“I can’t believe you’re her.”
Theo’s eyes were wide and filled with awe as he stared at Hermione. She shifted uncomfortably on the bench, subtly shifting closer to Draco and tugging Harry’s hand into her lap.
“Uh, I’m sorry?”
Draco sighed sarcastically, his arm rounding her shoulders as he pulled her into his side. “Theo, you’re scaring the poor witch and I believe she’s been traumatized enough today.”
Sky blue eyes narrowed on his friend as Theo’s mouth twisted into a scowl. “What’s it to you anyway, Draco? It’s not like you and Granger are friends.”
Hermione straightened as her hands relinquished their grasp on the two men beside her. “Now, you listen here, Theodore Nott! We may be related and you may think you’re the big shot ‘man of the family’ since your dad is in Azkaban, but you will not try to dictate my life! It’s my prerogative who I’m friends with! Draco is very much my friend! And I will thank you to remember that even though we share blood, we still only just met!”
“We’ve known each other for like 13 years, Granger! How can you say we just met?!”
Harry slid sideways a bit on the bench, his lip caught between his teeth in a nervous gesture he’d picked up from Hermione. Draco, however, didn’t have the luxury of moving away and therefore tried to stay as still as possible so as not to draw the ire of the witch beside him.
“Are you honestly that stupid, Nott?! We’ve had maybe three conversations in that entire time, none of which actually had any substance! Plus, you still call me Granger! Even Draco has been calling me Hermione, at least sporadically, for over a year!”
“Maybe we should all calm down…”
“Oh, shut it, Potter!” Theo spat as he shot to his feet. He took a step forward, braced as if to grab her, but Hermione shot to her feet as well, not at all cowed by his superior height.
“Don’t you dare talk to Harry like that! And don’t even think about touching me!” She moved forward, her nose nearly brushing the soft cotton of his shirt as she craned her neck to look up at him. “You don’t scare me, Theodore. Now back off!”
Silence reigned for a moment or two. Then Theo threw his arms up and spun around, knocking the chair away as he stalked across the veranda, muttering under his breath as he went.
“Well,” Draco mused as Hermione flopped back down beside him, her back meeting his chest as she leaned against him once again. “That went well.”
x . x . x . x . x
“Who’s that, Mummy?”
Isabelle’s head shot up and she gasped softly as she tried to tuck the photograph away quickly. “Nobody, my little Teddy Bear. It’s…nobody. And what are you doing out of bed, Love?”
Theo sniffled as he clutched the stuffed dragon. “I had a bad dream. Why was you cryin’, Mummy?”
The young woman glanced around her bedroom. The lavish space was cold, more like a prison than a real bedroom, but they were entirely alone. “Well, my darling, come lay with Mummy and I’ll tell you a story. How’s that?”
Smiling widely, the small boy clamored up onto the tall bed, reveling in the comforting scent that always reminded him of his mother.
Isabelle reached an arm out and tugged the boy to her. Her perfect son, the reason she still woke every morning when all she really wanted was to give up. “Once there was a girl who fell in love with a boy-”
“Eww! Mummy is this one of those kissy stories?!?”
The young mother forced a laugh, though her heart broke further as she tried to think of an appropriate answer for her young son.
“No, Theo. It most definitely is not.”
The former Slytherin glanced across the patio at the trio sitting on the bench, quietly talking amongst themselves. She was his sister, for Merlin’s sake! And yet, somehow, he’d been the one cast aside.
Hell, Draco had hated her for years! Yet, he was the one who got to hug and comfort her. How was that fair?! He’d waited so long…
“Father? Now that Mother-now that it’s just us, can we bring my sister back? Surely she’d get better if she was here, with her family.”
Theodore Nott Sr glared down at his son. The 10 year old fought the urge to cower, puffing his chest up in false bravado.
“Theodore, why must you ask such ridiculous questions? You know that your sister is frail and would not survive the trip home. Do not ask me again.”
Thoroughly dismissed, Theo left his father’s study and made his way back to the room that, until last week, had been his mother’s. Sniffling softly, the young boy hauled himself up to the bed and buried his face in the pillows that still held his mother’s scent.
