Chapter 15 : Secrets Stumbled Upon
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Everything changed after that Halloween. Those tiny, barely discernable movements managed to jolt Hermione like nothing else had. Suddenly, the baby became her baby, and the concept of her impending motherhood finally managed to seep beneath the hard, steel exterior she had placed guard on her heart.
Despite the countless appointments with her Healer, the long talks with Dumbledore, her friends, even Draco, the concept of the baby had remained firmly theoretical. Now, with the little pattering kicks drumming across the inside of her midsection, her baby was a physical reality. And, most importantly, it was hers.
With her newfound acceptance blossoming happily, Hermione found her life falling into a pleasant, comfortable routine once more. That had been, perhaps, what she had resented the baby the most for: her loss of simplicity and routine. When she had learned of her pregnancy, her life became unpredictable and confusing. Nothing had been familiar; all she seemingly had in front of her was a great expanse of unknown. But those kicks, those kicks anchored her. Once more, she had found her reality and finally she was ready to embrace it.
Now each day unfolded in blissful consistency. She awakened from dreams no longer wrought with fear, panic and turmoil. She assessed her day’s schedule, showered, dressed, and, ever patiently relentless, knocked on the Head Boy’s door.
Draco Malfoy had been observing Hermione from afar during the weeks following the incident on Halloween, watching her abrupt change in attitude with nothing short of reverence. Of course, he would never admit that to anyone. It was hard enough to admit it to himself…
Every morning he dutifully performed her concealment charm. Considering the fact that they were guaranteed to spend at least five minutes a day together, it was downright impressive how little they had managed to say to one another over the time. The charm was performed in relative silence. They spoke only when it was absolutely necessary, but usually retreated back to comfortably ignoring one another’s presence.
After that night, Hermione had declined to speak to Draco for the rest of the weekend. She barely left her room, preferring to stay in bed, her stomach unconcealed, to sort through all of her teeming thoughts.
Draco followed suit. It would be a horrible lie to say he had been unaffected by the events of the 31st. No, he had been quite relieved when Hermione had shown no signs of wanting to talk – he didn’t think he was quite ready for that.
Instead, he too retreated to his room. However, comfortable routine was not what befell him. Pacing his Saturday and Sunday away, Draco spent his sleepless nights drowned in confusion. He had been so sure, so calm and capable, and yet now he was nothing if not doubtful and indecisive.
That Monday, he observed her carefully from a distance. She was new. She had a look on her face he was sure he had never seen before; he was familiar with all of her looks. This one was poised and sanguine – something he had not detected in her expression in months, if ever.
He was… intimidated by this Hermione Granger. He didn’t know how to speak to her, to treat her. And with the extended bout of silence following the incident, it was far easier to remain silent than start up conversation again.
And so they remained silent. Draco lost as to how to approach her, Hermione indifferent to being approached.
On Friday the 21st, however, their silence was, quite suddenly, interrupted.
It began with two nondescript notes arriving in front of each of them at the breakfast table. Professor McGonagall was requesting they meet her before morning lessons as she had something to share with them both. Hermione wondered vaguely what her Head of House could want to say; Draco grumbled impatiently with the thought of having to be in the same room as her for another five minutes out of his day.
As it turned out, the Professor had something rather important to inform them of.
“Miss Granger, Mr. Malfoy,” she began, eyeing them each from above her lowered spectacles. “This December, Hogwarts will be throwing its first Wintertime Waltz in celebration of not only the Dark Lord’s defeat, but a newly free wizarding world. We will be extending invitations to our international friends from Durmstrang and Beauxbaton and, obviously, this has the makings to be a very momentous event.”
She paused as if waiting for a response.
“Erm, that sounds excellent, Professor,” said Hermione uncertainly. Draco nodded his head ever so slightly.
“Indeed, well, as Head Boy and Girl, you both will play significant roles in the preparation for this evening. You are the representatives of Hogwarts’ students and, with our international guests present, it is paramount that you make a strong impression.”
“What exactly does ‘making a strong impression’ entail?” asked Draco skeptically.
