No Destiny to Sway Us
Title: A Face I Almost Knew
Disclaimer: JK owns them, can I help it if I treat them a bit better?
Spoilers: OotP, AU Books 6 & 7 - two years after book 7
Summary: In a perfect world, it would all go according to plan. Too bad it never did for them.
A/N: Once upon a time, I was going to set the next part of this series when their daughter was much older. Like, entering Hogwarts or two or three years into Hogwarts older. Then she was going to pre-Hogwarts, like primary school aged. Now she’s way pre-Hogwarts age.
Also, set in the winter. Because I’m pretty sure I started writing this in the winter oh, forever ago. I’ve had the first two sections written for ages it seems. A Face I Almost Knew
No Destiny to Sway Us
Millicent straightened the robes in the display in her shop window. If someone had told her ten years ago that she would be nearly penniless and working in Diagon Alley, she would have laughed. Well, she probably would have hit the person telling her and then laughed. But here she was, running her own casual-wear shop for witches who were on the plumper side and still wanted to look sexy.
“Millicent, dear, you have a visitor,” her one and only employee called from the counter. Marta Helvagrove was far too old to be working, and yet the woman still kept going strong. Millicent had to admire that perseverance. Merlin knew, there were days Marta ran circles around Millicent, and she was nearly five decades older than Millicent.
“Now, at closing time?” Millicent muttered, brushing off her dusty hands.
She’d been expecting an owl, or a courier, or even the delivery boy who worked part time at the Leaky Cauldron with her dinner order. She did not expect Madame Poppy Pomfrey, the Hogwart‘s school medi-witch. She hadn’t seen the medi-witch since that night, and was not at all thrilled to see her now.
“Hello, Millicent,” Poppy’s smile was tight and strained.
It was an all together too familiar look, especially considering the state of the world. The Dark Lord might have died at Potter’s hands, but many of his former minions were still wreaking havoc on the Wizarding World. Just yesterday two families with Muggle blood had been attacked. The Quibbler
and the Daily Prophet
had been riddled with accounts of the attacks all month. Something weighed heavily in Millicent’s stomach. Pomfrey wouldn’t be here unless -
“Madame Pomfrey, I don’t think I have anything in your size and style,” Millicent said quietly, nodding toward the back room.
“I’m - inquiring for a friend,” Poppy gave her a confused look, but she followed the younger woman. “You’ve done quite well for yourself, Millicent.”
“I barely keep her in the black,” Came the humble reply. Another change she would have never expected of herself.
“Still, to even be alive in these hectic times is a feat in itself.” The older witch leaned closer. “Death Eater attacks on Muggle born wizards and witches, even after you-know-who is gone. Just so very wrong.”
“I’ve heard of these things,” Millicent stiffened. After everything she’d done two years ago, did the older witch really think that Millicent still associated with Death Eaters? Only the truly fanatical had stayed in the game, and Millicent had never even taken the mark. “A shame that good wizards and witches still act like raving loons.”
The office door shut firmly behind her, and she gestured for Poppy to take the chair in front of her small desk.
“So, you didn’t come to shoot the breeze with me,” Millicent snapped. “What do you want?”
“I merely came to inform you of the attacks, Miss Bulstrode.”
“I read the Prophet
and the Quibbler
reports. I didn’t need to be informed in person.”
“Then you read about the Belleisles.”
“The whom? I’m not familiar with that family,” but her gut tightened in fear anyway. No, no, no.
“They are -”
“Don’t.” It was a half plea that escaped her mouth before her brain could stop her.
“Martin and Andrea each came from Muggle families. Andrea’s grandfather was Muggle. Martin was Muggle-born. Their two year old daughter -”
“Morgan’s eyes, woman do not tell me!”
“Is alive. Contrary to popular belief.”
Millicent’s eyes snapped open. A sigh of relief trembled through her. Her hands shook as she stared at the older woman. What could she possibly want from Millicent? She’d had so much ripped from her in the last two years. What more did Poppy want of her?
“That is good.”
“It’s time for you to take your daughter back, Millicent.”
There it was, the one word that would rip Millicent’s heart to shreds. Daughter. The face and name and title she’d been forced to give up for both their lives. For his
life as well. To keep them all relatively safe from those that would do them irreparable harm.
“It’s the only way to keep her safe. The cretins have only been striking out at Muggle-borns. You are full-blooded, both of you. Your daughter needs you.”
“I’m all but branded a traitor!” Millicent hissed. Anger and pain that she had thought buried permanently these last two years rose quickly. “How much safer could she be with me?”
“Millicent, your child needs you,” Poppy sighed.
“What of their family? Will no one miss their child?”
“There is no family. All were either killed in the war or had died before it.”
Millicent took a shuddering breath. Pomfrey would be insistent in her cause. She had been two and a half years ago when Millicent had begrudgingly gone to the medi-witch for help. She’d pestered for months for Millicent to give up the name of the father, but Millicent had stubbornly refused. She was pretty sure that Pomfrey had guessed anyway.
“When will you arrange it?” Millicent turned away from her.
“I can bring Holly to you in the morning.”
“Holly?” Millicent murmured her daughter’s name for the first time. Her throat tightened at the thought.
“You’ll bring her here?”