Only then did he let the tears fall. He cried for the Mother he’d loved and lost, he cried for the sister it seemed he would never know and he cried for himself, since he was stuck in this hellhole with that murdering bastard of a monster.
A throat clearing jarred him from his memories and Theo looked up to see his former housemate towering over him. Sighing, Draco sank into the chair beside his best friend.
“What exactly do you hope to accomplish, Nott?”
Theo glared at his friend and clenched his fists. “I want to know my sister. I want to take care of her and have her take her rightful place in the family. That’s all I want.”
The duo glanced across the veranda. Hermione was leaning into Harry’s side and he could clearly see the tracks of tears streaking her beautiful face. He could see so much of his mother in her and his heart clenched with longing.
“Theo…you’ve got to understand…” Draco trailed off, his eyes wandering back over to the woman he’d become fairly close with over the last few years. “This is overwhelming for her. You’ve known about her your whole life-well, sort of. But she’s just been blindsided with all this new information. Give her some time to acclimate.”
Theo raised an eyebrow and nudged Draco with his foot. “Acclimate? How much time, exactly, have you been spending with Granger?”
The sound of their laughter bounced over the flagstones, dissipating into the misty afternoon air.
x . x . x . x . x
“You could’ve been a little nicer, ‘Mione.”
Harry grinned at the fierce glare she shot him, though she cracked a smile a moment later. “I suppose. But, in my defense, I’m a little strained at the moment. He picked the wrong time to try to assert his dominance.”
“Is that really what you think he was doing?”
Hermione glanced at her best friend, her lips pulled down into a frown. “He was trying to dict-”
“He was trying to get to know his sister. Who, if I’m reading between the lines as well as I think, he’s known about most, if not all, of his life.” His arm wrapped around her shoulders and he squeezed gently, lending her all the strength she needed.
“I just…” She leaned her head on Harry’s shoulder, sniffling as discreetly as she could manage. “I just need some time.”
“That’s understandable, Love. But don’t automatically decide that he’s got dishonorable intentions. Can you do that for me?”
Hermione chuckled and nodded as she took a few deep, cleansing breaths. “Hey Theo!”
Draco chuckled as Harry lunged away from Hermione, his finger wiggling in his ear as a glare crossed his face. Theo laughed outright as he stood from the slightly uncomfortable wrought iron chair and made his way back across the veranda.
“Draco, are you coming?”
The blond turned to the trio, his eyes widening slightly as Hermione patted the bench beside her in invitation. Gulping slightly, he nodded and made his way over, flopping gracefully down on the cushion.
“So. This is all quite…odd.”
Theo shuffled his dragon hide boots across the flagstones, his eyes downcast as he thought of how to respond. “I…I apologize for before. It’s just-I’ve known that I had a sister since I was…since I can remember. And I’ve always wanted to meet her…you…I mean-”
A small hand lightly rested on the leather of his jacket and his eyes shot up to meet Hermione’s warm brown ones. “I’m sorry, too. I’m sure you know I’ve got a reputation for-”
“Being an assuming, insufferable know-it-all?”
Harry bit back a grin as Hermione spun around to smack at Draco’s arm while he and Theo busted out laughing.
“If you could have one thing, anything in the world, what would you wish for?”
Hermione glanced at Harry, his face lit by the lantern on the table between them. “In general, or right now?”
He shrugged. “Either. Both. Whatever.”
Hermione sighed and flicked her wand at the small fire pit they’d created in the center of their tent, stoking the flames to encourage more heat. “At the moment, I’d wish for a hot meal and a hot bath. I mean, if Moldyshorts zapping out of existence isn’t possible.”
Harry laughed outright as he poked at the lump of food on the plate in front of him. He wasn’t quite sure whether it was mushrooms or fish. “I second both of those sentiments. What about in general. If this war wasn’t a thing, what would you wish for?”
The jovial air between the pair slowly evaporated. “I think…I think I’d want-”
She paused and Harry glanced up, waving his fork halfheartedly. “What?”
“I don’t-I mean…I feel rather selfish and insensitive. I don’t want to say.”
Harry smiled and dropped his cutlery before he rounded the table and took a seat beside Hermione. He twisted her to face him and grabbed both of her hands, yet still allowing her to avert her eyes.
