Hermione Granger walked briskly down the polished corridor towards the staff room. She was late as it was – so she was walking extra-quickly to avoid being later. She detested being late for anything. She anxiously checked her watch as she passed a number of worn tapestries hanging on the stone walls, one or two lopsided, their frames wonky. It was ten past eight. Her shoes squeaked on the wooden floor, each heel clapping alternatively as she climbed the marble steps, which would take her to the second level. The staff room was situated on the third level, and if she timed it right, she would get there in three minutes, approximately.
So far, Hermione had taken her position as Head Girl very seriously. She barely kept a moment to herself, working round the clock to make sure everything was up to scratch. She'd chosen to ignore the comments made by her fellow students, and to carry on as normal. She liked it that way. She liked working, unlike some people she could mention. She didn't say that in front of Harry and Ron, though. Not that they'd pay much attention to her anyway – they were always too absorbed in Quidditch to listen to any advice Hermione had. She'd tried to help them, but they just weren't bothered about grades.
She came to the end of the second floor, and another marble staircase, shorter this time, but wider. Near this staircase was a small door built into the wall, with solid gold hinges, and framed by a pair of ridged stone pillars. They were chipped and the white of the stone had, over the time they'd been there, turned grey, but they still concealed the door as if it were royalty. As Hermione went closer, she swore she could hear voices. She faltered for a moment, listening. No, she must have been dreaming. She raised a foot to make her way up the stairs, and then quickly descended, hurrying towards the door. She stood there quietly, then took a deep breath and put her ear to the wood of the door.
"…So she's alright? I mean, it's nothing serious, is it?" one voice said, sounding worried. She couldn't recognize it through the door, but it sounded like a boy talking.
"Yes, she's quite alright. There's really nothing to worry about, Mr. Malfoy, your daughter's going to be fine…" It was Madame Pomfrey. And the other person was Draco Malfoy. Hang on, though. What was it she said? Your daughter's going to be fine…Malfoy had a daughter? When had that happened? Hermione listened on intently.
"Yes, it's just a common cold…easy mistake to make. You see, with babies it's hard to tell if they're very ill or not…" Madame Pomfrey spoke again, her voice using an it's-a-matter-of-fact tone. Hermione frowned. Had she heard them properly? How could Malfoy have a daughter? He was still at school! Hermione was puzzled. A dozen questions spun through her mind…How old was his daughter? Who's her mother? Was she born in the summer? Hermione couldn't think straight. Malfoy, of all people. It was rather unbelievable.
The door opened suddenly, and Hermione stepped backwards in alarm. Oh no, please don't let him see me…she thought, hoping that she was out of sight. The last thing she wanted was a grilling from Draco Malfoy for eavesdropping. The door shut, and Hermione heard a bolt scrape closed on the other side of it. She looked up to see Malfoy looking right back at her, a 'you're busted' look on his face.
"You were eavesdropping, weren't you?" he asked her. Hermione wasn't looking at him. She was more interested in the bundle he was holding in his arms.
It was a baby, not much older than three months, half-asleep. Hermione figured out it was a girl, after hearing Madame Pomfrey talking, and Hermione wondered what Malfoy had taken her to Madame Pomfrey for.
"Granger? I'm talking to you," he said almost irritably, and Hermione was taken from her trance.
"Go away, Malfoy. I'm late for my meeting with McGonagall" she snapped at him, fixing him with her best glare. It was difficult, though, because her eyes kept glancing at the half-asleep baby girl he was holding. She wanted to ask him about her, but saw that it wouldn't be a good idea anyway.
"You didn't mind that you were late when you were eavesdropping" Malfoy said casually, adjusting the baby so that she was more comfortable.
"I know she's your daughter, Malfoy. I heard you, didn't I?" she said sharply, trying to get the truth out of him.
"It's none of your business" he replied, dropping his voice a little as if there was someone else about, listening in. "It's none of your business. You can't tell anyone, all right? No one knows except Madame Pomfrey". He moved closer to her, and a little soft whine came from his daughter.
"What's her name?" Hermione blurted out before she could stop herself. She half-expected Malfoy to tell her it was none of her business, but he didn't.
"Who, this little one? Her name's Anielle." Malfoy tightened his hold on the baby and gave her a kiss on her little button nose. Hermione noticed that she did look like her father – same blonde hair, same blue-grey eyes. No wonder he'd taken a shine to her so much. Hermione always thought Malfoy wasn't the fatherly type. As he turned to leave, he called out to her –
"Remember, Granger. Don't tell anyone about Anielle or me. Please."
Hermione had completely forgotten about her meeting with Professor McGonagall. She watched him the corner and disappear out of sight. Hermione couldn't help thinking about Anielle and Malfoy. He'd seemed very attached to her. Well, she was his daughter. But the question of whom her mother was still played in Hermione's mind. Deciding she'd better be getting on to her meeting, she too went off up the stairs to the staff room.