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Heir Brained by diagonally
Chapter 19 : Relativity: It's you. It's all in my head.
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 18


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I sincerely regret that I have not been able to devote enough time to ff- which includes updating regularly and replying to the amazing reviewers who take the effort and time to encourage me. To make up, I'm posting 18 pages. Hope you like it. Hope you tell me either ways. I promise you that each and every review (appreciative or concrit) means more to me than I could faithfully express and encourages me more than you could know. A big thank you for your continued support.

 

My deepest gratitude to Super-girl-straight-from-hell (on another forum) who provided a name for the Australian School of Magic. She also came up with the very funky details of the school's location; I just cut pasted her whole paragraph verbatim.



 

Dixie Charmer Betas, rocks and rules!

 

Like many authors in fanfic, I like Draco and Hermione referring to each other by their last names. I like that chemistry. I even remember reading a long essay by an author stating that they would always call each other 'Malfoy' and 'Granger' and not fall into 'Draco' and 'Hermione' on a regular basis. Instinctively, I agree.










 

Relativity: It's you. It's all in my head. No, it's you.

 

Time has a strange way about it.

 

The Space Time continuum combines space and time into a single manifold to better explain the workings of the universe at the magical, super galactic and subatomic levels. It suggests that while a line drawn between two points on a paper is one dimensional, a plane (the paper) is two-dimensional, space (where the paper exists) is three-dimensional; the universe, (the EVENT of the line being drawn- the where and when the paper exists) is four-dimensional. The fourth dimension: time.

 

In Arithmancy, Hermione had learnt to treat time as universal and constant, being independent of the state of motion of an observer. Yet, she had also learned the relativistic contexts popularised by the Muggleborn wizard Albert Einstein: Time cannot be separated from the three dimensions of space, because the ‘speed’ of time depends on an object's velocity relative to the speed of light and also, gravitational fields.

 

Wizard physicists had been playing with time for a long time. The time turner and the clock in the Department of Mysteries were two by products. Experiments had revealed several things:

Time slowed down at high speeds.

Time slowed down in intense gravitational fields

Objects became shorter in the direction that they moved with respect to the observer.

An individual's choices affected events that could dramatically alter the possible co-existing 'futures' or dimensions.

 

Like much else, the concept of space-time intrigued Hermione and she had read vociferously on the topic; Muggle and Wizarding volumes that would intimidate a less indomitable spirit. A retired unmentionable had let it slip to her that he had spent a lifetime trying to comprehend the complexities of the string theory that predicted 10 or 26 dimensions while the M-theory predicted 11 dimensions. Wizards understood Magic to be one of the dimensions that Muggle scientists loosely characterised as transmutable energy.

 

Everyone was flummoxed in the end, some just less than others. She could offer her own guesses to the dimensions, and knew they would make little sense – the soul of the observer, faith, intent, thought, love, actions. Surely, they could all affect the universe as much as the length and breadth of a line? But, what did she know? Time was as elusive a concept to her today as it had been the first time she had flipped the time-turner in disbelieving awe.

 

Take the variations in passage of time in the diverse aspects of her life. Sometimes it felt like it flitted across her nose happily like a yellow butterfly on its merry way to the next buttercup. At other times, all Hermione could discern was the faint buzzing of a passing bee. Barely experienced, never seen.

 

Spurts and drags.

 

Fast and slow.

 

Fast- Time she spent with James and Lilliana

Fast- Time she had to accomplish the unending tasks at work

Fast- Time invested reading a good book, and there were so many!

Faster- Ticking of her body clock

Fastest- Time she spent with Draco

 

Slow- Time between her rendezvous with Draco

Slow- Time wasted in bureaucratic meetings – she could have worked so much in the hours they argued over a law on how to best dispose of clothes sprinkled with fairy dust! So one cat was seen flying out of a trashcan in an alley and a homeless Muggle had to be Obliviated. One incident does not require two hours from officials of four departments! She had expressed this disgruntlement, when it seemed another two hours would be wasted over a lunch intended to discuss the topic to an agonising death.