“If you’d rather, I can bring her in the evening, after closing time.”
“No. Shop’s closed on Sundays. Marta needs that day off for visiting her daughter’s family. We get by enough without the Sunday strollers.” Millicent spoke automatically.
“Then where would you like me to bring her?”
“Here. I live above the shop.”
“Very well. I shall bring her in around nine.”
Millicent nodded slowly. Not believing this was really happening. It was too much like a dream she’d let herself hold onto for mere moments that night she’d given her heart and body to Holly’s father. Oh, Merlin. She wasn’t nearly ready for it to be real. Poppy stood at the door, glancing back at her. Millicent couldn’t bring herself out of her chair.
“Maybe it’s time you told Draco that he’s a father, Millicent,” the older witch murmured.
doesn’t even remember the night she was conceived, much less would he wished to be tied to me forever.” Pain and hurt clouded her eyes, and Millicent had to turn away to keep the tears at bay.
“I wouldn’t be so sure. From what I have heard, Draco Malfoy has not been linked romantically to anyone in years. He seems to be living as solitary a life as you are.”
“And I wouldn’t have thought you the type to listen to idle gossip, Madame Pomfrey.”
But deep in her heart, Millicent feared that the medi-witch was right. One day, sooner or later, Millicent would have to tell Draco about their daughter.
The war was over, and that was something everyone could be glad for. Draco Malfoy, the only living member of the so-called ‘pure’ Black line stood exhausted in front of his family’s ancestral home as it was being sold off, bit by bit to pay his parents - no, his father’s
debt to the ministry.
“Any plans for the future, Malfoy?” the man beside him asked, jolting him from his thoughts.
“What future?” Draco dragged a hand through his pale hair. He slid a glance across to the older wizard. “It’s a stupid question, even for you, Flint.”
“The Stone Dragi seems to be doing fairly well, Malfoy. Just didn’t know how long you’d want to continue being partners, now that my injury’s finally healed up,” Marcus Flint shrugged. “Plus you’ve got this business nearly finished with. No reason for you to stick around here anymore. Nor in England for that matter.”
“I’ve still got rooms in Diagon Alley, Flint. And I don‘t think I‘m cut out for the Pro Quidditch circuit.”
“Of course not! Your arse is too big to be a decent seeker, and you always were a squeamish one when it came to sports injuries. Besides, it was always about one-upping Potter for you.”
Draco glared at the older wizard. As much as it was the truth, Draco didn’t really want to hear about it from his old housemate. He waited for one of the assessors to pass before replying.
“The Stone Dragi’s doing fairly well, and it keeps me busy enough. As for leaving the country, I’ve spent enough time away from here. Nearly two years spent in hiding and the last year spent buried beneath your horrid book-keeping and Blaise’s endless reports on this heap have given me a bit of a head for business. If you no longer want to be fully entrenched with the Dragi -”
“I didn’t say that I’m giving up on our business, Malfoy. It’s just now with your family’s estate and dues all taken care of, I didn’t know if you’d like to try something different. Like get a woman or tour the Continent,” Flint shrugged. “Merlin knows, I’ve never seen you relax completely since before I left Hogwarts. And Pansy bitches something awful that you’re too much like a monk these days.”
“No one wants to sleep with a traitor.” But Draco remembered the one woman - girl, really - who had. He fought off that thought and tried to concentrate on Marcus.
“Blaise, Theo and Pansy worry about you. I tend to worry about them worrying about you, but there you have it.”
“How is Pansy? And Millicent? Have you heard anything from her?”
“Pansy’s apprenticed to a private apothecary that specializes in cosmetic charms. Madame Reynaud’s, in Diagon Alley. I think Millicent…Mills opened her own shop just last year. Specialty robes for women. Blaise gave her some tips, but you know Mills. She tended to keep to herself in school. Still does.”
“She wasn’t always like that.”
“No, not for you. But then, you two grew up together more than I, Pansy, Blaise or Theo did.”
“Mr. Malfoy? We’re nearly finished here,” One of the braver assessors piped up. “We just need your signature.”
“Good. I’m ready to be done with this nonsense.” Draco took the parchment from him, shoving down all the thoughts of old schoolmates and signed away the inheritance of his ancestors.
“So, you gonna tell old Marta what’s wrong, Millicent?” Marta asked from her office doorway just after Millicent had taken the days earnings back to the safe.
“Nothing is wrong, Marta.” Millicent sighed, head bowed as she tried to cope with keeping her secret. How could she keep it from Marta? Marta never left the shop unless she went visiting her daughter and grandchildren. She’d be bound to notice a two year old in the shop. “Do you know a good place to find baby things?”
Marta’s head snapped around faster than Millicent would have thought possible. Her eyes narrowed.
“What sort of baby things?”
“General stuff, I suppose. Cradle, nappies, clothes. Bottles, babies need bottles don’t they?”
“Millicent Ambrosia Bulstrode, what do you need nappies and cradles for?”
“A baby is coming to stay with me for … some time.”
“She was my baby…” Millicent groaned at how stupid she sounded. “Stop glaring at me, woman. I can still sack you, you know.”
“Not if you’re planning on raising a baby by yourself and keep the shop running.”
