DISCLAIMER – All things Harry Potter are property of JK Rowling.
A/N: I was completely blown away by all of the amazing reviews! You guys are so fantastic and I love writing this story for you all. Thank you to Anasella Emm for being my counselor through this chapter.
Warning: This chapter has quite a bit of angst/sadness and I apologize but it had to be done.
Hermione heard a soft knock at the bathroom door and turned the faucets to cease the flow of steamingwater pouring into the nearly full tub.
"Yes?" She answered, dipping her fingers into the hotwater to test the temperature.
"I'm leaving for the office." Draco's deep, even voice came through the door.
Hermione perched on the edge of the tub and tied her long curly hair back in a knot.
"Alright," She replied.
He did not answer immediately and Hermione wondered if he had gone. 'That's odd,' She thought as disappointment settled over her.'He has never left for work without saying-'
"I love you, Hermione," she heard Draco's muffled voice finish her thought.
She smiled softly to herself, wiping away the remnants of her tears. Hermione stood and walked towards the source of his voice, her bare feet silent on the stoneground. She leaned against the door and traced a pattern in the wood with her finger.
"I love you too, Draco."
Draco leaned off the door frame, with a small smile upon his tired face, brushing his fingers lightly down the grooves in the cherry wood door before walking away.
Hermione flung the bathroom door open to apologize for the hurtful comment she had made earlier but the moment she did, Draco shut the bedroom door behind him as he departed, unaware of her intention.
Turning back to her bath, in an air of dejection, the rising steam already soothed her nerves. She stripped off her clothes and stepped slowly into the intensely hot water. Sinking into the tub inch by inch to allow her body to adjust to the temperature, Hermione leaned back into the water and winced when the blistering water stung her shoulder.
Looking down, she recognized the telltale imprints of a bite mark and she vaguely recalled Sirius clenching his teeth over her shoulder in a moment of passion the previous night. It had formed a bruise now but the water still singed the sensitive skin.
She tilted back further until her body was submerged from the neck down, gifting her aching muscles by releasing their tension with the therapeutic bath.
But her worries did not fade… nor would they, as she knew all to well. There wasn't a bath hot enough to ease her mind.
She had been careless to come home so late in the morning. But Draco could never be angry with her, though part of her wished he would be. A large part of her actually, yearned for him to be furious and shout and say horrible things, she would deserve all of it, every nasty word, each insult.
If her husband would punish her for her transgressions, it would, perhaps, right some of her wrongs.
No. Even as the thought crossed her mind she knew it wasn't true. Nor was it right. Nothing could ever redeem her for her sins now. Her only semblance of atonement was that she did all in her power to spare Draco from finding out about her affair.
As long as Draco didn't find out about Sirius, it would be ok, she repeated to herself as she had so many mornings. As long as Draco didn't find out, he would not be hurt.
In sincere honesty, the last thing she would ever want to do was hurt Draco.
She loved him completely and she told him so every morning as he would leave for work.
So as long as he didn't know what she had done, he would be safe from pain.
Safe from additional pain anyways. They had seen so much suffering already in their lives that anymore would be unbearable.
Closing her eyes and drifting further down into the floating abyss of the tub, her mind drifted, as it often did, to happier times.
It was hard to believe looking at her life now, that she and Draco had once been so blissfully happy. Even more difficult to comprehend was the fact that it had happened by mere chance. Hermione used to romantically envision that it had all been manipulated by the hands fate, two star-crossed lovers, brought together by war and bound by destiny.
Childish fantasies, she thought bitterly. It seemed a lifetime ago that she had allowed such notions to impede upon her inherently analytical mind.
Hermione didn't believe in fate anymore. She didn't believe in anything anymore.
Nearly four years earlier, the epic battle had taken place. Harry Potter had, as prophesized, defeated Voldemort. Hermione still remembered that jubilant feeling, the rush of adrenaline, joy and passion that had permeated the entire wizarding world after the fall of the Dark Lord.
Harry, finally free from his life as a 'marked man', was able to fall in love with Ginny, properly.
Ron met and fell head over heels for Fleur's beautiful cousin, Adrienne.
And Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger had come together in one night of explosive love-making that shed them both of years filled with torment and pain. The past was forgotten. They had thrown all caution to the wind as they found solace and ecstasy in the other; mind, body and soul.
The Daily Prophet reported that there had never been such an influx of weddings in such a short span of time as couples, young and old, celebrated the demise of the darkest wizard of all time by making vows for their futures.
Indeed, Draco and Hermione had been among them. They held hands and gazed into the other's eyes as they recited promises to each other; promises of hope, of happiness and of love for the child that Hermione was carrying.
The baby was unplanned, the result of their one night of carefree rejoicing. The one and only time Hermione had ever done anything reckless. She hadn't wanted to tell him about the pregnancy at first. After all, they had been together just the once but there she had found herself, at his doorway, two months later, staring into his surprised features.
So vividly she remembered Draco's reaction when he found out he was going to be a father. She had informed him plainly, free from expectation; she merely felt he ought to know.
