Uhm, there's a super short chapter right before, just in case you missed it.
Recap- Draco joined the Order, kind of, and was prickly about it through it all. Still sexy as hell, though, so Hermione fell for him through the adolescent years of toned-torso viewings through Grimmauld Place and the Himalayas- where they trained under a Guru who taught Harry n Hermione to Astral travel- which helped the lot of them kill the Horcrux in Harry, n ultimately Voldie. Then Draco decided to play Quidditch, make more moolah with his Dad's company, and essentially become a billionaire playboy. He helped Hermione's causes enough to keep her smitten. Hermione went about improving the world. She wanted a baby, and Draco provided an amusing solution. She jumped, though pretended to consider really long.
Ron played Quidditch too- largely absent from my story though, cos I just don't care. Harry n Hermes are thick and he warned her to keep distance from Draco when he thought things were getting hot n heavy. Hermione told him to mind his own business. Draco was actually pretty hot, though he always kept our girl guessing about his feelings. They got kinda close, kinda sweet, Draco got possessive, they got pregnant, lost their baby and then Draco disappeared for a while, cos he does that when emotions fry his brains.
Vamp army had gone wild in Australia, the Aurors through the World helped bring them down. A couple of months later Draco showed up bitten and our favourite know-it-all finally put things together. Unbeknownst to our leading lady, our ADHD-afflicted-hero was not just helping the Aurors on occasion, but was a bona fide Hit Wizard (Assassin)- always in mortal peril. Another vampire show-down, he forbade her to participate- Hermione of course, did not listen to him, almost died, he saved her, she took a spell for him, cos you know we need this drama- and then she finds out she is pregnant, and waits to tell him, but it doesn't come up in the conversation. He is furious, tells her he can't stand her claustrophobic bossiness, stuck-up ways and the lack of consideration for his wishes. She tells him he is irresponsible, wishy-washy and a certified jerk. Both are right, but don't like to hear the good stuff about themselves. He splits. She splits. Presently, they are still 'split'.
Thanks for being back. It's a short chapter, but it's a start.
Severus Snape's chambers, Hogwarts Castle:
"Narcissa, pleasant as it has been to receive your unscheduled company today, do you suppose you could get to the reason of your visit?"
"Severus, always so charming. Tell me, is it a potion you imbibe or did you read a self-help book by that Lockhart fellow?"
"If I tried to charm you, would you visit less?" The professor brought with him a kettle of fragrant hot tea, two cups and saucers levitating behind him. Placing everything on the table between their leather backed chairs, Snape straightened his robe as he sat down in front of the fire. Fall had made the castle, and his dungeon chamber, chilly this evening.
"Far too few people in the world brave insolence with you. You know you would miss me."
"Not presently. My quarters have played too generous a host to insolent Malfoys this week."
"He had the sense to show up here, did he?"
"Draco…" Snape let hang in the air.
"… Is a fuckwit." Narcissa supplied coolly.
Pouring lotus tea into the fine China, Snape bent his head forward, his straight silky hair failing to hide his half-smile.
"You are expanding your vocabulary. A worthy endeavour, I dare say." Severus handed Narcissa her cup.
"I am educating myself on Muggle colloquial verbiage, to keep me adept at communicating with my future in-laws and grandchild. Along the way, I picked up words I will not be able to use in polite circles."
His eyes crinkled at the jibe.
"Ms Granger's solitary vacation stirrred your feathers, did it?"
"Vacation? Is that how my son framed it?"
"You desire to locate her whereabouts?"
"If Ms Granger doesn't want to be found, I assume she is competent enough to make sure of it. Don't you think?"
"I assume my son has already requested your help. How close are you to locating her?"
"The potion needs another New Moon."
"That is in two days?"
"I wonder if they have had enough time apart." Narcissa sighed audibly.
Snape carefully placed his teacup on the desk, leaned back against his chair, folded his arms on his lap and waited. The conversation had just gotten interesting. Narcissa could see Snape psychoanalysing this a thousand ways a minute. The long silence he maintained, a ploy, to draw her into filling the gap.
"Could you think of a better-suited match for my son?" she asked, raising her teacup to scarlet painted lips.
Snape cleared his throat. "Several replies come to mind, none appropriate."
It was Narcissa's turn to smile. "What was the phrase you used for Ms Granger when she was your student? Know-it-all. And in our previous conversation regarding her how did you describe her? Diligent, intelligent, strong sense of right and wrong, and I paraphrase, 'followed instructions too closely… one needs to understand how a potion works to improve it'."
"Age has not dulled your recall. I have said worse about her... and Draco."
"All well deserved." Narcissa sighed heavily. "You know them. Draco had never valued possessions he received too easily, and he has possessed most things far too easily. She has exceedingly strong opinions about almost everything, especially codes of conduct, and let us admit it, Draco will never adhere to stereotypical ideals. If he finds her without serious challenge or effort, if she alienates him again… she might prove to be even tougher to find."