Marta plopped herself down in the chair Poppy had vacated nearly twenty minutes before. Millicent waited for her to begin berating her. But much like that day in Poppy’s office with both the medi-witch and Professor McGonagall, there was no berating. Just a saddened look in the older witch’s eyes.
“Oh, Mab, tell Marta it all,” Marta sighed, her fingers tightening on Millicent’s hand.
“What’s to tell? I was seventeen, I got pregnant and gave up the baby to keep it safe. But she’s an orphan now and in even more danger. She sure as hell doesn’t deserve to have me for a mother, but I’m all she seems to have left.”
“And the father?”
“Wasn’t around, and was in as much danger as anyone -” Marta gasped excitedly as a thought hit her.
“Don’t tell me the Boy who -”
“Harry Potter is not the father of my child,” Millicent snorted, rolling her eyes at Marta’s hopeful expression. “I never even told her father because it wasn’t safe. You remember what my father was like. He would have rolled over and offered us up as a sacrifice. I had the baby when I was still at Hogwarts. Pomfrey and McGonagall helped me out.”
“That’s all you have to say? Hmm?” Millicent frowned at Marta. “You are my mother’s oldest friend and my unofficial Godmother, and all you have to say is ‘hmm’.”
“You could have told me long ago, little Mab. I would have taken the baby for safekeeping. But I know why you didn’t. Your father was a mean old snake and he kept you and your mum from me for too long. But she would have been proud of you for keeping the baby safe from him. Just as proud as I am. Now. When do I get to meet my new granddaughter?”
Millicent blinked at the older witch for a few moments. She really should have expected it from Marta. The moment after she’d been hit with the news of her father’s death during the final battle, Marta had popped up out of nowhere, pulling her away and keeping her safe. Millicent still wasn’t sure how Marta had known Millicent needed her then. But then, Marta had always shown up when Marisol Bulstrode had needed her.
“Pomfrey’s bringing her around tomorrow morning.”
“Thank Merlin I’ve still got that old cradle of Laurel’s hanging around my flat. C’mon then, we’ll get a quick bite at the Stone and catch the last of the Quidditch match on the Floo Network and strategize.”
“You’ve got plans for tomorrow. Laurel is going to be hurt that you aren’t off visiting her and her babies.”
“Laurel will understand. Besides, she’s complaining that I’m there too much. A weekend away will make her appreciate me more.”
“Fine. And thanks.”
Marcus and Draco apparated back into the staff room of the Stone Dragi, both in need of a stiff drink. The last few hours had been painful enough to deal with, and Draco was looking forward to just mindlessly working for the next few hours before he collapsed into bed.
Marcus watched him warily. Draco’d been off kilter for days, his mind wandering back to that hazy memory of that night. Marcus shook his head and lead the way out to the main barroom. The Stone Dragi had been completed just after the war, and Marcus had been glad that Draco had joined up with him and Zabini in ownership. Zabini was a silent backer, and Marcus had been loosing his mind with everything dealing with his contract and injury to focus properly on the Stone.
It doubled as a sports pub and club, with flats rented out on the uppermost floors. Draco and Zabini each had a room, and Pansy had a flat when she couldn’t get home to Theo Nott, her fiancé. The other dozen rooms were rented out to other employees in the Alley who didn’t live above the shops like most of the owners seemed to do these days.
Marcus slipped behind the bar and tipped his head to the bartender. He grabbed the hidden bottle of Ogden’s Firewhiskey and two glasses, and motioned to the back table they usually used. He’d just been about to sit down when he noticed a tall dark-haired woman sitting down at the table in front of the bar.
Marcus did a double-take. Merlin’s hairy balls! Hadn’t Draco just mentioned her not a half-hour past? Her ears must be burning. She wasn’t any little china doll, but she was still smaller than him, and Marcus found himself grinning as he took a detour.
“Mills? That you?” Marcus drawled, grinning at the woman who spun to face him.
A small smile broke out across her lips as she focused on him. Her smile got wider as she took in the state of his teeth. A low chuckle escaped her lips before she spoke.
“I see someone finally hit you in the face with a Bludger,” Millicent replied. “The teeth look fabulous, Flint. What’re you doing here? Why aren’t you out wooing witches left and right?”
“Oi, they weren’t that bad! And what’dya think I stopped at your table for?” Marcus asked, plopping down in the empty seat, nodding politely to the older witch seated across from her.
“Such a charmer,” Millicent’s companion gave him a curious look, one Millicent noticed and rolled her eyes at.
“How’s the injury doing?”
“Nearly healed. I’ve been cleared for play,” Marcus glanced between the two of them. “And I own half this place, to answer you’re first question.”
“I didn’t know you owned the Stone…wait, half?” Millicent shook her head.
“Marcus, what are you…Millicent,” a new voice cropped up behind them.
Millicent’s head jerked up to see Draco looming over his shoulder. Her mug of Butterbeer slipped from her grasp with a heavy thunk on the table, amber liquid sloshing a bit over the rim. She noticeably paled as she looked from Marcus to Draco. The other woman frowned, her eyes zipping back and forth between the two of them.
“Draco, what are you -” Millicent shook her head. “Let me guess, you own half this place as well.”
“Half? I own a third of it,” Draco frowned at Marcus. “You telling everybody you own half again?”
