“Well… have you figured out how you’re going to tell her?” Ginny asked while watching me move about her kitchen. I had been pacing for the past few hours, drinking tea and waiting for Draco to get back from his debriefing at the Ministry. “Hello. Earth to Hermione.”
I stopped and looked at her. “I’m sorry Gin. I just… I don’t know. What would you do?” I finally sat at the counter and began fiddling with a cookie.
“I guess I would make it as simple as possible.” She shrugged and sipped her tea.
“Meaning…?” I asked with impatience.
“Meaning. Sit her down and explain how you thought something happened but it didn’t. I know she’s young Hermione, but she’s a very bright little girl. She will be okay.” Ginny tried to reassure me.
I was nervous. Nervous that Draco wasn’t ready to take on the responsibility of being a father. It had been a week and a half since he returned to our lives and I had been postponing telling Cassie for as long as I could. Luckily Draco had things to take care of with the Ministry so his mind was occupied most of the time. When it wasn’t he was demanding to see his daughter.
“I’m so scared Gin. What if he doesn’t like her? What if she doesn’t like him or hates him when she gets older for what he did?” Tears started to fall as I thought about Cassie resenting her father when she could fully understand the situation. ‘He did it to protect us’ I kept reminding myself. It just hurt to know I lost 3 years of our lives together.
“Are you crazy? He loves her already Mione, he can’t go a day without asking about her and wanting to see more and more pictures. Frankly I think he’s driving Harry out of his mind.” She huffed and I chuckled.
“I’m sorry for making him stay here with you guys. I just didn’t want Cass asking why a strange man was sharing her mum’s bed before we tell her who he is. You’re right, she may be young but she’s smart.”
Draco was taking up residence in one of the spare bedrooms at Grimmauld Place. Harry thought it was the least he could do after his part in this big mess. I couldn’t have agreed with him more. Draco didn’t like the idea. He wanted to be with me and Cass, but he finally saw reason that it wouldn’t do until we explained everything to our child.
“Ok so tell me the game plan again.” Ginny commanded and looked straight into my eyes. I held her gaze as I went over the details.
“When Draco and Harry get back we will send for Molly and the children. We will have the men play with them and see how Cass reacts to Draco. If all goes well then we will take her aside and delicately explain the situation. Hopefully she will be accepting and we can start, slowly, moving him into our lives and flat. Oh Merlin Ginny I’m so scared. I don’t want to hurt my little girl.”
“Our little girl.” Draco’s voice drifted towards us from the doorway. He moved across the kitchen and cupped my face in his hands while wiping away a few stray tears with his thumbs. “Everything’s going to be ok Hermione. If she’s really as strong and wonderful as you say she is then she will be fine.”
I stood up and wrapped my arms around him, letting his warmth comfort me.
“You’re right. Everything will be fine.” I whispered into his neck.
…….. December 21st, 1998
“Draco… are you sure this is a good idea?” I tugged on his hand as we made our way up the path to Malfoy Manor.
Draco stopped and turned to me, bringing his lips down to mine. He brushed his sweet lips across mine and pulled me into him.
“Yes love, everything is going to be fine. They’re the ones that invited you to come with me remember?” He murmured into my hair.
I squeezed him before pulling back. “No, your mother invited me. I’m pretty sure your father still despises me.” I worried my bottom lip until Draco ran his thumb across it.
“Don’t worry Hermione. Nothing is going to happen. I love you. Mother wants me to be happy… and Father is just a cranky old man. I’m sure that those few months in Azkaban straightened him out a bit. Who would want to go back there?” Draco mock shivered at the thought which made me smile.
“But I-” Draco placed a finger against my lips.
“Shh. No worrying unless it’s absolutely nessasary alright? I’ll be right by your side, you trust me don’t you?” The uneasiness in Draco’s eyes at the second question had my heart aching.
I brought him into my arms. “Of course I trust you Draco. Alright. No worrying unless need be.” I promised and let him lead me the rest of the way to the front door.
A few hours later we were standing hand in hand in the Malfoy’s ball room.
“Of course there would be a reason to worry.” Draco muttered angrily under his breath. My hand tightened around his and he brought me close to his side.
As soon as we stepped foot in the Manor earlier that day the house keeper rushed us up to our rooms and informed us we were expected to attend the Malfoy’s Christmas party in exactly 3 hours.
My nerves were on edge as the maid Hannah pushed me into my suite and Draco was dragged off to his by Gerard the butler.
Now 3 hours later we were standing at the doors to the ballroom. Draco dressed in a tux, surprisingly not robes, and looking more handsome than ever and me dressed in a green strapless formfitting gown. My hair was pulled away from my neck into a fancy updo, to show off the gorgeous and I’m sure very expensive jewels the Malfoy’s had insisted I wear.
“Hermione dear, you look exquisite.” Mrs. Malfoy took my hand from Draco’s and gave it a gentle squeeze.
“Thank you Mrs. Malfoy.” I smiled at her. I did actually like Narcissa Malfoy, she was very kind to me.
“Doesn’t she look wonderful Lucius?” Mrs. Malfoy beamed at her husband. He gave me a once over which had my skin crawling, tipped back his drink and walked away.
