Ok - so I'm sure those of you who are reading my other two WIPs are going "WHAT - WORK ON THE OTHER ONES!" Which I'm doing - I swear. I just had another random idea pop into my head while running on the treadmill tonight, and well, an entirely different D/H story came to mind.
Hopefully it peaks your interest just as the other stories have!
"No, no! We don't hit the kitty, Scorpius! We pet the kitty! See!" Hermione knelt down and grabbed Scorpius' wrist gently, moving his small arm slowly as she helped him pet the untamed orange hair of her cat, Crookshanks, as he continued to stay perched upon the ottoman in front of the large leather char. "Be nice to the kitty," she repeated gently, still helping him move his arm.
"Nice kitty!" two-year-old Scorpius whispered with a grin.
Carefully, she let his arm go and watched as he repeated the motion, repeating nice kitty with each stroke. Looking over her shoulder, she saw thirteen-year-old Anya looking unamused as she sat on the matching couch, mindlessly clicking through the television channels on the flat-screen in Hermione's condo in downtown London. "Are you hungry? I could fix you something," she said as she used the elastic around her wrist to tie up her long, curly brown locks into a messy bun high on her head.
"I'm fine," Anya snapped, her thumb still clicking away as she surfed the channels.
As Hermione stood up from the floor, she heard the girl mutter under her breath. "Excuse me - what did you say?"
Scowling, Anya threw the remote onto the couch and hugged her arms to her chest. "I said that I don't want to be here. I want to be with my mother! I'm sick and tired of being treated like a child!"
Hermione silently nodded, and quite honestly didn't blame the poor girl. If she were in Anya's shoes, she would have wanted to be with her mum as well. Butunfortunately, that wasn't a part of the plan. Sighing, Hermione watched as Anya stared back, a spitting image of her mother with her long black locks and almond shaped eyes. "I'm sorry," Hermione spoke quietly. "But this is what your father wanted and you know how he is."
"You don't need to tell me how he is because I know how he is! I know what he says!" Anya screeched. "And I don't care!"
A tow headed girl appeared from the hallway, carrying a handful of Barbies. Claire was six, and everyone always remarked about how much she resembled her late grandmother. "Why is Anya yelling?"
"She isn't," Hermione quickly replied, keeping one eye on the eldest. "She was just…voicing her opinion. Loudly."
Claire pursed her lips together as she pondered Hermione's words. "I think that's the same thing as yelling, Hermione."
She walked over to the little girl, bending down to drop a kiss on the top of her head, currently sporting two braided pigtails thanks to Hermione upon the children's arrival that morning. "What can I say…you're just too smart for me, Claire Bear."
"I know," she replied with a grin, before turning back around and heading towards the spare bedroom where the toys were kept. Hermione's condo wasn't exactly kid friendly, but it had acquired more kid friendly things over the past year, such as her old Barbie dolls she pulled from her parents attic this past summer.
She felt a tug on her hand. Turning around, Scorpius held up one of the toy cars she picked up at the supermarket last week. It was nothing special - just a small thing that she figured could amuse him when he was at her place. Last time the kids where at her place, Scorpius was running around with a Barbie in each hand and while Draco might not have known what a Barbie was - all he needed to know was it was a doll, and Malfoy men did not play with dolls.
"Car?" Scorpius said with a smile.
"Yes baby, it's a car," she said, lifting him up as she perched him on her hip.
"Car!" he exclaimed, driving the little wheels up and down her shoulder. "YaYa - car!"
Anya's frosty demeanor thawed as she looked at her little brother and his muggle toys. "Can you make a car noise?" she asked, taking a small step towards Hermione.
"Vroom!" Scorpius said with a squeal before he buzzed his lips together, using Hermione's shoulder and upper arm as his track. She ruffled his thick head of blond hair and nuzzled at his nose before pressing a kiss to his forehead. Looking back at Anya, she tilted her head to the side and opened her free arm. Anya was hesitant at first, but before Hermione could blink she felt the young teenage girl latch onto her, burying her face in the crook of Hermione's neck. Hugging her back as tightly as she could with one arm, Hermione kissed the top of her head and sighed. "I will talk to your father and see if he'll change his mind."