Slow- The passage of her monthly cycles the last two months. She felt the firming of her breast, the developments in her belly and hoped with fervour that these were signs of pregnancy, not PMS.

Slower- Time it took for the pregnancy test to give her the result. A lack of lines telling her she was not pregnant. Three excruciating minutes followed by an hour of denial, anger and disappointment. Acceptance usually came the second hour.

Slow- Time it had taken to pin down Harry to have a conversation with him

Slower- Time that the long drawn conversation had taken with Four-eyes. Oops. Too much time with Draco? No, no such notion existed.

 

Hermione had written to the head of the Australian Department of Regulation and Care of Magical Creatures, congratulating them for their success and offering any support that she might be able to extend as the head of the corresponding department in Britain. (Though of course, she had changed the name from 'Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures' to 'Department of Relations with Magical Creatures.)

 

Monad Nomad was an erudite, a well respected witch who had spent over a decade travelling the globe, researching many a magical creatures. She was the chief contributor to the internationally acclaimed The Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures and their Magical Ways. MS. Nomad had served as the Headmistress of the Young Witches and Wizards of Oz Academy of Magic for 5 years, the maximum term allowed by the school board.

 

The great Australian bite is a large chunk of land off the southern coast of Australia that was made Unplottable by the Australian magical society to protect it's young, so they could be educated in comparative safety. There, into the side of one of the high blue mountains the school had been constructed partly inside the earth. The 12 Apposals are the Apperation points that tourists came to view from around the world. Like platform 9 ¾, only twice a year and only to students with authentic school letters, one Apposal opens up to allow students to find their way to the Academy.

 

MS Nomad's 'reign' at the Oz Academy had been so stellar that the teachers, students, parents and the board members themselves had petitioned for an extension. She had declined, revealing that the psychology of dangerous magical creatures was simpler to fathom when compared against the psyches of hormone-driven adolescents.

 

Ms Nomad was not known to mince her words. She was fair, balanced and very open-minded. She was also honest, direct, and cut to the chase without the preambles of expected diplomacy. This sometimes ruffled feathers amongst the subjects of her address. The Centaurs, for example, obsessively fond of their indistinctness, were said to act even more equivocal in her company, ostensibly to avenge an impatient criticism regarding their ambiguity. Mostly, though, the various magical beings of Australia respected her, or tolerated her well enough if you were to ask the immigrant Veelas their opinion.

 

It came as no little surprise to Hermione when she received this reply from MS. Nomad:

 

Ms Granger,

Head,

BDRMC

Thank you for your owl and your offer of assistance. Your tone of genuine regret due to your lack of involvement in the sting surprised me. It implies that you have not been made aware of the stipulation that was included with the British aid. The British Aurors notified us that since one of either department was needed in Britain at all times for security reasons, we could only choose to accept help from either of the two departments. I regret that the men in the Australian Ministry were of the opinion that the British Aurors would be of a greater help against the vampires than the British DRMC. Had it been made available, undoubtedly, your acumen would have enabled us to arrest the vampires that got away, with much little collateral damage. Don't misunderstand me, I am grateful for the cooperation extended to us by various task forces, in combating our mutual enemies. As a fellow witch in a testosterone filled world, I would want to know such details and thus share them with you in the healthiest of spirits.

Regards,

Monad Nomad

Head,

ADRCMC

 

Hermione was incensed! How dare he? The insufferable, egotistical, dominating He-who-defeated-Voldy-with my-help scar-face. Oops.

 

The usually available friend now became a blurred image in one of Madame Trelawney's crystal balls… she imagined she saw Harry, then she didn't.

 

Finally, on a Friday morning, when she knew Harry would be in his office, she walked in. Gawain Robards' personal assistant, Liberella Sanders, was currently assisting Harry, acting Head of the British Aurors, in the recuperating man's absence. Libby, as she was known around the ministry, was about to greet Hermione cheerfully, when Hermione mimed zipping her lips with a conspiratorial wink. She approached Harry's private cabin and quietly opened the door.