“This is an opportunity for you two to learn to work together. So, naturally, you’ll be in charge of the decorations, the preparation of the castle, the menu, and, of course,” her eyes flashed, “you will lead the ball.”
Draco coughed, “And what does that mean?”
“Come now, Mr. Malfoy,” she said sternly, checking her watch, “Don’t ask me unnecessary questions. You two should be off to class now. I’ve got my first years in but a minute’s time.”
She hurried to her feet, ushering the thoroughly confused Heads out her office door.
“Oh and the date will be the twentieth of December,” called McGonagall down the corridor as she rushed off to her classroom. “Professor Dumbledore will be announcing it to the school tonight.”
The Heads stared absently at her retreating form, both a bit shocked by this sudden demanding addition to their lives.
“Come on, Granger,” said Draco gruffly. “We’re going to be late for Arithmancy…”
The two sprinted up four flights of stairs and down the fifth floor corridor, stumbling into the classroom and taking the last two seats at the back just as the bell trilled.
Hermione was breathing quickly, her cheeks flushed as she pulled out her notes and a quill. Draco leaned back in his chair, desk empty as Professor Vector drew a large number seven on the blackboard and began her lecture on its magical significance.
Glancing sideways at Hermione’s rigid form as she began scribbling down notes, Draco wrinkled his brow.
Draco, you’re being ridiculous. What are you afraid of her or something? A Slytherin afraid of a Gryffindor? You’re pathetic. Do something!
Steeling another glance, he reached into his bag and pulled out a loose sheet of parchment and his handsome eagle feather quill. On the pretense of taking notes, he wrote out a few lines and, waiting for Professor Vector’s back to be turned, lobbed the note over onto Hermione’s desk.
She stared at it for a moment, shocked after being so abruptly interrupted from her enthusiastic note taking. Understanding what it must be, she stole a look over at Draco. He was, amazingly, bent diligently over his own parchment – a rare sight indeed.
Looking back at the note, she unfolded it and took in its few lines.
So, a ball. Any clue what this “leading” business is supposed to mean?
Hermione raised her brows at the casualness of his tone. It was as if the weeks of ignoring one another’s existence had never even happened…
Picking up her own quill she scratched her reply and tossed it hastily back to Draco.
Well it’s obvious isn’t it? It’ll be just like the Yule Ball was… you know, people leading the ball. Honestly, Malfoy, you DO ask unnecessary questions!
Draco could just hear the words coming out of Hermione’s mouth, prissy and waspish. He grinned slightly and reached for his quill.
Excuse me, Granger. I forgot – you’ve done that before. Krum, wasn’t it?
Oh, like he doesn’t remember perfectly, she thought, giving a derisive snort.
Yes, Krum. Very good, Malfoy. You must have gone with Parkinson no doubt. Can’t say much for your taste… not a very pleasant girl, is she?
Draco smiled remembering how Pansy’s face had been contorted with rage at the Halloween party. Yes, “pleasant” wouldn’t exactly be the most fitting word…
Oh, come on, Granger. Give the girl a break, she was only jealous. And rightly so.
Hermione glared at him.
I’ve been jealous before, but I’ve never gone and verbally abused someone in public. She’s psychotic. And plus, I don’t know what she was even so worked up about…
Draco’s eyes flashed, a grin spreading across his face as he read.
OBVIOUSLY, she was jealous because she worships me and I haven’t given her the time of day in months. Also, I was there with another girl (hint, hint, you) and, I expect, she realized you looked better than her.
Hermione’s eyes went very wide. He thought she had looked better than Pansy? How was she supposed to respond to that?
Oh, I looked better did I? What a load of rubbish. Your silver tongue won’t work on me, Malfoy. I’m not a member of your blithering fan club, I’ll remind you.
He poked his tongue into the side of his cheek to stop himself from laughing. He had gotten her all hot and bothered. Perfect.
