I always knew Annie was a special child. She was smart, almost too smart for a girl of three. She hadn't know that she was witch and I have no intention to tell her now. I felt very comfortable without any contact to the world I left behind. I myself never touched my wand or anything that connected to the Wizarding world. Well, maybe except the Daily Prophet. I still wanted to know the progress of the magical world around me. I remember the day she flew into the kitchen as I was drinking a glass of water after work and waving a sheet of paper around.
"Mummy, I drawed you a picture!" her tiny little voice cried as she crashed into me, breathless and grinning from ear to ear. I laughed and set her on my lap, gently taking the paper from her.
"Annie, this is…" I stopped, seeing the picture and knowing fully that three year old should draw this well. It was a picture of a flower, and to my surprise her coloring was inside the lines for the most part and the use of color was correct. The stem was green, the flower was yellow with an orange center.
"Do you like it Mummy?" she asked, her big greyish-blue eyes hopeful. I sighed and smiled for her.
"Of course I do! It's the best picture ever! We'll hang it on the kitchen wall," I said, kissing her light brown curls and setting her on her feet. As I found a tack to pin it on the wall, Annie stood with her serious little expression on her face.
"Mummy, I want to be a waitress, just like you!" I looked down at her in surprise. For the last two years, I had been working in a small diner down the road. Luna agreed to come every morning by Apparating to watch Annie. She'd become like a sister to me, and her husband, Rolf Scamander, was also good to Annie and I.
It was plain to see from the beginning that Annie was Draco all over again. Her eyes, her smile, her lips. It was all him. The only thing she'd gotten from me were the curls I had loathed a lot – though hers wasn't as bushy as mine was; somehow, my hair had tamed by itself miraculously. She also got my chin and nose. In the dark, Annie would get hints of brown running through her golden locks until it nearly turned into a shade of blonde. Even the way she stood was a reminiscent of Draco's smug stance.
Even though I hated the job I had, it did pay well and kept us living. Money was tight, food was not plentiful, but there was enough, and we were happy. Life was not bad, but for the horrid lonely nights because those nights were when the memories came. It had been almost four years since Draco's death and the vivid details still haunted me. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw the face of young Colling Creevey, or Fred Weasley, or even Remus Lupin. Draco inevitably was always in my mind whether I was sleeping or awake. If you would have told me I could fall in love with someone that was my enemy for years, I would have laughed in your face and called you a silly dreamer. Maybe, I'd even suggest you to go to some asylum. Bu,t I did fall in love. I really did love him and it still tore my heart. We were so young, he was only seventeen and myself eighteen at the time. I was still young at only twenty-two, but I felt like a woman of forty.
I could still hear the screaming from that night, the horrible screams of the War. The thuds of people smashing against the floor as a curse hit them to their deaths and the piercing laugh of Voldemort. It wasn't fair. I know that expression is overused, but it's true. In a matter of four hours, I had everything I had ever known or wanted ripped out of my grip. My love, my family and my life. Not that I wasn't ready to give up the life I had, because for that I am grateful. But I cannot help but wonder how different it would have been if Draco and I were already friends and we dated since forever. Could the War still happened? Could I still be friends with the Weasleys? Could Mum forgive me for having a kid out of wedlock? Though she was the one who set me into a loveless engagement with Ron, I hated to admit, but I missed her. She was the only mother I had. The only last link that reminded me of my old life, of being Hermione Granger.
I still hadn't given up the dream of an author, a dream that only Draco knew. But, that dream was proving to be a far fetched on between work and Annie. Still, I wrote a bit once in a while. I had made it to put my story in local newspaper, but no one really noticed the papers and and the pay had been minimal. One day, just after Annie's fourth birthday, I came home from work to find her crying on the couch. I had instantly dropped my purse and moved to sit beside her.
"What is the matter Annie Malfoy?" I asked her and she wouldn't answer. "Annabelle Luna…" I said and she looked up at me with eyes wise beyond her years.
"Mummy, are we poor?" she asked with her arms crossed. My mouth dropped open.
"I…no, we are not poor, Annabelle. Who said we were?" I asked and she looked at her hands.
"You did, yesterday. You said they were gonna turn the heat off cause we couldn't pay the bill. You said money don't grow on trees." I covered my mouth with my hand and closed my eyes. I had been stressed out the day before and had vented to Luna and Rolf
"You heard that, Annie?" I asked, smoothing her curls back.
"Uh huh," she replied. I rubbed my eyes tiredly and put my arm around her.
"We are not poor, baby. We're going to be alright, I promise. Is that all that was bothering you?" She shook her head.
"Why don't I have a Daddy? Lorcan and Lysander have one, so did James and Albus. Why not me?" I remained calm, knowing damn well that this question would arise one day and thankful that it was time to get it over with. Ani was referring to Luna's and Harry's kids
"Annie, you did have one. But he..." I couldn't bring myself to say it. "He went to Heaven." Her eyes got wide.
