Author's Note: Adventures in future tense… I recommend listening to 'He Dreams He's Awake' by Stars while reading.
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She will be three and named for both grandmothers, and she will play in the rambling ruins of the Manor gardens with the raucous abandon of ignorance. He will watch her with wondering eyes; her blonde hair flying out behind her, her pinked cheeks and her sturdy legs, and Hermione will watch him as he does.
He is in a white Oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled up, only a faint trace of darkness on his left forearm, his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his dark grey trousers. He will be a little taller than the six foot he was at sixteen, with the solid build of a man instead of a teenager's ranginess, and his fringe will flutter pale over his forehead in the warm summer breeze.
His eyes will be riveted to the small girl tugging at the overgrown ivy on a garden wall in great, green fistfuls, grinning wildly as she strips away leaves, and he will seem very distant. Hermione will think Draco is like a ghost beneath the sun, standing in this old haunt of both childhood and evil, and she will feel a sudden need to root him to the earth.
Her hand will slide down the plane of his back as she comes up behind him, and she will feel the lean lines of muscle flex and shift as he reacts to the unexpected touch.
"Rose is having fun," Hermione will comment, as though it is just another day out, and not the first time Draco will have laid foot on the property since he was sixteen and his mother's ashes were sprinkled on these gardens. Ten years, but still this place and the past it represents will hang over Draco like a dark cloud - but today, Hermione will have hope the skies will clear for him. He will summon a distant smile in return as Hermione moves up and smiles at him, and his arm will come around her, tugging her to his side as a pent up breath whooshs slowly out of him.
"She doesn't know," he will say as they watch Rose Narcissa Malfoy tear down long strips of ivy and laugh. And Hermione will lean into her husband and feel his heartbeat drumming steady, her eyes on their daughter.
"Then we'll tell her, when she's old enough to understand." She will fist her hand in the back of his shirt, sun-warmed cotton crumpling in her grip, and shift and lean to kiss the line of his jaw. "And it will change nothing. She will still enjoy the gardens." Hermione really means that Rose will still love her father, and that the memories, vivid to Hermione and Draco, will only be a story to the little girl. A whisper and a sound, toothless and empty of poison, because the past is past and holds no power except that which they give it. Hermione will have learnt that at age twenty-six, through necessity and a peace that Draco has given her, but not found himself.
"Life will go on," she will tell her husband with quiet reassurance, and he will look down at her then with his eyes the colour of rain-swollen clouds, and nod once, decisive acceptance. He will not smile, but then he rarely does for anyone but Rose; he would not be Draco if he smiled easily.
His mouth will meet hers then, a chaste press of warm, firm lips, that will deepen as Hermione's lips part and his tongue dips in between them fleetingly. Hot shivers will run through her blood and bones and make her feel feverish beneath the bright wash of sun as their mouths meet and meld and his intoxicating scent fills her nostrils. A hand fisted in his shirt and the other laid to his cheek and the rasping stubble will tickle her palm. His hand cradling the back of her head, the other arm locked around her waist. He will hold her both very tightly and as if she is made of glass, and she will feel the small, hard swell of her four month pregnant belly between them.
And then Rose will come running up and they will break the kiss as she declares the Manor grounds 'splendifewous', because she will be her mother's daughter, and Hermione and Draco will share a rueful glance, his lips twitching with a trace of a smile as she grins widely. They will part reluctantly as Rose clings to Draco's leg, a child-sized limpet, and he will take their daughter up into his arms and kiss her blonde head. Hermione will watch Draco, talking to their daughter and smiling, grey eyes alight with happiness and the sun, and her heart will swell with tenderness and undeniable want.
"How would you like to go to Uncle Harry and Auntie Ginny's this afternoon, to spend the night, sweetie?" she will ask her daughter leadingly, licking her thumb and swiping a smudge of dirt off the three-year-old's cheek.
"Yes yes yes!" her daughter will crow, clapping chubby stars of hands together; she is always happy to stay a night with Harry, Ginny, and cousin James, as they are always happy to have her. Draco will give Hermione a knowing look and a smirk will shape his lips, a wicked gleam entering his eyes, and her stomach will slowly, deliciously curl.
"Your mother would be so happy for you," Hermione will say as they wend their way through the overgrown gardens back to the apparition point, Rose balanced on her hip and her free hand intertwined with Draco's. He will clench his jaw and blink down the well of emotions, shoot her a quick glance and nod as his hand squeezes hers tighter.
"She would," he will say in a tight, rough voice, and clear his throat. "I'm glad we came," he will admit, and then smirk weakly at the next part, his wry intonation belying the emotion she knows he feels. "And I'm glad we're leaving now, too."
"Shall we come back next year?" Hermione will ask tentatively, because today is Narcissa Malfoy's birthday, and she thinks it is important for Draco to come to this place filled with so many happy memories of his mother and his childhood, which should not be tainted by the bad. He will draw her and Rose tight into the circle of his arms at the apparition point, and his eyes will be steady on hers.
"I don't know. But we have time to think about it before we have to decide. Plenty of time, Hermione."
She will nod and smile sheepishly, because she knows it annoys him when she tries to plan unnecessarily far ahead. "You're right; there's no hurry."
"Huwwy!" Rose will echo. "Huwwy, daddy, huwwy! I want to go home and get weady to go see Uncle Hawwy and Auntie Ginny and Jamie!" Draco will lift an eyebrow at Hermione in exasperated amusement, because Rose is also her mother's daughter in that she loves the Potters, and while it will annoy Draco far less than it would have ten years ago, it still grates on his sensibilities. Hermione will nearly always drop their daughter off at Harry's by herself; Draco can rarely be dragged there, although he is civil when he sees the Potters. But he will not show any sign to Rose that he has no love for them, merely accede to his daughter's wishes with a small sigh.
"Yes, Rose," he will say obediently and she will smile, and then they will spin and twist away, leaving the gardens and the old manor behind, back to their small cottage in Merrymeet where none of the past lingers to poison the air.
Hermione will think of time and choices as she opens their white front door, and will remember a sixteen-year-old Draco, with a feeling that makes her chest ache in a way she cannot describe. But she will set Rose down and draw the living room curtains back and open the windows, and the sun will come streaming in and so will the breeze, bringing with it the scent of summer grass that fills the house. And Draco will stand at the doorway to the lounge, leaning with loose-boned ease against the doorframe, and he will watch her with a rare smile on his lips. Hermione will think of time and choices, and of the twenty-six-year-old Draco who stands before her, with a feeling that makes her chest ache in a way she cannot describe.
And she will smile at him, and then maybe they will meet in the middle of the room and kiss, while their daughter stares out the window at the rain-threatening clouds that are the same colour as her curious eyes.
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Author's Note: This story began as a plot bunny a wonderful reader gave me, which was more crack-fic material than anything serious. It was meant to be only 10,000 words or so, and has finished up at around 50,000, as it took on a life of its own as I wrote, and has evolved into something entirely different than what I originally pictured.
It has, surprisingly to me, been my favourite story to write, and I'm really rather proud of what it has become. I hope you have all enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
And thank you so much to all my readers; I appreciate your favourites, follows and reviews immensely.
I shall start working on The Just World Fallacy again now :D