Someone needs to learn to take a compliment gracefully. You are leagues above her in the looks department, Granger. I wonder how you’re going to respond to that one…
Hermione’s mouth tightened and she shot a look up at Draco. He had turned in his seat to face her, smirking. She was sure he was baiting her, waiting for the perfect opportunity to humiliate her. She was determined not to give it to him.
I know how to receive compliments that are genuine, Malfoy. I’m sorry to say, my willingness to fall for your “niceties” is limited.
He raised his brows at her. The parchment was already half-filled with their quick scrawls – hers precise and loopy, his heavy and slanting. He was astounded at how easy it had been to start up conversation again. He felt himself falling back into his usual cocky self-assuredness.
Tut, tut, Granger. And here I was, earnestly trying to express my admiration… You are too calculating for your own good. Maybe next time you will be more receptive.
Hermione stared at his words, quizzical. What did he mean “next time”?
What do you mean “next time”, Malfoy?
He smiled at her confusion. Now they were getting somewhere.
And supposedly I’m the one who asks daft questions! I trust you were present in our meeting with McGonagall? Wintertime Waltz? Ring any bells?
Hermione shot him a look of reproach.
Yes, I was there, Malfoy. What has that got to do with you “expressing your admiration” or whatever ridiculous thing it was that you said?
She was getting frustrated now. He noted with satisfaction that her cheeks were once again tinged with pink.
Well, I’m guessing the Wintertime Waltz will require more formal attire than a school uniform… I’m merely looking forward to seeing what you look like when you put in a TAD bit more effort.
She opened her mouth in indignation, looking furiously over at him. He was grinning, putting a finger to his mouth to shush her mockingly.
You are vile. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing if a nice pair of dress robes will mask the innate ugliness of your person. My Galleons are on no…
Draco grinned even broader, glancing back at her. She had turned her face resolutely forward on the pretence of taking more notes.
Now, now. Those are harsh words, Miss Granger! And here I am trying my very hardest to be nice…
Hermione gnashed her teeth.
You are so full of it. Trying to be nice, were you? For your information, nice doesn’t normally encompass insulting someone’s personal appearance.
Draco could barely suppress his burgeoning smile. He had gotten her right flustered.
Hmm, well, as I remember it, I tried repeatedly to compliment your appearance, but you wrote me off. For someone who thinks they know about being nice, you certainly don’t put it to practice very often.
Taking a deep, calming breath, Hermione picked up her quill. The ferocity with which she wrote, however, betrayed her façade of calm.
You know what?! I am tired of this! What do you want? Why are even TALKING to me? You’ve been avoiding me since Halloween.
Finally, they were getting somewhere, thought Draco happily.
I merely thought continued silence wouldn’t be conducive to planning this blasted event. Do you not agree?
She bit her lip, torn between wanting to disagree with Malfoy just for the sake of it and knowing that he was absolutely right. Oh how she hated when he was right.
I do… so then why are you riling me up like this?
Draco sighed and rolled his eyes at her.
I was trying to give you a compliment and you CHOSE to blow everything out of proportion! Really, all I even wanted to do was ask you to be my partner for the ball.
Hermione stared unseeingly at the words on the parchment, not knowing how to respond.
Be your partner? She wrote lamely.
He eyed her concise words and stole another half-glance in her direction.
Well since we’re “leading the ball”, it would be expected. And plus, I know about the baby.
Hermione bit her lip indecisively. He was right; it would work out most naturally for them to go together…
I suppose all that is true…
He read her shy words and looked up to find her staring at him intently. Smirking, he mouthed silently, “Be my date?”
Looking furtively around as if all eyes had suddenly turned to watch the silent happenings in the last row, she finally met his gaze and gave a small yet resolute nod.
The next month passed far too quickly for either of the Heads’ taste.
After the announcement of the ball, Hogwarts was swept not only in a flurry of powdery snow but in the incessant whisperings and chatter concerning the Wintertime Waltz.
On top of their piles of NEWT level coursework, Hermione and Draco were expected to see to a host of new duties brought on by the upcoming event. Letters of invitation to the international schools of magic were composed, entertainment options for the evening were auditioned and booked, dinner menus were carefully planned, and decoration committees dutifully organized.
