Author's Note: Somehow I found the time to write this, don't ask me how I managed it because even now I have no idea. Because of school and everything that is happening in my life right now, I have had to do some major thinking on this story. Originally, there were supposed to five chapters left after this. However, due to editing on my part there will only be three; two after this and an epilogue.
.: Chapter Seventeen – Daddy Who? :.
Friday, May 31, 2002
Draco let out a heavy sigh, visibly slouching in his chair. Why did he have to kiss her? Of all the stupid things he could have done, this was the worst. Things were now tense between them, awkward even. If he entered a room and Rose was not there, she would leave almost immediately. She was avoiding him like the plague. He could hardly blame her though. What had happened was a mistake. Even now, he could barely remember who had moved first. It was a spur of the moment action on both their parts. And yet, despite how wrong it seemed now, he couldn't help but remember how right it had felt.
It was amazing how much trouble one little kiss could cause. Her lips, the supple curve of her body, even that unruly mop of hair – he couldn't get her out of his head! She was there nearly every waking moment of the day, taunting him. That one kiss had brought back everything. The damp cave, the arch of her back, hips moving, keening cries. He was going insane from just remembering. And when she was there, standing in this reality with her doe eyes, wide and inviting, he could barely form a coherent thought.
He wanted her, wanted those soft pliant lips to be his. Merlin, she was driving him crazy! And yet, for everything she did, Hermione had no idea exactly what she was doing to him. That was part of her appeal. She didn't know how her actions affected him, didn't know that she was capable of seduction. Oh, she was. Seduction or no seduction, he had an itch that couldn't be scratched. Draco wanted her, but knew he couldn't have her.
The last week had been torturous. Work had been a momentary distraction, until his father had sent him home for stuffing up the books. There was something to be said for working with his father. Lucius had always been easily irritated, but as a boss he wasn't half bad. Draco shuddered at just remembering the amount of paperwork his father went through in a single day. He wasn't looking forward to the day where he would have to take over the family business. It wasn't easy work.
What really got to him wasn't the fact that his father had sent him home like some spoilt child, scolding and all. Okay, so maybe that had got to him a little bit, but that was beside the point. It was Lucius' smirk, that all-knowing glint in his eye that really got to Draco. He didn't like it. The last time he'd seen that particular look, his father had caught him with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak. How was he, an eight year-old boy, supposed to know that there were anti-theft charms on his father's broom? As eight year-olds, he and Blaise had thought that they were being rather smart, sneaking around behind Lucius' back and all.
The point was, Lucius had found them dangling by their ankles with his broom glowing bright red. He hadn't seemed surprised though, like he'd known what they were up to. And that was what was bothering him now, because his father seemed to know exactly what was distracting him. If his father knew, then so did his mother and that was a serious problem. She meant well…most of the time. Draco just really didn't want to deal with her interfering on top of everything else. It was hard enough trying to keep his feelings from Hermione.
Feelings. Draco shuddered. He shouldn't have feelings for her. Hermione was his complete opposite. They had absolutely nothing in common, except for Rose. That didn't stop his eyes from wandering down her figure though, did it? It was like they had a bloody mind of their own lately. Only yesterday she'd caught him staring, rather blatantly, at her chest. He hadn't even known he was doing it until she'd squeaked and turned beet red, leaving the room in hurry. It had been mortifying.
Her slate wasn't as squeaky clean as she made it out to be, though. Oh no, he'd caught her staring. She was much less obvious about it than he was, but he'd noticed. He was rather smug about that fact, actually. It meant that it wasn't just him. Hermione was having just as much trouble as he was. Thank Merlin. There was something inexplicably comforting about knowing that. He wasn't alone.
A loud bang, the sound of a door slamming shut in the kitchen, brought him back to reality. He looked at his watch – an infernal, but rather useful muggle contraption that Hermione insisted he wear – and realised that no one was due home anytime soon. That meant that something was wrong. Before he even knew what he was doing, Draco was running toward the kitchen, picking up his pace when a choked sob reached his ears. Crying. Someone was crying. Was it Hermione? No, it was too quiet, too…childlike. Rose.