As the words left her mouth though, an awe- struck smile had spread across his face and his eyes welled with tears she did not think him capable of. He had dropped to his knees and hugged her tightly around the waist and began to cry. He clung to her and he wept, murmuring cherished words to their child growing within her.
A lifetime of regrets were shed that day as Draco swore that his child would never know suffering, nor cruelty or darkness. His child would have the life that he had been denied.
Hermione fell in love with Draco that day and from that moment on, they were never apart.
It had been far from simple in the beginning. Her parents, Harry, Ron and countless others had questioned her sanity and reason, unwilling to believe that she and Draco Malfoy had conceived a child together. Indeed, Draco's parents were none too pleased themselves. But Hermione and Draco had remained strong in their convictions and soon those that loved them realized that, indeed, people could change for the better, and blessings were bestowed upon them by many.
They were married on the twenty-ninth of May in a small ceremony at the Ministry; Hermione, barely showing at three-months, and Draco, striking in dress robes, vowed their love and loyalty to one another as their parents and friends looked on.
It truly was the happiest day of their lives.
Malfoy Manor was presented to the couple by Lucius and Narcissa as a wedding gift. They, too, were now free of Lord Voldemort's reign and chose to retire in France, far away from the raised-brows and judgments that came with their last name's long association with the Dark Lord.
Hermione had been offered an amazing position in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry. She delighted in knowing that she would be able to make a difference in their world, creating a better future for her unborn child and the thousands of others that would be born to the survivors of the war.
The Auror Department had been inundated with hundreds of applications by ambitious young witches and wizards inspired by the heroics of Harry Potter et al. Of course, only the very best had been accepted into the rigorous training program. Nymphadora Lupin, Head Auror, had eventually taken on a group of ten determined individuals, among them: Harry, Ron, Draco and Dean Thomas.
And so Hermione and Draco began their life together.
They decorated the baby's room in vibrant emerald green and gold, not knowing whether it would be a boy or a girl. They each said they would be thrilled with either so long as it was healthy and happy, though they both secretly wished for a boy. They playfully bickered over their preferred names for the baby and guessed whom the child would most resemble. Hermione hoped that the child would have Draco's straight nose and flawless smile while Draco wanted the baby to have his wife's chocolate brown eyes and superior intelligence. And in between all of the excitement, they poked fun at the enormity of Hermione's ever growing belly.
She had never laughed so much as she did during those few wonderful months. Everything she thought she never wanted, she had... and she could not have been happier. Whether it was fortune or fate, she did not know, but it was perfect. Completely and utterly perfect.
Until the day Hermione's world came crashing down.
Her baby… their baby, arrived unexpectedly, two months too soon.
There wasn't anything the healers could do.
Their baby died.
It was a boy.
Lukewarm water sloshed over the side of the tub as Hermione awoke abruptly, coughing up water and gasping for air. She had fallen asleep... fallen asleep and dreamt of a tragic past that she could never escape.
Draco rubbed his hands together to generate warmth as he strode through the doors of the Ministry's Auror Headquarters shrugging off his heavy winter coat. He hung it on the rack near the door and walked into his office, settling at his desk in preparation of another long day of safeguarding the wizarding world.
"Morning, Malfoy," yawned a familiar voice from the doorway.
Draco rotated around in his chair and smiled tiredly at his red-headed co-worker.
"Morning, Weasley. Anything come in yet?"
Ron stretched his arms over his head and yawned once more.
"Not yet. We had one call about a possible dementor attack in Surrey but it sounded a bit bogus. Dean's gone to look in on it though."
"What about the Boy Wonder?" Draco said in jest. Though the animosity of their younger days had been left in the past, they did still enjoy the fair bit of friendly mockery.
Ron smirked at the joke.
"He'll be in after lunch. Tonks gave him the morning off to spend with Ginny and the baby."
The faint smile that had graced Draco's face melted away. It wasn't that he was not pleased for Harry and Ginny, he was. If ever two people deserved to be happy, they were Harry and Ginny Potter. Well, three now, including baby James, who had been welcomed into the world six weeks prior. But it was admittedly tough to watch as his friends realized their dreams while his own had been shattered.
"Ah, Right. The baby," Draco nodded. "How is your nephew doing?"
Ron rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly having noticed Draco's reaction to the comment.
"He's great. Looks just like Harry except for the red hair," He answered with a subtle laugh.
"He didn't even have hair yet when I saw him a few weeks ago and already it's red?" Draco mused, forcing himself to be happy for his friends. "Bloody Weasleys."
"Harry said the same thing," Ron chuckled lightly. He sat down in a chair before Draco's desk and in a more somber tone went on to say, "Mum and Dad are having a party next week. They want everyone to meet the baby and it's also the fourth anniversary of the end of the war. They'd love it if you and Hermione could come."
"It's been four years already, has it?" Draco wondered aloud, amazed at how much had happened in those years. "Thank you for the invitation. I'll speak to Hermione about it."
"Great," Ron said sincerely. "Er… how is she doing? Harry mentioned that she hasn't been by to see James yet. She's alright, isn't she?"