“Well, Zabini’s so little, it’s easy to forget his share of the title,” Marcus joked.
“How many pies has this Zabini chap have his fingers in?” the older woman asked, frowning at Millicent.
“If it’s owned by former Slytherins, then quite a few,” Millicent answered. Marcus opened his mouth to speak, but she cut him off. “Blaise loaned me some start-up capital when I opened my shop, gave me some tips as well.”
“I didn’t know you’d kept in touch with Blaise,” Draco, who was still standing, asked stiffly.
“I hadn’t until I tried to open the shop and bumped into him in Gringotts while applying for my loan. If it hadn’t been for him, Marta and I might still be in that line,” Millicent nodded at her companion.
“I’m Marta Helvagrove, by the way,” Marta said distractedly, gazing at Millicent with a curious look in her eyes. They flicked over to Draco. “Are we holding you up, son?”
“Marta!” Millicent groaned.
“Sit down, Malfoy,” Marcus chuckled, yanking an empty chair over from the table behind them and setting it between his and Millicent’s chair. He then held up the empty glasses to one of the waitresses who floated two over to him. “We were just celebrating, and wouldn’t mind two lovely ladies joining the party, right?”
“How strange, we’re doing the same,” Marta smiled sweetly at him, in a motherly way.
“We’re not, really, Marta
,” Millicent’s back stiffened.
“Really, what are you celebrating, Mills?” Draco perked up, leveling his gaze on Millicent.
“It’s nothing, really. Just a solid six months in the black -”
“And her daughter comes home tomorrow.”
Marcus clanged the lip of the Firewhiskey bottle on the glass he was filling for himself, and Draco actually choked on the mouthful he’d been swallowing. Millicent took her own glass and quickly drained the contents.
“Daughter? You’ve got a child?” Marcus demanded, a bit like an angry older brother.
“How?” Draco added, shaking his head in confusion.
“Well, I’m not utterly repulsive,” Millicent said hotly.
“What? I didn’t mean -”
“I was with a Scottish wizard for a while after the war, and nine months after he went back home, I had our daughter here. She’s coming home from her visit with him tomorrow,” Millicent glared at Marta.
“Our Mills, a mum,” Marcus shook his head, still trying to wrap his head around it. “The first of a new generation of Slytherins. Pansy’ll go out of her head when she hears.”
“You still keep in touch with that lot? Pansy, Theo, and Blaise?” Millicent cleared her throat, ready to shift the subject off herself.
“Yeah, they all keep rooms here, we would have offered one to you -”
“What’s her name?” Draco asked, popping back into the conversation. “Your daughter’s name?”
“Uh, it’s Holly. Holly Bulstrode,” Millicent shifted her gaze away from him. “And I’ve already got a flat over my shop, so it’s fine, and I had a place in Muggle London before that.”
“And the father, you said he was a Scottish wizard?”
“Stewart MacArdie,” Millicent glanced over at Marta, who only nodded. “He - he was an older man. I think he was a Ravenclaw when he was at Hogwarts, if you’re curious, Draco.”
“He let you give her your last name?”
“That’s how it works, seeing as she’s with me more than she’s with him,” Millicent snapped. “It wasn’t a good parting between him and I, so can we please leave off the thousand and one questions about him?”
“I - sorry,” Draco muttered.
“It’s just still a sore subject,” Millicent chewed at her bottom lip. “Has Theo asked Pansy to marry him yet?”
Marcus chuckled. The old Theo and Pansy, will-he-won’t-he debacle. Millicent might have kept herself away, but she could still pick up the threads of their lives quick enough.
“He has, but she’s turned him down twice now. Wants to get her career in line before she settles down with a husband and family,” Marcus chuckled.
“Pansy? She’s doing what now?”
“She’s an apothecary’s apprentice. Trying to turn it to cosmetics, of course. She was always decent in Potions, I guess.”
“Better than me,” Millicent smiled. “I was better in Muggle studies, oddly enough.”
“I wouldn’t have pegged you as running a fashion shop.”
“Neither would I have, but I had a lot of downtime when I was sick at school. Schoolwork didn’t take up that much time, and I doodled and tipped my hat at something new. It stuck, and I had a handful of designs by the time I left Hogwarts.”
“Sick? When were you sick at Hogwarts?” Marcus frowned.
“Seventh year,” Draco and Millicent answered at the same time.
“It was some new flu or something. Highly contagious. Had to quarantine me for nearly four months. I barely got to go home for the Christmas holiday.”
The three former housemates made idle conversation for another half-hour or so before Marta and Millicent left. Draco took another long swallow of Firewhiskey before turning to Marcus.
“You ever hear of this MacArdie bloke?”
“Nah, but I didn’t have much to do with the Ravenclaws except for that hot little tutor Clearwater. Mmm, pity she married Wood. She was a saucy little minx.”
“If it had been my child, I would have been damned if it didn’t at least carry my name,” Draco ignored Marcus’s comment, musing to himself. “Did Blaise mention the child when -”
“No,” Marcus frowned at him, shaking his thoughts of Penelope Clearwater-Wood clear. “Just what happened between you and Mills?”
“What do you mean?”