"With God?" she asked in an awestruck voice. I even laughed.
"Yes baby, with God." She grinned.
"That must make him some important person, huh?" Her innocence made this so much easier. I nodded.
"Oh yes… It does. He drew pictures too, you know; just like you."
This seemed to satisfy her immensely and excitement made her cheeks pink.
"What did he look like?" she asked and I tried to picture him. Eleven years meeting him everyday of my life made it easier to picture him.
"He looked like you, Annie," I said, touching her cheek. She sighed.
"I guess, it's okay if he's with God. But, I sure want to meet him," she said. "I never had no one look like me before." I rested my head on hers and bit my lip, hoping she couldn't tell that I was crying.
"I want that, too…" She didn't ask about it again after that, thank God. Surprisingly, she became quite the independent one. She was very sure of herself and only one incident made her forget that momentarily.
"I hate the teachers! I hate school! I hate the world! " Annie said, flying in after school one day. She was now seven going on eight and in the second grade. I laughed, stirring the soup I was making.
"Now, it can't be that bad…" I said as she threw her things on the table. She sighed loudly and looked at me like I was mad.
"You don't know, Mum! You just don't know!" she said, nearly tearing the ribbons from her hair and taking out her school braids. I calmly walked to the fridge to get her a glass of milk and set it in front of her, sitting beside her.
"Why don't you tell me?" I asked her and she nodded.
"It's terrible! Miss Shannon asked us to say what we wanted to do when we grew up, so I did!" I bit my lip, having a feeling of where this was going.
"And?" I asked. She glared into her milk.
"I said I wanted to draw pictures like my father and write books like you!" I folded my arms. Annie had this obsession of writing like me and drawing like Draco.
"What happened?" I asked with a sigh, knowing even then what was bothering her.
"She said, 'Annabelle, those works are very ris...ris…" She couldn't find the word, so I filled it in for her.
"Risky?" I offered. She nodded.
"Right! Risky! She said, 'But Annabelle, you're a brilliant a girl. And brilliant girls don't do things such as drawing and writing. You're really beautiful and extremely smart. Why don't you be a model or a business-woman? Can you believe it Mum? A business-woman!I don't want to be a business-woman!"
I tried not to show how upset I was by this. A kid was told to do something else because they think that they knew everything! I'd been living in the world of being told, so did Draco. And I won't let my daughter be those kids that was told to do things they don't like! She would learn to care for herself and believe in herself! How dare a teacher told her what to do for her future when I myself never did that to my own daughter!
"You don't have to be a business-woman, Annie. You can be whatever you want and don't you forget it. I want to speak to your teacher."
The following day, I went to Annie's school early and asked Miss Shannon if I could talk to her. She was a young half-Iris teacher. She barely reached the age of thirty, I think.
"Miss Shannon, I am concerned about how you handled my daughter yesterday. You told her she shouldn't be a painter or an author?" She folded her hands a bit arrogantly and looked at me.
"Mrs. Malfoy, I will not give her some foolish future. You may delude yourself by telling her that she can be whatever and that's perfectly fine, but we both know it is not true. How much writer or painter are known to this day? We could count them with our fingers." I glared at her heatedly. Her face was plain and her hair was pulled back tightly into a bun, which was unflattering to the thinness of her face.
"She is a child, Miss Shannon. A little girl! Do you have children?" I asked her in my lowest, most intimidating voice.
"Well I... No, I don't." she replied, flustered.
"Of course you don't!" I cried, "If you did, you would know the pain of coming home to find your child hating herself simply because the world is ridiculous. I am sorry Miss Shannon, but I cannot bring myself to tell her she can't because of the way things are and I would appreciate it if you would refrain from doing it to her too." The woman stood haughtily and fixed an icy glare on me.
"You expect me to lie?" she asked and I shook my head.
"No, I expect you to just nod your head and keep your mouth shut. She is seven years old. I will worry about her future when the time comes, but right now, I just want her to be a happy seven year old girl!"
"Very well, Mrs. Malfoy," the woman replied. "I simply will not say anything to either encourage nor discourage little Annabelle." I smiled and nodded at her before leaving the room. I kissed Annie on the forehead and left for work. Late.
"Malfoy!" My boss Ben cried as I flew into the diner.
"I am so sorry Ben, there was an issue at my daughter's school and-"
"I don't care if there was a natural disaster. There ain't no excuse for bein' late!" he barked and I nodded.
"Alright... I got the picture..." I said and began to wipe the empty tables down when I noticed someone was watching me. I looked up to see a man sitting near the window with light-brown hair and aquamarine eyes. I gave him a smile and began to take an older couple's order before I took his.
"Hi, what can I do for you?" I asked him and he smiled.
"Just a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll," he said and I nodded.
"Fair enough. Be right up."