“‘Mione, it’s okay. Whatever it is, I promise I won’t think you’re selfish. Honestly I think you might be the most selfless person I’ve ever met. So, again, what would you wish for?”
“Honestly?” Harry nodded, silently pulling her into a hug. “I’d wish for a brother.”
“So…how is this going to work?”
Theo glanced up and caught Hermione’s eyes, his heart stuttering for a moment. She looked so much like their mother…
“Well, I’d like to get to know you. Properly.”
Hermione nodded. Draco shifted slightly and she glanced his way. “Well, it is mid August. There isn’t exactly much time before school starts again.”
Harry nodded pensively as Theo’s eyes bounced between the three. “What does school have anything to do with it?”
The two thirds of the ‘Golden Trio’ looked shocked for a moment while Draco groaned. “You don’t even have a clue what she does, do you?!”
“Well, no.” The Nott heir glanced at his sister and shrugged. “But she doesn’t have to do anything anymore. I mean, once I get the papers pushed through to get her legitimized-”
Hermione’s sharp squeak of protest was cut off abruptly by the arrival of two newcomers.
“That won’t be necessary, Theodore. Your father’s already seen to that.” Lucius swept onto the veranda with all the pomp he could muster, reminiscent of his attitude before Voldemort’s return. “Miss Granger, lovely to meet you under more…pleasant circumstances.”
Draco choked as Lucius approached Hermione and bent low in front of her. Harry’s eyes were wide and startled, flicking between Lord Malfoy and his best friend.
“It’s…uh…nice to meet you. I think.”
Narcissa giggled, the sound reminiscent of tinkling bells as Lucius smiled benignly. “I would like to extend an invitation to you. We’d love it if you’d accompany us to dinner this evening.”
“Invite me or invite all of us? And who would ‘us’ be?” Harry cleared his throat pointedly at Hermione’s somewhat harsh tone, though she ignored them.
“The invitation stands to whomever you’d like. And Narcissa and I would love the opportunity to speak with you about your mother. She was a very dear friend to both of us.”
If she wasn’t mistaken, Hermione almost thought there was a light sheen across Lucius Malfoy’s ashy grey eyes. But no. Her eyes must be playing tricks on her because there was no way that the Lucius Malfoy, Death Eater turned spy extraordinaire, was tearing up.
“I guess that would be alright. Although I do have to be back at the castle early next week. Perhaps I could come to dinner with you tonight by myself. Then I can host dinner for all of us on Saturday.” She glanced between the older Malfoys, then toward her best friend and brother. Lastly, her eyes skimmed toward Draco, who gave her an encouraging smile.
“Can I bring Pans on Saturday, Mione? You know she’ll pull the story out of me as soon as I get home.”
Hermione laughed lightly, her mood lightening at the mention of her best girlfriend. “Of course, Harry. I would expect nothing less.”
“Then it sounds, my dear, as if we’ll see you this evening. Good afternoon.” Lucius bowed slightly toward the younger women, then gently tugged Narcissa along with him as he retreated back into the house.
x . x . x . x . x
“Are you sure you want to do this Isabelle? We could…we could…”
Isabelle shot a watery smile at her favorite friends. Lucius looked positively shattered, his normally impeccable appearance absent.
His hair was oily, as if he hadn’t washed it in days. His chin was covered in ashy stubble and his eyes were rimmed in red as a few tears threatened to spill over. The lovely button up shirt and waistcoat he wore were wrinkled and she knew he hadn’t changed in the last few days.
In fact, he’d spent every waking moment with her and the baby, holding the tiny bundle every chance he got.
“Yes, Lu. I’m sure. She needs to be protected. He…he knows…about her. And I thought he’d be angry and call off the betrothal, but…” Narcissa wrapped her arms around her friend as Isabelle took another shuddering breath. “He said that it’s just proven my worth as a wife, that I’m able to bear children. Unlike the past six unfortunates he coerced into marrying him.”
This past month had been surreal. He didn’t know how Isabelle was surviving. It felt like so much longer than 6 weeks since his goddaughter-Hermione-had been born. And tomorrow, Twinkie would take her away.
Another tear slipped down his cheek, splashing onto the beautiful baby girl in his arms.