“What do I
mean? You’ve been back in London for a year, but this is the first time you’ve ever mentioned her. Then today, all you seem to be able to talk about is her,” Marcus cocked his head to the side. “You get quiet whenever Blaise mentions her in passing. Did something happen between the two of you?”
“When?” Draco shook his head, but not meeting Marcus’s gaze. “She was still ill when Dumbledore forced me to hide away with Potter’s little crew.”
Draco fumbled for the bottle of Firewhiskey to chase away that
particular memory of forced company. He still had nightmares about walking in on Granger and Weasley humping in the pantry. And listening to Potter bemoan his luck and go all googly-eyed whenever Ginny Weasley walked into the room. Merlin save him from actually remembering all of Lovegood’s and Longbottom’s lectures on both unreal creatures and deadly plants. Things had been bad enough when it had been the sainted trio ruining his life, but when the younger trio had been endangered and shipped off to join them, Draco had considered offering himself up to Voldemort just to end the torture.
“I still think it’s odd that Mills would have a baby and not tell a soul about it.”
“I think it’s odd that you’re so flustered about it, Draco,” Marcus narrowed his eyes.
“I’m not flustered, merely curious,” Draco muttered into his cup.
“Half the chits in the pub wish you’d be half as curious about making
a baby with them as you are about Millicent’s daughter,” Marcus snorted.
“What’d you say?” a voice nearly shrieked from behind them.
“You and your big mouth, Flint,” Draco flashed him an malevolent smirk.
“Who’s had a daughter, because I cannot have heard you right, Marcus Flint!” Pansy Parkinson, hopefully soon-to-be-Nott, plopped herself down gracefully in the seat Millicent had vacated not long ago and pinned them both with an expectant look.
Blaise Zabini rolled his eyes at Pansy’s actions and took the other open seat at the table. Draco slipped his gaze to the other wizard, to gauge his response. Blasted Zabini was stone faced, and relieved nothing as Marcus was forced to give Pansy the few details Millicent had given them.
“Morgana’s left teat!” Pansy hissed out a breath through her teeth. “Millicent a mum.” Her gaze swiveled to Blaise. “And you, you naughty thing! You’ve seen her and didn’t even tell
us the good news!”
“You’ve seen Millicent?” Draco asked neutrally, ignoring the smirk on Flint’s face. “You knew about her daughter?”
“Hm? I saw her at Gringotts and a few days after to finalize the loans. Neither place was appropriate for a small child to be toddling around.”
“So you didn’t
know Millicent was a mum, then?” Pansy frowned, looking just as confused as Draco.
“No, I didn’t.”
Draco tried to shake a feeling of uneasiness that coiled low in his stomach. Something wasn’t right. Sure, Millicent had learned to play things close to the chest, but failing to tell anyone that she had a child? There was definitely something off about the whole situation. And it was going to irritate him until he figured it out. Shocked at his own musings, Draco took another pull from his drink. The nosy trait must have developed during his imprisonment with all those blasted Gryffindorks.
Millicent hadn’t slept more than an hour or two that night. Between the unsettling run-in at the pub and getting a nursery hastily put together, there just hadn’t been much time for sleep. Marta had gone to bed hours ago when Millicent had, but still hadn’t woken yet. She paced around the tiny room Marta had transformed from her old closet. Millicent hadn’t the knack for building charms that Marta did, and she was glad the woman did.
The room was a pastel green with silver and purple accents for the trim and curtains. A small white wooden crib sat on one wall with a purple knit throw that Marta had set her needles to knitting the moment she’d left Millicent’s office. A white rocking chair sat in the opposite corner, another throw that Marta had made in green folded over the back of it. Sighing brokenly, Millicent fled from the nursery, fears clogging her mind.
Dear Merlin, how was she going to do this? She wasn’t ready, not in the least. She’d never been ready for her daughter. Her
daughter. Before she could even wrap her mind around that, a hand was on her shoulder. She turned her head to meet Marta’s dark chocolate gaze, her own once-black hair lined liberally with silver.
“I don’t know if I can do it.”
“No mother knows if she can at the beginning, Mab, my girl.”
“She’s my daughter, and I gave her away because it was what was best, wasn’t it?”
Before she could even question Marta’s certainty of her long-ago actions, a knock on the door interrupted her. It would be Pomfrey. Millicent took a fortifying breath and turned from Marta. She rushed to the second floor private entrance she’d owled the medi-witch about late last evening.
She was a bit surprised to see the medi-witch rocking the child wrapped in a purple and black plaid throw with the ease of a woman who was constantly caring for young children. They had all assumed the Madame to be a spinster, like so many of the female professors at Hogwarts. Just as they considered majority of the male professors to be life-long bachelors. Being around hundreds of snot-nosed teenagers would make any sane adult firmly cross their thighs and take up abstinence. Too bad the tight quarters with other teens had the opposite effect on the student body.
Shaking her head at that thought, she focused on the baby rather than the witch. She couldn’t see much of the child, seeing as her head was covered in a purple fleece cap and she was swaddled in the throw. She was muttering unintelligible words as only a baby can, her little hands waving in thick purple woolen mittens.
“Hello, Millicent, may we come in?” Madame Pomfrey smiled knowingly as the lump in Millicent’s throat got heavier.
“Right, yeah, come in.”
