Chapter 11 : A Conversation
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“Shhh,” Hermione whispered, trying to get Jack to calm down. He’d been crying on and off for the better part of an hour and nothing she’d done so far had seemed to work. He didn’t need changing; he wasn’t hungry; he wasn’t sick; he didn’t like his favorite stuffed dragon and he didn’t want to be rocked. She was at a loss and she hated that feeling, after months of having no direction. Currently she was cradling him and walking around his room, hoping that this would eventually pacify the child.
The unexpected announcement came from Ginny, who stood just in the doorway to the room, a wary look in her eyes. Hermione could understand that as she herself was mistrustful of this man, not a friend but not a foe either, who somehow was mixed in with her family. She hadn’t actually thought about him since the hospital trip almost a week ago but realized that she’d never really gotten an answer as to why he seemed to always be involved with her son.
She moved Jack to her shoulder, rubbing his back in what she hoped he would take as soothing. Her voice, however, was anything but. “Gin, why is Draco Malfoy here?”
The redhead blinked at her, a tactic Hermione knew she did when she was trying to form some sort of lie. “No really, why?” she pressed.
Ginny looked to the still crying baby and back to Hermione. “Because I called him.”
Hermione stared at her. “Called him?”
“With a mobile,” Ginny put forth as if that explained it. She then took another look at Hermione’s face and put up her hands. “I just thought—Oh, never mind, I’ll just go back and tell him to leave.”
“Wait a minute!” Hermione reached out with her free arm to catch Ginny before she left completely. But this jarred the baby who’s wails increased in volume so Hermione dropped Ginny’s arm in favor of cradling Jack, who’s lung capacity would be amazing to her if she wasn’t so desperate to get him to calm down.
“Ginny, on second thought, I decided to actually come straight here,” said a smooth low voice.
Hermione and Ginny turned to find that Draco had appeared in the hallway outside the door, simply but impeccably dressed in a dark jumper and jeans, a low cap over his blond hair. He made Hermione feel grubby with her own hair falling out of the low bun she’d attempted to control her curls and baby spit over her shirt. She resented that, on top of resenting his mere presence.
His eyes went to Jack who was now flailing against Hermione’s shoulder, not wanting to be held it seemed. His arms came up. “May I?” his voice was diffident. She found that she had angled the baby away from him at his gesture.
She didn’t understand this, didn’t understand why he was here and why he thought she would just hand over her baby to him. Her eyes caught Ginny’s over his shoulder and she was surprised to see that the other woman was nodding in encouragement. But still she hesitated. Jack continued to move against her, fighting against her restraining arms. He managed to twist himself around enough that he was facing Draco. Spotting the man, his little arms came up, reaching for him.
Surprised and just a little hurt, she followed Jack’s obvious request to be held by Draco and handed him over.
The man took the baby in his arms, settling him in the crook of his arm with practiced ease. “Hi, little guy. Hey, buddy. It’s okay.” Unbelievably, Draco’s voice had taken on an affectionate quality Hermione would never have believed had she not been witnessing it herself. She watched as Jack’s cries became quieter, watched as her son sniffled and stopped kicking, watched as he responded to this stranger, who was no stranger to him apparently.
And she wanted to cry. She swallowed it back, not wanting to have Draco see her so upset again, and felt a tug on her arm.
Ginny’s eyes were concerned as she took in her sister’s wet eyes. Hermione let herself be led just outside the doorway to Jack’s room, where they could still see Draco and Jack but also have a somewhat private conversation. Draco’s head was bowed over her son who was cradled in his arms, quiet now and staring up at Draco, listening intently to the nonsensical murmurs the man was whispering.
“I’m a horrible mother.” The statement came out on a dejected whisper. She felt a tear escape before she could blink it back and wiped at her face in irritation. Merlin, she was tired of crying.
Ginny’s arm came around her, hugging the petite boned woman to her. “No, you’re not, Hermione. Really. But there is something I’ve been needing to tell you, about Jack, about Draco.” She paused.
“What is it about Draco? Why is he always here?” The words were more apathetic than angry.
“When you were—“ she cut herself off and started again, not willing to put a label to Hermione’s condition, “for the past couple of months, Draco has been helping us with Jack. He’s good with him, Hermione. He’s good for him.” She indicated the man and the baby. Draco seemed completely focused on Jack, rocking him; Jack’s eyes were closing, sleepy.