Ron thought Draco seemed to age ten years in the long silence that followed his question. Draco considered an answer, this was one of his wife's best friends and he deserved an honest response.
"I don't know," Draco confessed.
When he didn't elaborate, Ron nodded in understanding. Hermione had built an unwavering façade of stability after the loss of her baby and, though he and Harry could see right through it, no one was sure how she would react when confronted with baby James.
Ron stood and circled Draco's desk, clapping his hand on his friend's shoulder, in a silent display of support. Draco offered a tight-lipped smile as Ron exited the office.
Once he was alone, Draco leaned back in his black leather desk chair and slowly spun around scanning the walls of his office. Slightly bare, though they were, he had come to find security in this small room, his sanctuary of sorts. His walls lacked the abundance of photographs that were commonplace in the offices of his co-workers, he had only one photo on his desk of he and Hermione taken at Harry and Ginny's wedding, but he had a few framed documents proudly displayed; his Hogwarts diploma, the Certificate of Completion for Auror training, and a certificate commending him on his 'exemplary contribution to the Ministry'.
He had worked hardest for that last one. He had sacrificed the most for it as well.
The honor had been presented nearly three years ago to both he and Harry for having solved one of the great unknowns within the Department of Mysteries, the veiled archway. Harry, having earned enough accolades for one lifetime, had seen to it that Draco received official credit for the now legendary accomplishment.
Draco had humbly accepted. It was only with months upon months of tiresome research that he had stumbled upon the answer. He had intended to formulate a derivative of Polyjuice Potion that would work for a longer duration with a lesser dose when a mishap in he and Harry's calculations lead them down an entirely different path. In the end, Draco was able to determine the correct combination of their erroneously invented potion, a modified Reanimation Spell, and the perfect lunar positioning that would achieve what no one before them had.
They brought Sirius Black back from beyond the veil.
After three long years of loss without closure, Harry Potter was reunited with his beloved Godfather and Draco was able to connect with a cousin he had never been given the chance to know. And once more, the wizarding world celebrated.
The Ministry saw to it that Sirius' name was cleared. He was a free man who had just been given a second chance at life.
The joyous occasion when Sirius was welcomed back into the world, greeted by family, friends and complete strangers, as well, was bittersweet for Draco as the months of research had come at the detriment of his marriage.
After the loss of his child, he had purposefully thrown himself into his work. Unable to bear being at home in the deafening quiet that separated he and his wife as though parted by an entire ocean, he spent all of his time shut inside his office, despite the insistence of co-workers that he take some time off to heal. But he refused. He could not enter Malfoy Manor without some part of him expecting to hear the sounds that come along with having a new baby; crying, laughter… but those most desired sounds wouldn't come. So, Draco chose to remain at work.
When he was home, Hermione was silent and stoic. If company came, often his in-laws, Harry or the Weasleys, Hermione would plaster a feigned smile upon her face and put on an award worthy performance in her attempt to convince everyone that she was perfectly fine.
That fake smile sickened him. And it sickened him that he felt sickened, that he wasn't strong enough to speak to his wife, to protect her, or to urge her to overcome their tragedy together.
He would lie awake in bed at night, aware that Hermione too was wide awake beside him, but he would not reach out to her. For a long time he stopped joining his wife in their marital bed altogether, choosing instead, one of the guest rooms. Though, rather than sleeping, he would often find himself sitting in darkness in the empty nursery on those nights. For some unknown reason, it seemed only there he could grieve, in the forgotten room where time stood still.
He would sit back in the hand-carved wooden rocking chair that he had looked forward to occupying while reading to his child. He would take in the unfinished gold paint on the walls, the paint brushes discarded on the table, the empty crib… and he would cry. Full bodied sobs that hurt and healed at the same time.
It was here that Draco mourned.
Their son had been laid to rest beneath a grave marker bearing the name, 'Baby Boy Malfoy', as Hermione had sorrowfully refused to impart a name on their deceased child. Draco hated to think of his son, lying there, nameless. Indeed, during those dark hours spent in the vacant nursery, Draco had named his son.
It meant 'Gift from God'.
Draco had never been a religious man but that all changed the day he learned Hermione was pregnant and he could not think of a more deserving title for his child.
Theodore Lucius Malfoy.
He had never managed to reveal this to Hermione.
Those were dark months for Draco. Awake by night in the baby's room and awake by day in his office, all the while he felt that he was dying on the inside and withdrawing further and further away from his wife. But Sirius' return had awoken something within him.
He knew that nothing would ever bring their child back but what he did realize was that it wasn't too late for he and Hermione to move on. They were still so young, their lives still ahead of them.
But by the time he had finally come back to sleep in his own bed with Hermione, cut back his hours at work to join her for meals, and be a real husband again, it was too late. She had changed.
She still loved him but something inside of her was gone, the light that had shone so brightly from the vibrant young witch he had known was extinguished. And it was entirely his fault.
Draco sat up at his desk as a memo flew through the open door of his office, jolting him out of his memories. He sighed as he read over the assignment… back to work.
Please Review With Your Thoughts!