She backed up into the hall, letting the woman in. It was there that she caught the very first sight of her daughter’s face. Curly spirals of dark blonde hair escaped from the cap, and led to equally blonde brows and impossible lashes that even models would envy. Her eyes were a dark silver, with a bit of blue to them, and Millicent knew instinctively that they were from her father’s side of the family. But she had Millicent’s straight nose and overly plump lips, and still wore a healthy amount of baby fat in her dimpled cheeks. Where she got the dimples was anyone’s guess. Her father didn’t have them, and Millicent didn’t either. A bit of memory fluttered at her and she felt tears form in her eyes.
“From Maman,” she whispered. “Maman had those dimples whenever she smiled.”
“Mab, we should show her to the sitting room, yes?” Marta drew her back from her memories.
“Er, right. Through those doors.”
Madame Pomfrey followed Marta as Millicent hurriedly shut the door. She spotted the little girl looking back at her, over the Madame’s shoulder. A bright smile popped out at her, dimples flaring and tiny white teeth in a perfect row stealing a bit of her heart. She had made that child, she and Draco. In that awful night of loss and pain and love, this shining little angel had been born. She knew then, in that heartbeat - in that innocent smile, that she would die to protect her daughter. She always would have.
Draco had rose early, despite the heavy drinking they’d gotten into last night. His mind kept wandering back to Millicent. And her daughter. He needed to know why the child had been kept secret. Millicent had said her father was an older wizard, but had been extremely evasive about it. Was MacArdie even really his name? Or was he much
older? Was he married? Is that why there was all the secrecy about the child? Or was there no father at all? Was the wizard not even in the picture? Had he never been?
Once again, the thought that if it had been his
child, nothing would have stopped him from claiming it. Even if it was a daughter. His father had been adamant that female children were weaker, and had often needled his son in private, calling Draco his most precious little girl when he’d failed. His mother often retaliated in some form or another. She was a Black, the youngest of three strong witches. Granted, Aunt Bellatrix had been crazier than a loon and Aunty Andy had married a Mudblood, but both were considered to be strong witches.
Shaking his head, he turned to the window. The Alley was quiet this early in the morning, but he noticed a familiar woman making her way down the cobbles, a purple bundle in her arms. His heart nearly stopped as she turned down a small opening between two buildings. What was down there? And why did it puzzle him so? He couldn’t quite place the woman. She was familiar, but her name kept eluding him.
Once he lost sight of her between the buildings, he spun away from the window and decided to get dressed. He wasn’t going to get back to sleep at this rate, and might as well get ready to meet the day.
After dressing in a pair of designer knock-off muggle jeans - and yes a part of his younger, vainer self cringed at that concession in his clothing, but there was no way in Hell he was going to dress like Lucius Malfoy’s clone any longer - and a dark forest green sweater he hurried out the door of his apartment. He’d made it half-way down the hall when the door of Marcus’s flat swung open, nearly slamming him in the face. A simpering Hufflepuff he vaguely remembered started her long walk of shame as Marcus watched her go.
It took several long moments and finally the shove of Draco’s against the door for Marcus to realize he was up as well. A cocky grin slipped onto Marcus’s face as he met the gaze of his friend.
“Malfoy, busy escorting your own lady of the night out?”
“No, because I don’t stoop to easy pickings. A Hufflepuff? Honestly, have you no shame?” Draco teased.
“Sorry, but the Gryffs fear me, and the ‘Claws are too damn smart to stoop to my level,” Marcus grinned, scratching at his bare chest.
“For the love of Merlin, put some clothes on before you put my eyes out,” Draco sighed, rolling his eyes.
“If not for a lovely little woman, what the bloody hell are you up for?” Marcus was like a terrier with a bone sometimes.
“Couldn’t sleep. Starving. Join me in the pub for a bite?” Draco said casually, his nervous and curious energy contained well behind a learned wall of indifference.
“Yeah. I’ll grab a shower and join you. Cook should be in to start for the breakfast crowd.”
“Our usual table?”
“Never know with you. You might pick up another unsuspecting ‘Puff before breakfast.”
Marcus slammed the door back in his face as Draco breathed out heavily. Images of the unknown woman and baby, of Millicent’s face last night in the pub, and of the shock on Blaise, Marcus and Pansy’s faces when they learned of the child kept replaying in his head. Something was wrong with the picture, and he was going to figure out what.
Millicent stood in the doorway, just watching as the baby was unbundled from her blanket. The purple cap and gloves looked lovely against her dark gray tweed coat. The coat followed the jacket soon to reveal a warm looking fleece jumper in the same color of her cap and gloves, and offset by her coal grey matching pants and white patent leather boots. She was a healthily chubby little girl, but then she was barely two years old. She’d be two on the 13th of January. Nearly two months away.
“Can’t stand in the doorway forever, Mab, love,” Marta gently tugged her forward.
“I know that,” Millicent muttered, licking her lips nervously.
“There now, all done, my sweet,” Madame Pomfrey said brightly to the child, gently removing the cap to let her riotous curls fall down to just below her ears.
“Your hair does the same thing when you get up, Mab,” Marta smiled proudly at the little girl.
“Yeah. A right tangle, poor babe,” Millicent muttered.
“Would you like to hold her now, Millicent?” the medi-witch asked. “She’s most anxious to meet her mummy.”