Anya sniffled, still hugging Hermione. "He won't. You know he won't."
"He might," Hermione offered. Of course, she might have to beat him into saying yes, but she wasn't going to tell Anya that. As Anya let go, Hermione passed the littlest Malfoy to his big sister and kissed the girl's temple. "I'm going to make lunch. Please keep an eye on him, ok?"
Anya nodded, holding Scorpius carefully. "Hermione I'm -"
She shook her head, cutting Anya's apology off. "You're fine, sweetheart. Your father should be back in a bit."
Inside the kitchen, Hermione opened the fridge and leaned into it for a moment, using the door to hide her face from the adjoining living room. Cursing Draco in her mind, her eyes scanned the contents of the appliance, looking for something the three of them would eat. Eventually she settled on grilled cheese sandwiches for the girls, and a hotdog for Scorpius. The child only ate hotdogs as of late - much to Draco's dismay.
"You can't find 'hotdogs' in a wizarding grocer. I have to into a muggle store to find them and it's entirely your fault, Granger."
Hermione peered up from her desk at the Ministry in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She'd recently took over the Improper Use of Magic Office once Ms. Hopkirk retired, but only after she was assured by Minister Shacklebolt that the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures would be left in good hands - those hands being those of Luna Lovegood. Draco plopped down in the chair in front of her, looking stressed out and exhausted, though that was his general mode of operation as of late.
"It's all he would eat," Hermione plainly replied as she went back to her briefing memo. "Why argue with someone who has a ten word vocabulary when you can make something that you know he will eat with zero complaint?"
"I'm just saying, it's irritating."
"I'm just saying," she mimicked, looking up as she peered over the memo. "That this is what happens when you leave your children in my care for prolonged periods of time."
"Yes Claire?" she answered, setting her grilled cheese and chips on a plate in front of her at the table in her small kitchen.
"After lunch," the little girl asked with a mouthful of chips. "Can we make Mummy some pictures to hang in her room?"
Hermione nodded at Claire as she handed Anya her place. "I'm sure I have some colors around here somewhere. And if not - we can go to the store ok?" Picking Scorpius off the ground, as he'd been following her all around the kitchen the moment she summoned the kids for lunch, she placed him in his booster seat and buckled the safety strap over his lap before pushing him up to the table. "It's a hotdog!" she exclaimed, placing the plastic blue plate and spork in front of him.
Scorpius clapped and kicked his feet. "Hot hog!"
"Dog," Claire said, exaggerating the word to her brother.
"Hog," Scorpius mimicked, stabbing one of the small pieces with his plastic spork.
Claire shook her head, her two blond braids flipping back and forth. "He's never going to learn."
"He'll learn," Hermione reassured his sister with a soothing rub on her back. "Make sure you blow on your sandwich - you don't the cheese burning the roof of your mouth."
Sitting in the empty chair between Scorpius and Claire, she looked at Anya who was picking at her chips. "Your dad says you haven't eaten much lately, but you do need to eat."
Anya looked down at her plate as she gave Hermione a small nod. Hermione did her best to focus on making sure Scorpius was actually getting pieces of hotdog into his mouth while keeping an inconspicuous eye on Anya. She wished Draco would get back soon, though in the same respect, the sooner he came back the sooner he would have news. But by all accounts both wizard and muggle alike - the expectations were not to be set high. In fact, the only expectation given was one that she knew he would refuse to accept.
Draco sat with Astoria inside a patient room at St. Mungo's, holding her hand as she ran her thumb gently across his knuckles. He felt guilty, allowing a dying woman to comfort him when he the roles should have been reversed. But as the healer reviewed the documents they brought with them from the muggle physician they saw the day before Draco chose to be selfish and allow his wife to comfort him. He was certain he was being punished for his misgivings. What other explanation was there?