Snape sipped his tea again before placing the cup very quietly on the table. "You already know where she is."
Narcissa inspected her nails.
"You were having her watched. If either of them find out…"
"I am not telling them." She glanced at him pointedly before continuing. "I was merely astute in my foresightedness. You know my son, Severus. He is in many ways worthy, but it isn't entirely the child's fault that he was born with Sun in Gemini. He conceals it well with his obsessively controlling ways, but the boy cannot help but fly around on that wretched broom of his, comparing shades of grass in distant pastures. If only Ms Granger became the distant, greener pasture that he covets."
"You might be underestimating the extent of his… attachment."
"Oh, I have never doubted his depth of feeling. However, he does close to nothing about it, and her pride just stands in the way. No, he has had the luxury of having her in his life for far too long. If, however, he fears he has lost her..." Narcissa shrugged delicately.
"There is method to his life, Cissa. Credit him his reasons."
"Severus, don't insult my intelligence. I do understand some of his fear of commitment stems from fear for her safety."
"Safety?" Snape tilted his head, feigning ignorance.
"There have been far to many occasions requiring you to heal Draco over the years. Those were no more Quidditch injuries than you are a mermaid."
Severus snorted. "You should be having this conversation with Draco."
"To observe is wise; to ask, irrelevant. I do have another conversation premeditated, though. I am of the opinion that he has redeemed himself enough for his father's conduct. He needs to stop letting Potter manipulate his guilt, and get on with his own life."
"Irrelevant now," Snape countered concisely.
Narcissa's face brightened as she digested that. "Left the suicidal lot, has he?" Anticipation avid in her questioning eyes, she took his silence for the consent it provided. "Not a moment too soon. Now if he could just manage neutrality, happiness and a grandchild, we might yet live in peace."
"Peace?" said the Godfather who had known the Malfoy heir since infancy, and had failed to take note of a day of peace, adolescence through adulthood.
"Relative peace, then. I can compromise." Gracefully placing the near-empty teacup back on the saucer, Narcissa made to leave.
"You have never been one to go against your own judgment, Severus. I know you have Draco's best interest, and not just instant gratification, at heart."
Farewell said, Narcissa stepped in and then out of the Flu into her wing at Malfoy Manor. Tilly appeared instantly.
"Madam is back."
"Tilly, go relieve Noddy. I will need an update from him."
"Yes, madam." Tilly was gone.
Narcissa took off the pink pearl ear studs she had worn today, trying to draw peace from them, as she thought back to the day of the Vampire fracas. Draco had come home. He had been spending his nights at Hermione's ever since he'd returned from the Quidditch tour, injured, so it his presence had been an unexpected pleasure. Approaching his room, pleasure had condensed to alarm. Violent exclamations, loud bangs and the sound of glass shattering- expensive-Italian-hand-blown-glass shattering- could condense anything into alarm. Narcissa had entered without knocking to view clothes and a toothbrush strewn from a bag over his bed, his room a battlefield at dusk. Reticent and sour, his lips pouting in a sulk, he had reminded her of his seven-year self, throwing a tantrum when his puppy had been devoured by a stray Hippogriff; he had thrown every reminder of the pup away and adamantly refused to own a pet again. One look at Narcissa and Draco's mask had fallen into place. What was that she had barely glimpsed in his eyes moments ago? Fury? Hurt? Guilt? He had permitted her to witness only his apathy, refusing to answer questions regarding work or Hermione. Just like that, all of Narcissa's nursery plans had come crumbling down, and she could not, would not permit that.
For reparations, Narcissa had told Misty to prepare Hermione's favourites, in anticipation of a reconciliatory meal. Thank Morgana, that Narcissa had been at hand when Hermione had called on the Manor, and found out immediately from Noddy that Miss Granger had deposited several boxes to be forwarded to the Master. Wary, she had instructed Noddy to keep a discreet and constant eye on Miss Granger's movements. Fortunately, Hermione hadn't apparated anywhere, which would have made it difficult for Noddy to follow. Muggle transport and locations, the House Elf had circumnavigated easily enough.
So, yes, she knew exactly where Hermione was, and had since day one of her disappearance. If Draco had had twice the confidence in his relationship skills as she had in them, he would have had Hermione followed too!
Being the mother that she was though, Narcissa couldn't place the blame exclusively on her son's shoulders. There were rules against that, somewhere.
In all objectivity, it takes two to run a relationship and Ms Granger is perfectionist to a fault. A woman has to be the one to sacrifice more than the man- be it career, ego, family ties or even just her image. Is it fair? Merlin, no! Mother always did say, "Men erect the mansions, women build the homes." A man needs his woman's respect, feigned as it may be. If the woman only plays a stalwart opponent that never concedes, how can he find his sense of home?