“How can she be?” Millicent shook her head.
But now the little girl was looking at her curiously, her little arms reaching for her. Millicent didn’t even think about it before her arms were outstretched for the little girl, carefully pulling her up to her chest. A chubby little hand reached out for her mother’s cheek before she pressed an affectionate kiss to Millicent’s cheek.
A small sob broke from her lips as she held her daughter for the first time, her lips finding the sweet-smelling head of golden curls. She’d heard the first cry from her daughter’s lips so long ago and had resigned herself to never holding her child in her arms. She felt the perfect weight of her daughter against her chest as the little girl set her head down on Millicent’s shoulder. Her daughter was in her arms, and she was free to be a mother to the child she’d thought she’d never see again. The child she’d desperately wanted to hold from the moment she’d first felt it kick, from her first lusty cry at being separated from her mother.
“Oh, my precious little Holly, Mummy’s got you now,” Millicent whispered brokenly, kissing the top of her daughter’s head. “Mummy’s here now.”
Poppy Pomfrey watched as the young mother bonded with her daughter, a sense of rightness settling deep in her chest. She and the older witch carefully extracted themselves from the private moment between mother and child.
“My poor girl,” Marta shook her head. “You could have contacted me, you know, Poppy.”
“She was adamant that no one else knew, and how was I to know then that you were her Godmother? Her mother was gone, her father a brute, and the only one of the grandparents who’d have been the least helpful was recently deceased, and I fear, the reason the granddaughter came to be,” Poppy sighed. “Narcissa would have loved that girl, both of those girls.”
“So it is the Malfoy boy, eh?”
“She didn’t tell you?” Poppy drew up, a little alarmed that she’d let it spill.
“Not so much, but we ran into him last evening, just after you came ‘round,” Marta nodded. “He was awfully interested in that child of Mab’s when I brought her up. Awfully
interested in Mab, as well.”
“He’s here, in the Alley, then?” Poppy’s mind reeled a bit at that. Of all the times for mother, child and father to be in one space. “Which pub was this now?”
An hour or two after he’d seen the woman with the baby in the street, Draco was getting ready to push back from the booth he now shared with Pansy, Blaise and Marcus. Theo had already come and gone, but the others were enjoying a slow Sunday morning.
“Buggering hell, isn’t that Madame Pomfrey?” Marcus spat out a bit of juice as he watched the Hogwarts Medi-Witch make her way over to the table.
“Imagine my surprise to see so many of my former charges. My, how grown-up you all seem,” Madame Pompfrey smiled warmly at all of them.
“Blimey, that’s a frightening sight,” Marcus muttered.
“Now, don’t act as if I never smiled at you lot, Marcus Flint.”
“You were in the Alley this morning,” Draco muttered, frowning. “Where’s your baby?”
“You’ve had a baby, Madame?” Pansy chirped far too brightly in his ear.
“Not for a very long time,” Pomfrey smiled a bit sadly before shaking her head. “You must have seen me with Millicent’s lovely daughter. I was returning her to her mother.”
? Why did you return her daughter to her? I thought she was with her father,” Draco frowned.
“Are you related to him, Madame?” Pansy asked, confusion on her face as well as Marcus’s and Blaise’s faces.
“Oh, I suppose so. He lived near Hogsmeade,” her eyes seemed to lock on Draco. “So very long ago, now. Millicent, the dear girl, entrusted Holly’s safety to me. We’ve a very close bond, she and I. Going back to her confinement.”
The use of that word, of ‘confinement’ struck Draco as odd. A memory of him being on his mother’s lap, telling him of the time just before he was born and she was in her own confinement with him coursed through his mind.
“Oh, when she was sick with that flu or some such our seventh year? That would do it. No one but you and Professor McGonagall were allowed to see her,” Pansy commented, seeming to be the only one of the quartet capable of speech.
“Yes, it was a difficult time for her. And to brave it all alone. Such a strong girl.”
Once again, Draco had a feeling this knowledge was being directed solely to him. Pomfrey didn’t make eye contact with him again as she hastily excused herself, citing a student in the hospital at Hogwarts as her reason for her exit. Draco leaned back into the plush leather of the booth they occupied and let his mind wander. Without a word to his friends, he rose slowly from the booth. He grasped his well-used black wool jacket from the peg he’d left it on in their private cloakroom.
“Oi, Draco! Where you going, mate?” Marcus’s voice carried heavily, as if Draco were hearing him through water, distorted and bubbly.
“Out. To get Millicent’s daughter a gift.”
“What? Draco, what did you say?”
But his feet had already carried him out the door into the brisk morning chill breeze. It was too early for some of the shops to be open. Granted, many of them would not be open this morning. Bu he wasn’t even really thinking on that, was he? No, his mind was on that tiny purple bundle in the Madame’s arms and a far too knowledgeable look on the matron’s face. Something still niggled at him, a forgotten memory, and he was damned if he was going to just let the matter drop.
Millicent stared in amazement at her daughter. Her daughter. Merlin, that still sounded odd on her tongue, in her mind. Holly toddled about the small room, drifting away from her, but unerringly returning to her with some new prize she’d found. Millicent couldn’t fight off the stupid grin that had been attached to her face since the moment she’d taken her daughter in her arms. Pomfrey had left nearly an hour ago, and Marta had discreetly slipped out not long after to let them bond.