Astoria had been at St. Mungo's since the day after Christmas after a bad spell caused her to faint. She also managed to break her arm in the process, but luckily a dose of skele-gro was able to solve that problem.
"Mister Malfoy, do you understand what I'm saying?"
His head snapped upright at the sound of Healer Nelson speaking to him. "I uh, yeah, no. Sorry. I honestly didn't hear a word you said."
Healer Nelson's shoulders dropped slightly as he looked at the man. "I'm afraid there's nothing else we can do for your wife. We can give her potions to make her comfortable, though muggle medicine might be stronger. We can leave that decision up to you. But…the best case scenario is six months."
"Nothing?" Draco said, appalled at the answer given to him. "All of the money and time we have spent and you're saying there's nothing we can do for her? My children need her! She's their mother!"
Astoria lightly squeezed his hand. "Draco…"
"I've poured so much goddamn money into this facility - I practically financed an entire wing of this godforsaken place and you're telling me that you cannot do anything?"
"Mister Malfoy -"
"It's preposterous! A bloody outrage!"
"Draco!" Astoria exclaimed, the strength and strain of her voice catching her husband's ear. He immediately turned around and she gave him a sympathetic look. He was fuming on the inside, but the look on his wife's face prevented him from saying anything else. She looked over at the healer and gave him a small nod. "So does this mean I'm stuck here until…"
Healer Nelson shook his head. "We can make arrangements at a hospice facility, or we can make you comfortable at home and assign a rotating nursing staff if you wish."
Draco looked at his wife. "You're coming home."
"Draco I will be fine at my place."
"No - you're coming home."
"I'm sorry," Healer Nelson interjected quite cautiously. "Do you two…do you not live together?"
Draco looked back at the Healer, his lips pursed as he glared. "Is it any of your fucking business? No. I don't think it is."
"It's complicated," Astoria said to the healer, giving her husband a look. "But if my husband wishes for me to move back home with him, then can we please process paperwork immediately? I'd like to be with my children."
"Certainly," Healer Nelson said. "I'll get everything ready - we'll release you tomorrow morning."
"Tonight," Draco said, his voice wavering just a bit as he spoke. "She's leaving tonight."
"Yes…um, right. I'll make sure we make that happen, Mister Malfoy."
As the healer left the room, Draco collapsed into the chair he had initially been sitting in, both of his hands now holding onto Astoria's. He heard her laugh slightly as she squeezed his hand. Looking up at her, he frowned. "This isn't funny. What could you possibly be laughing at?"
Astoria continued to laugh as she shook her head. "Everything, Draco."
Sitting in his office, Draco poured over case notes written up by two Junior Aurors from Potter's team regarding a raid outside of London when he heard the familiar tapping of fingernails against the doorframe.
"My lawyer is under strict orders from my parents not to draw up divorce papers," Astoria said with a snort as she leaned against the doorframe, her arms crossed against her chest as she looked as regal as always with her hair pulled back, wearing a simple grey dress with a short hem and long sleeves.
Draco put down his report and pulled open his desk drawer, grabbing a folder to extend in Astoria's direction. "Lucky for me - I'm in charge of my family. Therefore my lawyer can't tell me what to do."
She walked inside of his office and took a seat across from him, primly crossing one leg over the other. She opened up the folder and scanned through the terms. When she saw the amount of money he wrote down in terms of alimony and child support, she quickly closed the folder, her eyes wide yet she said nothing. It was too much by any stretch of the imagination, but with what she was about to tell him, none of what was in her hand was going to matter.
Astoria sat back in her chair, holding the folder firmly against her lap. "Draco?"
"Hmm?" He'd gone back to reviewing the case report in his hand.
"I went to the healer yesterday morning after I dropped Claire and Scorpius off at my parents' house.
Draco nodded as he continued to read, flipping to the next page. "Did you need to go the healer to have the pain in your ass removed? Because I thought that was the point of the divorce."