The moment he burst through the door, he was struck by the look on Hermione's face. She was furious. Her hair was pulled back into a no-nonsense bun, though a few stray curls had escaped, framing her face attractively. There was a fury in her eyes, the kind he knew not to cross. Annoyance dripped from her every exaggerated movement, as she threw her briefcase onto the kitchen counter. He hadn't seen her like this in years.
A sob broke through his inspection and he immediately turned toward the sound. Rose was leaning heavily against the door, her eyes red-rimmed. Something roared inside of him at the sight of her, his daughter, looking so fragile and broken. She was his little girl, and so help him Merlin, whoever had caused this would pay, even if it was her mother.
At that exact moment, two things happened. One, Rose noticed him and immediately threw herself toward his outstretched arms. And two, Hermione let out a strange shriek of both surprise and irritation. It figures that she would be startled; he wasn't even supposed to be home. Then again, neither was she. Draco turned to look up at the woman, while simultaneously rubbing soothing circles up and down Rose's back. He raised an eyebrow in question, silently demanding an explanation with his eyes.
Hermione sighed, running a hand over her face and settling it over her mouth. She looked both exhausted and furious at the same time. "I was in court."
"And?" he pressed.
"And the school flooed, telling me that I had to come and pick up my daughter immediately," Hermione let out an exasperated sigh, closing her eyes. "I thought that something was wrong. One of our interns had to interrupt the proceedings to tell me…" her voice trailed off, a derisive laugh falling from her lips.
"Hermione, what happened?" Draco asked through gritted teeth.
"According to them, Rose was misbehaving. Though, I'd only found that out after I'd gotten there. I asked them why they felt the need to contact me, while I was in court, and demand that I come and pick up my daughter. You know what they said, Draco?" at this, her eyes took on a pained expression. "They said like mother like daughter. Apparently, all I'm good for is lying on my back and spreading my legs," she gritted her teeth, fists balling. "And they insinuated that Rose was the same, that she would grow up to be…"
Hermione trailed off, her voice thick. Her eyes shone with unshed tears, never looking away. Everything she had to say was explained. He didn't need to hear anymore, not after what she'd said. If the pure, unadulterated pain in her eyes was anything to go by, she was in an unbearable amount of agony. The beast inside him roared. Rose was crying in his arms, obviously upset because her mother was. He just thanked Merlin that she was too young to really understand what was going on.
His eyes never left the hazel-brown staring back at him. So much was conveyed without words. He wouldn't stand for them hurting like this. Someone would pay. There was just one more thing he had to clarify before anything happened. Tearing his gaze away from Hermione, Draco looked down at the little girl in his arms. It was amazing how quickly his old, vindictive self crept up on him. Already, he was picking his poison, his method of torture. Maybe his father would like to join him. That would certainly be a sight to see. Nobody messed with his family.
"Rose, sweetheart, can you tell me what happened?" his question was met with a sniff and a nod.
"Miss – Miss Hannah said I was being naughty and that I was lying and that I had to tells the truth," Rose answered, her lower lip trembling as she looked between the two adults.
"And why did she say that, cricket?" Hermione ventured, her voice breaking.
The little girl looked at her mother for a long moment, before turning to him. "Miss Hannah said that we all looked like our mummies and daddies, but I told her that she was wrong. I said that I looked like you, my Dray-co."
A stunned silence filled the room. Draco couldn't believe it and by the horrified expression on Hermione's face, neither could she. What Rose had said – it was so innocent, a child's simple observation. And yet it was the truth, even if she didn't understand the full enormity of what her words implied. If it weren't for the fact that this – this Miss Hannah had said what she had to Hermione and to Rose, then he would have been floating on a cloud of bliss. Rose looked like him. He was her Dray-co.
Biting the inside of his cheek, Draco wiped away the tears on his little angel's face with the pad of his thumb. "You didn't do anything wrong, sweetheart. You told the truth and your mother and I aren't mad at you for that. Now, I think that Pip is in the next room. Why don't you go and play with her for a bit? Mummy and I need to talk."
