Consequences and Complexities

A Sequel to Covered in Crimson

By cklls

Chapter 1 – Aftermath

Previously:

He walked along the center street, peering in windows and stopping now and again to take a closer look at something that caught his eye. He was nearing the Apothecary when his eye was most definitely caught by a woman standing outside the shop. He wasn't close enough to be absolutely certain, but from the rear, the woman looked like his mother. But, he reasoned, it just couldn't be her. She was holding the hand of a small child, no more than three years old. He was drawn subconsciously to the woman who so resembled the mother who'd risked everything for him, and he found that he had taken several steps in her direction without even realizing that he'd moved. His eyes widened as the woman turned to profile, and her resemblance to Narcissa Malfoy became more than coincidence.

His other senses began to function and he heard the child speak. "Mémère, where is Mummy? Why is she taking so long?"

The Narcissa Malfoy look-alike smiled at the child, obviously a girl, he noted as the whipping wind sent her little hat flying and her long, blonde curls tumbling to her shoulders. "Look, Louisa, she's coming now."

Draco tried not to look. Something told him it would be a very bad idea. But his eyes refused to listen to reason and he followed the direction of the woman's gaze. The door of the Apothecary swung open and another woman stepped into the sunlight. The little girl shouted an enthusiastic greeting - "Mummy!" – and vaulted into her mother's arms. This woman was a Hermione Granger look-alike.

Oh, Merlin. No. How can this be? Draco Malfoy felt the blood leave his face and the ability to remain upright desert him in an instant. His knees buckled beneath him and struck the ground with a thud. In that moment, Narcissa Malfoy gasped in shock. In that moment, Hermione Granger met his eyes. In that next breath, the tiny, bright eyes he met were an exact copy of his own.

And then…

Narcissa Malfoy was the first to move; she seemed to be the only one capable of it while her companions froze in either shock or fear. She took her granddaughter from her mother's arms, as much to ensure that Hermione would not leave with her as to calm and comfort the anxious child. It wasn't every day that one's mum shrieked in shock and Louisa was not accustomed to anything but total composure from her only known parent. Her other parent, the one about whom the little girl knew next to nothing, swayed unsteadily on his knees as he reached a hand toward them. The man on the ground seemed unable to form coherent words, and his mother was now apparently suffering from a similar affliction.

"Mémère," the toddler interjected, "why did the man fall down? He looks like Pépère."

Shaken from her shock, Narcissa acknowledged the child's astute observation. "Yes, he does look like Pépère, sweetheart. He's just had a bit of a surprise. He'll be just fine in a moment," she projected, glancing pointedly at both Draco and Hermione, who had also yet to speak.

As if to ensure her prediction, Narcissa reached a hand out to meet Draco's while she hitched the platinum-haired toddler higher on her hip. "Draco, dear, we obviously have a lot to discuss. Please, pull yourself together, darling, and get to your feet. You're scaring Louisa," she chided.

Hermione watched in shocked apprehension as the man she hadn't seen in three years accepted his mother's aid and rose unsteadily. The tiniest bit of regret at her own obfuscation crept into her thoughts. It was painfully clear that Draco had added up the evidence correctly and had literally been felled by the shock of it. She had so hoped to have the opportunity to ease him into the knowledge that he had fathered her daughter. The last thing she wanted was to cause the man more pain than he'd already experienced. She told herself that that had been her motivation for hiding Louisa from him all along. Having failed spectacularly, she cast about for some way to salvage some sanity and dignity from the situation. She finally found her voice.

"Draco, please. You and I obviously have things to discuss, but let's go somewhere to talk privately," Hermione pleaded. She glanced toward Narcissa, looking for guidance and agreement, which she found in the older woman's nod. "We'll go to the Manor."

Draco, still too stunned to speak, much less offer an argument, nodded mutely and apparated away, picturing his childhood home in his mind.

Narcissa, holding Louisa tightly, fixed her gaze on Hermione and pursed her lips in concern. "I know this is not what either of us planned or hoped, but he knows now. He will have questions, and he deserves answers, Hermione. You've both suffered for what happened three years ago; let's not make a difficult situation worse than it needs to be. We need to go home."

Hermione straightened her spine and met Narcissa's eyes. "He'll be angry, won't he?"

"Wouldn't you? We've known that for three years, Hermione. I was afraid something like this might happen. That's why I was so opposed to keeping this secret from him for so long. I understood your reasoning, and I didn't completely disagree with it, but it wouldn't have created such a drastic blow if we'd told him a few months ago."