She laughed as he smirked, looking up from his report. Their marriage hadn't been working for quite sometime, and in a final attempt to save it, they had another child, which finally gave the Malfoy family an heir. It did not, however, save their marriage. It only exacerbated the issues between them. Of course, their marriage wasn't one out of love anyway - it had been arranged at birth. But neither of them wanted to remain miserable, so they worked together on having an amicable divorce and along the way, the two managed to become friends.
"Yes, well, aside from the pain in my ass that is you, I thought I was pregnant."
He paled at her words. "Astoria - if you're pregnant I swear -"
"I've felt like hell these past few weeks and exhausted to no end," she continued on. "I wasn't nearly this tired after Anya or Claire, so I went to the healer and prayed to Merlin I wasn't pregnant. Believe me - I prayed harder than I'd ever prayed before. That it was just exhaustion or something. Anything but a pregnancy."
Draco put down the folder and looked at his wife. "And?"
She laughed. "Merlin - the look on your face is nothing short of brilliant, Draco Malfoy. When was the last time either one of us slept in the same bed, let alone had sex? Because once I gave that a good thought, I realized it was impossible."
He thought about this for a moment, but it didn't lessen the thumping inside of his chest. "So…you're not pregnant."
"Definitely not pregnant."
"Then why am I sensing a 'but'?"
"Because it's cancer."
"Stop it," Draco demanded, squeezing his eyes shut momentarily as he spoke. She continued to laugh, much to his chagrin and only when he looked up at her with his red eyes did she manage to collect herself. "This isn't funny, Tori."
Astoria sighed, her free hand pulling the multi-print scarf that was wrapped around her head down a bit at the nape of her neck. "Believe me, Draco, I know." She let go of his hand as he stood up, leaning over her bed with an arm braced against the railing. He lightly kissed her forehead before resting his against hers. "Where are the children?"
She relaxed a little bit. While she wasn't Hermione Granger's biggest fan, she was better than the alternative - which included her parents, his father, and her older sister, Daphne. Astoria was a first hand witness to the evolving friendship between Draco and Hermione from the moment she transferred to his department four years ago, their offices next door to each other. While her name alone was a main source of tension during their marriage, Astoria knew that indirectly, Hermione was consistently making her husband a better person.
"You should go check on the children. I'm sure Anya is still furious with you."
"She'll live," he groused, and immediately regretted his phrase.
Astoria brushed his cheek with her hand. "They aren't going to have me ready to check out for a few hours and I'm tired. Let me take a nap so I can be awake for a bit when you bring the children home."
He bit his lips together, shaking his head. "I'll stay."
"Go," she whispered. "You'll need to talk to Anya and Claire, anyway. Have Hermione help you if need be. Merlin knows you have no tact."
Draco choked out a laugh as he wiped the cuff of his shirt against his cheek, removing the evidence of tears shed. "I have plenty of tact, Astoria."
"You don't, but we can argue about it later," Astoria replied, covering her mouth as she yawned. "Go. Check on the children. I'll have them send an owl when I'm ready."
Draco nodded, swallowing hard as he regained his composure. "Right. I'll let them know to notify me immediately."
"I'm sure you will," she said as he pulled the covers of her blanket up to her chin.
"Don't mock me," he warned softly.
"Would never dream of it," Astoria replied through another yawn.
He stood over her, watching for a few minutes until Draco was certain she was asleep. Carefully, he left her room, leaving explicit instructions with the nursing station for them to notify him with in thirty minutes of her check out time. Draco's tone was less than kind as he spoke with a snarl, but the nurses were understanding, nodding while writing down his directions verbatim. After all, he wasn't the first husband they'd dealt with who was told there was nothing left to do for their wife, and he certainly wouldn't be the last.
"I'm not fidgeting, Hermione."
Hermione pointed at the little girl's hands as they were pressed into the table, fingers spread apart. "Look," she said, pointing to the twitch. "That right there - that's fidgeting. Do you want to wear the nail polish all over your fingers or just the fingernails?"
Claire inhaled sharply and sighed. "Ok. I'm going to be super still starting…now."
