Chapter 13 : The Saving Grace
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Chapter 13: The Saving Grace
Hermione nearly fell off of the stool in the cottage’s small kitchen at the sound of his voice. “Draco! You startled me! What are you doing here? How did you even find me?”
“Happy to see you, too, Granger. I followed you, of course; it was rather simple after I heard you call out Hobart Cottage. I must admit I have been curious as to where you have been living all these years,” Draco replied with a serious expression on his handsome face.
Then he winked, his customary smirk sliding into place once more.
Hermione let out the breath she had been holding, and quickly stood from her seat to fly into his arms. She buried her head against his chest, breathed him in deeply, and then wrinkled her delicate nose. “You smell like coffee.”
A hard laugh of genuine mirth escaped Draco’s lips, sounding foreign to his ears. “Ah, yes. I had almost forgotten that particular little quirk. You despise the smell of coffee, yet you yourself drink at least one cup every morning.”
“Well, yes. Coffee helps me to be more alert – tea is far too weak for that – and it tastes heavenly. The smell, however, burns my nose. It makes me nauseous,” Hermione stated defensively pulling away from Draco to look him in the eye.
Draco glanced down at the petite witch in his arms. She was lovelier than he remembered. Of course, he had seen her in her true glory last night… but now, seeing her with a familiar fire in her eyes, she was like a vision. His own personal happiness, personified.
“Now, now, Granger,” Draco decided to tease her a bit more, though he truly desired the answer, “who exactly is this Micah fellow? Should I be worried? You sounded rather friendly on the phone. Perhaps I should pay this school of yours a visit…” he allowed his voice to trail of as he glanced at Hermione’s face.
She looked a bit guilty. He was surprised by that.
“Micah is a man I have worked with for the past seven years. He was initially the school’s Biology teacher, but worked hard to receive his recent promotion to Vice Principal.” Draco looked puzzled at this term, so Hermione explained, “he is essentially my second-in-command. He, along with the Board of Directors, runs the school while I am away. He has been a good friend...”
Hermione glanced down and hesitated, absentmindedly playing with a rather familiar ring on a delicate golden chain around her neck. Draco felt a warm rush as he recognized the traditional Malfoy engagement ring that he had given her all those years ago. She still had it! He desperately wanted to comment on this, but he held his tongue and let her continue.
She let out a breath. “In the past year or so, Micah and I have attended several social functions together. I suppose one could say we have been casually dating. I have tried to maintain our professional relationship, and when Micah had proposed we become more serious, I informed him that doing so would not be beneficial for either of our careers. He was disappointed, but he agreed to accept my decision.”
Hermione met Draco’s gaze. His jaw was set.
He thought carefully about how he should reply. She had not admitted to much, but at least she had been honest with him. “I see. I suppose I should not have expected men to simply ignore you. You are more beautiful now than you were even sixteen years ago. Not everyone is as blind to your charm as I was when we were in school.”
“Oh, honestly. There is no reason at all for you to be jealous. Raising our daughter has kept me virtually too busy to date anyway. Besides that… it was not just any old bloke that I was looking for. I may have had dinner with the occasional man, perhaps even shared a few kisses, but I have never given my heart – or any other part – to anyone other than you, Draco Malfoy.”
Draco felt something inside himself burst at these words. Had she really waited for him? He was overrun with emotion. This could not be real. He had been living a mere half-life without her, and now that she was back in his life, now that Draco could hold her in his arms again… the tears spilled freely down his cheeks as he struggled to choke back a sob.
He could not – would not – lose her. Never again. If he did, Draco was fully prepared to face his death. I am sure the Weasel would not mind giving me a hand in that department, if it comes down to it. I could not ask Potter – he unfortunately claims to have developed a recent appreciation for sticking to the ‘rules.’ Rubbish. I give that nonsense… one week.
Hermione was trembling in his embrace. Draco looked her in the eyes, knowing that a dam was about to burst.
He was right.