"Please don't be angry with me, Narcissa. I've only done what I believed to be best for my daughter and for Draco. If I'm proved wrong, I'll live with the consequences. But what's done is done, and now we'll have no choice but to live with the fallout. I'll do what I can to explain it to him, and make it up to him. I'll not do anything to keep him from Louisa. You must know that. We're all going to need some time to adjust. Right now, I'm sure he's waiting for us, so we'd better get to the Manor before he decides to come back to look for us."

With that, the two women and their tiny companion apparated directly into the family sitting room in Malfoy Manor. As it was the only spot in the building to which anyone – including family members - could directly Apparate, they were met by Draco and his father, both wearing nearly identical frowns of concern and confusion. Lucius' hand was clamped firmly but not painfully on his son's shoulder, preventing him from moving toward any of the new arrivals.

Hermione stepped toward Narcissa, reaching out her arms to relieve the older witch of her burden and enfold her daughter in a comforting hug. She whispered something into Louisa's ear and turned toward Draco. "This is Louisa. Louisa Granger Malfoy. As I'm sure you've figured out, she is your daughter. I'd hoped to tell you more gently than this, but that can't be changed now. I'm sorry."

Draco nodded his head sharply, acknowledging Hermione's words. He never took his eyes off the little girl who seemed to be staring at him as intently as he was at her. He listened as Hermione spoke again.

"Louisa, do you remember the pictures I showed you, the ones of the man I told you was away for a long time?" When the little girl nodded shyly, Hermione continued, "This is the man in the pictures. He is your Papa."

Draco's hand reached out of its own volition toward the little girl's cheek and a long, thin finger trailed along its pudgy contour. "Louisa," he whispered.

Two Years and Four Months Earlier

Draco shifted uncomfortably in the black leather chair. It wasn't the seat that was the problem; on the contrary, it was the perfect combination of support and luxury. It was the awkward silence that filled the room that had unnerved him. The man opposite him was waiting for an answer to the incisive question he'd asked, and Draco knew from experience that he'd not be allowed to skirt this one.

"Dr. Roy, I just have no idea how to respond to that," he finally admitted.

"How does it make you feel – to not have a certain answer?" he pushed.

"Confused. Frightened. Angry. Frustrated," he responded, listing the predominant emotions that were tying him up in knots at the moment. Draco's face twisted in an expression that was hard to interpret.

"Are you in pain?" the psychologist wondered.

"Physical pain, no. Emotional pain, definitely." He rose from the chair to pace; maybe releasing some of that pent up energy would help. "It's just that I don't really know how I should feel about her."

"Draco, there's no 'should' in this discussion. I'm just asking you to begin to consider how you'll reconcile your internal conflicts about her. There's no such thing as a decision, or a right or wrong answer to this. It's about what's going on in your head and your heart. Frankly, I'd be shocked if you did have a definitive answer to this now. It's just my job to push you to get there eventually," Dr. Roy placated and explained to the troubled young man.

Draco strolled to the window that overlooked the vast green expanse of the Boston Commons, shoving his hands into the pockets of the light tan trousers he'd worn. The enormous park in the center of the city was filled with people - strolling, jogging, playing catch with a little white ball and large leather gloves – in the waning light of the warm September evening. More than half of the people, men and women alike, seemed to be wearing some article of clothing that had a pair of embroidered red stockings on it. He wondered absently if it was some kind of club; he'd have to remember to ask someone.

"It's just that she's constantly in my head," he confessed without turning to face his counselor.

"Why do you think that is?"

Draco shrugged. "Don't know."

"What if you did know?" Dr. Roy pushed, employing one of the oldest tricks in the proverbial therapist's handbook.

Knowing that he'd not get away without a response to this one, either, he spoke the first thing that came into his head. "The dichotomy, I guess. What I did to her was so horrible, and what she did for me was so selfless, so kind, that it's nearly impossible to reconcile the two."

"But didn't you do something selfless and kind for her, too?"

"I suppose, but I wouldn't have had to if I hadn't hurt her in the first place," Draco argued.

"But that's the point, Draco, isn't it? You still didn't 'have to' help her. You could have left her there without helping her at all."

"That's what she said," he mumbled inaudibly.

"I'm sorry, Draco, would you repeat that? I couldn't hear you," the doctor pushed. He'd found that sometimes the most important information and biggest breakthroughs came with the patient's self-talk.