Hermione eyed her for a minute, and gave her a quick wink before she continued painting her nails with the glittered pink polish. Scorpius was taking a nap in her spare room, having transfigured the sofa inside into a toddler bed with rails, and Anya was lying on the couch, blowing on her freshly painted nails while she wiggled her toes a bit as the cotton spacers between them were beginning to itch. Next to Hermione and Claire on the table were pictures that Claire and Scorpius drew for Astoria. Scorpius' of course was more random scribbles and Hermione was pretty sure there was more crayon on her table than on the paper, but she hoped that Astoria would like them all the same.
As Hermione finished the final finger on Claire's hands, she took her wand out and cast a quick drying spell so that they wouldn't smudge. "There you go, Claire Bear," she said, screwing the lid back onto the polish bottle.
Holding her hands out to admire Hermione's work, she wiggled her fingers as the light glistened against the glitter. "They…look…awesome!" She leapt out of her chair and gave Hermione a big hug. "I can't wait to show Daddy!"
The moment 'Daddy' escaped Claire's lips, the sound of the floo igniting in the study alerted the three girls in the front of the condo. Seconds later, Draco appeared, looking worse for the wear in Hermione's opinion, but he had a smile on his face as he removed his coat. "Can't wait to show me what?" he asked, squatting down to her level.
Claire thrust her hands into his face proudly. "Look how fancy my nails are!" she exclaimed. "Did you know muggles painted their nails?"
Draco laughed, shaking his head. "My mother-in-law is going to freak when she sees this."
"Well then let's hope she doesn't see them until Anya goes back to Hogwarts for spring term," Hermione replied. "Because she has it on her fingernails and toenails."
Claire wrapped her arms around Draco's neck as he stood upright, picking her up in the process. Hugging her tight, he walked over to the sofa and saw Anya staring at the telly, refusing to look at him. "Still pissed?" he asked.
"Are you going to get over it sometime today?"
"Nope," she replied, popping the 'p' with her lips.
Draco sighed, his nerves close to being shot. "Anya, I need to have a proper discussion with you, and if you wish to be treated like an adult then I will insist that you behave like one."
"Draco!" Hermione hissed, glaring at him as if he'd lost his mind. "Watch your tone!"
"Don't tell me to watch my tone with my own child, Granger."
"Watch. Your. Tone." Hermione reiterated slowly. "Don't lecture her about acting like an adult when you aren't acting much better. She's only thirteen. What's your excuse?"
He did his best to match her glare, but couldn't. Draco had nothing left in him. Kissing Claire on the cheek, he set her down on the couch with Anya and Hermione motioned for him to follow her back to her study so that they could speak in private. Shutting the door as she followed him inside, Hermione threw a silencing charm around the room and pocketed her wand.
"She's coming home," Draco said, raking his fingers through his hair roughly.
"Home? As in home - home?"
Hermione clapped a hand over her heart. This was the worst-case scenario she feared, not only for the kids but for Draco as well. "How long?"
He began moving his arms up and down, his fingers rigid as his breathing quickened, with each gasp heavier than the last. "Six months," Draco managed to say, the emotions he'd been trying to suppress for the past year bubbling to the surface with no way of stopping them. "She's dying," he gasped. "She's dying and my children – what am I going to do, Granger? I can't – I can't raise three kids – I can't do this alone!"
She quickly embraced him before he collapsed to the floor, somehow bearing the burden of his weight as he slumped against her petite frame, his arms wrapped around her as he choked out a sob. "Draco," she whispered in his ear, her hands rubbing up and down the length of his back. "Draco it's going to be ok."
"My children are about to lose their fucking mother, Granger!" he spat. "How is any of this ok!"
"I honestly don't know," Hermione replied, refusing to raise her voice. "How is she doing?"
Sniffling, Draco let go of Hermione, wiping his eyes once again as his emotions continued to betray him. "She's napping. They're working on getting her checked out, setting up a schedule for round the clock nurses to care for her. I need to talk to Anya and see if she wants to go back to Hogwarts or choose to be tutored at home for the remainder of the year."
