Chapter 29 : C'est la Vie
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To all who reviewed for the last chapter, my humblest gratitude. I CAN not tell you what each review meant to me… even though I am supposed to be decent with words. You help me stay sane, just begins to describe it. You helped me write a chapter I was particularly reluctant to write. You give me something worthy of doing when insomnia rears much too frequently. You also give me peace, a luxury for nit-witted me :)
The initial part of this chapter was initially part of the last chapter, so it has been betaed by the PHENOMENAL EVENSTAR101.
The chapter in its entirety has been betaed by the sensitive, talented, extremely thorough and undeniably lovely BLUESKYSHYMOON. The woman pointed close to a hundred edits and calls me kind! :) Her own stories speak of gentle love and glorious loss… with such unique grace that you can't help but be moved. This troubling, 15-paged chapter was hers to beta since before I wrote it.
Such is Life
Don't panic. Do NOT panic.
Hermione had read, of course, that many women experienced spotting during their pregnancies, due to varied, entirely innocuous reasons. Hermione had read the best-selling books on pregnancy, from both the Muggle and Wizarding worlds. Rarely, women even continued to have menses during their pregnancies. She had read that too. This little bit of spotting was doubtlessly unworthy of a panic attack. Her books said so. This was just one of those small things. Hermione was sure. She had read it.
Still, Hermione concluded it would not hurt to gain reassurance. She Flooed to Draco's room, except, she found it empty. When she called for Misty, another elf appeared. Dressed in a fine butler's uniform, the elf bowed and addressed Hermione formally. His demeanour lacked exhibit of any sentiment.
"Miss called for Misty? Misty away," he offered in succinct tones, "I is Aldo. I help Miss?"
Aldo eyed Hermione's abdomen and his eyes strayed to her face momentarily before he found a spot on the wall behind her.
Though it took effort, Hermione did not want to rush and be discourteous. "How are you Aldo? Nice to meet you. Is Draco still home?"
The elf shook his head, his reply compendious. "Master Floo to Italy, Miss."
Hermione stood there thinking for a moment. "You can find him, can't you Aldo?"
"I? No Miss, but Misty yes. I find Misty. Misty find Master."
Hermione went to the large desk, scrambled for some stationary and hastily wrote a note. She handed the note to Aldo. "Can you send this with Misty to Draco, urgently please?"
Aldo nodded and disappeared with a pop.
Hermione was calm. She was certain everything was fine. If it were not, she was sure some instinct in her would have sensed it, somehow. She would know. Her instincts advised her that everything was fine. Panicking would just stress her Blueberry, so she wouldn't. It was just one of those things. She had overexerted herself over the weekend and her body was protesting, that was all. Could some common occurrence in the embryo's development cause benign bleeding? For once, Hermione could not recall details clearly.
From the Manor, Hermione Flooed directly to her healer's private clinic. Her arrival signalled a loud clanging bell that would undoubtedly inform Tara about the panicking mother-to-be at the clinic's threshold.
Tara appeared out of nowhere, still in her bedclothes. "What happened? How far are the contractions? When did they start? Breathe." As if just realising who she was talking to, Tara continued. "Oh, hello there, Hermione! What seems to be the problem?"
Hermione mentioned the spotting to Tara and nervously rambled her own suspicions regarding the cause, while the healer led Hermione to the examination table. Tara ran her wand over Hermione's womb. It emitted black sparks then sputtered to nothing. Tara's face fell and she turned heart breaking, moisture-filled eyes towards Hermione.
Not willing to accept the diagnosis that was bound to ensue, Hermione carefully got off the table and rushed out before the surprised Tara could react. Hermione returned to her flat and hastily wrote out another note.
"Zephyrus, this note is for Draco. He might be on his way back from Italy and on his way to Healer Tara's clinic at any time, so you may have to change course midway. Please, please hurry to him, as fast as you can fly." Zephyrus was out of her window by the time Hermione finished her sentence.
Hermione then called the emergency number for her Muggle doctor's clinic, and was scheduled for an appointment at eight o'clock. It was just approaching seven. Hermione took a shower and forced herself to eat some cereal; she needed to eat for her Blueberry.