Hermione pulled violently away as her body wracked with sobs. She sunk to the kitchen floor and cried; Draco let her be, knowing that she needed the time to herself to deal with her emotions. He wandered into the small living room, glancing at the various photographs on the wall. All of them were obviously Muggle… all but one.
He did not clearly recall when the photo was taken. It was a picture of he and Hermione during their time as apprentices at Hogwarts. Hermione was dressed for Scotland’s harsh winters in a heavy cream-colored down jacket, a red and gold scarf around her neck and red mittens covering her small hands. On her mass of curls she was wearing a gold knitted cap with a red pompom on top, courtesy of Molly Weasley.
She was laughing, her cheeks rosy both from mirth and from the cold. In her right hand she clutched a hastily-formed ball of snow, as the soft flakes continuously fell; some gathered on her delicate eyelashes as she turned suddenly and ran, dropping her snowball.
To the right of the frame, a much younger Draco suddenly came into view. He, too, was clad in his woolen winter cloak, with a black designer hat atop his fair hair and black-and-silver dragon leather gloves encasing his hands. An uncharacteristic grin showed on his pointed features, as he pulled back his own right arm and fired a well-aimed snowball at Hermione’s retreating form. She then turned and glanced at him with mock indignation as he ran over and captured her lips with his, both of them looking deliriously happy.
Then the scene would replay. It seemed like a lifetime ago. In a way, it was.
Draco sighed. So much had changed since those carefree winter days. That picture must have been taken mere weeks before he proposed and disappeared. Hermione had every right to be furious with him; in all honesty, he was surprised she was taking everything so well. He started to walk closer to the staircase, deciding to explore a bit.
Suddenly, he felt himself stiffen as the effects of a silent body-bind hex and stunning spell overtook him. He found himself toppling over. Now this is more like what I expected from my fiery witch, he thought. Luckily, as he fell backwards he landed on a relatively soft rug and not the otherwise hard oaken floors.
Draco waited. As he was prevented from speaking, there was nothing more he could do.
Hermione walked over to Draco’s prone form, seething, her anger at the man she had loved for most of her life finally coming to the surface “Now you listen to me, Draco Malfoy. What you did to me, what you put me through for sixteen years – I have never been more angry in my life. Harry is not the only one to blame, I see that clearly now. You are the man that I love and the father of my only child. You knew me better than any other person at that time in my life, knew me well enough to realize that if someone I loved was in danger, I would not want to be protected, I would want to FIGHT! ESPECIALLY AFTER WHAT HAPPENED TO MY PARENTS! I never got the chance to say goodbye to them, to avenge their deaths. I do not even know how they died! And then you, my fiancé of a mere handful of hours, go and get yourself killed! I was traumatized. You, Harry and Ron – you had no right to keep me from helping you! I do not want to hear any more excuses from any of you! In fact, I think I need some time alone. I am still madly in love with you, I am sure you know that, but I CANNOT just forget that you LIED to me for nearly two decades.”
She took a deep breath, and then started again. “For now… I am going back to Harry and Ginny’s. Given that I have been granted a leave of absence from the Academy, and it is currently Annie’s own Spring Break, she and I will be staying with the Potters for awhile; at least until I decide if I am returning to my post in California next Fall or if I am remaining in England.”
Her voice softened a bit as she hovered over him and looked Draco directly in the eyes. “I want you to be a part of Annie’s life, and a part of my own. I will marry you, you great git, if that offer is still open, but do NOT approach me about it. Do not demand any answers of me. I will do what I choose in my own time. You took sixteen years of my life, so... You. Will. Wait. Patiently.”
Now Hermione sat on the rug next to him. “I have let go of my flat in California, and all of mine and Anneliese’s possessions are currently in this house. I will be spending the next several moments packing necessities, and then I shall return and remove the hex. You and I will floo to England. We will tell our daughter that we will be enrolling her at Hogwarts starting next month, when the Easter Holidays are over. Ginny has informed me that her oldest son, James, is in his first year. Annie will likely be placed in her fifth. I will contact Headmaster Weasley – Percy will gladly see to it that Annie is brought up to speed before being sorted, and we can procure further tutoring for her during the summer months. She is a very bright girl, as I am sure you are aware. However… I have raised her as a Muggle. She knows now that she is a witch, but we will need to take her to Diagon Alley for a wand and school supplies. And I do not want to hear any complaints about any of this from you, or so help me Draco, I will not be held responsible for what I do to you.”
