Chapter 1 : Promises
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Draco shifted. He could hear the grandfather clock ticking in the living room. It was too loud in the silence. He didn’t know why he’d kept it for so long. He hated the thing. It had been a wedding gift from his father-in-law. Hermione had loved it, so they’d had to keep it. Whenever he used to pass through the living room, he’d glare at the clock. It annoyed the hell out of him, but his wife had always told him it gave the slightly boring living room character.
So why had he kept it? He didn’t have an answer. Not right now, anyway. All he knew was that whenever he looked at it now, he felt a swell of gratitude in his heart. Yes, he still hated it, but it was oddly comforting, especially in the middle of the night when Phillipa was sleeping deeply in her upstairs bedroom, and Draco found himself alone, sitting over tea that steadily grew cold as he became lost in his thoughts.
It was a nightly routine. He and Phillipa would spend time together in the living room. They would either watch television, play wizard’s chess, or just talk, and then he would put her to bed around ten o’clock. He would sit next to her bed for an hour, watching her sleep, making sure she wouldn’t have a nightmare, and then by eleven he would be down in the kitchen again. First he would have a few glasses of fire whiskey, but then, when the taste, which started off refreshing, became too sour, he would move on to tea, and spend the next hour or so staring out the window.
It had been a year since Hermione Malfoy’s death. An incurable muggle disease, they had said. Draco remembered the early days of her sickness. She had been in denial, of course. She had insisted at least a thousand times that she was fine, and whenever Draco ordered her to take it easy, she would grow so angry that she would not talk to him for hours on end. He would give her an hour to cool down, and then for the remainder of the ‘not-talking period’ he would apologise over and over again, until finally she caved in and broke down. She would then spend the next hour or so crying on Draco’s shoulder and he would comfort her, asking no questions and making no comments.
But then, as Hermione grew weaker and thinner, acceptance came, and the crying periods grew longer, sometimes lasting the entire night. Draco would lie with her, with no complaints, and brush his fingers through her hair until the sobbing stopped. Then he would pull her close and whisper words of love into her ear, and she would drift off to sleep in his arms. And in the morning, when she woke, he would be there with a tray of pancakes and coffee, and she would tell him she didn’t know what she would do without him.
Phillipa started to notice things then. At just nine-years-old, she was smarter than her mother had been at that age. She knew something was wrong. But Hermione hadn’t wanted to tell their daughter just yet. So it had been Draco that had told her while Hermione was sleeping. He had taken her up to his wife’s room and held his daughter as they watched Hermione restlessly toss and turn, moaning in stifled agony. Phillipa had cried. She had cried for hours, and had still been crying when Hermione awoke that night. She had beckoned her daughter over, and they had cried together.
During Hermione’s last days, Draco had not left her side, afraid that the second he decided to get up and shower would be the moment Hermione decided she could not hold on any longer. So Draco lay next to her, holding her hand, squeezing it every so often. But she could not squeeze back. She was too weak. He understood that. When it became obvious she couldn’t last another minute, Draco had taken her sallow, gaunt face between his large hands and whispered to her that it was okay, that she could leave now, that it was her time.
Hermione had requested in an inaudible, sorrowful voice to see her daughter one last time. As if on cue, Phillipa had appeared on the door, looking in on the scene with wide, sad eyes. Draco had beckoned her over, and she lay next to her mum, draping her arm across her bony stomach and nuzzling her nose into her neck. Hermione had laughed, and whispered to Phillipa that she was an angel, and she would miss seeing her beautiful face. Phillipa had burst into tears, but had found the strength to say that she loved Hermione.
With a peaceful smile, Hermione had turned to Draco and motioned his face toward her with a blink of her eyelids. He leaned down and pressed his lips gently against his wife’s. She whispered that she loved him. He whispered it back. And then she was gone.
It had been a slow transition process after that. Phillipa had had to go back to school after the Christmas holidays, and Draco had had to start back at his job at the Ministry of Magic. Arrangements were made, and the funeral had been held the following Tuesday at the church near Hermione’s childhood home. The guest list had consisted of nearly a hundred people. After the wonderful service, where Draco had spoken and broken down in front of everyone, Hermione’s relatives had approached him and encouraged him. They had told him she was in a better place. He hadn’t believed them at the time.