"That's what she said," he repeated, finally turning from the window to meet Dr. Roy's gaze.

"So why don't you trust her words?"

"It's not that I don't trust her. I don't trust me. I don't trust that I deserve her forgiveness. I know that I didn't deserve for her to speak up for me."

"Why not?"

"Huh?"

"Why do you think you don't deserve her forgiveness, or how she spoke up for you at your trial?"

"Are you sure that you're not the crazy one here, Doc?" Draco scoffed. "I raped her, and I nearly killed her. Of course I don't deserve her forgiveness."

"But she gave it anyway."

"Yes. But that says more about her than it does about me," the young man argued.

"Why do you think so?"

"Because it was hers to give, not mine to demand."

"Right. And?" he pushed his patient once more.

"And? I don't know. She gave it."

"So who are you to deny such a precious gift?"

The young wizard was speechless. Who was he, indeed?

"Look, Draco, she gave you that forgiveness with full knowledge of what you'd done to her and what you'd done for her. Is she a foolish person?"

"No, but..."

"'But' is a dirty word here, Draco," Dr. Roy warned, not unkindly.

"She's a little bit of a bleeding heart."

"So?"

"I guess maybe she saw me as one of her charity cases," Draco asserted.

"Is that how you see yourself?"

"I don't know. I don't think so."

"What does 'charity' mean to you?"

"Someone who can't help themselves, I guess."

"Were you able to help yourself out of that situation?"

"Which one?"

"Facing a prison sentence. Would you have gone to prison without her help?"

"I don't know. Maybe. It would have been much more likely if she hadn't testified."

"So whether it was charity, or forgiveness, or both, she still gave you that gift. She didn't have to; she wanted to. So she saw something in you that made her feel you deserved that from her. People usually don't give gifts they feel are undeserved, do they?"

"Not unless they feel obligated, like a cousin's wedding gift."

"Why or how would she feel obligated? Did you place any pressure on her?"

"No. I did apologize, but I don't think I ever specifically asked for her forgiveness. I know I never asked her to speak for me."

"Did your family place any pressure on her?"

"Not to my knowledge. They seemed as surprised as I was that she defended me so vigorously."

"So if she wasn't pressured, and she certainly couldn't have been obligated, she gave the gift of her own free will," Dr. Roy concluded. "Yes?"

"I…" Draco faltered, not yet ready to accept the doctor's pronouncement.

"Kneazle got your tongue?" the doctor teased.

"Fine, I guess I can intellectually understand that she did it because she wanted to, and that she actually doesn't blame me for what happened. My brain gets that. It's this," he placed his hand over his heart, "that can't quite comprehend. It hurts," he whispered.

"What hurts?"

"I ache, knowing what I did to her, and to so many others. All those dreams we've talked about, you and I both know that they're most likely memories. It makes my chest tight when I think about all those people that I hurt."

"Draco, I'd be worried if you told me it didn't bother you," Dr. Roy retorted. He rose from his own chair and clapped the young man on his shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze as he walked past to refill his ever-present coffee mug.

"Will it ever stop?"

"Completely? If you're as sensitive a soul as I think you are, probably not. But that's not to say that it will feel as crippling and consuming as it does now. Guilt is a little like grief that way. It dulls and diminishes, but you know it's there under the surface."

"Great," Draco drawled.

"Yeah, it is. That's your conscience continuing to guide you, and that's a wonderful thing. It's a life lesson that will never leave you. A costly one, mind you, but one that will make you a better man."

"Yeah, like that's real hard," Draco mocked.

"What do you mean?"

"Being a better man. I surely couldn't have been a worse one than I've been thus far."

"I beg to differ, Draco. You were used. Your body was not your own. Your mind was not your own. You did some horrible things, but someday you will come to terms with the fact that you were not responsible for those actions. If you had made the conscious decision to do the things you were forced to do, would that have made you a worse person?"

He reluctantly agreed, "I suppose."

"And in any case, the only thing a man can hope to ever be is better than he was yesterday, by even one small degree. Those increments add up, and before you know it, you've made real change, and real progress. I have confidence that you are capable of that, Draco. Now we need to work on getting you to believe that too." Dr, Roy sat again, setting his coffee mug on the glass-topped side table. "Now, are you ready to tackle my question again?"

"Which one was that?"

"No editing, no thinking, no brooding. Just answer the first three words that come to mind. How do you feel about Miss Granger today?"