I knew he would never accept me…
Draco’s arms encircled my waist and he placed a kiss upon my head. “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” He whispered in my ear.
I tried to hide my disappointment at the brush off from his father. Draco and his mother led me into the ballroom to chat with some of their guests. I was actually having a good time until Draco left me to get us some punch. I felt a hand at the small of my back and gasped when I heard Lucius speak.
“Well well. Aren’t we just the bell of the ball. Care to dance Miss Granger?” He pushed me out onto the dance floor before I had a chance to protest. His hand held mine tightly and his other remained on my back, not letting me move an inch.
“Mr. Malfoy I think Draco will be looking for me. Thank you for the offer but I must be going.” I tried to squirm away but he held on tighter making me wince.
“Stop struggling and smile like you’re having a good time.” He commanded in a whisper. My heart was beating rapidly in my chest. I didn’t like being close to him, I didn’t feel safe. I looked around the room for Draco and spotted him with some of his friends.
“He’s too good for you, you know. You don’t belong in this world. He should be with someone like Miss Greengrass over there. You see? The pretty raven haired girl laughing with him.” His voice was conceited, full of disdain for me.
I followed his line of sight and saw Draco talking to a very pretty girl. I remember seeing her around Hogwarts, definitely a Slytherin. Draco looked up and waved at me, giving me a warm loving smile. He loved me, I knew that.
“Draco has given me no reason to doubt him. I would appreciate it if you would try to accept the fact that I am in your son’s life. And I’m not going anywhere.” I stared up at the cold hearted man holding me captive.
Lucius grimaced. “We’ll see.” He growled then released me so hard I almost tumbled to the floor; luckily a pair of arms caught me and held me up.
“What was that about?” Draco ground out; obvious fury at his father’s treatment towards me emanating from his body.
“Nothing. Don’t worry about it. Everything’s fine.” I kissed his cheek and let him lead me into the next dance.
…………… But of course everything was not fine back then... Just like everything was not fine now.
“Cassie come on baby go play with your cousins. Look, they have new horsies.” I tried to coax Cass out from behind Molly. She didn’t want to go anywhere near her cousins and Uncle Harry. For the simple reason that Draco was there on the ground playing with them.
It broke my heart to see the hurt in Draco’s eyes because his daughter wouldn’t go near him. He tried to keep on a peaceful happy face as he played with Albus and James, but Cassie wouldn’t approach them. She would peak around Molly’s apron every so often and stare at Draco with a bewildered look upon her face.
She didn’t look scared which I took as a good sign, but she just wouldn’t go near him.
I sighed and sat on the couch with my head in my hands. I didn’t know what to do.
“It’s ok. I’ll just go up to my room for now.” Draco whispered as he kissed the top of my head, then he left.
Two minutes after he was gone Cassie was on the floor playing with the horses.
I was frustrated and hurt, hurting for him, for Cass… for myself.
“Go to him Hermione. He needs you. This must be extremely hard on him.” Molly pulled me from the couch and pushed me towards the stairs. She was right. He needed me.
I stood outside the spare room Draco had been occupying and listened to him cry. Tears fell from my eyes as I walked into the room and over to him lying on the bed. I crawled on and held him to me as his arms wrapped tightly around my body. I didn’t speak a word, we both know what had happened and the pain he was in.
We tried this technique for the next week. Little by little Cass came out of her shell. She saw how comfortable Albus and James were around Draco I suppose. One day while they were playing on the floor at the Burrow I saw Draco’s eyes grow wide then tear up.
“Draco… Draco what’s wrong?” I flew off the couch and kneeled in front of him. Cassie was looking back and forth between us with her big grey eyes. Draco didn’t speak, just held something out to me.
It was a picture of the two of us from our Hogwarts days. We were embracing each other and smiling for the camera before sharing a kiss. I sat down on the floor and smiled at the picture. We looked so young though it wasn’t but about 4 years ago. Things changed drastically.
“Ginny gave this to Cass about a year ago. I would sit with her every night and tell her about her Daddy. I haven’t seen this picture in months. Where’d you find it?” I looked up from the picture to see Draco smiling at his daughter.
“Cassie gave it to me.” He whispered before a few tears fell from his eyes.
I looked to our daughter who was now staring at Draco; her little face scrunched up in thought.
“Cassie.” I addressed her and she turned towards me. “Do you know who this is?” I asked in an unsteady voice while pointing to Draco.
She bobbed her little blonde head up and down. I sucked in a breath as she glanced back at Draco.
“Daddy.” She said like it was the most casual thing in the world. She promptly went back to playing with the dolls she was fixated on before giving Draco the picture.
Tears swam in my eyes as Draco let out a sob and picked up his daughter to cradle her in his arms.
“Yes Cassie. I’m your Daddy.” Draco managed between sobs and chuckled when Cass squirmed in his arms and reached for the dolls. I picked one up and handed it to her so I could watch Draco hold his child. Our child.
While Draco held and kissed his daughter I looked around the room. Everyone except the children was watching the exchange with tear filled eyes. Even the men were crying.
“Told you she was smart.” Ginny looked at Cassie like she was a prodigy. I hiccupped when I tried to laugh and got up to sit beside her while we all watched Draco and his little girl.