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Chapter 8: Day 8 Thursday Homecoming A Third

Day 8, 20th September, Thursday:

10:00 am, the Homecoming:

"Watch your step, Weasley."

"Shut up, Malfoy, I know what I'm doing," Ron said, walking from the foyer of Edgewood into the living room.

"Stop being a prat," Ginny said, without remorse.

"Yeah, stop being a prat," Ron echoed.

"I was talking to you," Ginny stated to her brother. "Just give me the baby, before you drop her." Ginny took the baby from Ron's arms, and walked into the living room.

Draco and Harry, both escorting Hermione, followed closely behind. The men gently guided her to the couch.

Draco asked, "Do you need anything?"

"A glass of water would be nice," she said.

"Hey, you over there, make yourself useful and go get her some water," Draco commanded harshly, pointing toward the last person entering the room.

"I'm not a bloody house elf," Blaise scolded, coming to sit down on the arm of the couch, next to Hermione.

"Blaise, sweetheart," Hermione looked at him endearingly, "would you mind getting me a glass of water, please?"

He kissed her hand, and said to Draco, "That's the way you ask for a favour, you bloody git," and he left the room.

Hermione looked at her husband and said, "When will you learn, you get more with sugar than with vinegar."

"I don't even want to hear any more stupid, bloody, Muggle expressions," Draco exclaimed, going over to the baby's bassinet, to make sure she was okay.

Just then, an elderly woman came in the room followed by Blaise. She bent down, picked up the baby, and said, "I'll go change her and then bring her right back."

"Draco!" Hermione said loudly, pointing to the retreating figure walking out of the room with their only child, "who is that woman kidnapping our baby?"

"She's not kidnapping her, Granger," Draco drawled, leaning down and kissing his wife's head. He yelled to the woman, as she was reaching the doorway, "Oi, you're not kidnapping her are you?"

"No, certainly not," the woman said, then she came back toward Hermione and said, "My name is Sylvia Thornton, and I'm the new governess. It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Malfoy. Now, I will be right back in with her." She left the room once more.

"What?" Hermione yelled, looking at her husband, who by now was walking across the room to look outside, not wanting to look his wife in the eye. "Draco, I told you no nanny!"

Draco looked at her and said, "Didn't you hear the woman, SHES, A, GOVERNESS, NOT, A, NANNY." He said the last six words as if she was mentally deficient, and could only understand people who talked loud and slow.

"Who hired her?" Hermione asked. By this time, Harry, Ginny, and Ron all had the good sense to walk out to the patio. Blaise, who was drinking the glass of water that he was supposed to give to Hermione, decided to answer that one.

"Malfoy hired her, but she comes highly recommended," Blaise said, finally realizing the water was supposed to be Hermione's, so he handed her the remaining half glass.

She took the water and put it down on the end table. "Who recommended her?" Hermione asked, still looking at Draco, who by this time was looking all around the room, instead of looking at his wife.

Blaise decided to answer that question as well. "By me. She was my governess when I was young."

Hermione was about to protest, when at that moment Sylvia came back in the room with the baby and told Hermione, "Yes, but please don't hold that against me. I have plenty of references from people who actually grew up into responsible, respectable, nice, kind adults. This one over here was too far gone when I got to him." She left the room, and Hermione knew she liked her immediately.

Hermione said, "Draco, come here." He approached her with caution.

"You don't have your wand do you?" he asked wearily.

"No, listen, she can stay, just until I've fully recovered, but I don't want a live in governess, full time," Hermione pleaded.

"Fine, she will only stay overnight until you are recovered fully from your operation, and then she will just come during the days, Monday through Friday, after that, agreed?" Draco took her hand.

Blaise took her other hand and said, "Sounds reasonable to me."

She removed her hands from both men and said, "I'm surrounded by snakes."

Draco leaned down, kissed her head, and said, "That must make you a snake charmer." Then he stood and called the others back into the room. Hermione tried to stand to go get the baby, when Blaise went and picked up her up and brought her to Hermione, without Hermione even asking. She smiled sweetly at him. Ron, Ginny and Harry came back in and sat around the room.