Hermione nodded, making a mental list of everything Draco continued to rattle off, knowing full well he wouldn't remember it twenty minutes from now. "Anya has a week before term begins again," Hermione said, speaking calmly and rationally as he finally took a breath. "We can notify McGonagall and let her know of the situation, and make a decision later this week."
Draco nodded, clearing his throat as he wiped his eyes a final time. "Yes. That sounds like a decent enough plan."
"Decent?" Hermione questioned, nudging his face up with a slight tilt of his chin.
Rolling his eyes, he let out a small laugh. "Your plans are always more than 'decent,' Granger."
"That's better," she lightly replied. Reaching out to him, she rubbed a hand up and down his arm. "Do you want me to get Anya?"
"In a minute," he said, collecting his thoughts. "She and I had it out right before I came over with the children this morning. That child will be the end of me - mark my words, Granger."
Hermione shook her head. "She's scared, Draco. It's ok if she sees that you're scared too. It might make her feel…better, even."
"I was a mess at St. Mungo's, Granger," he said, sitting down on the edge of her desk. "I screamed at the Healer, I bellowed at a handful of nurses for no reason, and I cried like a child. I wasn't taking my daughter there to witness a breakdown," he spat, picking up one of the baubles off of Hermione's desk. "I should have been comforting Astoria, and she wound up comforting me."
Hermione nodded. "Astoria's a strong woman."
"I'm aware," Draco replied. "She's a hell of a lot stronger than I ever gave her credit for." He put the bauble back down on her desk, having no unearthly idea as to why she had several, heavy glass balls on her desk with flat bottoms. "The divorce was her idea, you know. Not that I didn't want it - we were fucking miserable together. I just didn't know how to go about it."
She didn't know what to say, so instead, she let him ramble for a few moments. As he picked up the same bauble again, he tossed it back and forth between his hands. "It's a paperweight," she said, reading the puzzled look on his face.
Draco looked up at her, extending his hand a bit so he could take a better look. "What on earth is its purpose?"
"I don't know…to keep papers from flying around I guess. My nana collected them. Those were hers, actually."
He put it back down again. "Muggles are so…weird."
She could tell he was now avoiding what he needed to do, because he was willingly discussing and thinking about random muggle artifacts. "Draco," she said quietly.
Sighing, Draco dragged a hand through his hair once more. "Will you…will you stay in here when I tell her?"
"Do you want to tell the girls at the same time, or individually?"
Draco wasn't sure. On one hand, he had no idea how Anya would react. She was his wild card, with her mother's looks and his awful temperament. Clara was the complete opposite, looking like a Malfoy but with a calmer, sweeter disposition. Merlin only knew what was in store for Scorpius, because all that was known at the moment was that he loved to play with the toy cars Hermione brought him and he loved to eat weird muggle food - like hotdogs. For the most part he was good-natured, but he had his moments where the Malfoy temper would make its presence known. Draco hoped that his son would eventually become an even blend of both him and Astoria, but only time would tell.
Telling Anya alone gave her more of an opportunity to lose her composure. Telling Anya with Claire in the room would give her some presence of mind to keep it together so that she didn't frighten her sister.
"What do you think?" Draco asked, locking eyes with the witch in front of him.
Hermione steeled her nerves and let her arms hang loosely at her sides. "Let's tell them together, and afterward, you and Anya can chat while I talk to Claire. How does that sound?"
He nodded, exhaling heavily. "Will you get them for me?"
As Draco watched Hermione lift the charm from the room and leave, he braced his hands against the edge of her desk as he looked down at his feet. He was certain when he told his daughters that their mother was sick, it would be the hardest conversation he'd ever have to have with his children. But now he had to tell them that she wasn't going to get any better. That all the promises he made that Mummy would get better, and the time he and Astoria spent this last year between the wizard and muggle medical communities hadn't made one bit of difference.
But none of that mattered at this point. All that mattered is that he had to find a way in the next thirty seconds to tell his daughters that their mother was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it.