Hermione's assistant, Alisha, lived on the fringes of the Muggle and magical worlds. Hermione's guidance through the years had helped the non-magical-Wizard-born (Hermione did not use the word 'Squib') assimilate into the Muggle community. For convenience, the young girl carried a cellular phone; it did not work near the magic of the Ministry, but Alisha would not have left home yet. Hermione left a message that she was running late. She mentioned that if her health worsened, she might take a personal day.
Hermione knew she would be fine, that Blueberry would be fine. Technology can fix this. Technology can revive… There are so many cures that Muggles have invented, far more advanced than anything in the magical world. Blueberry is fine. I just have to stay focussed.
Hermione took out her ill-used car and drove to the doctor's clinic in trepidation.
The receptionist at the clinic ushered Hermione in courteously. The friendly nurse, Angela, checked Hermione's BP, temperature and weight. All the while, Angela continued to assuage the fretting Hermione's fears, confirming that women sometimes bled for no apparent reason. However, the wise nurse did feel it necessary to mentally prepare Hermione for the worst.
"A million miracles have to happen at just the right time, in just the right way, to make a healthy baby. If anything is off, the body sometimes knows. It is healthier for the body to reject an imperfect embryo now, rather than later. Whatever happens, remember, it is not your fault. Though I am sure that everything will be peachy!"
Hermione changed into a white robe for her trans-vaginal ultrasound. The plump, matronly technician spoke soothingly while she checked the readings. Very kindly, the technician told Hermione that she was indeed, having a miscarriage. Her Blueberry's heart was not beating.
In many ways, time stopped for Hermione. It remained stuck there, in that place, for months to come. It took her that long to come to terms with all she had lost to that morning.
The technician spoke of how she hated this part of the job. She tried to console Hermione that it was much worse if a defect was found in the later months. Then, the burden of decision fell on the hapless parents, rather than on nature. She tried to console Hermione, telling her how another patient had suffered from a miscarriage three months ago and returned just the previous week, happily pregnant again, with twins. Hermione nodded and smiled, remaining absolutely calm, unfailingly polite, completely in control, utterly composed, except for the tears that rolled down her cheeks.
The nurse and technician plied her with comforting platitudes that meant little. They told her to expect painful contractions and clotting. They asked her if she wanted to avoid those by scheduling the procedure to remove the remains. They warned that the procedure came with the risk of an infection. Hermione almost screamed at them. This inside her, those were not remains, that was her baby and no, she did not want anything metal to suck him out. Hermione wanted to leave. She wanted to grieve in the privacy of her home.
Hermione walked out of the examination room to find Draco waiting in the clinic's waiting room. He sat there on a chair, his ashen face set in wood, his body stiff. As soon as he saw Hermione, he got up. Hermione stood there, her emotions playing across her face. He stood there, his face impossible to read.
After what could have been a year, Draco came forward and encompassed Hermione in a hug that undid her. For a second, the horrible ache in her chest stemmed. Then it returned, manifold. The tears she had dammed just recently, fell unbidden. Her body shuddered. Draco rested her head on his chest, one hand in her hair, the other lending strength to her back. They did not speak.
Looking back at that day, and those that followed, Hermione could not bring to mind much, not very clearly anyway. Fragments… disjointed events, were all she could recall. She remembered the pain, both emotional, and physical.
She remembered being at her flat with Draco. She remembered them walking to the loveseat where he just sat holding her till the sun set. She could not be sure if they had the TELLY on or off. She remembered that most of the times, she was calm, numb.
"I should have told you before, Misty can locate me wherever I am, as long as she has my permission. You should have known that. I should have left Misty answerable to you. You should not have had to run around, struggling to find me. I should have been there with you. You should not have had to find out alone." He shook his head in anger. "I went to Tara's first and she told me… she sent some potions for the pain. I knew where you would head next. Zephyrus found me outside the Muggle clinic. When I entered, Angela told me you were on your way out."
"I should have been there." Draco's head fell back against the sofa. His eyes were closed.
Hermione patted the hand that still held hers. "There was no way to know. You are here now."
Hermione closed her eyes.
Hermione remembered that Draco had tended to her, tended with care one would not have considered him capable of. He was quiet. He was there.
"Draco, it hurts."
"I know, Mi." He gave her a potion for the pain of the contractions, another to help her stay calm. Then he lay beside her and read to her from the newest edition of Hogwarts, A History.
Hermione remembered that some times, she allowed herself to experience the overwhelmingly potent force of her breaking heart.
