there was no way she'd gone straight from panic to happy acceptance in less than three days.
She shrugged. "Close enough for government work," she replied, turning to face him, for all the world looking as though she'd known he was there all along. "I may not be there completely yet, but I will be."
Severus smirked, remembering another conversation from what seemed eons ago. "In other words, you're lying through your teeth and hoping like hell that if you pretend hard enough it will eventually be true."
She barked out a belly level laugh and shook her head. "Yeah," she replied, "something like that."
"Oh, I think it's exactly like that," he accused. He paused and pulled up a chair next to her bed, taking the time to order his thoughts into coherent words, despite the fact that he'd been trying to do that since he'd arrived in the infirmary twenty minutes previously. "Have you given thought to what you're going to do after graduation?" he asked casually and watched as her eyes widened in complete shock.
"Yes, actually," she replied several seconds later. "I'm debating between going for a mastery in transfiguration, arithmancy, or potions."
"And I suppose," he said drily, "you've already recieved a multitude of offers."
She shrugged. "A couple."
Severus snorted. "Stop with the false humility, Miss Granger," he sneered, "it doesn't suit you."
She laughed, leaning forward in obvious growing excitement. "I've already applied to several places and people. The wizarding branch of Duke has approved my transfiguration application, Oxford has approved me for arithmancy. Harvard medschool has approved my potions application. I've also looked into taking an apprenticeship in one of the three. I've received invites to interview for all of them; two for transfiguration, three for arithmancy, and one for potions."
Part of him winced in defeat. She had so many options, and it seemed that potions was low on her list of priorites. He wondered if she'd even had a passing thought to him as a potions master.
"Unfortunately, I'm not sure I want any of those," she continued.
He frowned. "Why not? I don't know which masters you've applied to, but the three universities all have excellent programs."
"I know," she replied, shifting restlessly. "It's just, I feel like--"
Feeling like he was losing out, without any option for rebuttle, his calculatingly cultivated defenses came rushing to the fore. "What? You feel you're going to find something better than the best universities in the world? That you're too good for them?" he sneered.
Hermione stiffened, then straightened her shoulders and met his gaze squarely. "Quite frankly," she replied firmly, "yes."
"With who?" he demanded. "Who is this paragon of virtue who's the only one good enough for the great Miss Hermione Granger? he snarled angrily, not entirely sure why he was angry in the first place.
Oh, you know you're jealous, his thoughts taunted. She knows she has better choices than you and you're bloody well jealous!
Severus blinked, rearing back in his shock. "What?" he demanded. How dare the chit taunt him like that! "You never applied to me for an apprenticeship," he accused. "So don't--"
"In all the years you've been teaching," Hermione said, cutting him off, "you've never taken a single apprentice."
"What?" he asked again.
Great! he thought sarcastically. Now, she's got me repeating myself!
He was thrown far enough off balance that he completely forgot to scold the brazen chit for interrupting him.
Sighing, Hermione shook her head. "You're intolerance of all thing Gryffindor is well established, Professor, our recent . . . civility notwithstanding; I didn't think I had a chance."
"So," he taunted, "famed Gryffindor bravery is only for situations that could get you killed?"
"Of course not," Hermione huffed. Then, her eyes narrowed, the glint in them far too calculating for comfort. "I can't win for losing, can I?" she asked. "I thought maybe you'd approve my . . . cautiousness."
He rolled his eyes. "If both sides of the equation use too much caution, nothing will ever get done," he replied.
"So, you're finally admitting that Gryffindor boldness has its place?" she asked, smirking now.
"I never said any such thing," he denied automatically.
Her smirk grew. "So, maybe it was, 'nothing ventured, nothing gained'?"
He snorted. "I suppose I just might be willing to admit that might possibly be a valid theory." He pulled himself up to his full height, raising his chin haughtily. "I will deny it to my dying breath, however, if you breathe a word about it to anyone," he informed her. "And I do hope you plan to cease speaking in cliches some time very soon," he continued dourly. "It is quite trite."
"Well, then," Hermione replied, grinning broadly now, "I shall seize my Gyffindor boldness by the throat and venture forth to gain what I want."
Severus rolled his eyes, groaning. He'd created a monster by admitting anything at all, that's all there was to it! How was he going to survive the experience if she really did put forth an apprenticeship proposal to him? He wasn't entirely sure he would, but knew it would be better than the alternative of her disappearing from his life completely. He rose then, fully intending on leaving. He made it all of three steps before twisting to face her.
"I really thought you were going to die yesterday," he said quietly. What are you doing?
"So did I," she replied just as quietly.
Taking a deep breath, Severus finished the turn so that he faced her fully. "When Poppy arrived what I thought was too late, I held one regret above all others," he confessed, not remembering a time when he felt so very . . . vulnerable, that he had willingly made himself so; though the last major conversation the two of them had, had in the infirmary had come close.
"And what was that?" Hermione asked softly, her eyes searching his.
"That I hadn't told you how I felt."
Hermione gasped, but didn't cut him off. He didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. If she'd cut him off, then, at least, he could get out of here without actually saying it.
"I-- You're . . . important to me," he said finally, carefully searching for the words to say enough, but not too much. He may be willingly going out on a limb here, but he didn't intend it to be too thin of one! "I didn't-- don't want to lose the . . . friendship that seems to be developing. I would miss it," he concluded, spinning on his heel and striding for the door--
Be honest! You're bolting!
--without giving her a chance to respond. He heard her anyway, and her reply warmed him.
THE END -- For now
Okay, they're not quite together as a couple, but at least they admitted there is something there. : )
When the sequel comes -- and I warn again that it will be a while -- we'll take care of the loose ends, things like Draco and Ron's home that Professor Snape is going to buy them. Draco and Ron's wedding, Hermione's apprenticeship (You really think he's going to turn her down at this point? LOL) and their burgeoning relationship finally free of her pregnancy and adoption issues.
Thanks everyone for sticking with me through two separate year and half long interludes without internet connection, muse strikes, and various other problems. I hope it was all worth the wait. It certainly felt good to reach a point in the story that could be considered an ending. This is now, officially, the longest story I've ever written; the second longest being a buffy/highlander crossover called "things that go bump in the night", its sequel Cause and Effect being a close third -- or maybe the last two are the other way round. LOL.
Every single review helped urge me forward, and I've treasured them all!
Feedback: Pretty please with cream and sugar on top!