Phillipa had been different. She would spend most of her time in her room. She had been hard to wake every morning, and Draco would often hear her tossing and turning every night whilst he lay in his empty, lonely bed, in his empty, lonely room alongside hers. And then Phillipa would sneak into his room and crawl into bed beside him. They would fall asleep alongside each other. That had been their healing period.
Things began improving for Phillipa after that. She slowly morphed back into the bubbly, always-smiling little girl she had always been. She had told her daddy he should do the same, that Mum wouldn’t want him to carry on like a zombie. She had made him promise he would try to be happy. And so he had. But only during the day. He would wait until night, when he was alone, to continue with his grievance.
It had been a year since Hermione Malfoy’s death. And Draco hadn’t been coping at all.
Draco was startled out of his thoughts by a yawn that suddenly stretched his face. He rubbed his eyes and looked at his watch. It was one o’clock in the morning. With a sigh, he slid off the bar stool and placed his empty cup into the sink. He padded across the kitchen with his bare feet, and crossed the living room. The clock ticked noisily, following his every movement. He pressed his lips together as he climbed the staircase. He paused at the door of his room, and continued down the hall to stop at another door.
It was slightly ajar. He pushed it open, wincing as it groaned on its hinges. He poked his head around, squinting through the half darkness. The night light was flickering. It was almost dead. He crossed the room and switched it off at the wall. The room was suddenly encased in darkness. He then turned, and his eyes fell upon a sleeping figure in the bed. She faced the wall, and her curly, blonde hair was splayed out behind her on the pillow. He smiled at her unconscious form, his heart swelling with love. Words could not describe how much the sound of her deep breathing brought him happiness that nothing else could.
He watched her sleep for another minute or so, and was startled again by another yawn. With a submissive sigh, he turned and made for the door. The sleeping figure stirred. “Daddy?” Phillipa’s voice carried over the darkness.
Draco stopped at the open door. “Yes, baby?”
“Why is the night light off?” She was still half asleep.
Draco chuckled softly to himself and crossed the room again. He sat on the edge of the bed and stroked Phillipa’s cheek with the back of his hand. “You should be asleep.”
“So should you.”
Draco smiled to the darkness. “Go back to sleep, baby. I’ll stay here for a little longer.”
Phillipa closed her eyes, and her breathing deepened once again. Minutes passed, and Draco sat there, brushing her hair with his fingers, as he had done to Hermione during her last weeks. When he was sure his daughter was once again peacefully asleep, he stood and made for the door once again.
There was a pause as the little girl stared at her father. “I love you.”
Buried emotions swelled inside of Draco, and he swallowed them. He would not let his daughter see him break down. “I love you too, baby.” He turned again, telling himself that he needed to hold in his tears for just a little bit longer.
He stopped again. He looked down at his princess. “Yeah?”
“Leave the door open.”
Once he was in his room, he fell backwards onto the bed and brought the pillow to his face. He cried, then, another countless time, and didn’t fall asleep until the first rays of the morning burst through the hole in the curtains Hermione had meant to sew back up again before she fell ill. He stirred two hours later to the sound of pots banging in the kitchen. He rubbed his red eyes and showered, venturing into the kitchen with his work clothes on.
Phillipa sat at the table. She wore her school uniform, and she was eating pancakes.
Draco frowned as he took in his place setting. She had made pancakes for him too. He sat opposite her. “When did you learn how to make pancakes?”
“Mum taught me. She said I was going to need to look after you because you were hopeless at making breakfast.” Phillipa said, shoving a spoonful of syrup-drenched pancakes into her mouth. Draco ignored the sharp pang near his heart and poured the ready-made coffee into a mug. Phillipa watched her dad. “Why are you wearing your work uniform?” She asked.
“Because I have to work today.” Draco said around a mouthful of pancakes.
Phillipa frowned at him. “No, you don’t.”
“I have to work everyday, Phillipa.”
“But you’re taking today off, remember?” Phillipa said. Draco’s forehead creased, displaying the confusion he felt. Phillipa rolled her eyes. “You’ve forgotten?”
Phillipa sighed. “It’s Parents Day at school today. You said you would come and tell my class about your job.”