Draco said, "Everyone, gather round, I have presents for each of you." He ran from the room and came back in with a large paper bag. He withdrew a red mobile phone and handed it to Hermione. He withdrew a black one and handed to Blaise. He withdrew a gold one and handed it to Potter. He withdrew a teal phone and handed it to Ginny, and then the last two, one blue, one green, he handed to Ron, but then took the green one back and held it in his hand.

"These are mobile phones, everyone," Draco explained. Hermione rolled her eyes. "We will all be able to contact each other at a moment's notice. What happened to Hermione was an important lesson. Now, the man at the store helped me to put all of your numbers in what's called the menu. You each have an instruction book, in the bag here, which will teach you how to use it. They aren't too complicated."

Everyone was opening and closing their phones, and turning them on and off, while Draco continued, "I'll continue to pay the bills, but use the phones wisely."

Hermione leaned over to Blaise and said, "That means don't call me unless it's an emergency."

Blaise smiled and said, "I was with Draco when he got the phones. You're the first person on my contact list, even before Hannah, who has her own phone, so I'm sure I'll call and chat with you frequently, no fears, love."

Hermione turned to Draco and gave him a positively scathing look. He merely shrugged, and started handing out the instruction booklets. "Next," he persisted, "it dawned on me, Muggle transportation is very important, so I got each of you a car," and with that he started handing out keys.

"Draco, that's stupid!" Hermione yelled.

Harry said, "The salesman must have seen you coming, Malfoy. Did he say if he worked on commission?" Then he laughed.

"What type of car?" Ron muttered.

"Everyone got something different. They're around the side of the house, just go check them out," Draco said. Everyone looked at each other, and then suddenly they all ran out of the living room, and toward the front door, pushing and shoving each other.

"What type of car did you get me?" Hermione asked amused, still sitting on the couch.

"A red BMW convertible. The salesman said you would like it," Draco said, sitting next to her, and stroking the baby's head.

"What did you get yourself?" she asked.

"Something called a Jaguar, silver," he responded.

"Malfoy," Hermione began, laughing, "Those are very expensive cars. What did you get the others?" He shrugged again, uninterested in what she was saying.

He looked over to her, saw her disapproving look, and said, "Our friends were so great during the whole pregnancy and the hospital ordeal that I wanted to show them that it was appreciated, okay?"

"Does anyone besides Harry and I even know how to drive?" Hermione wondered aloud.

"If you and Scarface can do it, it can't be too hard, we'll learn," Draco laughed. He was stroking the baby's hair and said, "Honestly, how did she get all of those dark curls? I understand the curly part, but her hair is as black as coal. It's pretty coincidental that both godfathers have black hair, aye, Granger?" He kissed the baby's head.

Hermione joked, "I told you not to be surprised if the baby had black hair. Blaise was spending a lot of time with me."

Their friends were all entering the room just then and Ron said, "Do you know who else has black hair? Scott Cohn." Why he mentioned Scott, no one would ever know, but his sister kicked him in the shin, and everyone gave him looks ranging from disappointment to contempt.

Draco, instead of being angry, leaned over and whispered in his wife's ear, "At least she doesn't have ginger hair." Hermione smiled.

Harry said, "We should let the family rest. We'll see them again tonight at the joint christening, Hermione's birthday, one year anniversary party of their first date thingy, party, thingy, whatever, that Draco is throwing tonight." He didn't know what to call it, because the invitations Draco sent out indeed said it was a christening/birthday party for Hermione/anniversary of their first date, party. "We still need to get Hermione's gift. We've already got the baby's gift."

Blaise said, "Your gift to the baby won't compare to mine, godfather number two. I bought her a pony."

"She won't be able to ride it until she's older," Ginny protested.

"So, at least she'll have it, and anyway, every little girl needs a pony. It can stay in my stables until she's ready for it," Blaise reasoned.

"This child will be so spoiled," Ginny said.

Draco took offense to that and said, "Listen here, Little Red, a child can never have too much love or too many people to love it, got that?"

Blaise then said, "Yeah, so I guess I love her more than you, since I got her a pony."

"We love her!" Ginny protested, "Tell them what we got her, Harry!"