Her baby was gone, her little Blueberry. She pet the gentle bulge over her womb. The glass surfaces in her bathroom cracked and shattered.
Hermione remembered how angry she was with herself, never with God, but so often with herself. She remembered the guilt.
"It's my fault, it's all my fault. I was careless. I thought I was indestructible, our baby was indestructible. Sometimes I woke up at night and found myself sleeping on my stomach. I worked long hours, I didn't eat enough. I didn't eat on time. I used so much magic. I didn't eat the fish oil capsules regularly enough, maybe I didn't get enough sleep, maybe I should have done something else, something more. We should have switched to organic foods, avoided pesticides. We should have got a filter for the tap, pesticide levels in drinking water peak during spring and summer. A study is underway that links the pesticide levels to higher rates of miscarriages during this time of the year. I should have been more careful. All the packaged food we eat, so much of it has MSG and they don't even mention it. I climbed that ladder at the Ministry library. I could have fallen but still I climbed it. Maybe I didn't deserve a baby, maybe I didn't want it enough? Maybe because I wanted a boy and it was a girl? Maybe I am not doing what I need to accomplish in life, and wasn't deemed ready for a baby yet. It's my fault, I did so many things wrong. I hurt the baby. I didn't deserve our baby. I didn't deserve Blueberry."
Draco forced her head up with a hooked finger on her chin. "Hermione, please listen to me. This is not your fault. I need you to understand that, love. Please? You were doing the best you could. It just happened. You heard what the healer said, it happens to over twenty percent first-time pregnancies. It just happened. It was not you. It was just not meant to be."
Hermione remembered how quiet it got after that. That evening passed without much conversation.
She remembered that night.
Hermione had not slept a wink. The clock read 2:12 am when she felt the vibrations on the bed.
Draco was sobbing in his sleep.
It distressed her to watch him writhe like that, his face contorted by misery. She almost reached forward to wipe the sweat off his damp forehead and the tears off his pained face, but she hesitated. Draco suppressed his emotions too forcefully, too often. He would not allow himself the human luxury of experiencing and finding expression for his grief. He needed to, if not consciously, then subconsciously.
In a perverse way, it helped to know her grief was shared.
His trembling body stilled after an unmeasured phase of the night. Hermione finally closed the distance to place a hand over his heart. Still restive, Draco moved in his sleep to place his head between her breasts. Hermione stroked his back, slowly soothing him into quiet slumber. She stayed awake.
Hermione remembered the next morning. She remembered a single bird outside her window, a worm still wriggling in its mouth.
Draco glanced at the clock as he exited the bathroom. He had just showered, but was dressed in his nightclothes again.
Life had to resume and she had to be the one to initiate. Hermione handed Draco his wand from the bedside. "You should go to Italy. You left yesterday without explanations. If you miss work, everyone will wonder. They might ask."
Draco kept the wand back on the table. "I don't care. I own the bloody business. I do not answer to anyone. Zabini can handle some of the dealings, I will let him know."
"What excuse will you give? It is all right. I am all right. You were here yesterday, you can't babysi… it is fine, Draco, go to work. Come by later, if you are not too tired?"
Draco assessed her, the room and the window. "If you are sure?"
"I will be fine. I am fine, just need to sleep. What will you do sitting here?"
Draco nodded and came to her, kissed her forehead and turned to leave. At the door he paused and turned.
"If you need me, send Misty. Tell her to come to me directly, no matter what. Should I… that is, do you want me to tell your mother, or Ginny, so they can be with you?"
Hermione was surprised. "No… no. I don't want them to know. I don't want to talk to anyone. In fact, if your mother knows, I don't want to hear from her either."
Draco looked pensive. "Harry?"
"No. I'll send him an owl."
"Misty will help with the house. You should rest."
Before Hermione could oppose that idea, Draco had snapped his fingers and whispered the house elf's name. A pop later, a bewildered Misty was standing in front of them. She looked up questioningly at Draco and then saw Hermione in bed. Tears the size of Lemon Drops fell from the devoted elf's eyes.
"Misty is sorry, Master, Miss. Misty is so sorry." She rocked back and forth on her feet, hugging her waist with her little arms. Hermione felt irritation at the emotional display. She did not want emotional displays. She did not want any emotions. She wanted numbness, numb was good. This? This was just annoying.
"For Merlin's sake, Draco, I don't need anyone right now. I'd rather be alone. Please send her back!"