 

Harry looked up and the surprise at her presence was evident on his face, as was the discomfiture that followed. Before he could extricate himself from the situation with some excuse or another, she shut the door behind her and forestalled him, "Don't even try Harry James Potter. I have never thought you a coward, don't make me start now. Explain to me why Nomad was of the opinion that you had barred my involvement in this whole vampire incident."

 

Harry looked down towards his cluttered desk, his ears red.

 

"So it's TRUE?” Hermione exclaimed. “You stipulated that as the head of the corresponding department, and therefore, technically, the most able to help, I would not be made available?"

 

By now, Harry's face was red too. "Hermione, please understand. I had my reasons."

 

Hermione sat down on the chair in front of his desk and sighed in exasperation. "Of all the sneaky, underhanded, irresponsible stunts to pull! Right then, spell out these reasons. And don't bother with the British security farce that you offered to the Australians. You don't think like that, you are an all-systems-go kind of person."

Harry picked up the quill on his desk and started fiddling with it nervously. "You won't like it, but please understand where I am coming from? We needed to keep you safe and that meant keeping you away."

 

"Harry that is so weak! You were there when that whole Voldermort fiasco happened. I have no passion for safety and I think it has been soundly established that I can take care of myself. And we? Who is we?"

 

Harry looked even more uncomfortable. "Eh, Ginny."

 

"You expect me to believe that you confided in Ginny, details of the vampire sting-op and she coerced you into excluding me? You really need to work on your stories. One, you would never reveal classified details to your wife. Two, she would want you as safe as possible and that would mean she would want me on the scene more than anyone, because she knows I have your back. When did you start lying to me Harry?"

 

In a flash, Harry regained his composure, control evident in his stance as he leaned forward on his desk. "Since you started dating a Slytherin and thought it appropriate to lie to me about it, Hermione." His jade eyes bore holes into her soul.

 

Hermione was reminded of why people were intimidated by her best friend. Even though she had been privy to his more vulnerable side through some heart-wrenching times, she had never lost sight of the fact that Harry Potter was a formidable force. He had the aura of a leader, the raw force of a tornado. Right now, he had the energy of one not to be messed with. It was her turn to look away, shame-faced.

 

"We're not dating Harry. We don't have a relationship. We just enjoy each other's company and have decided to keep it for a while.”

 

Still gazing out the large office window, Hermione was surprised by his next revelation, "You can save yourself the trouble Mione, Draco told me."

 

"He told you? He TOLD you? Why did HE tell you? I wanted to tell you but he forbade me to! That snake! Wait, what did he tell you?"

 

Harry shrugged, "First he told me I couldn't involve you in the Vampire business. I wasn't planning to, so it was moot. That he felt motivated to want keep you away, made me wonder. So, I played the player." Harry looked a smidge smug as he continued, "I built a story about how your department's involvement was necessary and you would be conspicuous in your absence. He tried to convince, cajole and coerce, but I was having too much fun, so didn't budge. Finally he relented and told me you could be pregnant. I have to tell you Hermione, there have been times when I wanted to physically beat that blast-ended-skrewt to mince but I don't remember a time when I wanted to do it more! Other than that time with Dumbledore... So are you? Pregnant?"

 

Hermione shook her head and Harry heard the yearning in her voice when she replied, "No, I am not."

 

"Hermione, what were you thinking? A baby with Malfoy? No wedding? What in Merlin's name ARE you doing? I have already told you what I think about you dating him. My thoughts on you having a child with him, out of wedlock, you don't even want me to start… these windows might shatter. I would love to know why you would allow yourself to be in this unbelievably bizarre position though. It is not like you to be this irresponsible."