Not to say that Hermione cannot be a strong, independent woman. Draco would never respect anything less. However, love ought not be a battlefield for titanic wills; rather, it needs to provide a place for rest and recuperation. The woman, as the nurturer in the relationship, has to know when to take a stand, when to forfeit, and when to perform healing spells. Men, simple creatures, cannot be expected to manage the complexities involved. Food, sex, power, money – these currencies evaluate their priorities. Different from women in so many regards.
Love rarely forms the essence of life for men. For them, love is just another facet of life, like family and work- essential to life… but not the essence of it.
A realisation that doesn't come easy for most women. If they are to build homes, though, just the first of many truths to accept.
If Hermione and Draco are incapable of compromising, better to find it now rather than later. Their innate personalities are too polarised to thrive together without struggle. Mercury ruled, Geminis and Virgos are practical rather than sentimental in their approach towards relationships. However, where Hermione's earthy Virgo traits leave her grounded, inflexible, tedious and officious, Draco's airy Gemini traits render him disassociated, adaptable, restless and transiently passionate. Their backgrounds, work, elevated status in society and bloated self-esteem make it difficult for both to be vulnerable.
For now, the Runes were right- Draco lost Hermione. Perhaps it is for the best. The child rarely knows what he has lost till it is gone. Perhaps the shrewd Miss Granger concluded as much herself. Maybe she embarked on the journey with the very objective of teaching him a lesson. No, she is far too complex for such simple-minded scheming. Harbours a vindictive side, doesn't she? Denying us, denying Draco, knowledge of his child? Tsk tsk. I hope he doesn't forgive too easily. Some guilt will do her good.
When Noddy had reported that the girl was pregnant, Narcissa had almost apparated across the country to confront Hermione. Getting Hermione back, however, wasn't Narcissa's objective. Getting Hermione back and married to Draco, now that was Narcissa's intent, and she could be patient. Lucius, however, had been less composed.
"MY GRANDCHILD WILL NOT BE BORN IN SHAME! Drag that Mu…"
"Lucius," Narcissa had interjected quietly, as was enough.
"Like I was saying before you interrupted, wife, drag that Muggle-born back to the manor and lock her in the dungeons if you have to."
Narcissa was glad for the foresight with which she had instructed the elves to empty the Dower house of all portraits. Lucius' thunderous broadcast would have ruined things. She couldn't afford for the news to spread like gossip, or one of the misguided portraits to reveal all to her son.
"If you are quite done with your paroxysm of rage? Calm down, Lucius, and help me strategise. We will have to filter just the right amount of knowledge."
Orchestrating a conversation between Tilly and Misty had been as simple as a command. Tilly had claimed to witness the short Flu-call Hermione had exchanged with Misty, and wondered vaguely if the faint deviations in Miss Granger's head's aura could indicate a pregnancy. Easily vexed, Misty had gone running to Draco. Since Tilly was bound to Narcissa from the Black home, she wasn't answerable to Master Malfoy, and could deny further knowledge during the interrogation that followed. Draco's sluggish apathy had changed into a torrent of activity. Narcissa had scarcely seen him since. The way he had treated women all his life, a little suffering wouldn't go amiss.
Surely if Hermione knew, she would thank Narcissa for it?
Narcissa massaged her temples in worry. It hadn't escaped her that her intrusion could lead to unintended consequences. She hadn't caused the rift, she was just not helping in bridging the distance; the justification helped, a little. She had seen the lines of worry next to Draco's eyes, the increasing gauntness to his face, the drooping shoulders when he thought he was alone. He wasn't sleeping well, if at all. Had he crossed denial and anger, to reach acceptance? Could he comprehend what Hermione's loss would mean to him? Had Draco realised what was on the line, if he was ever again too flippant to consider their relationship expendable? Had Hermione?
Narcissa sighed in exasperation. Just like his father, always getting into more trouble than he knew how to handle. Just like his father, he will learn to never underestimate his woman's wrath.
Noddy's appearance interrupted Narcissa's circuitous thoughts.
"Madam." The House Elf bowed.
"What has Miss Granger been up to since yesterday?"
AN: I have no words to thank you for the support you showed me during a crazy time, for your patience with my absence, and for being back to read this story, after this inordinate amount of time.
A sincere Thank You to
Ceylon for her cute messages, fun links, inspiring me, remembering me, reminding me, and being there in so many ways
Frostykitten for jumpstarting my writing once again with a review-per-chapter; This sweetheart read the whole story in a go, then went back to review each chapter. That's some good Karma.
I am grateful to both for your help with the one chapter that I may not use, and this one that I did.
Shout out to Dixie who created the Narcissa and Tilly in Heir Brained.
A HUGE thank you to each and every reviewer for the encouragement they provided. My words are a direct response to yours. This story would have died in 15 chapters, if not for you.