Disclaimer: I don't own HP or any of these characters. That belongs to JKR, Scholastic Books, Warner Brothers, etc. This is just something to pass the time while waiting for the next book.
Author's note: This one is for Ariana, who asked for a
D/Hr fic, though I wish I could have made it happier. Reviews for
this one would be lovely as I'd like to know what you think.
She told herself that it was just an arrangement that was convenient. Love had nothing to do with it, as she already had the great love of her life. She was only with him because they both reaped benefits from their arrangement. Certainly it helped that he was rich. That allowed her to not only stay at home to raise her son, but to save James's inheritance for when he was older. It also helped that he was still mad about Quidditch. Harry would have wanted his son to grow up knowing all about the game. True, Ron had offered to help her out as well, but that wouldn't have been fair to Luna and their children.
Besides, living with Draco Malfoy had a third benefit. And that had to deal with the fact that she still had her needs, her urges. She was still a woman, after all. He was always willing to play along with her, to fuck her as hard as she wanted or make love to her softly those last few minutes before the dawn, in that darkness so deep that she could not make out his face. He didn't even say a thing when she called out Harry's name and not his. Hermione wasn't sure what he got out of it, aside from having someone to run his house and be by his side at all the parties he attended and even plan all the events that he wanted to host. Malfoy had always seemed happy enough with their arrangement.
Yes, being Malfoy's mistress suited her and her situation perfectly. Unfortunately, she had to go and ruin it by getting pregnant. Oh, Hermione had wanted other children, but she thought that was never to be after Harry's death. She had taken all the necessary precautions to stop it from happening, because she knew that she didn't want the arrangement to turn into anything more. Ginny had called her out on that once, telling her that she couldn't be Harry Potter's widow forever, but she had responded by saying that she had never promised only to love Harry until his death. But there were no such thing as a foolproof charm, and to Hermione's dismay, she found out one month that the charm didn't do its work. And so now she was with child. With Malfoy as the father. Who had promptly wanted out of their arrangement.
Or rather, to be completely truthful, he wanted for her to stop being his mistress and start being his wife. He had went on and on about how she had to do it because she was living with him and carrying his child and how Malfoy Manor needed her as its lady. But that really wasn't an option, so Hermione had decided to taken the wind out of his sails by moving out. She fully expected for him to be at her flat, begging for her to take him back before the week was out.
But he had never arrived, that bastard. Instead, he appeared in the Prophet's gossip columns, being linked to one beautiful witch after another. He was currently rumored to be engaged to Helena Williams, the current star seeker for Puddlemere United, while Hermione had to deal with her pregnancy alone. She missed those days of her first pregnancy, with Harry hovering over her as if he was afraid she might break, waiting outside the bathroom when she was sick, smiling whenever he had the chance to feel the baby kick, and loving her always. This second time around was awful, almost miserable, despite all the help she got from her friends. Ron and Luna had assured her that they would be willing to watch James any time she needed more rest, while Ginny had dragged her out to go shopping, saying that they both needed nursery supplies and so they should look for them together. But despite all that, there was no one she wanted with her when she gave birth, not even her father or Ron, and she faced that all alone, wishing Harry was in the room with her. It was twenty hours of the most excruciating pain she had ever had the misfortune to go through, but in the end, it was worth it.
She had a daughter.
Little Elizabeth Potter was absolutely precious, from the tip of her head to the end of her toes. James adored her and loved being a big brother. Sometimes, Hermione would just sit with the two of them, wondering how she got so lucky. She had never been this happy since Harry's death, and truly, she thought she had left all chances of happiness behind her. Hermione hadn't realized just how much she had wanted a daughter until Elizabeth had been born. She only wished that Harry could be here. She remembered Harry talking about having a daughter and teasing her that their daughter would be a bossy, little bookworm like she was. Elizabeth's big brown eyes made Hermione smile, thinking that maybe her daughter would be like the one in Harry's dreams.
However, as Elizabeth grew older, it was apparent that she wasn't a carbon copy of her mother. Her blonde hair was all the proof one needed of that. But Hermione took it in stride, reasoning that some things could not be helped. Her life would be as perfect as it could be if it weren't for the Weasleys.
"You know," Ginny said one day, "I don't think it's too late." When Hermione ignored that statement, she pressed on. "I mean, Draco adored you. I'm sure he would dote on Elizabeth. So if you went to him and asked—" She was stopped by Hermione's glare.