 

Hermione put her head on the table, hiding behind her arms. She'd wanted to do this her own way. She'd envisioned ways to announce her pregnancy to her loved ones. In her daydreams they were mildly shocked but then immediately ecstatic for her. I mean, what else could one say to a woman who was already joyously pregnant? They would have to be somewhat diplomatic. Plus SHE had wanted to be the one to tell her best friend. It wasn't fair that Draco beat her to it, so she was made to look like she was keeping secrets. Which reminded her, if Draco had told Harry, why hadn't he mentioned it to her? Maybe he would have deduced that she would get mad. She was, a little. A part of her thrilled though, in the knowledge that Draco was looking out for her behind the scenes. He cared. That was endearing. What had he told Harry? How had he explained their arrangement? Harry knew they weren't planning to get married, but what had Draco said about her? She decided she was going to find out.

 

"I'll tell you if you tell me." She looked back up to Harry, replying to his query regarding the thought process that her propelled her down this tumultuous path. Her eyes landed on the Pensieve that he had inherited from Dumbledore. It lay in a position of prominence on the shelf behind him

 

"Tell you what?" Harry guard was up. He didn't pull it off the look as well as Draco did, a partial section of her mind noted.

 

"Tell me… no, show me what he said Harry."

 

"No Hermione."

 

"Harry, I have to know. Please? Would you rather I not know what he thinks? What did he say that has you feeling so protective? Don't I have the right to know? Don't I deserve that much from you?"

 

Harry fidgeted in his seat and pulled his hands through his hair. "You're not being fair Hermione. Don't believe for a second that I am falling for this 'poor me' act. You are manipulating me and we both know it. Draco asked that I not tell anyone else but we discussed nothing about showing it to you. I have to warn you, you may not like what you see, but it may be the dose of reality you need to jar you out of this recklessness. You aren't pregnant yet, you could still walk away from this intact."

 

Harry went to the door and told Liberella to hold owls for half hour, and to only knock in case of an emergency. Since they were here at work two hours prior to the official start of the work-day, Hermione couldn't imagine an interruption, nor did she feel too guilty about taking him away from work. Work took enough time away from their personal lives, she rationalised.

 

Harry presumably locked the door and then carefully lifted the Pensieve to place it on the desk between them. The frown between his brows indicated he was concentrating, then he pulled out a silver-wisp whirling memory with his wand. He added it to the misty bowl and gently pushed the Pensieve towards Hermione. The last thing Hermione noticed before submerging her face into the bowl was the expression in Harry's emerald eyes. Sympathy.

 

Hermione gently landed into a dark, drab out-house, Harry' broom shed out in his yard, she quickly garnered. Though she didn't feel the nip, she could detect its presence in her surroundings. Through the single window, she could see trees bare of their foliage, and dusk fighting the sun for control over the visible patch of sky. Why were they meeting here? Why not in the house? She saw Harry and Draco talking in low voices on the far corner of the big room, right by where Harry stored the family brooms. She lost some words, though she did hear the word "pregnant". Harry's memory had started from the middle of the conversation, not the start. Hermione put aside her irritation to run towards the stiffly standing pair, huddled in their thick coats, arguing about something. The next part she caught quite clearly, Harry was loud in his antagonism.

 

"What the hell do you mean she could be pregnant? How could she be pregnant?"

 

"It isn't that hard to comprehend Potter. You've fathered two children of your own, or haven't you?"

 

Harry interrupted Draco's sarcastic drawl. "Who is the father, Malfoy?"

 

Draco looked absolutely unaffected and replied with a tilt to his head and a possessive, "I am."

 

Hermione felt a shiver go down her spine.
 

Harry, however, reacted a little differently. She saw him clench his fists and take a step forward. Hermione glanced towards Draco. He was measuring Harry's stance and though he looked unaffected, and stood rooted in exactly the same spot, his hand moved closer to his wand.

 

"Calm down, Potter. It was a choice between a stranger from a Muggle fertility clinic, or me. After Lilliana, Granger decided she wanted a child of her own. You know how intractable she can be. She decided if no man could hold her interest, there was no reason to hold out to have a baby. Good call that, by the way, choosing her to be around at the hospital when Lilliana was born. Can't you see how wistful she gets around children? Are you so blind that you can't see that she wants a family of her own? Excellent way to rub it in. Couldn't have been more Slytherin if you tried."