Hermione shrugged Ginny’s arm off and faced her, brown eyes fierce. “But why? How’d he even find Jack? Why did you call him here today?”
“I wanted to tell you before Draco saw Jack again, so that you’d know and understand why, but,” she trailed off, her gaze going to the two in the room again. Hermione reined in her impatience at the halting explanation. She trusted her though she didn’t comprehend the situation; she’d always hated it when she was left in the dark, when she was two steps behind anyone. But she knew that the blame lay with her, not her family.
Ginny gathered her thoughts once more. “He saved you Hermione; that night he risked his life for you and Jack. And he tried to save Ron, too, but…it was too late. Draco also lost someone, Hermione. Blaise Zabini also died that night.” Ginny’s voiced had softened. “He’s changed. I don’t know how much or how long it’ll last, but he’s changed.” She sounded like she had just realized this for herself, really acknowledged that Draco had stepped out of the box he and his family had been so eager to keep themselves in.
Hermione was speechless and she turned to look at the man holding her child. Draco Malfoy risking his life to save her, a Muggleborn? Her already topsy-turvy world tilted once more, putting people in places they were never meant to belong. She couldn’t believe it, didn’t dare to give him that advantage.
But as she stared at him, she noted his soft smile, the gentle way he held her son, his own ragged features that bespoke of recently trying times and felt some of her own anger fade. Because she saw that, at least in this one moment, Draco wasn’t here to extort her, to use her pain for his own benefit. He was here because he needed healing, and it seemed, that Jack provided that. Just as Jack did for her.
His eyes lifted as if he sensed her scrutiny. His eyes met hers, caution in his gray gaze. She gave him a small smile because despite who he was and who she was, her son had stopped crying and was sleeping peacefully, his small face relaxed. Draco’s eyes widened slightly and then he smiled tentatively back, giving a small shrug as he glanced back down at the baby in his arms.
Hermione felt confused. She didn’t trust him and certainly did not like him, but for the space of a heartbeat, she’d felt a connection, an acknowledging of some kindred spirit. Suddenly uncomfortable, she moved into the room, holding her arms out for her son. Draco willingly handed him over, careful not to disturb Jack and moved back as she lay him back in his crib. She ran her hand over his small head as he settled in under his blanket, taking comfort in his soft warmth.
Turning, she met the tall man’s eyes as he stood quietly to the side and gestured with her head at the doorway. “We should talk.”
Draco shifted uncomfortably on the edge of the armchair. Hermione had led him to the sitting room where he’d found her the other day and then gone off to get some tea for their “talk”. He came here today because Ginny had asked him to be there while she told Hermione the full story of what had happened that night. He ignored the whisper in the back of his mind of that not being everything.
For some reason, while he had settled into a somewhat civil relationship with the Potters, he felt some anxiety in speaking to Hermione. His fingers drummed on his knees and he forcibly stilled them; he didn’t want to look nervous. He wasn’t sure what it was that made him feel this way. Perhaps it was the fact that he knew about her depression and wasn’t sure if he should acknowledge it. Maybe it was that the last time they’d spoken, he’d said some cruel things. Not that that was unusual in their relationship, if one could define it as such, but within himself, in that changing part of his soul, it didn’t sit right with him.
But that was still a small part of a whole and Draco had justified it to himself that he had been doing it to get her out of her apathy so she would help her own son but he knew that part of his nastiness has been rooted in his own resentment toward his parents. And towards Hermione, he silently acknowledged. He’d seen what Ginny, Harry and her parents had been going through while she was locked away in her own cage. He’d known she was stronger than that.
But now, she seemed of sound mind, though still a little fragile (he hadn’t missed the tears earlier), and he was being made to face the fact that maybe he wouldn’t be able to have access to Jack in the future. That she’d bar him because of old prejudices and past incidents. He didn’t want to brush those aside but he would be frustrated if she wouldn’t be willing to see him for who he was now, not the kid he’d been then.