Draco looked exasperated, which now made Hermione feel responsible. It was not the sensitive house-elf's fault that Hermione was irascible. Now, she would have to save Misty's hide, otherwise Merlin knew what Draco would spew in wrath.
"Never mind. Misty, could you please be a dear and go down to the kitchen? I would love some more tea. Your Master is improving everyday, but he still hasn't mastered the art of brewing tea yet. He thinks everything should taste bitter and burnt, like his coffee. You'll have to look for everything, so take your time. I am in no hurry. Thank you."
Misty hurriedly wiped her large eyes and walked out the door diffidently. Draco's expression was indecipherable again, his eyes unreadable.
Hermione saw that it was five minutes after eight in the morning. Draco was late already. She urged him to leave, and he did.
Hermione turned on the TELLY and flipped through channels. Not finding anything interesting, she returned to her TIVO list and played Pride and Prejudice again. For the duration of the movie she was transported to another time, her own misery sidelined till the contractions interrupted to remind her. She spent much of the day frequenting the loo, going through labour pains that were to bring her naught. Her body was rejecting the now lifeless placenta. Her baby flushed down the toilet, somewhere in the innumerable clots. Her chest ripped, no lungs left to scream.
Misty mostly sat with Hermione in her room, quietly watching the strangely moving pictures in a box. The elf did not allude to the miscarriage again. Draco might have had a word with her, after all.
Hermione sent Zephyrus to the Ministry, to inform them that she was availing sick leave- the first time in eight years of work that she had done so. She wrote that she had contracted Hippogriff Pox, an extremely contagious virus that had afflicted many at the Ministry in the last month. No one in his or her right mind would visit.
Hermione remembered being grateful for Misty's presence. The elf cooked a light meal that Hermione did not remember. Misty made a poultice with herbs to help with the pain. It was nice to have someone in the flat, it kept Hermione distracted from herself.
Hermione remembered how difficult it had been to word the message to Harry.
There was a problem. I miscarried.
No more than fifteen minutes had passed since she had sent Zephyrus, that her friend apparated into her living room. Harry sat down slowly next to her on the sofa. He tucked her head into his chest, draped a comforting arm around her shoulder and stayed there for hours, saying little. She valued his quiet strength and its comfort more than any words he could have misguidedly uttered. She finally persuaded him to leave in the evening.
At 7:15 pm Draco Flooed in, recently showered. He must have gone to the Manor first. Had he told his mother? How had she reacted? Hermione decided she was not keen to find out.
Draco was subdued, he asked about her day and Hermione replied in monosyllables. She asked him about work, he replied in monosyllables. Once Misty had served dinner, he sent her home and they ate in front of the Telly.
The week passed without much conversation, as did the month.
Draco began to spend significantly more time at Quidditch practice for an upcoming European Tour.
According to the press, Draco was "flying like a maniac these days" in a series of friendly matches against some local teams. Much to the paying spectators' dismay, Draco had caught the snitch within five minutes of play, in the last three games- not even enough time to finish a butter beer. Andy Flintoff, the sports columnist for the Daily Prophet, attributed Draco's "stellar performance to the gruelling training hours the Cannons had adopted recently."
Hermione knew about those training sessions, Draco had been practicing till midnight most days this week.
Hermione remembered devastatingly well, how Draco had withdrawn little by little, over the month that followed. He still spent his nights at Hermione's, but he came late and left early. When at her flat, he spent the majority of his time in her study. Silence ruled their conversations and neither offered explanation, nor resolution. He hugged her at night when they lay in bed together, but rolled away soon after.
Initially, Hermione had assumed that he was dealing with loss in his own unique way. Little by little, the awkward certainty dawned on her. Their time together had come to an end. For the first time in his life, playboy Draco Malfoy did not know how to end a stagnating relationship.
Above all else, Hermione was a practical woman. She learnt to accept it for what it was. One day, she almost asked him to leave. She was weary of the angst he brought into her life - almost as fatigued as he presumably felt, with the anxiety she brought to his ordered existence.
Draco was going to leave for the Quidditch tour in a few days. Hermione deduced they were both using that excuse to avoid a scene. Had he asked, she would have been happy to join him during the tour, at nights and on the weekends. He had not.