Harry looked embarrassed and then, quietly, looked directly at Hermione, and said, "We got her a house."

"You mean a doll's house? That's a wonderful gift, Harry, Ginny, thank-you," Hermione stated.

"No," Harry came and sat on the coffee table across from his best friend, "we got her an actual house. It's a cottage really. It's in Godric's Hollow. My hope and dream is that someday all of our children will have homes there. They don't have to be their primary homes, but just a piece of our history, you know?" He looked down at Hermione, to see if she approved. She looked like she was going to cry. She smiled, and he knew that she was grateful.

"Bloody hell!" Blaise lashed out. "A HOUSE! I won't let the stupid second godfather out shine me. I need to go shopping right now! Stupid Harry Potter, who needs him as a godfather anyway?"

With those words spoken, they all kissed Hermione and Olivia, said goodbye, and left.

The family alone, 2 hours later:

"Draco, I'm not sure I'm up for a party tonight. This is mine and Olivia's first day home," Hermione reminded him, as she sat on the couch, holding the baby, "And, it's not the anniversary of our first date. That's tomorrow night, and it's one day past my birthday."

"We can still celebrate them all together," Draco told her, standing up and taking the baby from her. "You won't have to do a thing, just attend, and if you get tired, we'll send everyone home."

"That's fine then, after all, I'm not an invalid," Hermione waved, "But I need to rest now, though I should feed the baby first."

"I'll feed her," Draco reprimanded, "You go take a nap." He put the baby in her bassinet, and came over to Hermione and led her to his study.

"Do you want me to read, or sleep?" Hermione inquired, wondering why they were heading toward the study.

"This is our temporary bedroom. I had your little study made into a temporary nursery, and I had a bathroom added on. You aren't supposed to take the stairs yet, and you shouldn't apparate with the baby. This will be easier for us all," he explained. He helped her lay down, covering her legs with a light shawl.

"Can you really feed the baby by yourself?" Hermione quizzed.

"I fed her a ton of times at the hospital. Anyway, Sylvia can help if I'm stuck. Don't worry, take a nap, Granger." He bent down and kissed her forehead. "Oh, and in case I haven't told you today, I love you so much," he added, and then he turned and left the room.

After Draco fed the baby, he crawled up on the bed next to his wife, with his infant still in his arms. Hermione, who Draco assumed was sleeping, said, "Isn't she the most beautiful baby in the world?"

"Yes, she's beautiful," Draco agreed.

"But, I mean, even if she wasn't ours, wouldn't you think she was beautiful?" Hermione amended, touching her baby's arm.

"Yes, she's quite lovely," Draco said, smiling down at his baby.

"NO," Hermione seemed agitated, and she tried to sit upright, but she winced in pain. He looked over at her with concern, as she continued her diatribe. "I mean if she was just some random baby walking down the street, wouldn't you stop and say, there goes the prettiest baby I've ever seen?"

All Draco thought was, 'my wife is crazy', but he said, "Frankly, if I was walking down the street, and I saw a one month old baby walking toward me, I don't care how beautiful she is, I would be a little freaked out, random baby or our own."

Hermione hit his arm, but put her head back down on her pillow. "Put her down next to me," Hermione requested.

"You mustn't fall asleep with a baby in the bed with you," Draco said, putting the sleeping baby next to his wife, "All the books I've read said so. I've bought every book on parenting ever written. I am quite the expert now. Any questions you have, you can come to me," Draco said with pride.

"I would rather just read the books on my own," Hermione waned, thinking her husband had too much time on his hands and needed a hobby or a job. She kissed her baby and cuddled it in her arms. "She truly is a gift from above." Without warning, Hermione started to cry. Draco quickly picked up the baby, and put her in the nursery, next door, in her cradle. He came back and sat next to his crying wife.

"What's wrong, Hermione?" Draco asked, stroking her cheek and hair.

She took a deep breath and said, "We've never discussed the fact that we can't have more children. Do you regret that? Do you blame me? Be truthful."

He answered somewhat tentatively, not wanting really to broach the subject at all. "Well, we're both only children, so I don't really see the big deal."