 

Hermione gaped at Draco, as did Harry. She hoped Harry understood that Draco was just playing mind-games… that he was distracting Harry, putting him on the defensive so he would forget to be in the attack mode. She was almost sure that was Draco's ploy. She was taken aback that he, of all people, had noticed those things about her. She needed to be less transparent to him.

 

It seemed Harry caught on to Draco's intentions too, "Don't you dare make this about me Malfoy. Hermione was there because she wanted to be there, and we wouldn't have it any other way. What do you mean 'Muggle fertility clinic'?"

 

Draco sighed, a show of emotion he rarely allowed himself. "She was determined to have a baby and she was going to approach a clinic for-  what do they call those wankers?" He rolled his eyes heaven wards and Hermione cringed at his narrow-mindedness.

 

However, Harry didn't seem too enthusiastic about the idea either, "She what?"

 

"You heard me Potter. I tried to talk her out of it but she wouldn't listen. You know how mulish she gets once she makes up her mind about something. I told her to get your or Ron's contribution if she were so desperate but she refused, saying it would muddle the boundaries of your already unhealthy attachments."

 

"Oi!" Harry and the invisible Hermione both bristled but Draco continued before Harry could interrupt.

 

"Think about it Potter. What percentage of the Muggle population ends up being magical? Honest opinion now. About two percent you think? Three? It cannot be more than five. Is that true?"

 

Harry nodded with obvious reluctance. Hermione crossed her arms in front of her chest, suspecting this conversation was heading in a direction she wouldn’t like it at all.

 

"So you concede that purely Muggle-born wizards and witches are a rarity, yes?" He waited for Harry to respond, and was satisfied with a shrug.

 

"So combine Hermione's brilliant, I acknowledge, but Muggle-born genes with the genes of a Muggle. What do you think the probability is that such a child would be sans magic?"

 

Hermione hadn't thought of it this way before. Yes, the statistics went against the child on this one. That didn't matter though; she would love her baby with all her heart. Magic or no magic. She was validated and touched to hear Harry protest, echoing her own sentiments.

 

"So what if her child doesn't have magic? Every one would love him or her, regardless. You may have a problem with Muggles, but the rest of us aren't bigoted jerks."

 

"Potter, you really test my patience. No foresight, just an impetuous flailing of arms! It is not I who would have an objection to Hermione's Muggle baby. It is Hermione who would've had a crisis of priorities. As a single parent, if she has a child in the Wizarding world, with no acknowledged father, it would cause scandal enough. If the child were then also labelled a Squib, bigoted jerks would mercilessly harass the child. Hermione would be able to take the ignominy, but a little child should not be subject to the maltreatment it would habitually have to endure. Bullying children can be quite heartless, if you remember… Hermione would. If she took the ill treatment of elves so personally, you can assume she would take the mistreatment of her own flesh-and-blood rather more to heart. Uncompromising that she is, she would probably leave the Wizarding world forever, just in case someone accidentally performed magic in front of her child making him feel inferior… or subjected him to undeserved disrespect. There would be no play dates with Lilliana, I can promise you that."

 

"So you offered your genes? How convenient! Was there no other man left in the wizarding world?"

 

"What would you have me do, Potter? It isn't my fault that most wizards in our world can't keep up with her. Till she finds a man who can meet her high standards, let her live a little. She doesn't seem to be complaining right now."

 

Hermione looked aghast at Draco. He seemed so… blasé about this. Was this feigned disinterest a deliberate defence against the world, that she seemed to have recently vaulted, or was his nonchalance authentic? Apparently Harry was sure it was the latter because he looked more offended than she felt.

 

"Oh come on, Potter. I care for her, more than a fertility clinic donor ever could. I am providing a set of genes that when combined with hers, has the potential to make a child who has infinite magical potential. I am ensuring a secure future for them both. Even if the baby were a squib, with the Malfoy name, no one would dare pose any nuisance. I would make sure of that." Draco's face was set with the steel of his conviction.