Draco would not return to her. Hermione would read about him and a celebrity woman in the paper. They would sporadically come across each other at social occasions, if he allowed it. That would be that. C'est la vie.
It was easier said than done. Her heart was broken many times over and no potion could cure the ailment of an exhausted soul.
Hermione remembered the morning that Draco left for the European Quidditch Tour. That morning, she remembered with excruciating detail.
Hermione had not slept well that night. Every time Draco stirred, she woke with a feeling of trepidation.
Hermione was not sure how she would deal with her fickle emotions once Draco left. Maybe she would not remember Blueberry as much, with Draco around less to remind her? She wondered how she would feel recovered, with two voids, in place of one.
Hermione heard Draco's alarm go off at five in the morning. He turned it off quickly, as he did when he did not wish to disturb her. She turned over to look at him, staying on her side of the bed. They lay there, watching each other. He brought his hand to her face and tucked her hair behind her ear. He started to say something, but she saw him change his mind, she saw the shutters come down. Draco was gone already. She smiled.
"Goodbye, Malfoy. I will see you when I see you."
Shuttered still the mask of choice, that beloved face came closer and placed a kiss on her forehead. He had packed last night, so when he got out of bed, Hermione was not entirely surprised to see him pick up his bag and head down. She heard the dismal, concluding woosh of the Floo.
Hermione berated herself for feeling dejected. She had been hoping for some more time with him. Perhaps some exchange of words, maybe an 'it's been fun' over their morning cup of tea? Some closure? Still in bed, she consoled herself that it was as it ought. Draco's leaving was best for her. She could now begin to heal.
Hermione got up and removed a bottle of Tree Draught from the supply she had brewed recently, downing the contents of two vials. She went back to bed and did not get out the entire day.
Hermione followed Quidditch in the papers, catching glimpses of Ron and Draco every once in a while, waving to cheering crowds. She had avoided going over to Harry and Ginny's for some time, having gotten away with just a lunch with both one Friday. That too, she had kept brief with work as an excuse.
It had been about a month and a half since her miscarriage and about ten days since Draco left. Hermione was at work when Serapha flew in through the open door, landing carefully in the small clear space on the large desk. Hermione's heart sped up at seeing Draco's owl.
Serapha dropped a sealed note and pecked Hermione's hand affectionately, asking to be petted.
"I've missed you, you lovely bird. I think Zephyrus has missed you too. Tell me, when he flies away for hours, is he secretly trysting with you? I swore I saw your feather on him the other day, he doesn't have your golden hue."
Serapha flew to the shelf where Hermione usually kept her owl treats and waited patiently for her reward of unseasoned popcorn, while Hermione opened the letter.
The scroll was blank. Absolutely, completely, starkly devoid of any words whatsoever. She checked it in various ingenious ways for hidden messages, but there were none. Hermione was ready to weep. Draco had nothing to say to her.
Then, Hermione smiled. Draco did not know what to say, yet, he wanted her to know he was thinking of her; though he knew not, how to say that either. He would have known she would spend ages checking the scroll for hidden messages. Draco Malfoy had just played a prank. She understood the simplicity, yet the profoundness of the act.
She took out a packet from her desk; these spicy potato wedges were the speciality of a Muggle bakery near her parent's home. Draco had developed a taste for them. In the past year alone Hermione had got him at least fifteen packs or so. She ate all but one of the wedges, wrapped the near-empty packet carefully and handed it to Serapha to take back for Draco. He would have to spend time inspecting one wedge for booby-trap spells. It would be dreadfully dissatisfying for him to have to take the time to check for foul play, all for the one wedge, just waiting to be eaten.
This little exchange helped Hermione much.
Over all, Hermione was nowhere as healed as she had hoped to be. When she saw pregnant women, she ducked into bathrooms or shop-windows to surreptitiously wipe her eyes. When she saw little children, she felt a sharp pang in her chest, a physical ache that would not ebb for hours. When she saw a blond head, she thought of the baby-soft silver her hands had come to know so well. Even despite the Tree Draught, she found herself sitting on the kitchen floor one night, sobbing uncontrollably because she found old, forgotten blueberries in her fridge. One day, when she was looking for something else entirely, she found Draco's birthday card, the one from Blueberry. She forced herself to throw out the agonizing reminders of her unborn child, though she could not bring herself to throw the ultrasound picture. That, she vanished to her storage. She then crawled into bed and lay there, curled up in the foetal position.