Once they finally reached the last week of term, both Heads were positively depleted in exhaustion. Unbeknownst to Hermione, however, Draco often “forgot” to inform her when extra tasks popped up unexpectedly. As he performed her concealment charm each morning, he was reminded constantly of her ever-expanding belly and decided his conscience felt immeasurably lighter knowing he was at least doing more work than her. Seeing her shadowy eyes and watching her hold her protesting back at end of the day was enough to guilt trip anyone. Even a Slytherin.
On the last Friday of term, Hermione pulled herself away from the decorations committee early. The Great Hall was slowly dressing in its standard Christmas attire – twelve towering firs placed evenly along the stone walls, enchanted snow falling from the starry ceiling, garlands of holly strung with fairy lights draping the high windows – but the real decorations would be happening tomorrow before the gilded doors opened for the start of the ball. Now, however, Hermione had something else quite more important to do.
Traipsing up the stairs to her dormitory, Hermione stopped at an icy window overlooking the lake. These past week had flown by without a pause for thought – something she was most grateful for. But now the thing that was causing all of the busyness and distraction was finally upon them; the ball was tomorrow evening.
Hermione sighed as she peered through the glittering ice, pushing all of her mental to-do lists far back into the recesses of her mind. The distractions of the past weeks had been keeping her sane. They allowed her to forget about her pregnancy and the great change it would soon bring to her life. They filled her moments so that all she could do in between was study, eat and sleep. They afforded her a break from overanalyzing her interactions with Malfoy…
The thought of Malfoy brought her back to her senses. Malfoy. He was who she was looking for now. They had business to get on with.
Tearing herself away from the window, she climbed a few more flights of stairs until she reached the corridor housing the entrance to the Heads’ Dormitory.
“There you are!” came his impatient drawl as she climbed through the portrait hole. “You’re late.”
“The decorations committee was having a problem with the enchanted snow,” she said exasperatedly.
“Bunch of incompetent little snots, aren’t they?” sighed Draco from his chair by the fire.
“I’ll just get my coat then,” said Hermione, giving him a disapproving look.
Having been so thoroughly consumed with the business of preparing for the ball, both Draco and Hermione had quite forgotten their need of new dress robes until a few days ago. In fact, it had given Hermione quite a start when, during their Wednesday Charms lesson, she absentmindedly overhead Lavender and Parvati discussing what they would be wearing in giggles of excitement. Promptly after the lesson, she had located Draco and nearly exploded at him for not reminding her. After successfully calming her down, they agreed to visit Hogsmeade on Friday evening. It was indeed cutting it a bit close, but the busy Heads simply had no other options.
Hogsmeade was nestled under a thick blanket of snow when they arrived in the village a half hour later. Draco had forced extra sweaters on Hermione before declaring her suitable to walk through the cold, and they both sported wooly hats, scarves and gloves to insulate them from the frosty air.
It was early evening and the sky was growing steadily darker, but the streets of Hogsmeade were still alive with bustling Christmas shoppers.
“Oh we’re just never going to find anything good,” moaned Hermione. “How could we have forgotten about it until so late?”
“I don’t know, but I do know your moaning and groaning is certainly not going to help anything along,” replied Draco tersely.
“I swear, giving us a month to plan this whole thing was sadistic,” harped Hermione for the umpteenth time. “I’ve still got a million things to do…”
“You know what?” said Draco, turning to her, “What you need to do is forget about your million things. You won’t be able to accomplish them tonight anyways so just forget them and relax.”
She opened her mouth to argue or, more likely, whine some more, but Draco gave her a stern look and she promptly held her tongue.
“So,” she began a few minutes later as they continued their stroll down the main street, “Perhaps we could pop into Gladrags and then get a spot of dinner?”
Draco glanced sideways at her and grinned, “Sounds like a plan, Granger.”
With the newly instated calm, their shopping went by surprisingly easy. Hermione tried on five or so garments before choosing on a long, carmine-colored silk gown with a sweetheart neckline. She tried it on privately, indulging the little girl in her and spinning around to see the skirt sweep after her gracefully.