"I don't need his help, thank you very much. I get along fine by myself," Hermione said in icy tones.
"It's not as if I need any monetary aid from him," Hermione went on. "We don't want for anything."
"Yes, I know," said Ginny as she surveyed the flat Hermione and her children lived in. They were well provided for, but that was to be expected. "Though I thought you wanted to save it all for James when he got older."
Hermione shrugged. "That was the original plan, but it didn't work out. But I think Elizabeth was worth it," she finished, as she smiled down at her sleeping daughter.
"And I wasn't talking about money anyway, as I know you don't need it. But isn't it hard, being a single mother? We all try to help you, but what you really need is a—"
"I have a husband," Hermione said. "He's simply not here right now."
Ginny sighed. "Hermione, you can't grieve forever. You have to let go. You have to start living again. And not just living for your children, but living for yourself as well. He would have wanted that."
"I know," said Hermione softly. "But I won't go to Malfoy. His price is too high for me to pay." Ginny wisely held her tongue after that and didn't bring the subject up again. That wasn't the end of interference from well-meaning Weasleys though. One summer afternoon, when James was seven and Elizabeth was almost two, Ron popped in. Hermione knew something was up, from the color of his face, and waited for him to finally speak his mind.
"Do you know I paid a little visit to Malfoy today?" Ron finally said.
"You did?" Hermione made a face. She couldn't imagine why Ron would bother. "I don't see how that concerns me."
"Of course you wouldn't. But I thought it was high time that he'd start acting like a father, instead of ignoring you and Elizabeth. And do you know what he told me?"
"What?" Hermione knew what Ron was going to say, but she thought it best if he could let it out. Obviously, it was eating at him.
"He said that he bloody well offered to marry you as soon as he knew!" Ron punctuated his words by slamming his fist against the wall. Hermione glared at him, thankful that her children had been woken up, but he glared back with no signs of remorse. "I never thought I'd feel sorry for that bloke, but I do. One day, he comes home, finds out that you're preggers, and he does the right thing. He proposes. The next morning, you're gone. Without even a note to let him know where you went. And he hasn't heard from you since."
"I wouldn't go around feeling sorry for him," Hermione sniffed. "He hasn't sought me out since then, and I assure you, he could find me if he wanted to with his resources. And he certainly hasn't lacked for female companionship since I left."
Ron snorted. "I can't believe this. When did you get so cold, Hermione? It was almost pathetic, how desperately he asked for information about you and Elizabeth. Gave him one of the photos I had, and I've never seen a man so grateful. And don't you start ragging on how I shouldn't have done that. A man deserves to know his children."
"I've never stopped him from knowing Elizabeth," was Hermione's response. "And if you excuse me, it's time to wake them from their naps." She left the room, hoping Ron would get the hint. He did, but not before he told the rest of his family what he had learned. Hermione swore that there must be a secret Weasley pact for the family to be the bane of her existence. Even Mrs. Weasley had spoken to her about it.
"Hermione," Mrs. Weasley said one evening while they were both cooking at the Burrow. "I know you won't appreciate this, but I think you should reconsider this position that you've taken."
"What position?" Hermione asked, genuinely puzzled. She hadn't worked in the longest time. "I've not taken any."
"I meant about Draco." She raised a hand to quell Hermione's protests. "Your children need a father. And I think you need him as well. You won't admit it, but you miss him. I can tell."
Hermione closed her eyes. "You have no right," she finally said. "You have no right to try and give me advice when you don't know. When you don't know how it feels to have your heart ripped out from you as you breathe, and yet, you have to keep on living. What would you have done if Mr. Weasley had died only a year after Bill was born?"
"I don't know," Mrs. Weasley said. "I honestly don't. I do know myself well enough that I think I can safely say that while I wouldn't have gone looking for love, I wouldn't have fled from it either."
Love. There was that word again. None of them could understand how she couldn't risk loving again. It had almost been the death of her to lose Harry. If she loved and lost again – she didn't know how she would survive. And she had to, for the sake of her children. This was something she couldn't put into words, as she knew no one could understand unless they lived through it. Or tried to live through it, as goodness knew, that some days she wondered if she was really living at all.
Oddly enough, it was James who finally convinced her to see Malfoy again. They had been at the Burrow, at another one of Molly's family gatherings, with her and Elizabeth watching as the Weasley clan played Quidditch. James had been delighted when his Uncle Ron had selected him to play on his team as Seeker. He had crowed with glee as he managed to catch the Snitch before his Uncle Charlie, but after the game, he seemed a little disappointed. When Hermione had asked him what was wrong, he had said, "Mum, why don't we ever see Uncle Draco any more?"