 

"You are providing the baby a name? So you will get married?" Harry looked relieved for a moment.

 

Hermione saw Draco hesitate the first time in the whole conversation. "Eh, no. A wedding is not being planned. As much as we respect each other and enjoy each other's company, I don't think either of us can commit to forever. You know my life, Harry. I cannot anticipate tomorrow, let alone the next decade. This is an arrangement of convenience. She wants to be a full-time mother and would like a good set of genes. I can offer a good set of genes and would like to be a part-time father. I would care for the child, but I cannot promise to be around unceasingly. I cannot promise I will be in a city or country for a month, let alone in a home with little children that projectile unmentionable semi-solids from various orifices. Also crying, I am not fond of the crying. Too loud, too shrill. Hermione understands all of this, she knows me and that makes this arrangement perfect. If it is any comfort to you, I'll make sure they are both well cared for."

 

Hermione was absorbing this last part with lead in her heart. She would have liked to hear more, but lamentably, the memory ended. She found herself swirling out of the ether and back on the desk, retrieving her face from the pensive. She carefully schooled her features. No sense letting Harry see how his memory had punched large gaping holes into her hopes that Draco had begun to invest himself emotionally in her that little bit more. He cared for her, yes. Enjoyed her company, yes. Would be happy to make a baby with her too. He didn't love her, no. She smiled resignedly to herself as she felt the ache in her chest.

 

More fool me.

 

When she felt ready to face him, she found Harry holding a quill over a set of papers, looking quietly at her. He kept the quill down and reached across the desk for her hand. "Mione, there's still time. Please get out of this mess before you get hurt. You'll find the right man for you. Just wait a little longer."

 

Hermione snorted, she couldn't help it. "How long should I wait Harry? I've waited eight years. Draco is right, you know, no one else keeps up. I like them as people all right enough, but they inspire no strong emotions. It's rather drab. Since you know all this, and have already guessed that I love him, tell me, why would I deny myself the chance to bear his child? I am not going to marry another man as a consolation prize, not unless I care enough. It wouldn't be fair to the man and it wouldn't be fair to our children. If I am not going to have a husband and I am not going to have the ideal family, but I can have half of that… I can have Draco's child, why wouldn't I? Why refuse myself the happiness that I can reach? Bird in hand and all that. Later, when I find the right man, if I find him, we can get together. Mr Right should not mind my child. If he does, he wouldn't be right for me, would he?"

 

Stubborn Harry was not to be dissuaded easily. "Hermione you are severely limiting yourself the options available, don't you see that? The number of eligible wizards who can keep up with you and want to take on Malfoy's child… this will not be a very large subset of the population."

 

"Then I'd better hurry and get my half of an ideal life while I can, hadn't I? Who knows, otherwise I could end up alone AND childless." Hermione found she could grin, so she did.

 

Harry tried a different tact, "Mione, I don't understand how you could let him do this to you. He will hurt you. That is inevitable."

 

"Not being with him hurts more, Harry."

 

Harry shook his head and tried another avenue, his last, "Hermione, there is huge potential for regret here."

 

Hermione looked up at her oldest best friend sadly and asked, "Harry, could you regret James or Lilliana?"

 

Harry looked surprised and then defeated. No, she didn't think he could.

 

The hand that she had forgotten tightened its hold on hers.

 

"Hermione, you can't convince me that Malfoy can be in anyway healthy for you. However, you are the smartest witch I know. You must see something in him that he doesn't reveal to the rest of us. That said, I know I am an interfering brute sometimes. You're the closes thing I have to a sister and I just feel like I need to look out for you as you have always looked out for me. Don't hold it against me?"

 

Hermione felt her heart melting for him. Yes, she had expected and resented, just a little, the inquisition into her personal choices. She understood where he came from, how could she not love him for being protective about her? Lord knew she had been interfering and bossy enough with him throughout school. The reciprocity was touching, really.

She got up and Harry looked surprised, regret marring his face. She realized he's misunderstood her gesture and went over to hug him.