“What I don’t get to see yet?” Draco teased as she emerged with her dress on its hanger. “Afraid I’m going to copy your outfit, are you?”
She gave him a goading look before handing over the appropriate number of galleons and sickles to the Saleswitch.
Draco himself decided on an expensive set of inky black dress robes, simple yet luxurious. He had his picked out at least half an hour before Hermione reappeared from her dressing room, spending the whole time complaining impatiently of his boredom.
As they left the shop, however, Draco became cheerful, playfully trying to persuade Hermione to trade outfits with him.
“Come on, Granger!” he whined. “Let me be the prettier one for once!”
“Oh shut your mouth, Malfoy,” Hermione said with forced seriousness, a smile peeking around the corners of her lips.
The two strolled languidly up the main street, stopping occasionally to watch particularly impressive magical window displays. After crowds began to thin and the sky grew gradually darker, Hermione finally became aware of her now obviously empty stomach.
“Hmm we should probably get a bite to eat here – we’ve missed dinner,” she said, nervously looking around as if expecting to see every shop on the street suddenly closed.
“You’ve got a point,” Draco mused, “Massimo’s?”
“Oh, come on, Granger,” he said, grabbing her arm and steering her in the opposite direction.
In another five minutes they had reached a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant that Hermione had never seen before. The large single paned window was fogged in and as they opened the door a great wave of wonderful warmth hit their pink faces.
The restaurant was empty save for one young couple closeted in the farthest corner, tickling one another nauseatingly. The heavily mustached owner grunted at their arrival and flourished his hand towards the open tables, indicating that they were free to sit wherever they liked.
Draco sauntered over to his preferred table, Hermione at his heels.
“Why have I never heard of this place?” Hermione interrogated once they had taken their seats.
“Don’t look properly, I suppose,” Draco said with a grin. “I recommend the lasagna.”
Hermione appraised him beadily, but then resigned to look down at her menu.
The food arrived magically within minutes of them ordering, and, after a few moments in which they hungrily devoured their food, Draco looked up and said, “So, Granger, excited for tomorrow?”
Hermione swallowed a humongous bite and looked at him incredulously, “Excited? There’s no room for excitement! Do you realize all we still have left to do?”
“Ah ah ah!” said Draco, wagging his finger menacingly, “No to-do lists!”
Hermione glowered, “It’s true. There’s too much worry to be excited.”
“Ah, well, think about when the ball has finally begun and there’s nothing else to do in preparation,” he said, spinning spaghetti around his fork, “will you be excited then?”
Hermione pinched her lips in thought, taking a sip of her gillywater, “Well…”
“Yeah, Granger?” prompted Draco eagerly.
“Well,” said Hermione, her cheeks pinker now than they had been out in the cold, “I admit, I am quite looking forward to putting on that dress.”
“How positively girlish of you, Granger,” he said teasingly.
“And so what?” she replied, indignant, “I can be girlish, can’t I?”
“Of course you can,” Draco answered, a goading smile on his lips.
Hermione looked at him suspiciously as she cut another bite of lasagna.
“And what about you, Malfoy? What are you excited for?”
“Who me?” he asked, pretending to be startled at being posed the question.
Hermione raised her eyebrows.
“Well, Granger, I for one am looking forward to hitting the dance floor.” Hermione’s blush grew deeper. “Once the ladies of Hogwarts see that not only am I wickedly handsome but also a talented dancer, well, I’ll simply be irresistible, won’t I?”
Hermione gagged – Draco pretended not to notice and continued eating.
“Yes, do let me know when the fan club has been fully formed and Eloise Midgen is president. You two would be positively precious together.”
It was now Draco’s turn to gag.
“Play nice, Granger,” he sputtered, taking a sip of water to recover.
“I will if you will, Malfoy,” she quickly retorted.
They ate in silence for a few more moments.
“Granger, can I ask you a question?” Draco began, breaking the silence and laying down his knife and fork.
Hermione looked up at him, knowing from his expression that this question was not going to be more light-hearted teasing.