He breathed deeply. "Admiration. Gratitude. Sadness."

Dr. Roy acknowledged his choices with a nod, and made a note in his file. "Thank you. Now, just one more thing before we finish for today. Have you been keeping in regular contact with your parents?"

"Yes, I try to. I generally speak with at least one of them every day over the Floo connection."

"And how is that going?"

"Fine. I've spoken a bit more with my father than with my mother, but they've both been supportive and helpful."

"Anything else?"

"Not really. It's just… I don't know. They both seem a bit…preoccupied lately."

"Why do you think that is?"

"I'd have to guess that they are dealing with my mother's return from the dead, and whatever fallout there's been from their defection from the Dark Lord."

"What do you think that might be?"

"I'd guess that most of it is pretty positive, but I'm sure there are some who will still doubt their sincerity and commitment, even after all the proof that Dumbledore provided. Some people aren't easy to convince," Draco observed.

"Do you fear that will be the case with you, too?"

"No, I'm fairly certain that people will still think of me as nothing more than a murderer and rapist. There are some who will never believe that I was under the influence of curses and potions."

"Does that upset you?"

"Of course it does. I don't want to be feared as someone who may all of a sudden revert to old Death Eater ways. I don't want to be stared at when I walk down a street as someone wonders whether I'll curse them on the way by. I want to be someone that people can respect. I want to be able to build a real life for myself someday."

"What do you think that might look like?"

"Right now, I have no earthly idea. I'm still working on getting through the day without wanting to hang myself," Draco replied, mostly facetiously.

"You haven't reached out to me for a couple of months with one of those major crisis events, Draco. Have you been holding out on me?" Dr. Roy probed, a little concerned at his patient's phrasing.

"No, Doc, I've not been holding out on you. I haven't really felt suicidal in that way since I left the cottage almost nine months ago. The two or three times I called you were in response to a couple of the more dramatic and vivid dreams or memories that really shook me. I haven't had a really bad one in about six weeks. I do think that talking with you about them has helped."

"Good. Just make sure that you do call me, anytime at all, if you feel anything like that."

"I will. I promise."

"Didn't you tell me that you also made that promise to someone else?"

"Yes. Uh, no. Sort of."

David Roy quirked an eyebrow in perfect imitation of his young patient.

"Granger. She tried to get me to promise her, but I didn't commit to anything, at least not verbally."

"I see."

"Look, I'm not really that desperate, Doc. I think I'm making a little progress in at least understanding what I'm thinking and feeling, and I know that offing myself is not a solution to anything. I'm thinking that atonement is a more appropriate avenue."

"When did that occur to you?"

"Uh, in the last couple of weeks, I guess."

"What do you think that might look like?"

"Again, I have no earthly idea. I just think that it would be the right approach. I haven't worked out the how or the who parts, yet."

"Well, there's plenty of time for that, Draco. For now, though, our time is just about up for this session. What else do you need to talk about before we part company for the day?"

"I can't think of anything else right now."

"That's fine. Let me give you some homework for the week. I want you to think about three things. First, what would 'atonement' look like? Second, if you could do or have anything you wanted for your life, what would that be? And finally, what would you say to Miss Granger if you saw her today?"

"Just the easy stuff, huh?"

"You've been making good progress, Draco. It's time to start tackling some of these bigger issues. You're ready."

"Thanks, Doc. I'll see you next week."

Meanwhile, in Wiltshire

Lucius anxiously paced his study while awaiting his wife's return from St. Mungo's with Hermione. This was to be her final prenatal examination before her rapidly approaching due date. He'd just finished a conversation via the Floo with his son and was certain that the boy had noticed his distracted unease. Only the Unbreakable Vow he'd taken had prevented him from blurting out the news he felt his son should know. The promise, however, compelled him to keep his peace.

The exchange with Draco had given him some hope for his son's recovery. It seemed that Healer Roy had helped him make some progress, particularly in dealing with the horrifying memories that had resurfaced in the form of nightmares. Draco had reported that he was sleeping better and hadn't been troubled with the awful dreams more than a couple of times each week. That had been a vast improvement over the three or four per night that had left him exhausted and cross. Lucius couldn't help but wonder how the news of the impending birth of his first child would have affected him. Would it have calmed him or, as Miss Granger had asserted, made him more distressed?