Rose nodded her head, blonde curls bouncing as she quietly walked into the next room. Draco remained where he was, kneeling on the floor. The anger was burning, scorching the blood in his veins. He didn't know who this Miss Hannah thought she was, treating a child the way she had, treating his child the way she had. As far as he was concerned, she wouldn't be in a job for much longer. She wouldn't have a job, period.
With a flick of her wrist, Hermione gently closed the door Rose had left through. She made a strangled noise in the back of her throat, a cross between an outraged cry and a broken sob. No tears would fall, though. Draco was thankful for that. He didn't think he would be able to stay in control, to keep a level head, if they were to fall.
"Who, exactly, is this Miss Hannah?" he asked in a low voice, standing up abruptly.
"She went to school with us," Hermione replied in an apathetic tone. Draco couldn't resist smirking. He knew that tone. She was past reasoning with now. Her mind was set. Hermione Granger meant business. But then, so did he.
"What house was she in?" his question was met with a fiery scowl. Well, that answered one question. This Hannah wasn't any Slytherin. That meant that she was either a Hufflepuff, a Gryffindor, or a Ravenclaw. It also meant that Hermione had considered her a friend, or at least someone who wouldn't stoop so low as to treat Rose the way she had. He wondered…
"Little Twilight Academy is owned and run by Susan Bones, now Boot, and Hannah Abbott," she looked at him for several moments, no doubt analysing his expression. "Both ex-Hufflepuffs."
Hufflepuff. Well, he'd be damned. Something occurred to him though, something that he hadn't thought of or anticipated. Abbott. He knew that name, and for all the wrong reasons. Geraldine Abbott, murdered January 7, 1997, by Death Eaters unknown. Draco knew, though. Oh, he knew exactly who had committed the crime and it seemed that Hannah did as well, or she at least suspected. Trust his father to make the situation worse, even unknowingly.
"Draco?" Hermione had come to stand in front of him, her brow creased in worry.
"I'm fine. I just – I was just thinking," yeah, thinking that his father was a murderer who got off without even a prison sentence. "Was this Hannah Abbott the one who said those things to you?" he asked, trying to concentrate on the present.
Hermione bit her lip and nodded. "When she said it, I couldn't believe that – well, I've known Hannah for a very long time and I've never known her to be so vicious and vindictive."
"What Rose said got to her," Draco supplied, laying his hand on her shoulder awkwardly. She flinched, but didn't move away. This was the closest they had been since… No! He wouldn't think about that, not now.
"Why do you say that?" she asked, looking him in the eye.
"We fought in a war, Hermione. People died. Hannah's mother died and it wasn't from natural causes," his voice came out in a low whisper.
"Oh," her face showed recognition that he wished it wouldn't. "Who?"
Draco swallowed hard. He wouldn't lie to her. "My father."
"Oh," there were several beats of silence, her eyes sliding toward the closed door. Rose.
"He would never hurt her, Hermione. He's not the same man he was back then, you know that," he entreated, feeling his stomach clench painfully. What if this changed everything? Would Hermione keep Rose from him, from his parents? She'd have every right to.
"I know, Draco," she said in a hushed whisper. "At least, I think I do."
Running a hand over his face, Draco moved to lean against the kitchen bench. Everything was so screwed up. His whole life was a complete and total mess. He'd made his fair share of mistakes in the past, but then so had everyone else. That was just the way of the world. Draco had just never thought that so many of his father's, so many of his mistakes could come back at him all at once. It was like entering an alternate universe where the world was out to get him.
"I still don't understand how – how Hannah could know that Rose meant you?" Hermione whispered, thankfully steering the subject away from his father.
"How many Dracos do you know?" he asked with a tight smile.
"Now, what we need to do – or rather decide – is how we're going to retaliate," Draco started, moving to stand in front of her, his expression serious. It was slightly problematic that this woman co-owned the school, but he was sure that given some time and money he could have her out of a job. That was only fitting, right? No one messed with his girls…er, girl, daughter to be exact. Not girls, just girl. Right?