Shocked at the question, she responded by asking another. "What makes you ask that?"
"Because I want to be a Seeker, just like Daddy, but I'm not that good. And I don't got that much time left, cause I'm going to Hogwarts next year. And I miss Uncle Draco and his lessons."
"You know, you could ask your Uncle Charlie or your Aunt Ginny for lessons, if that's what you want," Hermione pointed out.
James sadly shook his head. "They're not good enough. I can beat them already. And I want to be better. I want to be the best Seeker in the world." He looked up at her with pleading eyes. "Do you think Uncle Draco would want to see us again?"
So there was nothing else for Hermione to do, but to bundle up her children one weekend and head on over to Malfoy Manor. She knocked hesitantly at the door, not sure at what sort of reception she would receive. Oddly enough, Narcissa Malfoy opened the door instead of any House Elf. The blonde woman looked as though she had some words she wanted to share with Hermione, but held them back at the sight of Elizabeth.
"James was asking to see his Uncle Draco," Hermione said, in a quavering voice. "Would he be around?" she asked.
"I believe he is out with Helena at the moment," Narcissa replied coldly. "But if you would like to wait, I'll show you to the Blue Room." Hermione was about to refuse, not wanting to be alone with Mrs. Malfoy, but the disappointment on James's face stopped her.
"We can wait for now," said Hermione. "I've not finished reading Hogwarts: A History to Elizabeth yet." So they were shown to the Blue Room, and Narcissa served them tea, which Hermione did not drink. She longed for the refreshment, but didn't think it prudent, not with the way Narcissa was staring at Elizabeth, as though she longed to hold her granddaughter in her arms. Hermione was beginning to regret ever coming here and silently promised herself that they would only wait an hour. If he did not appear by that time, then no one could say that she hadn't tried to let James see his Uncle Draco again. It wasn't her fault that Malfoy had no time in his life for any of them anymore.
But thirty minutes after they had started their wait, Malfoy made an appearance, with a stunning brunette on his arm. His eyes widened as he took in the tableau in front of him, Hermione sitting on his couch with James on one side of her and Elizabeth on the other, both listening with rapt attention as she read aloud. His companion whispered something in his ear, before gracefully departing. Stepping forward, he said, "Long time no see . . . Hermione."
Hermione would have settled for a distant response, but James had leapt from his seat and was hugging his uncle enthusiastically. "Uncle Draco!" he exclaimed. "I missed you! Will you give me Seeker lessons?" Despite herself, Hermione smiled. James never had any trouble asking for what he wanted, which was a trait that neither of his parents shared.
"If your mum says it's okay," Malfoy said. He lifted James up and approached Hermione, with a question clearly in his eyes.
"If you promise to make sure he doesn't get hurt," Hermione said as mildly as she could. Gathering her courage, she went on to say, "And I suppose I should introduce you to James's sister." She stood up, taking Elizabeth's hand in hers. "This is Elizabeth. Elizabeth Potter."
Hermione could see the hurt in Malfoy's face as she announced her daughter's name and she could hear Narcissa's hiss of displeasure. Malfoy simply set James down, before bending over to shake Elizabeth's hand. "Nice to meet you," he said. "Do you want to be a Seeker like your brother?"
Elizabeth shook her head furiously no. "I'm gonna be a Chaser like Aunt Ginny," she said. "Me and James, we're going to be the best Quidditch players in the world."
"But I'll be better," James put in.
"No I will!" Elizabeth stuck out her tongue at her brother.
"Yeah maybe . . . in your dreams," her brother taunted.
"James! Elizabeth! Enough," said Hermione.
"And here I thought the sibling rivalry was kind of cute," said Malfoy. "What do you think, Mother?"
"I think you ought to rethink that decision that—"
"I know," he said, sighing. "I know. But enough of that. Did you bring your brooms? And everything else?" he asked. Two eager heads nodded frantically. "Good. How about you two go get changed, while I show your Mum to the pitch. My mother will take care of you." And before Hermione could protest, that was exactly what happened. Narcissa was taking her children to get changed in to the Quidditch gear that James had insisted on dragging along ("just in case," he had said), while she was walking along next to Malfoy through one of those long corridors that Malfoy Manor had plenty of.