And with that, she turned and walked up the stairs. Draco was left once again to his own thoughts, his mind reeling with this new information. And yet, one phrase stood out clearly in his mind more than any other thing she had uttered in the past ten minutes, sending a new chill of regret deeply into his core – Hermione did not yet know what had become of her parents.
She did not know that they had indeed been pursued in Australia by a solitary Death Eater seeking glory, mere days before the Final Battle took place on Hogwarts’ grounds.
She did not know that the sudden shock at witnessing obvious magic had triggered something deep within, and had caused the expertly-cast memory charm to lift off of her father.
She was not aware her father had fought bravely against a wand-wielding mad man to protect his wife in their small house in Hobart, fueled by his love for his family and the memories of his only daughter.
She did not know that, before he was hit with the killing curse, Richard Granger disguised as Wendel Wilkins threw his body over his wife and whispered his love for both she and his daughter, granting his daughter forgiveness for her deception.
She did not know that Lucius Malfoy, assigned with delivering new recruits for Battle preparations, ran into the room and in a moment of clarity immediately disarmed and killed the nondescript rookie Death Eater, mere moments too late to prevent her father’s death.
She had no idea that Lucius Malfoy then took her mother, who had unleashed an agonized wail at her husband’s death and then promptly fainted from fear, up in his arms and then delivered her to the doorstep of the Australian Ministry of Magic with a note pinned to her vest stating, “Deliver to Miss Hermione Granger, London, England,” before apparating away to rejoin his once-Lord.
She did not know that the Australian Ministry did not do as Lucius requested right away, but rather kept her mother sedated in Sydney’s Merlin Memorial Hospital near Darling Harbour due to the uncertainty of the war’s outcome.
She was not aware that once Harry Potter was declared victorious, specialty healers at Merlin Memorial attempted to lift the memory charm off of her mother and were unable to do so successfully, therefore necessitating a transfer to St. Mungos.
She did not know that once St. Mungos realized the spell she had placed on her mother (combined with the effects of obvious recent trauma) was unable to be fully reversed, they were cautioned by various well-meaning members of the newly formed Ministry to keep she and her mother apart, lest she crumble even further into depression. After all, the Boy-Who-Lived-Again needed her whole and intact, faithfully by his side as he recovered.
And the last thing that she did not know?
She did not know that several months later, after staging his own death for her protection, Draco Malfoy learned of her mother being kept in St. Mungos. Needing to feel her around him in some form, Draco convinced newly-appointed Auror Harry Potter to release a still-half-obliviated Jane Granger into his care, where she remained to this day, and where he would spend several years nursing her back to health with his own private store of self-made potions. He placed Jane’s own memory of her husband’s death into a private pensieve, to be shared with Hermione on a future date.
Yes, there was much Draco still needed to reveal to Hermione. The question was, when?
*** Several Hours Later, Potter Manor ***
Harry Potter paced anxiously in front of the fireplace in his sitting room. Before leaving for Molly’s to collect Albus and Lily when it became obvious that their romantic weekend alone was not feasible, Ginny had received word that Hermione was returning to the Manor shortly. Harry was determined to be there when she did; he needed to speak to Hermione. He had to assure her – convince her – that everything he had done had been in her best interests.
And if that did not work? He would apologize profusely. Again. Grovel, if necessary.
First, however, he had to speak to the man he was grooming to take his place as Head Auror. After his conversation with Narcissa, Harry was livid. He could not condone what Draco had done. Narcissa had explained that the Dark Magic used on the paintings was not quite the same as the spell necessary to create a horcrux – but this did little to assuage his anger at the man he reluctantly admitted he had come to consider a friend.