There was no denying that the circumstances of the child's arrival were less than ideal. It had been conceived in a violent act of rape, not in the marriage bed as would have been expected of the Malfoy heir. In most instances of this type, they would have insisted on the termination of the pregnancy and, if that were not an option for whatever reason, wouldn't have dreamed of acknowledging the child as a part of the family. These were not "most circumstances" however, and Miss Granger had been most insistent that she would not end the pregnancy. It was, apparently, in extreme violation of the beliefs with which she'd been raised. He and Narcissa had respected her position and, truth be told, would not have insisted upon that course of action regardless of her wishes. It was, in their minds, her decision to make.

The truly unusual twist was that they'd decided, with no real debate, to welcome both her and their son's offspring into the Malfoy fold with all the inherent rights and protections. To a casual observer, it would almost appear as though she'd married into the family or been adopted by them. The latter was closer to the truth, though there had not been any formal binding proceedings. They had seen to Miss Granger's financial security and medical needs and would, upon the child's live birth, establish the appropriate trust funds. It seemed the right thing to do after all she had done to ensure that Draco was not now wallowing at Azkaban for the rest of his natural life.

Lucius' musings were interrupted by the sounds emanating from the grand foyer. The carriage that had transported the two ladies to and from the Wizarding hospital was being cleaned and stored for its next use by the house-elves assigned to stable duty. He could hear the women talking animatedly as they rounded the corner to meet him.

"We have a lot to do in such a short time, dear. I'll organize a team of house-elves to help with the work once we've finalized your decisions," Narcissa stated.

Lucius interrupted their chatter, requesting to be brought in on the conversation. "What decisions, ma couer?"

"Oh, Lucius, we've had the most wonderful morning!" Narcissa enthused. "Hermione finally agreed to learn the sex of the child, and we're having a girl!"

Lucius raised an eyebrow at his wife's use of the plural; she had fully embraced the idea of this baby becoming a true Malfoy. "That's welcome news, dear. Congratulations, Miss Granger. I'm sure she'll be as lovely as you." He tilted his head in a gentlemanly bow.

"We need to complete plans for decorating the nursery, now that we know we'll have a little princess with us. Healer Glouzgal says that the baby will likely arrive in about a week, so we haven't much time to get everything ready," Narcissa told her husband.

Lucius turned to face Hermione and directed his question toward her. "Is there anything you require, Miss Granger, beyond the furnishings that have already been placed in the room?"

"I can't think of much, beyond a few outfits for when she comes home. There's already a wonderful cradle, a changing table, a rocking chair, and a large dresser. We can transfigure the cradle into a crib once she's a couple of months old. Narcissa has already filled the room with more toys than she'll need for her entire childhood," Hermione noted with a grin.

"Oh, Hermione, you need to check in the wardrobe. It's already been filled with appropriate clothing. I do hope you like pink," Narcissa said, mischief underlying her tone. "What we need to do is settle on things like the wall color, new carpeting, draperies, murals for the walls – a theme, if you will."

Hermione appeared to be a bit dumbfounded. She'd thought that the room was lovely as it was. The walls were a creamy white and linens of ivory eyelet decorated the baby's mahogany furniture and the windows. It might have been a little plain, but it was simple and elegant. "I really hadn't given it much thought, Narcissa. I thought the nursery looked nice."

"Nonsense, dear. Nice isn't nearly good enough for our first granddaughter. We'll spend a little time this afternoon looking through some magical design books to get some ideas. I'm sure we'll find something that will tickle your fancy," Narcissa assured her.

When Hermione's facial expression resembled that of a house-elf caught by a Stunner, Lucius intervened. "Don't argue with her, Miss Granger. I've learned over the years that it's wasted effort. Your life will be much more pleasant if you follow my lead and just say 'Yes, Narcissa,'" he advised.

"Well then, I guess we have our plan for the afternoon. Yes, Narcissa," Hermione repeated.

Ninety minutes later, after the trio had shared a lunch of cold meats, salads, and cheeses in the atrium, Narcissa and Hermione made their way to the nursery with a pile of design books floating behind them. A flick of Narcissa's wand duplicated the rocking chair and another transfigured the small night table into a larger surface where the books were now stacked. Narcissa held a parchment and quill at the ready to make note of anything that they decided to purchase or add to the room's decorations.

Hermione began to page through the first book, one based on the Wizarding world's equivalent of childhood fairy tales. While a couple of them were somewhat familiar, they didn't really strike her as something peaceful and soothing for her baby. She set that book aside in favor of another. This one featured magical beasts, many of which she deemed downright scary. She could not imagine having a babe wake up every morning to enormous, moving Hippogriffs. That, too, went to the rejected pile.

