I started writing this a month or so ago while writing two other stories. With one story done, it seemed like time for this one! I own nothing. I hope you enjoy it!
The cold winter air cut him to the bone as Draco Malfoy made his way through the streets of Diagon Alley. Tired, hungry, and worn out, he stumbled now and again on the cobbled stones. But his destination wasn't far away. "Almost there," he murmured, clutching the bundle in his arms tighter to his chest. "We're almost there."
The Diagon Alley Orphanage was in sight. If only he could force his exhausted legs to get him there. Just one street away, he stopped to rest. The baby in his arms, wrapped in warm blankets, stirred but remained asleep. "I'm so sorry, sweetheart," he said to her. After a brief rest, he got to his feet and continued walking.
He stopped once more when he reached the steps of the orphanage. It was a simple looking, two story building, completely unilluminated at this late hour. Dropping onto the step, he closed his eyes briefly before knocking.
The large, wooden door opened to reveal a stout, gray haired woman who looked more tired than he did. "Merlin," she exclaimed, looking down at the young man with a tiny baby in his arms. "What are you doing down there? Come in this instant."
Draco offered the baby to her before struggling to his feet. "Please. I need help," he said wearily.
She looked from the baby to the boy and nodded. "Come in, child." The old woman led him inside to a cozy front room with a blazing fire in the hearth. She insisted he sit, placed the baby back in his arms, and left the room. She returned minutes later with hot tea and a loaf of fresh bread. Draco accepted her act of kindness and ate until he was full. "I'm Mrs. Wilson," she told him. "I've worked the night shift here at the orphanage since it opened. It's rare that I get a visitor this late."
He set his cup back down on the side table. "I don't want to give her up," he stated.
Gray eyebrows furrowed. "How old are you, child?" she asked.
"Twenty-two," he replied. "And Grace is just over a week old. Her mother died during childbirth."
Mrs. Wilson took the baby from his arms once more and held her close. "Poor dear," she murmured. "I'm sorry to say that you're a bit too old for us to take in."
"I just need a place to stay for the night," he implored. "Please, Mrs. Wilson, we have nowhere else to go. I...I know the director. Could you call her and let her know I'm here? I'm sure she would say it's alright. Please, there's nowhere else."
She eyed him curiously. The son of one of the most powerful families in the wizarding world had shown up at her front door. It appeared he hadn't eaten or slept in days, and his chapped skin suggested he had been outdoors for most of it. His travel cloak was dirty and wet from the freshly fallen snow. But the baby he had brought seemed unharmed. He had done his best to keep her dry and warm.
"Is she yours?" Mrs. Wilson asked.
Draco nodded tiredly. "Will you call the director?" he pleaded. "It's just for the night. I promise. Then we'll move on. Find someplace else. The snow's just gotten so bad. I'm afraid she'll get sick."
Mrs. Wilson nodded; there was no way she could throw a newborn and her father out on the street in the dead of winter. "Alright, there's a room upstairs that's yours for the night," she told him as she turned on her heel to lead him there.
"Can I keep Grace with me?" he asked, fearful that she might separate him from his child.
A kind smile touched her lips. "Of course you can." He breathed a sigh of relief and followed her to a small room with a single bed. Mrs. Wilson explained that the bathroom was just down the hall, and next to it was a cupboard full of nappies and bottles. She would bring him a warm one for Grace's nightly feeding. "Now, for a bassinet."
"She sleeps with me," he stated.
"Of course," Mrs. Wilson replied with a gentle nod of her head. "I'll be right back with a bottle for little Grace."
She shut the door behind her and Draco took a seat on the bed. Grace was wide awake as she stared up at him. He tucked the blankets more securely around her and kissed her head. "I'm so sorry, Gracie," he whispered. "You're stuck with me. I wish your mum were still here. She'd know how to take care of you. At least we're warm though, right? And we're getting some food. Those are good things. I just don't know what to do after this."
The door reopened and the older woman entered. "Here you are," she murmured, handing the bottle to him. He adjusted his daughter and held the tip of the bottle to her small lips. "How have you managed to feed her this week?"
"The hospital gave me a few formula samples," he replied. "I've had to stretch them out to last this long."
"I'll make sure you leave here with a supply that lasts a bit longer, and before you leave the healer will examine her. Make sure she's well," she promised. "Good night, Mr. Malfoy."
He stared at the door, mouth agape. How did she know who he was? Surely the newspaper hadn't printed a story about his fall from prosperity. After all, his parents had cut him off, disowned him when they found out about Grace's mother. Neither of them would talk to The Daily Prophet.
"Maybe she recognized me from when I was a kid," he decided, moving Grace to his shoulder to burp her. "I was a terrible kid, Gracie. I hope you're nothing like me. Be more like your mum. She was great. Kind and smart and loyal. That's how I want you to be when you grow up."
Her eyes began to close as he held her against his chest, and so did Draco's. He fell asleep in a bed for the first time in a week. It wasn't the most comfortable of mattresses, but it was a welcome respite from a concrete step or a dirty alleyway. He knew it was only his for the night. Tomorrow, the nightmare would begin all over again.