“I suppose… can’t guarantee I’ll answer it though.”
“I was just wondering if you ever planned to tell people about your pregnancy. Do your really want to rely on the concealment charm forever?”
Hermione leaned back in her chair thoughtfully. What did she want to do? Would she really want to continue concealing herself when she was fit to bursting in March? And what about once the baby was born? What would she tell people then?
“I haven’t thought about what it would be like if people knew…” she replied truthfully.
Draco watched her, “I’m sure there will be people who won’t believe what happened, but are they really worth caring about?”
Hermione shrugged, “I suppose I don’t care about anyone’s opinion of me, it’s just the hassle it will be to get the truth out. It’s not like I can just show up to Transfiguration one day with an obvious baby bump – for one, it would probably give poor Parvati and Lavender heart attacks.”
Draco smirked, “Yes, you are quite a sight these days.” – she gave him a withering look – “But what if, I don’t know, you asked Dumbledore if he could help you go about it?”
“Maybe… but what would he do? Address the whole school at dinner one evening?”
“Or the Heads of Houses could do it,” he suggested. “And of course you’ve got Potty, Weasel and the Weaselette to back you up. And, well, me…”
Hermione raised her eyebrows at him, “How kind, Draco.”
“Full of surprises, I am,” he mumbled, winking.
By now they had cleaned their plates of the delicious meal and the rotund mustached man was bustling over with the check.
“Don’t worry about it, Granger,” said Draco pulling some gold swiftly from his moneybag as Hermione fuddled around within her cloak. “Think of it as a Christmas treat.”
Hermione looked a bit startled at this unprecedented gesture, but soon recovered herself enough to give hurried thanks.
Soon they were hurrying back up the high street toward Hogwarts’ flanked gates, heads bent against the aggressive wind. Inside the castle, the decoration committee was still charging on with their inexperienced attempt at adorning the castle halls.
“Good lord it’s already past nine,” grumbled Draco. “You would think fifth years could manage a simple sticking charm at this point…”
Hermione moaned as the chaos she had so effectively forgotten closed in on her again, “I suppose we should help –”
“No, no, I’ll do it,” said Draco authoritatively. “Could you just take our things upstairs? I’ll have this wrapped up as soon as I can.”
Hermione didn’t much like being bossed around, but her heels were complaining loudly after the long walk from Hogsmeade and her warm bed did sound quite irresistible after battling through the cold…
“I suppose I could do that,” she said slowly, hoping she came off as suitably miffed.
Draco smiled and handed her the bag containing his dress robes before walking off to shout at the apparently incompetent fifth year prefects.
Up in the dormitory, Hermione pushed open Draco’s bedroom door with her hip and stalked on in. She tutted at the sight of his unmade bed and desk overflowing with crumpled parchment and half empty ink bottles, but resigned to lay down his purchases on the rumpled sheets nonetheless.
As she dropped the bag unceremoniously onto the mattress, it toppled over, a pair of black dress socks rolling out and taking refuge under the bed.
Giving a sigh of annoyance, she dropped her own things and lowered herself to her knees to grope under the bed and amongst the dust bunnies.
She found the socks quickly, but upon pulling her arm back out, her hand brushed against something else. A book. Letting her curiosity get the better of her, she pulled it out from its hiding place to get a good look at the cover.
The Unexplored Magic: Phasma Eturnus
All thoughts halted in the shock at reading the words in front of her. Her jaw dropped, her eyes grew wide. She remembered for the first time in weeks how she had followed Draco to the library and how he had hidden the books he had checked out from her. Books. Plural.
Scrambling to look under the bed once more, she was greeted with the sight of at least twenty tombs stacked neatly, each bearing titles having to do with the unknown magic that had managed to so profoundly change her life.
She leaned against the nightstand, taking it all in. What did he mean by it? Why did he care?
Utterly confused and realizing that the ‘he’ in question could be back any moment, Hermione gathered up her things and walked out of Draco’s room.
One thing was certain, whatever he had been in the past, Draco Malfoy was a changed man.
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