"Retaliate?" Hermione's voice began to rise. "What do you mean retaliate? Draco, there is nothing we can do."
"Of course there is something we can do. Hermione, I'm not just going to take this lying down. Rose is my daughter as well and I won't stand for her being treated like that. On second thought, I won't stand for either of you being treated like that," he argued, his voice taking on a dangerous edge.
Hermione looked at him for a long moment, her eyes wide with shock. "I don't understand," she stated quietly, awkwardly, and he was positive that it was the latter part of his argument that had her confused.
"Hermione, you're Rose's mother," he laid his hands atop her shoulders. "You're the mother of my child, my flesh and blood. I won't stand for you being hurt like this."
Merlin, he sounded like such a pansy! This was why he hated feelings. Not only did he sound like a right idiot, but he'd voluntarily left himself open for rejection. Vulnerability was not one of his strong suits. Sure, maybe he did have some feelings for Hermione. She was the mother of his child, so it was only natural that he felt something for her. If that feeling happened to be say…lust, then maybe what he was feeling wasn't so natural. But he wasn't lusting after her. That would be just ridiculous. He wanted her on some level, but that didn't mean anything. It was his pants talking and nothing more.
Okay, so maybe he was in denial. Could you really blame him, though? He didn't want to want her. It would make everything that much more complicated if he were to act on what he was feeling. Draco wouldn't deny that there was this part of him that wanted nothing more than to be with Hermione. They would finally be a family, all three of them; him, Rose and Hermione. He knew that would never happen. It was a foolish dream. Draco knew how to be realistic.
"You are a good man, Draco Malfoy. Even if you don't believe it yourself," her soft, watery smile made his heart stutter and soar. She thought he was a good man? Maybe she was delusional. He was far from being a good man, maybe slightly redeemed, but not good.
"Will you let me handle this, then?" he asked.
She looked at him for a long moment. "I will," Draco couldn't help but smirk in triumph. "But not without certain concessions."
"Concessions?" immediately his shoulders began to sag. Of course, she had concessions.
"You will not put Hannah out of a job."
"No," she argued, cutting off his protest. "And don't start sulking like some spoilt brat. This is real life, Draco, people have to survive, make money. I'm not going to begrudge Hannah for what she said. Yes, it hurt. But Draco, I can't just take out my revenge on everyone who has hurt me. Do you know how many people that would be? Look, I get it. Really, I do. You're Rose's father and you want to – I don't know, you want to stand up for your little girl. Protect her, I think?" Hermione's eyes were searching.
"Yeah," he nodded in assent.
"And I'm not going to stop you from doing that, because you have every right to. Rose is my daughter, but she is yours as well. Just, please, please, promise me that you won't go too far? I understand that after you do this, the press will find out that you're her father. But Draco, I don't care about that. Just promise me that Hannah will have a job after this and that her business won't be affected, because believe it or not, I don't wish her any ill?"
How could this woman, this remarkable woman who had been wronged by so many, still be so compassionate? He didn't understand. But by Merlin, did he want to! To be able to pick her brain, to understand exactly what she was thinking, contemplating, planning – he just wanted to understand. She was an enigma, one he was completely and totally puzzled by. After everything she had been put through and was still enduring, she managed to have more compassion, more understanding, kindness and forgiveness in her little pinkie than he had in his entire being. Draco was feeling severely inadequate.
"Draco?" she pressed, looking at him with mild concern.
"Yeah," he answered, nodding his head. "Okay. I promise."
His answer was met with a small smile. "Thank you."
"I can't promise that I'll hold my temper," Draco cautioned, his eyes hardening as he thought about what he wanted to do to this Hannah Abbott.
Fucking concessions, he thought with a bitter smile.
"That's fine," Hermione replied with a shrug of her shoulders. "I think, given the situation, I wouldn't be able to either."