 

"Harry, how could I begrudge your right over me as my best friend. It's not like you haven't earned it. Do you remember when I reported to McGonagal the broom Sirius sent you anonymously?"

 

They both grinned, and the angst was gone, just like that. They were fine.

 

"What did you tell Shacklebolt and Robards then? Were they surprised that you wanted me uninvolved in the Australian business?" She walked to the window in his office and saw the fake sunlight and street scene that was projected on the outside of this underground office. Only the top officials had this luxury, Hermione's office had a fake view of the river Charles.

 

"I convinced them that there was a chance of reprisal from the vamps and I wanted you here to safeguard British security in our absence. They agreed immediately." Harry shrugged. He really was more Slytherin than most people realized.

 

"Harry, you remember how I was in school about studies, yes?"

 

Harry nodded and Hermione continued, "That is exactly how I am regarding my work now. What you did, though out of good intentions, is an intervention I do not appreciate. It is like stealing my chance at an 'O' in class. You should have known better than to listen to Draco, and you should have approached me. The next time he comes to you with another idea like this, I need you to tell me about it. Immediately."

 

Harry grinned.

 

"What?" Hermione prompted.

 

"What I would give to be a fly on the wall when you have this talk with Draco."

 

Hermione grinned back. Yes, she should have a talk with Draco. She'd have to put some thought into it. Maybe she would wait on it for a while, see if he told her himself. She left Harry's office lost in her thoughts. If only it were as easy with Draco as it had been with Harry.

 

Feeling up to sharing neither space nor time with him just yet, Hermione sent Draco an owl.

 

Going to see my parents this weekend. See you next week.

 

They hadn't made any plans for this weekend but sometimes, he showed up unannounced. Hermione wanted to erect some defences that had withered under Draco's displays of affection in the past two months. She needed to set up a tower. Brick by brick. Unapproachable. Unbreakable. Untouchable. She needed to be less affected by the truth that she had so easily forgotten in the nights she'd spent in his possessive embrace. This was just an arrangement of convenience. Draco Malfoy did not love her.

 

She sent an owl to her mother, asking about their plans and wondering if she could drop by. An ecstatic response returned with the owl, that while relieving her, also left her feeling a little guilty. She had hardly spent time with her parents since New Year's. This was a good plan, then.

 

Hermione spent an uncomplicated weekend with her highly affectionate and practical parents. No drama here. She was grateful. Her mother looked at her with concern when Hermione slipped into moments of reverie, so she chastised herself for her lapse of control. She had discovered nothing in that conversation with Harry that she didn't already know, except that Draco poked his pointed nose into her professional life more than she cared for. Draco had just created such a beautiful illusion for her that till she took a step back, she forgot it was a dream world, not based as much in reality as it was in her head.

 

But her head was the place that mattered, she decided. It didn't matter that Draco didn't love her.

 

He acted as if he did.

 

In his own Slytherin way, he cared.

 

He wanted her.

 

It was more than she had had two months ago.

 

She reminded herself of the wonderful times they had shared since and couldn't bring herself to regret a moment. So she decided she wouldn't focus on the negatives, but would enjoy the thrill of the positives. She would take what life and Draco threw her way, and she'd come out on top.

 

Hermione liked being on top. Draco liked that too.

 

Thus recharged with the love that her parents candidly demonstrated and re-energized with the optimism of tomorrow, Hermione Granger returned to her life on Monday morning. That night Draco dropped by and complained about her being gone so long. It was good to be missed. His child-like, succulent pout invited a caress and Hermione leaned over to kiss his pink heavenly lips. She hadn't forgotten about his interference though, and brought it up, "I had a very interesting conversation with Harry."

 

Draco's carefree shrug could not conceal the momentary flash of awareness in his eyes. "Good for you, he usually bores me stiff. Unless, he gets into his self-flagellating rants, then it's entertaining to add to his list of shortcomings. It comes all too rarely now. I miss the good old days when he blamed himself for all that was wrong under the sun."