No, she was not as healed as she would have liked, but at least she had desisted feeling like a walking zombie. Everyday, she felt just a little more life, a little more energy come back into her. That would have to do.
It was Friday evening, about two months since her miscarriage and three weeks since Draco had left. Hermione was filing away her papers for the evening, though she planned to be back during the weekend. The door to her office opened at 5pm sharp and Hermione was surprised to see Ginny standing there with a glowing Lilliana.
"Hello there Miss Granger, I thought I'd have my daughter visit you, since you can't find the time to visit her."
"Come now, Ginny, you know it isn't like that! I just have been busy, that is all. Here, give me my goddaughter."
Hermione made to hold Lilliana, who seemed to recognize her, and smilingly came into her arms. Lilliana had been in Hermione's embrace for less than a minute, when she started sobbing loudly, spouting big tears and laboured breathing. Alarmed, Hermione hastily gave Lilliana back to her mother.
"What was it, did I hold her wrong? Did something pinch her, did I not support her head right?"
Lilliana started to calm down as soon as she was back in Ginny's arms, though she still hiccupped, looking anxious.
Ginny shook her head sadly. "It was you, Hermione. Not what you did, but you."
"Ginny, you didn't!" Hermione staggered backward, stunned.
"Not on purpose, no. We ran out of the empathy-blocking draught Snape had given us because James accidentally kicked a ball right into the cupboard. Snape's brewing another round… he'll have it ready by tomorrow. What? Don't look at me like that! This is not my fault, it's yours! You have avoided meeting us for over a month, if not two. I figured that Draco had left for his tour and you would be a little lonely. I was wondering when you would use me as a shoulder to vent. When you avoided meeting me, I knew something was wrong, but you weren't telling. You left me no choice Hermione. Now, you're coming home with me this instant, and I will not listen to any lame excuses about work! The department can manage without you working one weekend."
Hermione grudgingly closed her office for the day and followed Ginny to the Floo. The Potter residence seemed peaceful. James was at the Burrow with his cousins and Harry was away at work. Ginny brewed some tea, gave a bottle to Lilliana and settled the child in her crib.
"Now, out with it. What's going on? You look like death. Harry says Draco's been acting like a jerk for a while. Have you two split up?"
"Harry is in touch with Draco?"
"You know they stay in touch on a regular basis."
"No, I didn't."
"Have you split up?"
"Did he break up with you?"
"No, he tried his best not to, I think. It just happened though."
Ginny rubbed at her temples. "What do you mean? Something must have happened. The last time we met you both, you were radiant and he was strutting you around like a trophy he couldn't keep his hands off. You don't go from there to nothing, without a reason. What happened? Did he cheat on you?"
Hermione's head shot up. "Oh no. No. Not that."
"Then what Hermione? Obviously something's making you very sad. Why can't you tell me? If you don't feel comfortable talking to me, then let me get Harry or Ron… please talk to them."
"No, it's not that, Ginny. I'm sorry, I did not realize I was making you feel this way."
"This isn't about me Hermione. It's about you. You've always been here for us all. I can't help but feel that you need someone… but we aren't around for you now. Harry with the Auror job, Ron with his Quidditch and the new marriage… me with my children. I feel guilty Hermione. Please, talk to me so I can feel like I can be there for you too."
Hermione rested her head in her hands, as she leaned into the breakfast table. Maybe she needed this? A catharsis.
"I'm in love with Draco, Ginny." When Ginny just looked at her encouragingly, Hermione added, "I have been for eight years."
Ginny contemplated on that. "There's something else going on though. You've been in love with Draco all these years, something else happened to make you this sad. Why did you break up? You guys seemed giddily enamoured at Ron's wedding and so happy that night at dinner."
Hermione steeled herself for this. She had not actually spoken this out loud to anyone.
"We were happy because I was pregnant, Ginny."
"You were! Wait, you were?"
Hermione sighed and turned her head to gaze out the window. She spoke with as little emotion as she could, "I miscarried two months ago. Things just sort of fell out of place after that."
Ginny got up, came over and hugged Hermione tightly.
"I am so sorry, Mione. I am so, so sorry."
Ginny scooted over her chair be able to sit and still hold Hermione's hand. Hermione saw Ginny tear up but was grateful for the lack of a protracted outburst. She wanted neither pity nor sympathy, she would not know how to deal with them.