Draco fingered his wand, twirling it around thoughtfully. Surely one tiny little hex wouldn't hurt, would it? Unfortunately, in Hermione's books it would. He really didn't want to get on her bad side. It was such a shame though. There was this new spell he'd been meaning to try out…
"You're an amazing person, Hermione Granger. Do you know that?" he stopped twirling his wand and looked at the woman opposite him seriously. "This woman hurt you, insulted our daughter and still, still you're worrying about how she'll make a living," his voice held a slight edge to it, but Hermione understood, it seemed, that the reason for his tone wasn't directed at her.
"I think masochistic is a better adjective than amazing. It's more fitting," she smiled at him coyly, laughing lightly at the end.
Draco couldn't help but laugh also. "Touché, Granger."
They both fell silent after a moment, each just staring at the other. Eventually, Hermione motioned for him to go. He did. Walking out the kitchen door, Draco's grip on his wand became harder, his knuckles turning white. It was a miracle that the wood didn't snap. Hannah Abbott had no idea who she was dealing with. Perhaps it was time to remedy that…
She didn't understand. It didn't make any sense. Why were they saying that? Dray-co wasn't her daddy. Her daddy was her daddy…wasn't he? And if he was, then why was her mummy saying that he wasn't? Rose's bottom lip began to quiver. She hated not understanding, not knowing things. That was why she always listened in on things she knew she shouldn't. They wouldn't tell her otherwise. She wasn't stupid. Rose knew that her mummy kept things quiet, all grown-ups did. Her friend Peter at school said so.
But her mummy would never lie, not to her. At least, Rose didn't think she would. She was her mummy. Mummies didn't lie, did they? And what about her daddy? He'd always told her that telling the truth was the most important thing. Was he lying? Did her daddy even care? Maybe he didn't. But then maybe he did. That might have been the reason why he'd hurt her mummy. Maybe daddy knew that mummy was lying and that was why he – why he got mad.
Rose didn't understand. She was so confused about everything. Her mother had told her that her father hadn't meant to hurt her, that it had been an accident, a simple misunderstanding between mummy and daddy. Had she lied? Rose didn't think so. But still, she couldn't ignore what she had seen. Daddy had hurt mummy. Mr Lucy hadn't though, and neither had Grandma Sissa. Of course, she couldn't call Grandma Sissa, Grandma Sissa. She knew that her mother wouldn't like that.
Grandma Sissa was so much fun, though. She always snuck her sweets when her mother wasn't looking. Rose loved her, just like she loved Mr Lucy and her Dray-co. They were all so nice to her, especially Dray-co. Could Dray-co be her daddy? Miss Hannah had said that they all looked like their mummies and daddies. She didn't have red hair like her daddy, or blue eyes. Dray-co had blond hair and so did she. Was Dray-co her father?
Well, he certainly acted like a daddy. When she had almost fallen off Sugar – her new pony that Mr Lucy had bought for her – he had fussed over her like a daddy was supposed to. He even kissed her ouchie better. They couldn't tell mummy how she'd hurt her leg, though. Sugar was a secret. That was what Mr Lucy and Dray-co had said. Sugar was their secret, mummy couldn't know just yet. It wasn't lying if her mother never asked her if she had a pony. She was good at keeping secrets.
Biting her lip, Rose thought harder. Dray-co always tucked her in at night; he even read Lucy Ladybug to her. He said he loved her, and he did buy her things, pretty things, fun things, like a broom and a toy cauldron to play with. Maybe he was her daddy. Dray-co loved her and that was what mattered, wasn't it? Her mummy always said that love trumped everything else. Love mattered. If Dray-co loved her, then he must be her daddy.
But what about her old daddy, Ron? Did he love her? And if he did, then didn't that mean that he was her daddy as well? Rose sniffed, blinking back tears. She didn't understand. Who was her daddy?
"Cricket, what's wrong?" looking up, Rose saw her mother standing in the doorway, a worried look on her face. Did she know? She would be in so much trouble if her mother found out she'd been listening when she wasn't supposed to again.
Regardless of getting in trouble, Rose had to ask. "Is Dray-co my daddy?"