Hermione said, "Yes, that's true. I'm still sorry, though."

Draco, who didn't want his wife to blame herself, said, "Why are you sorry. It's not something that anyone needs to take blame."

"I'm not really blaming myself, it's just, I'm still sorry," Hermione began. "Olivia will never have a brother or sister, and I won't ever give you a son."

"What's so special about a son? I have a daughter, and she's more than I ever wanted, and more than I deserve," Draco said sincerely, and then with a smile, he said, "Anyway, when I'm 90 years old someday, my second wife can give me plenty of children."

"Does that mean I die before you?" Hermione inquired with a smile.

Draco took a deep breath, just realizing the gravity of her question. It was too soon to joke about such things. There was a prolonged silence, until Draco broke it, saying somberly, "You know what? I don't even want to think about that. I came too close to losing you, to ever joke about that. I don't want you to ever die." He turned to her and put his hand on her cheek. "Promise me that you'll never die."

She felt like crying, seeing his distress, even so, knowing it was useless to say, she said it anyway. "I promise I will never die."

He said, "I mean it, Granger, I want to die before you."

She said, "That's my wish as well," and smiled at him, grasping his hand.

He stood up from the bed and said, "I have other presents, besides the phones and cars."

"Do tell," she laughed.

"I can't give them to you, because they aren't here yet, but, I've made arrangements for central air conditioning, an electric heat pump, electricity to go with the electric heat pump, two computers, and microwave, a food processor, and bread machine, a CD player…" before he could continue, she stopped him.

"Draco, that's enough. Harry's right. It sounds like some Muggle salesperson took advantage of you. The central air and heat pump, with electricity, would suffice. Just knowing there will be no more cold winter nights and no more hot summer days, all I can say is thank you. Now, I need to rest." She shut her eyes and he took that as his cue to leave.

Very early afternoon, Draco on the front porch:

Draco checked on their baby one last time, then came back to their makeshift bedroom, kissed his wife again, and walked outside. He sat on the front porch, directly on the steps, and he thought over all the events that led him to this moment in time. He was so close to losing it all, in a blink of an eye, it was almost gone. Everything he had ever wanted, everything he never thought he deserved, was inside asleep right now, under his roof, and he would forever keep them safe. To think that the lives he held so dear were once held so preciously, as if held by a rusted hinge, waiting to snap; it all could have been gone forever.

During the last month, Hermione's health proved to be more of a concern than Olivia's health. While in the hospital, their baby was doing progressively better, growing stronger, each day she was there, while his wife's journey was the complete opposite. It seemed she grew weaker and closer to death as each day passed. He hated reflecting on such horrible memories. It was bad enough to live through them the first time, let alone live through them again in memories.

Right after her c-section and hysterectomy, she got a terrible blood infection, and then she went into heart failure. The doctors tried to wean her from her ventilator after the first week, but it was apparent that the blasted machine was the only thing keeping her alive. Her life was being held to this earth by a simple string. The hospital staff told him to hope for the best, but expect the worse. They told him that decisions needed to be made soon. Just as things seemed to be at their bleakest for Hermione, a mere two weeks after Olivia' s birth, Hermione seemed to turn the proverbial corner, as if a true miracle occurred.

It was early morning, and Draco and Harry had taken up the vigil by Hermione's bedside. Draco was a permanent resident at the hospital, but on that particular morning, as the doctors tried to figure out what to do next, and just as they had told Draco that he might want to consider removing the ventilator, their small circle of friends joined in the watch. Draco told Potter that he needed to be alone and have some time to think about things.

He left his wife's bedside, kissing her cheek before he went. He looked back at her sad, small, pathetic, ailing body and thought, 'is she even still in there?' As he started to roam the hallways, he thought about how she was getting weaker and weaker. Could she really get better? Was that possible? He continued walking down the labyrinth of hallways, turning corner after corner, not even knowing where he was going, or if he would find his way back. He felt like this Muggle hospital was his new home. It had been the only home his child had known in the last two weeks, and it might well be the only home his wife would know before she died.