I couldn't help but notice how incredibly bright his smile was. I caught his eyes as I served customers and could feel myself blush every time he smiled. Only one other person had ever looked at me that way. And that was... As I brought his coffee and cinnamon roll, my hands began to shake so badly, I lost grip of the tray and it crashed down onto the table, splashing coffee all over his nice shirt.
"Shit..." I cursed, embarrassed as Ben came flying out of the kitchen.
"Damn it Malfoy, how many times have I told you to get your head outta the clouds?" he shot at me, coming to the table. "I'm sorry, sir... If there is anything I can do to make up for this idiot-"
"Aw, come on now... She's trying. Give her a break," the man said, winking at me. I wanted to crawl under the table and die. It was obvious he was much older than I by about ten or twelve years, but his good looks had not faded in the least and there was no trace of gray hair. I silently scolded myself. You've just spilled coffee all over him and you are examining how attractive he is? Are you just going to forget Draco?
"No, you know what, Malfoy? You're fired. I'm sick of you bein' late, I'm sick of your screw ups. You're done. Pack it up," Ben barked at me. Feeling the heat burn my face I untied my apron and tossed it to his face.
"You know what, Ben? Fuck you! You are an arsehole! This is the first time I've been late in six years and I have never dropped anything before. Besides, I'd rather work anywhere than in this shit hole with you!" I said, and stormed out of the restaurant to hail a cab home. As I walked down the street, I heard footsteps behind me.
"Miss! Uh, Miss! Wait! You dropped this!"
I turned to see the man from the restaurant. He was holding my wallet.
"Thanks," I said. "It must have fell out of my purse." I stopped to look up at him. He was much taller than me.
"No problem." He grinned, holding out his hand. "James Fanning." I smiled politely and shook his hand.
"Hermione Gra... Malfoy." Even now, I sometimes still wanted to say my old name out of habit.
"Pleasure Miss Malfoy...or is it Mrs.?" I raised my eyebrow but nodded.
"Mrs. He passed away." It was a lie, but close enough to the truth that I didn't feel guilty. "Just call me Hermione."
He smiled again, brilliantly showing a row of perfect white teeth.
"Hermione... It suits you perfectly. Call me Jim," he said. I looked awkwardly at my worn shoes.
"So what's a sweet girl like you doing in a dump like that?" he asked and I laughed.
"Well you were dining in that dump!" I said, hating myself for shamelessly flirting like this. It felt so good...free almost. "I uh...have to support my daughter and myself. We live a few blocks away in that shabby old apartment."
"That man always been that way?" he asked, referring to Ben. I nodded.
"Yes, I am afraid he just thought I was some subservient little worker."
"Well, he was wrong, wasn't he?" Jim asked. "Say, would you like to get some ice cream? My treat of course." I laughed.
"Well, if it's your treat, I seem to be out of a job."
"So," he said as we entered the shop. "You're British?"
I smiled, fighting the urge to slap my face for flirting him further. "Guilty."
"And you're husband... He's British, too? Or French? Because, I never heard a Malfoy from British before," he said.
I tensed a bit but flashed a small smile. "Well, he's a British to the core, but he did have a little French from his father's side."
James nodded. "Interesting."
We bought the ice creams and he kindly paid, like he promised. Then, we talked about our lives and money and current events in the news. Mostly about how Britain just have this weird things happened. Like meteor showers or people dressed strangely. But, I know damn well that it was because of the Wizards. Each year, on Harry's birthday, they would celebrate his birthday and the death of Voldemort.
"The media is so ridiculous. Why do they always report about something that it's not important when there's trouble inside the country?" I said as he walked me home. He nodded.
"You're a smart woman, Hermione," he said softly as we came to the door of my building.
"I uh, better go before Annie gets-"
"I want to see you again," he said and I looked at him, surprised.
"You do?" I nearly choked. "Well, right now I am unemployed, so I must find a job..."
"Come work for me in my office. You could be my secretary. I'll pay you double what you were making," he said, and I looked at him surprised.
"What do you do?" He grinned.
"I'm a non-profit lawyer."
I looked at my hands. "Look, Jim... I really appreciate that, but I am not ready to become involved..."
"Then you don't have to. Just work for me. You need a job. Take it one day at a time. I promise you won't regret it."
His eyes were so sincere I think I muttered some word of approval because he was shaking my hand. He gave me a quick hug before leaving and I walked numbly up to the apartment. Annie was home twenty minutes later as I was preparing dinner and threw her books on the couch before rushing into the kitchen.
"Guess what?" she cried and I shrugged.
"Huh?" She thrust a piece of paper into my hand and I realised it was another drawing. This one was a girl sitting near a window. It was so well done, I would have guessed an experienced adult had drawn it. On top of it was a red "A". I smiled and tacked it on the wall with her other ones. As I hugged her, something told me that we were going to be alright.
Don't forget to re-check the cast from chapter 1 if you forget them! Thanks for reading and please review ;)
Sophie (and Amelia)
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