Phillipa nodded, looking slightly annoyed.
Draco suddenly clicked. “I did. I’m so sorry, baby. I did forget.” His face then fell. “Ah, I’ve got an important meeting today. I’ve been waiting a year for it to happen.”
Phillipa was now disappointed. She looked on the verge of tears. “But Daddy, you promised!”
Draco ran a hand through his blonde hair. “I know I did, Pippa, and I’m so sorry, but I can’t miss this meeting.”
Phillipa sniffed. “Daddy . . .”
“I’m sorry, honey.”
A clatter followed as Phillipa’s fork hit the plate. She pushed herself away from the table, knocked her chair over and fled from the room. Draco’s eyes followed her, and he sighed, pushing his plate away and resting his elbows on the table. He rubbed his weary eyes. “I’m such a mess,” he said to himself.
He found her half an hour later, after washing up and scrubbing down the kitchen, in her room. She sat at the bay window, clutching her favourite unicorn toy to her chest, tears trailing down her cheeks. He knocked on her door, leaning against the frame. She didn’t look at him.
“Phillipa, I told you I’m sorry.”
“Go away,” she repeated more forcefully.
Draco released a sigh of exhaustion, and closed his eyes. This was too hard. It was too much to cope with right now. He opened his eyes and glanced down at his watch. He deliberated. His eyes returned to his daughter’s. They were brown, just like her mother’s.
He had been asking himself for the past year what was really important to him. After Hermione’s death, he had become lost. He knew now that if he left for that meeting, Phillipa would never forgive him. Because he made a promise to her, and promises were everything to ten-year-olds. But he couldn’t just miss out on work. He hadn’t even given his boss an advanced warning. He sighed again.
“Come on, Phillipa, we need to go. Get your school bag.”
“No.” She said, her lips pushed out into a defiant pout.
“Phillipa, if you don’t get into the car right now, you won’t be able to watch television for a week.” He said forcefully. He hated talking down to her, but he had no choice. He was going to be late.
“I don’t care! Just go to your stupid meeting already!” She yelled.
“I have to take you to school.”
“I don’t want to go to school!”
Draco’s eyes narrowed. “Phillipa, get up right now.”
“I don’t want to.” Her voice was quieter again, but still loud enough to echo around the bedroom.
“Why don’t you want to go to school?” The anger pulsated through his veins. He tried to rein it in.
Phillipa whimpered. Draco sat opposite her, folding his arms across his chest. “Why, Phillipa?”
She sniffed. “Because everyone’s parents will be there.”
“Why is that a bad thing?”
She looked at him, her glare so forceful that Draco was taken aback. “Because you won’t be there and Mum’s dead!”
Her words stabbed him like a knife in the heart. He stared at her, his soul momentarily leaving his body. When it returned, he couldn’t breathe. He cast his eyes to the garden below, raising his hand to his face and dabbing at his cheeks. There were tears. He looked back at his daughter, and no words could describe the pain – the agony – her expression brought to him. A strangled sort of sob escaped his lips and he blinked twice.
She looked away, burying her head into her hands. He shuffled over and pulled her into him, encasing her little body into his arms. She resisted for a moment, but as her sobs became louder, she threw her arms around his neck and cried into shoulder. He cried, too, in front of his daughter for the first time in almost a year. It felt good to be able to let go of his pain the only way he knew how.
Draco pulled away after several minutes and patted Phillipa’s hair. She was still crying. “I’m sorry, Pippa.”
She sniffed. “I’m sorry too.”
Draco placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. “Do you want to talk about it?”
She shook her head. He stroked her wet cheeks with his hands, drying the tears to make room for the fresh ones. He watched her let go of her own demons. It wasn’t until over ten minutes later that she finally stopped crying, and took to sniffing. She fiddled with a small tatter on Draco’s pants at the knee, her eyes remaining down. Draco remained silent, watching her, waiting for her to speak.
Phillipa finally looked up at him. “Where are you, Daddy?” She whispered.
He frowned. “I’m right here.”
She shook her head, her blonde curls falling over her shoulders. “No, where are you? You haven’t been the same since Mum died.” The words were coarse as they left her mouth. She cleared her throat, blinking up at him.