He turned down another hallway, and saw a large set of oak doors, pushed halfway opened, that seemed to beckon to him, calling his name. He was forced to enter, as a moth was forced to a flame. The little room was like a lighthouse, a beacon of sorts, calling to him. It called, and he answered, so he entered.

The room was empty, save for Draco. There was one window, at the end of the room, with many different coloured panes of glass. No light came from behind the glass, for it was a grey, stormy day. He sat on one of the little wooden benches lined up in the room, and hung his head and cried. He had cried more times as an adult, than he had cried his entire childhood. The fact of the matter was, he had cried more these two weeks than he ever had. He sat there, crying, reflecting on his journey through life, on his wife's perilous journey to possible death, and his little girl's journey to live. Could his wife be brought back from the brink of death? Or was it too late?

An elderly man entered the little room. He sat on the bench next to Draco. Draco didn't even look up. The man asked, "Is there something troubling you, son?'

Draco, who rarely talked to strangers, let alone confided in them, felt as compelled to talk to this man, as he had felt obliged to enter this little room, so he said, "My wife is dying."

"How do you know?" the man asked.

"That's what the doctors tell me," Draco explained, "They say she's growing weaker everyday, and she's being kept alive by a machine. I don't know what to do. We just had a baby. She's in this hospital too, but she's getting better everyday, while my wife is getting worse. I can't have a baby without my wife." Draco started to cry again.

"You won't have to," the man concluded.

"How would you know?" Draco asked sharply.

The man put his hand on Draco's arm and said, "I have faith, don't you?"

"Not anymore," Draco responsed.

"That's a shame, you should," the man responded back.

"But the doctors said she's not getting any better," Draco tried to reason.

The man said, "Doctors don't know everything, Draco. After all, they're just men. Men don't control the fate of the universe. They only know what their limited minds allow them to know, and nothing more."

"And what do you know? You're being very vague," Draco commented, not even realizing that the man had said his name.

"I'm not being vague, I'm being specific," the man corrected, "Look deeply in your own heart. It's telling you the truth, you just refuse to listen."

"To what should I be listening?" Draco pondered.

"Listen for the truth, it's there, right in your heart," the man said, putting his hand over Draco's heart. "Tell me, what does your heart truly say to you?"

"Truthfully?" Draco asked.

The man laughed slightly and said, "Well, I wouldn't want you to lie, so yes, tell me truthfully."

Draco said, "My heart is truthfully telling me that my wife will be fine, but it's at conflict with my head, which tells me that my wife might die. My head tells me to prepare for the end, and my heart tells me this is just the beginning. My head agrees with the doctors, and believes there's a strong possibility that she may die, and my heart tells me not to lose faith, that all is not lost, and that no matter what, life is not so unkind to give me a beautiful wife and daughter, to turn around and take one away from me."

"There's your answer. There's your truth," the man said, nodding.

Draco looked at him confused, so the man clarified, "Listen to your heart, trust in your faith, you'll find out what's true."

Draco looked back at the floor. He shut his eyes and took a deep breath. This man, this stranger, was right. Deep down, Draco knew the answer. He knew it the moment he was drawn into this little room. He lifted his head, to thank the man, but he was inexplicably gone. Draco stood, and looked around. He hadn't heard the man leave. He couldn't have been a wizard, because he would have heard him disapparating. Where could he have gone? He wanted to thank him.

Draco said, to the air in the room, "Thank You." Without warning, the sun began to streak through the tinted windowpanes, creating a prism, a collage of colours, which danced on the opposite wall. As he watched the dancing colors, yellow, green, blue, the feeling of constant foreboding, which he had felt since the first day Hermione entered the hospital, lifted.

He left the little room and easily found his way back to the ICU unit. Before he turned down the last hallway, which would lead him to the end of his journey and to the doors to the ICU, Potter came running down the hallway. Without knowing why, Draco started running to meet him.

Draco saw Potter smiling. All he said was, "She's alright! They don't know why, but she's awake, and they were able to remove her ventilator!"

Draco said a silent 'thank you' once more, and walked into the ICU.