Hermione found herself telling Ginny about Draco. How, a conversation about Hermione wanting children, had turned her life upside down. How Draco had been the absolute perfect consort and father-to-be, how she had never seen that tender and ridiculously protective side of him before. In calm, even tones, she told Ginny about the miscarriage and the misery that had ensued.
Tears were streaming down both their faces by the end of the hour, but Hermione felt lighter than she had in a month. She had not shared much of her feelings with Draco. They had both retreated into their caves, licking their wounds, unwilling to unmask and be vulnerable to that extent. With Ginny, however, Hermione had no apprehensions about maintaining appearances and boundaries. So, Hermione sat there, drank the tea that Ginny kept refilled in her cup, talked and cried.
Ginny splayed her hands in regret. "I wished I'd asked you earlier. I'm sorry you've had to go through all this alone, Hermione. I wish I'd known. I get so caught up with the drama of my kids and my Auror husband, but that's not good enough an excuse."
Hermione clasped her friend's extended hand. "It wasn't you Ginny, it was me. How would you know if I refused to even meet you? I think I just needed some time, for it all to sink in. I promise to be around more now, so you don't feel like you need to resort to using your daughter to glean my state of emotions."
They both smiled. Ginny reached to hug her again. "Come now, help me make the dinner that you are going to eat with us. And since you're staying with us tonight, you might as well go put your purse in the guest room and freshen up before we start."
Hermione stayed that night at the Potters, though Harry still hadn't come home when she headed to bed. Ginny had received an owl warning her he might be late. The next morning, Hermione came down to see a haggard Harry having a cup of coffee. He smiled when he saw her, appearing genuinely relieved and pleased at her presence.
Hermione grinned back. "Hey, there. Fancy bumping into you here."
Harry snorted. "Small world and all."
"Auror business keeping you away from home and hearth? Anything I can help with?"
Harry kept down his coffee mug. "Actually, there is. You haven't heard any thing about Vicot approaching anyone at the sanctuary again, have you? Maybe a student mentioned it to you?"
"No, nothing. Why, is everything all right? I Owled him a few weeks ago, but did not hear back."
"Just wondering about Ashram security. I've set up some additional wards at the campus, guarding it against former students. I heard you added some measures too. I was thinking about heading there tomorrow, haven't been there in a while. Come with?"
"It's a date." Hermione grinned innocently at Ginny's raised eyebrows, as she walked in at the end of the conversation.
Ginny whacked her husband's head in mock disapproval. "If I didn't know any better, I swear I wouldn't let the two of you come within a foot of each other without a chaperone. The tales that people tell! You know the tabloids call you 'Harmonie', right?"
Hermione stared aghast while Harry breathed in his coffee, coughing.
"What?" Hermione exclaimed while Ginny dutifully patted Harry's back.
Ginny nodded knowlingly. "While people speculating about you and Draco refer to you as 'Dramione'."
Harry interrupted, his irritation obvious. "How many times have I asked you to stop reading that non-sense?"
Ginny did not seem fazed. "Harry Potter, you try sitting at home with two kids all day, for five years. I'll see how you don't read anything you can lay on your hands on. There's always a fresh supply of magazines and tabloids with Bridget and Angela. It's hard not to read it, especially if it's for free. You know I don't believe any of the things they print. It's just entertainment value, what they believe our lives to be. Lifestyles of the rich and famous. Merlin knows where they come up with the stuff. According to them, you and I have twenty house-elves that take care of our children, while I lounge in spas and shop till I drop. Everyday." Ginny shook her head in mild disgust.
Harry put his arm around Ginny's waist. "Gits."
Ginny nodded. "Complete."
After a refreshing breakfast, Hermione headed home despite the Potters' protests. She really did have some work to attend to, especially if she was to spend her Sunday at Ashram.
Hermione reached home at around seven in the evening. She prepared and ate pasta, read a book on Energy Healing and was asleep by eleven.
A loud crack of apparition jarred her to alert wakefulness. Wand in hand, she yelled a Protego, but needn’t have bothered.
Draco was standing there, his clothes torn and bloody, wide gashes along his chest and long scratches on his face. His shirtsleeve had been ripped off to form a makeshift, bloodied bandage on his arm.
"We have to stop meeting like this." Draco smiled gingerly, right before he collapsed on her bed.
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