Draco pulled a shamefaced smile. “I’m sorry, baby, but it’s been hard. I’m trying to be here for you, but . . . I just miss your mum so much.”
Phillipa pursed her lips. “Me too.”
Draco reached across and ruffled her hair. “We’re going to get through this, Pippa. We’re strong, you and me. As long as we have each other, everything’s going to be okay.”
She nodded. “I love you, Daddy.”
He pulled her into another hug. “I love you so much.” He said into her hair.
“We’re going to be late,” Phillipa said, a regretful note to her voice.
Draco sighed. He stood to his feet and reached for the box of tissues on the bedside table. “Clean yourself up. I’ll take you to school.”
Draco waited in the car as Phillipa got her things ready. It was almost nine o’clock when she finally hopped into the car. They drove off. They both remained silent for the entire trip into the small community where the school and church were situated. Draco drove up to the curb and switched off the car. He turned to Phillipa.
“Now, are you going to be okay?”
She nodded sullenly.
He reached across and tapped her nose. “Go on, you’re late.”
“Will you pick me up after school?” She asked as she got out of the car.
“I will, I promise.”
The look she gave him then made his heart break. She looked doubtful and upset. Like a child who had just lost her mother.
Draco closed his eyes, knowing his daughter would never trust him to keep his promises again. Right at that moment, his pager beeped, signalling the meeting was about to start. He cursed under his breath. “I’ll see you after school, baby.”
She closed the door and stepped away from the car, tears in her eyes. Torn, Draco waved to her and drove away, Phillipa’s small figure shrinking in the rear-view mirror, until she was gone. Draco tried his hardest to keep his emotions in. When he arrived at the Ministry, he was shaking.
He hurried up to the third floor and into the block of offices where he worked. Blaise Zabini, his best friend and work colleague, greeted him by the elevator. “Draco, thank Merlin you’re here,” he said in his fading African accent. “The meeting is starting in less than a minute.” He paused, “You look terrible.”
“Thanks, mate,” Draco said, fixing his tie and smoothing out his jacket.
“She’s fine,” he said curtly.
“Is she upset that you ditched her Parents Day for work?” Blaise asked.
Draco’s blue eyes snapped onto Blaise’s dark ones. “What?”
“I asked if she was upset. Freddie was really pissed off with me. So was his mother.” He rolled his eyes. Freddie was his son, whom he was also ditching for work.
Draco stopped dead in his tracks. He looked around him, at his colleagues rushing around, at Blaise, whom was prattling on about his wife’s ‘tendency to overreact’, and at the golden band on his left ring finger.
As soon as his daughter’s name popped into his head, he was done. “Tell Dohedra I can’t make it to the meeting.”
Blaise frowned. “What – have you got somewhere more important to be?”
Draco smiled. “Yeah.”
And he took off. As soon as he was in his car, he slammed his foot onto the accelerator and zoomed off down the street. He wound his way in and out of traffic, not stopping until he got to the wizardry elementary school. He parallel-parked his car illegally, and slipped out, snatching up his briefcase and rushing up the front steps. He was out of breath by the time he reached his daughter’s class.
He took a deep breath, regained his composure, and opened the door. The class was full of children, and each had their parents sitting on either side of them. They were all facing the front, where Harry Potter stood with his wife Ginny and their twin sons James and Sirius. As soon as Draco stepped in, all eyes turned onto him. He froze, glancing around again. He gave a nervous laugh upon seeing the disapproving eyes of the many parents he had grown up with.
“Typical Malfoy,” he heard Lavender Finnigan whisper to her husband Seamus.
“Always one to make an entrance,” hissed Colin Creevey to his wife Susan.
“He’s just lost his wife!”
“Almost a year ago!”
“Poor Hermione. She deserved better before her life was cut so short.”
Draco ignored them all, his eyes returning to Harry, whom he had made a truce with before his engagement to Hermione. Harry nodded, and Draco nodded back.
He was then knocked backward by something small but strong. He saw a flash of blonde hair, and a laugh immediately escaped his lips.
“Daddy, you came!”
He pulled Phillipa up into his arms and hugged her to him tightly. “I promised, didn’t I?”
She smiled and kissed his nose. “I love you, Daddy.”