Holly had just toddled up to her again with her arms imploring her mother to pick her up, when Millicent heard the bell from the back entrance. Madamee Pomfrey had said she’d return with more of Holly’s belongings, but Millicent didn’t really expect her until tomorrow. Scooping up Holly as if it were second nature, Millicent hefted her daughter to her hip. Funny, how natural it felt. Shaking her head at the thought, she pressed a kiss to her daughter’s head and made her way to the door.
“We didn’t expect you back today, Madame,” Millicent called through the door as she quickly unbolted it and threw it open to receive the medi-witch.
“I try never to be expected,” the deep voice that did not belong to the Madame.
Millicent’s eyes jerked up to Draco’s face as her mouth went dry. His platinum hair fell in his eyes as the wind ruffled it, and he held a large stuffed purple snake in his hands with a silver bow. She felt Holly shift restlessly on her hip, the toddler’s eyes going to the toy.
“Malfoy, how’d you - what are you doing here?” Millicent said as soon as she was sure she hadn’t swallowed her tongue in fear.
“I, well, I spotted the Madame coming here earlier.”
“The Madame?” Millicent asked dumbly.
“May I come in?” Draco nodded to the little girl, whom he couldn’t seem to take his eyes off of. It struck Millicent then that he hadn’t once looked at her during their brief conversation. Icy fear trickled down her spine.
“Yeah. Sorry. I’m not used to visitors,” Millicent bit her lip and quickly shifted Holly to the other hip. “We’re
not used to visitors.”
Silence reigned for several heavy minutes as she shut the door behind him and led him to the parlor where she’d been playing with her daughter. She sat down on the sofa, watching as Draco casually lowered himself into the chair across from her. Holly had stuck a thumb in her mouth and was now watching both her mother and father curiously. Not that the infant or the man knew of their relationship, Millicent thought, taking a steadying breath. Draco’s eyes ticked to her face then, a frown forming at the edges of his lips.
“She’s older than I thought she’d be,” Draco spoke then, his eyes going back to his daughter.
“I’d imagine you’d still thought she was a newborn. You did just learn of her last night,” Millicent let her grip relax a bit on Holly’s waist.
“How - how did you say you knew the Madame had been here?”
“She stopped by the Stone Dragi, just after she left here, I’d imagine.”
Curse that nosy busybody. She’d tried for months to get Millicent to tell Draco she was pregnant. Of course, she knew it was pointless then, and had only thought
the Medi-witch might know which Slytherin had been the father of her child. She didn’t know that Pomfrey would actually shove Draco in her direction now that it was all done. But she should have known better.
“I brought this for the child,” Draco said suddenly, holding the snake out for Holly. Holly burrowed deeper into Millicent’s side. He was a stranger to her, and the toy, while holding certain appeal, wasn’t enough to make her budge. Millicent took the toy for her. Holly’s eyes lit up as she batted at the silver bow around it’s head, her eyes gazing at the snake adoringly.
“Thank you. How did you know what color to -” Millicent started to ask.
“Why did she bring the child home?” Draco asked, cutting her off.
“The Madame?” Millicent licked her lips, trying to figure out how to play this one. “I told you that things didn’t end well between Holly’s f-father and I.”
“So the Madame acts as your go-between?” Draco snorted in disbelief.
“Yeah, she does. Look, her father’s been out of my
life since before I even realized I was pregnant with her.” Which was a far different tune than the one she’d been singing last night, she realized belatedly. “He - you, can’t possibly understand our - our dynamics. He goes swanning about in his life, and I go about my business. We’ve been apart longer than we were ever together.”
Draco rocked back at the sting in her words, as if he were seeing something for the first time. No. No. That could definitely
not be good. Holly, as if sensing her mother was upset and because of this man, slipped down the sofa and hefted the snake up under her arm. She toddled purposefully over to him. She stopped directly in front of him and popped him on the knee with the snake, before gurgling out a series of nonsense in a very harsh tone for a toddler. At the end of whatever her little speech was, she bopped Draco again before turning back to her mother and holding out her free arm expectantly.
Millicent nearly swallowed her tongue at the display, and numbly cradled her daughter to her chest. Draco, too, looked dumfounded, his eyes far too unseeing to be of comfort to her. Holly burrowed her head against her mother’s neck, and with the arm holding her new snake, firmly tucked her thumb in her pouting mouth.
“Bloody hell,” Draco hissed out through a very set jaw. Anger, pain, confusion, and accusation flared in his silver eyes at her.
“I think it’s time you left, Malfoy,” Millicent said far more firmly than she’d thought herself capable of. “It’s time for -”
“Don’t you dare,” Draco snapped. “Don’t you dare try and pretend that this means nothing, Millicent. I know that tone, those eyes, and that hair. I remember that attitude very well.”
“I don’t know what you’re -”
“She’s mine. She’s my daughter?” When Millicent didn’t answer him, he pressed farther. “The sickness seventh year, the way you avoided me like the plague those few months I was still at Hogwarts, the way you never met my eyes again after that night my mother died. It was all real, wasn’t it? That night. It never was a dream.”