I stare at the small, black rectangular digital clock, standing beside my old and battered copy of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them’. I blink just as the time changes from 1:08 to 1:09, the dim glowing red numbers the only source of light in the room. The curtains are drawn, the blanket pulled up to my chin as I wait for peaceful sleep to drown me under its drowsy wave. Instead I just float above it, desperately trying to sink but only to bob back up. It’s been almost 4 hours now since I put Phoenix to sleep, and since I’ve jumped into bed myself. I roll over, now facing the ceiling, stretching my hand to the other side of the bed, which is empty. I turn my head to the side staring at the fluffy pillow that lies there and the smooth, creaseless sheets which indicate that it hasn’t been slept on. My throat tightens as I roll over again, returning my attention back to the clock.
It is just after half past one when I hear the sound of the door knob opening then the soft creak of the door being pushed carefully open. I hear heavy footsteps then another door being opened and closed. As the door opens again, I shut my eyes and suck in a breath, becoming completely still. After another few moments, I feel the weight of another body climb in beside me and a tug as the blanket is pulled. I exhale slowly as I feel a shadow looming over me. I know that he’s looking, trying to see if I’m awake or if I’m asleep. I feel his hand lightly pull a lock of my hair away from my face, and in that moment I almost lose it. I want to wrap my arms around him and kiss him, the way I haven’t done in forever. I want to feel his strong arms pull me into his warm embrace as he kisses the top of my head, the way we did before everything happened. I almost let my eyes open and let him know that I am awake, that I was waiting for him. Almost.
I feel the shadow drift away from above me and hear the sound of him falling onto his pillow. Within just a few minutes I hear his breathing, heavy and steady. I turn around and see that his back is turned toward me. The tears fall as I stare at the scatter of freckles across his bare shoulders and I bite down on my lip to stop myself from letting out a sob.
“Goodnight, Draco,” I whisper, my throat tightening at his name. I turn away then, burying my face into my own pillow. What happened to us?
I’m holding her in my arms, sitting on the small armchair that is in her room, my back leaning against one of the armrests, my legs draped over the other. My head is leaning against the back of the armchair, my eyes unable to leave her gorgeous face. Even at just 3 and half months old, I can tell that she is going to be unbelievably beautiful when she is older. My lips turn up at one corner at this thought. Slowly as I’m watching her, her full pink lips part, revealing her toothless gums. She groans then wrinkles her little button of a nose. She squeezes her eyes tightly, and then opens them slowly, huge gray orbs shining at me. She blinks a few times before moving her head and nestling it against the crook of my arm. Then she smiles at me, a wide toothless smile.
This is Phoenix Alexandra Malfoy. She is my daughter. I am her father.
The enormity of this fact hits me with the force of a freight train and even though it’s been 3 months since this gift of a daughter was sent to me, every time that I think of this, it engulfs me in a storm of powerful emotions. I lean down to kiss her on the forehead, and she squeals happily. I stroke the dark fuzzy crop of hair that crowns her head, the most prominent feature of her mother that she retains, along with the wide shape of her eyes. Phoenix wiggles in her blanket, which is wrapped tightly around her, trying to free her hands, when from behind me I hear a surprised “Oh.”
I turn around and see Hermione standing there, tightly pulling her wispy cardigan around herself. I sit up straight, pulling my legs away from the armrest of the armchair, feeling uncomfortable. Because that’s exactly how things had been between us lately: uncomfortable.
“I just woke up suddenly when I realized I didn’t hear her crying. She usually does at this time,” she says, her eyes moving to glance at the rabbit-shaped clock that hangs right on top of Phoenix’s crib. I turn to look at the clock too, which points somewhere between 4:25 and 4:30 and then back to Hermione who, for a person who suddenly woke up, looks quite awake other than her messy hair. She looks tired, shadows under eyes and everything, but she looks awake. She leans against the door frame, then uncomfortably stands up straight again, shifting her weight from one leg to the other.
“I couldn’t sleep so I just thought I would come see what she was up to,” I say looking at Phoenix who is now trying to get her whole body out of the blanket.
Hermione nods, then just stands there looking just as uneasy as I am feeling. Just then Phoenix wails loudly, now finally able to get her arms out of the blanket, flailing them around as she cries out again.
“She’s hungry,” Hermione says. I nod, standing up to hand over Phoenix to Hermione. She holds out her hands and as the light from the bulb overhead catches the diamond on her left hand, I suddenly notice how loose both the rings are on her finger. I look up at my wife’s face and actually realize how beat she looks. Her eyes are rimmed with red, the area under her eyes shadowed and her cheeks hollowed. Her lips are chapped and fiercely bitten. I feel a lump form in my throat at the sight of her, when I notice how frail she looks. I knew this pregnancy, including what happened before and after, was incredibly hard on her, but something about those loose rings on her finger make me realize the toll it has taken on her. As she takes our daughter from my hands, our hands touch and I look up at her, and she at me and we just pause like that for a moment before she quickly takes Phoenix into her arms and walks away. I stare at her receding figure, a weird tingling sensation lingering where our hands had touched.