 

Hermione got up from the love seat where she had been sitting next to him and went and sat on the armchair across the room. Very calmly, so as not to sound like a hormonal banshee, she spoke firmly, "How could you presume to meddle with my work Draco? How could YOU tell Harry when you had expressly told me not to let anyone know? You've embarrassed me in both my professional and my personal lives. This is not acceptable."

 

"Can Potter keep anything in that queasy stomach of his or does he always have to run to Mommy?"

 

"Malfoy." Hermione warned.

 

"What? So I wanted to keep you safe. I told you that I would take care of our baby. There was no way I was going to let you get involved in that sting when you could be pregnant."

 

Hermione softened a little, "If you felt this way, you should have talked to me about this."

 

Draco rolled his eyes, "Which would have accomplished what, exactly? Had I asked you to back out, would you have? Granger, you would have been the first one on the scene, ready to take on as many vampires as you could while wanting to coach the new aurors-in-training, while wanting to keep all the vampires safe. Tell me, is that hyperbole?"

 

"No, that is all true. However, that is no excuse to go meddling in my work. I did not ask you to cancel  your Quidditch tour to Australia."

 

"If I were the one carrying our child, I would allow you that liberty. Since I am not, the point's inapplicable." Draco took off his shoes and turned sideways on the love seat to rest his feet up on the armrest.

 

Hermione’s perturbation rose with Draco’s increasingly unperturbed demeanour. "Draco, this behaviour is intolerable. You do not have any rights over me, as I do not over you. You will not interfere with my work again." This tone had always worked well with Ron.

 

Draco just looked as if a little puppy was tugging at his feet. Unaffected, if mildly amused and cross. "Granger, understand this, I will do everything I have to, to keep my future child safe. If you are agreeable, that will be convenient. If not, I will find a way around it. There will be no, and I mean NO compromises on your safety till the time we have our agreement. If within the year we don't get pregnant, and decide to part ways, then you can resume your life as before. Till then, and in case we do have a child, then till the time the child is old enough to take care of itself, your safety is my responsibility. It makes no difference whatsoever that it is undesirable for you."

 

"What do you mean till he is old enough to take care of himself? How old is that?"

 

"Till he graduates from Hogwarts sounds about right."

 

Hermione sputtered in disbelief, "What? You are insane."

 

"So you'd rather that you get blown up in a squabble, and the child grow up under MY care? Are you insane? Don't you have any protective instincts? Can you fathom the emotional scarring inflicted on our child in that situation?"

 

Hermione snorted, she couldn't help it. He had a point. Besides, she liked this protective side of him. It nourished a part of her soul.

 

Before she could continue her argument though, Draco strode across the room and picked her up easily. "So, are you pregnant or do you need some help?"

 

One thing led to another, and Hermione conceded defeat in this battle. She'd pick a bigger one. For now, her bliss was back. Draco brought it to her, she couldn't help it. He just made her inexplicably happy with his little quips and pats and nudges. Hermione had discovered, that once comfortable, Draco was a very physically affectionate creature. He touched her hands, her hair, her neck, her face… when he wasn't touching her lips, her mounds, her valleys. He liked being touched too. He'd sit in front of her, his back to her and place her hands on his shoulder to indirectly ask for a massage. Or he would lay his head in her lap as they watched T.V. Sometimes, lying like that, he'd pull her hand into his scalp, which she would then stroke. Often, he'd play with the hem of her skirt, which would start rising slowly and surely. He would play havoc on her knees, legs and thighs for the hour or so that the telly program went on. The shift in his energies would make the electric lamps of the room flicker. His hands and lips would tease her sensitive mercilessly till she groaned and then he would tell her to be quiet, to let him watch the movie in peace. His hands would continue their glorious tortures. This had become their little game. She had bought seven new skirts to play.

 

Yes, Draco Malfoy liked touching Hermione Granger. And that made her happy, which probably skewed time. The month passed before she realized it was gone.

 

Draco's Quidditch tour was ending. He was coming back tonight.

 

Tick bloody away body clock, tick bloody away. Your time is up.

 

~0~

 

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