Just then, the flames sparked emerald and Hermione stepped through, followed by several levitating trunks and Draco. Harry noticed Malfoy looked a bit troubled. Hermione glanced at Harry, glared at him, and stormed from the room. At the door, she paused and called over her shoulder, “I can see that you boys have things to discuss. Draco, I will be waiting for you in Annie’s room. I will explain Hogwarts to her. Harry, I know that you are under the impression that what you kept from me was for the best. I am not sure yet that I can forgive you, but I trust that you will eventually see that that way of thinking is utter bollucks and you will know when to seek me out to apologize. If you are lucky, I will be in a forgiving mood.”
And then the men were alone.
After several tense moments, Draco decided to break the silence. “So, Potter. Do I need to file an official report as to my whereabouts now that I am once again on Ministry payroll, or will an oral report to their Golden Boy suffice?”
Harry released the breath he had been holding and turned toward the door. “Enough rubbish, Malfoy. I am not in the best of moods. Come, I need to speak with you. In my office.”
He led Malfoy down an elegant wood-paneled hallway, stopping at a set of stained-glass French doors. Harry unlocked them with his wand, and then stepped inside the large study, taking a seat in the leather chair behind the opulent mahogany desk. He held his head in his hands, elbows resting on the desk’s surface. Without looking up, Harry indicated that Malfoy should take a seat in the red leather armchair across the room at Harry’s left.
Draco, finding no objections nor need for his typical sarcasm, did so in silence.
Without preamble, Harry cast muffliato and sighed before he looked up. His emerald gaze bore into Draco’s silver one. “The spell you used to enchant your dragon paintings. Your mother was hesitant to discuss it with me, and I did not push her. I won’t allow you the same luxury. Tell me the truth or spend the rest of your life in Azkaban, wishing you had. Now,” he commanded in a tone Draco had never before heard.
Well, well. I had almost forgotten. Underneath that goody-goody Gryffindor exterior is a true leader. Perhaps Potter has the makings of a fine Minister worthy of my allegiance… or at least respect…
Draco answered to the point. “My father stumbled upon this spell while reading a diary hidden in the Manor by his grandfather. The spell, which I am bound by oath not to utter, did not require a human death, but rather just a powerful and absurdly painful blood oath. Instead of acting as a tie to physical immortality for the Malfoy men, the souls were bound to the women they protected. In his fear of what was surely to come, and his determination to protect my mother at all costs, Father enacted this ancient magic and later taught the procedure to me. It is a man’s duty to protect the woman he loves through any means necessary. You of all people should know this, Potter.”
Harry jumped up from his seat and began to pace the room, absentmindedly running his hands through his hair. “Blast it, Malfoy! You have been dealing in Dark Magic! How am I supposed to trust you as my Head Auror if you continue to disregard Auror code!? How am I supposed to defend you to all of those who will fight against me when I announce your appointment, if they are proven right that you have not changed!? And more importantly, how can I trust you with my best friend’s heart after this? I should lock both you and your father up in Azkaban for keeping this from me. But Merlin help me, Draco, I love Hermione and I cannot take you away from her again. She is right. What we did to her, what we are still doing to her, it is wrong. She needs to know everything. She deserves the truth.”
“Potter. If we lose her…”
“I don’t believe it will come to that. Someone I greatly admire once told me that the ones we love, they never really leave us… I believe that to be true. Hermione will always be a part of my life. Always. We are Aurors, Malfoy. Let’s do the honourable thing. I will coax Hermione into the kitchen for some tea. Ginny should be home soon, and Anneliese can spend some time getting to know Al and Lily. Go. Bring Jane. She has recovered enough of her memories now. Meet us for tea in half an hour.”
Harry did not leave Draco any room to object before turning and leaving the room. Draco sighed, realizing that the raven-haired man was right. Again. There was no sense in further prolonging the inevitable.
It was time for mother and daughter to reunite.
A/N: Whew. Well, what did you think? I really appreciate all of you who read and review! Only 2 chapters left, and then the epilogue! I may also write a prequel to this story, from Draco’s POV… Happy reading!
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