"She's beautiful," Malfoy said, breaking the silence that had been hanging over them.
"Thank you," Hermione replied.
"Don't mention it." He sighed audibly, before turning to face her. "May I ask one question, Hermione?"
"You can always ask a question. I just won't give any guarantees that I'll answer."
"I should have expected that. You never promised me anything." He sighed. "But what I want to know is why? Why wasn't it enough?" He stopped walking, preferring to stare her with the saddest pair of gray eyes she had ever seen. "I was willing to be second best, no third best, as I knew James came before me. And I'm willing to be fourth best for you, now with Elizabeth, or any other spot you'd deign to give me in your heart. So why? Why did you leave?"
"Because," Hermione said.
"That's not an answer."
"That's the only one I have to give."
"Because what? Because I didn't love you enough? Hermione, I don't think it's possible to love anyone more than I love you. Because I frightened you? I only wanted to marry you—"
"And I didn't want to have to explain to James why he's the only Potter, why his mum and his sister's names don't match with his."
"Then why didn't you say so? You could've kept yours. We could have given Elizabeth some combination of our names. Why didn't you ever say anything? If you had only told me what you wanted, I would have given it to you!"
"I know." Hermione hanged her head. "But that's not really being fair to you, is it? You deserve a wife who will dote on you, who will bear you children with only your name attached, and who love you as much as you love her. And I was happy with the way things were, but you weren't, so I thought it best to leave. Because I didn't want things to change."
"It seems to me that everything changed since you left," he said. "I don't go a day without thinking about you, wondering what I could have done differently to have kept you by my side." He grimaced.
"You seem to have moved on well enough," Hermione remarked, trying to focus on the Daily Prophet's articles, rather than on the evidence in front of her. "Helena's a lovely girl, and I'm sure your children will be—"
"Helena's currently nursing a heart broken by that Chang bitch, so I took her out today to try and cheer her up." Malfoy snorted. "We both know what it's like, loving someone who doesn't love you in return. There's a bit of comfort in that."
"I do care for you," Hermione said slowly. "I want you to know that. But as for love . . . I can't."
"I can't. Because I loved once and . . . oh, I can't describe it. I won't bother to belittle it with words, but I did love Harry and I love him still and a piece of me dies each day that I have to go on without him. And I don't think there's enough of me to go around between him and James and Elizabeth. And I don't think I want enough of me to go around for another person because I'm stretched thin enough as it is and loving someone makes me worry about them and . . ." Hermione choked up, not wanting to say what she was thinking. "And I wonder . . . sometimes, I wonder if Harry, wherever he is, is angry with me. For being with you. For having your daughter instead of his. Because I don't want him to be, because I know he's waiting for me – or was waiting for me – and I don't want to ruin that, though I'm scared that I already have—"
"Enough," Malfoy interrupted her. "I think I've heard enough. Didn't you once tell me that Harry Potter was the least selfish person you knew?" Hermione nodded. "And if that's so, why would he begrudge you another child? When even I knew how much you wanted one? And as for him hating you – Merlin, Hermione! He was the only man who ever loved you as much as I, and I could never hate you, so I doubt he could. But if that's what you want—"
"That doesn't matter," Hermione said. "James wants to see you . . . and the Weasleys are right, Elizabeth should know her father and . . . ."
"I see," Malfoy replied. "If that's the case, would you consider moving back in?" Hermione gasped at the suggestion. "Another arrangement made solely for convenience. It would be a bother for you to always have to drop them off. And I know Mother would want to see James and Elizabeth more often." He added almost accusingly, "She was heartbroken as well, when you left, for she had grown to love James like a grandson."
"So . . . ." Hermione said. "It would be just another arrangement."
"Yes. No love involved."
"Is that what you want?" she asked.
"I can't have what I want, but I'm willing to settle," he said. "Strange to think that I've fallen so far, but I have."
The offer sounded very appealing to Hermione. It would be as if that proposal had never happened. Things would go on like they did before she had become pregnant, and she had been satisfied with that. But she had to wonder—
Would it be enough?
And would it have to be?
Hearing the sound of her children's laughter come up behind her, Hermione quickly looked at Draco and gave her answer. "And maybe one day . . . maybe that is, with no promises given or asked for . . . maybe something more?"
The smile that Draco gave her and the joy on her children's faces was
almost enough to make her whole once again. And she had her answer
then and there, and she knew that Harry wouldn't mind it if the arrangement
grew into something more.