Narcissa had opened another of the enormous tomes and was paging through slowly. This one featured some of the creatures most Muggles would consider mythical beasts. Fairies, unicorns, nymphs, and winged horses (known to most as a Pegasus) flitted about the pages. Hermione peered over her shoulder and made a little hum of approval.

"Do you see something here that you like, dear?" Narcissa asked when she noticed Hermione's interest.

"Maybe. Those seem more gentle and appropriate for a little girl than some of these. May I?" she asked, holding out her hand to shift the book so that both of them could see it.

"The fairies and the unicorns are my favorites," Narcissa offered.

Hermione flipped between the pages, watching the magically charged images move much as they would when added to the walls of the nursery. She agreed with Narcissa that the two she'd mentioned were particularly pleasing. "The unicorns. They were a favorite of mine when I was a child, long before I knew they really existed. Let's do that," she decided, a broad smile creasing her cheeks.

"Unicorns it shall be!" Narcissa confirmed, shutting the unneeded books and vanishing them with a flick of her wand. "I was thinking that we could color the walls with just the faintest hint of pink, and have the unicorn theme run along the chair rail. Would that please you, dear?"

"That would be lovely. And maybe we could change the curtain color to be a slightly darker shade of pink than the walls, and make the bedding match. If it's acceptable to you, we could leave the carpet in this cream color. I don't want to the room to feel like we're living inside a cotton candy."

"Whatever you wish, dear, will be fine with me. I'll find a couple of stuffed unicorns to add to the crib, and a larger one for the corner of the room, just as an accent. How's that?"

"Perfect. It will be a room that every little girl would only dream of."

"I'll get the house-elves to work on it starting tomorrow. We want to be sure that everything is ready for when our little one comes home."

"I'm sure we have a few days, Narcissa. I'm feeling a little tired, but not quite 'ready' yet, if you know what I mean," Hermione noted. "She's going to want a few more days before she greets us, I think."

"Have you given any thought to a name for her yet?" Narcissa wondered.

"I've been thinking a bit, but I honestly thought it was going to be a boy. I don't know why. Now that we know differently, I'm going to need to give it a little more thought. If you have any family traditions that I should know about, I'm glad to hear about them," Hermione offered.

"Most of the first-borns in the Malfoy family have been boys, so there are some traditions that follow, but since the child will be a girl, there is not as much precedent to follow. Lucius and I would be most honored, however, if you would give her the Malfoy name as her surname. We are committed to acknowledging her as one of our own, regardless of the circumstances with Draco."

"Wouldn't that mean that it's more likely that Draco will find out? I'm serious in my commitment to ensure that he is not burdened with knowledge of this until his exile is ended."

"Not necessarily. You know that the terms of his sentence mean that he is not allowed to initiate contact with anyone in Wizarding Great Britain except his father and me. He's not told anyone else where he is spending his exile, to my knowledge, and it would fall under the Unbreakable Vow that we not tell anyone. He does not receive the renewed Daily Prophet, and even if there is a birth announcement, we can be sure that it is limited to a one-line item. He wouldn't be one to read such things anyway," Narcissa reasoned. "I think the secret would be as safe as it could be."

"I suppose you're right. I would certainly not be opposed to having my baby carry the Malfoy name. I would like to include my family name as well. Since I really have no family left, it would be a way for our name to continue."

"I'm sure that would be lovely, Hermione. Now you'll only need to determine her given name."

"I do have one idea. It's the name of an author. She wrote one of the first books that truly captured and fed my love for reading. Her name was Louisa May Alcott, and I've always loved that name. How does 'Louisa Granger Malfoy' sound to you?" Hermione asked, testing out the name aloud.

"I think it sounds beautiful," Narcissa agreed. "Now we just need to await her arrival."

"I promise you, Narcissa, no one is more anxious for that day than I am." Hermione vowed, stroking her robe-clad belly. "I've been lucky that it really hasn't been a difficult pregnancy, though I could have done without three full months of morning sickness, but I will be grateful to have this part of the whole mothering process done."

"Oh, love, I hate to tell you, but this is the easy part," Narcissa warned her, laughing.

"I was afraid of that. You could have let me have my delusions for a few more days, at least," Hermione teased back.

"Don't worry, dear. I promise you won't be alone."