Now, weeks later, as Draco sat on his front porch, reliving these memories, he decided not to question anything that he saw or heard that day. It would be his own little secret, besides; he didn't even know if it was real. The only thing that he knew for certain was that his wife was alive, his daughter was alive, and he would do everything in his power to keep them safe, all of his days.

Later that evening, at the party:

Hermione was sitting at the end of their long dining room table, holding their baby in her arms. Draco sat to her right. Their friends and loved ones gathered around, creating an atmosphere of love and happiness, which had sorely been missing from their lives for a long time.

The baby's christening took place first, in the living room. She was formally named, and her godparents were presented. She received many useless gifts, of which she was not aware, and then she fell fast asleep, having already slept through the majority of the ceremony.

Next, came Hermione's birthday, one day late. Draco made a joke about being married to an "older woman" and everyone laughed. She was showered with presents and warm salutations, and then presented with a cake with more candles than her years. Draco told her each candle represented a year in her life, already lived, and a year in her life, yet to be lived. There were hundreds of candles. Her friends all helped her blow them out her candles.

After everyone left, and Sylvia had put the baby down, Draco picked his wife up and took her outside, to sit under the canopy of stars. She told him she was capable of walking, but he laughed and told her she should be thankful that he could lift her again, because seriously, for a while there, she was quite large.

He sat down on the swing, with her on his lap. He asked her if she was comfortable, did she need a sweater, did she need anything at all. She told him he was all she needed.

He nuzzled her neck and said, "This, right here, is the celebration of our first date, and look, it's after midnight. It was exactly one year ago that I took you to the roof of my penthouse, and we ate under the stars, and we played that silly game, and we kissed, and drank too much champagne, and I realized I love you and could never let you go."

"As I recall," Hermione began, "You also forced me to conquer my fear of heights that night, and you kept eating my crème brulee."

Draco laughed and said, "Why does your mind always insist on remembering the unpleasant things?"

"What was your favourite part of our first date?" she asked him, putting her arms tight around his neck, and relaxing in his embrace.

He started to swing them back and forth. He thought for a moment, and said, "It's hard to narrow it down to one thing. That's like saying, 'what's your favourite minute of the day', or 'what's your favourite breath to take'. It's too abstract. It can't be defined, but if I had to pick the best part of that night, I would sum it up in one word, you. You were, and are, the best thing to ever happen to me." He turned her face toward his and kissed her gently on the lips, and then deepening the kiss, so much so that he forgot for a moment that he wasn't back on that rooftop, a year ago, kissing her for the first time. This felt like the first time. Each time he kissed her, it felt as fresh and sweet as the first time.

They parted and he asked, "Tell me your best memory of that night."

"My best memory of that night is happening right now," she stated.

"I don't understand," he said.

She moved from his lap to sit beside him on the swing and said, "That night, the only thing I thought, and the only thing I hoped, was that someday we might fall in love, marry, and have children. I truly wanted that for the first time in my life, that night, on our first date, with you. It's been a hard and complex journey, to say the least, but I wouldn't trade one moment with you, for anything in the world." She reached for his hand, and he reached for hers at the same exact time.

He brought her hand to his lips, kissed her fingertips, and said, "I love you more today than I have ever loved you. My love truly grows stronger the longer I know you, do you feel the same?"

Hermione leaned into his chest, and he put his arm around her to embrace her tightly in their dominion. "All I have to do is look at our beautiful daughter, and I can absolutely feel my love for you grow." She then yawned. It had been a long day. It had been a long year.

"Let's go inside, Granger," Draco said, standing, and bringing her to her feet. "Let the second year of our lives start. It can't be worse than the first, it can only be better, and at least we have the knowledge and the fortitude to withstand whatever the second year throws at us, from living through the trials and tribulations of this first year."

Hermione stood by her husband and held on to him tightly, looked up at his face and said, "Let the rest of our lives begin." They kissed once more, then turned to walk back inside, and left the night sky to extinguish the stars all on its own. They had more important things to do, and they had the rest of their lives in which to do them.

The End

(The fourth installment, "A Fourth and Final Week in the Life" deals with all the years of their daughter's time at Hogwarts, and how Hermione and Draco handles their daughter's growing up. Thanks!)