He looked up as she entered, a tray balanced between her hands laden with a teapot and some biscuits. He jumped up to help her, ignoring her raised eyebrows as he took the tray from her and settled it on the low table between the armchair and couch. Standing awkwardly next to the armchair, he waited as she poured them each a cup and finally taking his seat once she’d settled. He didn’t know where these gentlemanly instincts were coming from but felt a small measure of relief that he had some sort of protocol to fall back on.
They sat in silence for a couple of minutes, holding their teacups, avoiding each others’ gazes. He’d hoped that Ginny would be here for the conversation but it seemed that once Hermione had regained some of her balance in the world of the living, Ginny had thought it best that she deal with some things on her own. He could grant her that but he didn’t feel comfortable with the present circumstances.
“So…” Hermione started, her voice raspy. She cleared her throat, putting her cup down.
Draco followed her action, setting his own cup on the table and finally looked at her. She looked much better than last he saw her; her hair, while messily in a bun, was washed, her eyes no longer had that deadened gaze, some hint of life evident there and her face had some color to it, not the corpse-like tinge she’d had a couple of weeks ago. She’d actually be attractive if she bothered to do something with herself. Mentally he shook his head, not a direction he wanted to go in at all with Hermione.
She continued. “Ginny told me. About what happened…that night.” She still couldn’t really talk about it. He could hear it in her hesitation, in the shine of her eyes. He hoped she wouldn’t cry. He didn’t know how to deal with it and he had a feeling he would mess up badly and for sure wouldn’t be able to see Jack.
When she didn’t continue, he said, “Yes?”
She flashed him an annoyed look which he didn’t understand. “I—“ she paused again, seeming to have some sort of inner struggle, “thank you.” She looked away as soon as she said it, a slight frown on her face.
Now he got it. She didn’t want to thank Draco Malfoy, the ex-Death Eater. He felt a sardonic smile creep onto his face which she didn’t see, still engrossed in the pattern of the teapot it seemed. Some Gryffindor. He felt his temper rise, ignoring the hurt he felt at her prejudice. He’d always thought that she was the more close-minded of the three, a stickler for the rulebook, her head filled with useless facts on history and the world around her.
“No problem,” his tone ironic, even a little hard, glazing over the weakness inside him, the part of him that just wanted to be seen for who he was now, not who he’d been. “Sorry I couldn’t get Ron.” He regretted the words as soon as he’d said them.
Her eyes snapped to his, the anger that seemed to always be directed at him was present once more. Her small fists clenched and he watched as her jaw clenched. He wanted to apologize but the words wouldn’t come.
“I can’t even believe you just said that. What is your problem?” she hissed, eyes narrowed at him. “Don’t you care about anyone else besides yourself?” She stood up, her petite height nothing compared to his taller frame but the anger that seethed from her seemed to add to her somehow. He wasn’t afraid, but it made him pay attention. He was reminded of that day in Jack’s room, when she’d had no control over her magic.
“Just stay away from us, Draco. Whatever iota of selflessness you had that night is obviously gone. We don’t need you. Jack doesn’t need you.”
He barely checked himself from flinching. Those last words hurt and he wanted to throw them back in her face, remind her of what had happened just half an hour ago, how Jack had reached for him, how it’d been him that had been helping take care of Jack these past few months, not her. But he didn’t say another word. He was mad at himself for letting her get to him, especially now, when he was trying to make something more out of his empty life.
He stood up, clenching his jaw. If he was going to do this “being better” thing, he knew he’d have to stick it out through these erected barriers of hate and prejudice and there’d be times when he’d have to swallow his words and eat crow. But Merlin, this was hard. Years of ingrained altitude, false superiority embedded in the fabric of his being with one small blossoming tree of light fighting it all. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t—“
She cut him off, dislike etched into her face. “Just go.”
Nodding stiffly, he stepped out into the corridor, ignoring Ginny as she came out of the kitchen and stepped into the sunlight. He’d let Hermione have a little time to cool down and then he’d try talking to her again. It wasn’t right what he’d said and he’d need to fix it. For his sake as well as Jack’s.
As we can all see, I am getting more into the Draco and Hermione interaction now. Because I am setting myself up for making as believable a Dramione as possible (IF this turns into a Dramione, mwahahaha) I wanted to see what you think of this chapter. I’m not having Hermione suddenly fall in love with this guy so let me know – is her reaction real? Is his? I’m interested in seeing how it comes across! Thanks, loves.
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