Bathwater

The Visitor

Crack.

Inside of the room that she has gotten to know well over the years, cleaning and maintaining its majestic state, Beta the house-elf apparated quietly in the center of the room, staring at the figure asleep on the bed silently.

Beta was a bit surprised when her young Master asked for her to fix the room for the unknown witch's likes, so she would feel right at home and there would be no complaint the following day. And as it was her job, Beta quickly conjured something, but by the expression on the young girl's face the night before, Beta could tell that she did not think that Beta could ever make her feel comfortable no matter how she decorated the room.

Because by the glaze of her eyes, Beta could already hear the thoughts of the unknown girl, and that was that the Malfoy Manor could not simply feel like a home.

And although the girl might have thought that, and although it may have been true, at least the house-elf felt a bit of pride when she walked silently towards the grand bed and saw the girl sleeping peacefully in it; wrapped in the silk sheets.

From the view she was getting, and from what she had gathered the night before, Beta could tell that the girl was like no other. She was different. She was warm, something that she wasn't quite used to in the Malfoy Manor. Beta was accustomed to have greedy Wizards and Witches barking orders at her or saying the foulest things of the other members of the Magical Society as they made her job harder. They always had a glint of disgust in their eyes, chins stuck up in an almighty way as if they all assumed they were the greatest thing that has happened to the world since Merlin himself.

But that was back then, back when the streets weren't safe, when death was looming everywhere. Now Beta saw a strange peace around the manor she served. A strange and twisted smile on her Master and Mistress' face, almost like a crushing weight had been lifted from them and suddenly the air was filled with the loveliest aroma.

And despite the happiness she feels for her masters new attitude, the house-elf seemed more captivate—although she shouldn't and must punish herself for it later—by the warm girl wrapped around her young master's sheets. She just seemed to glow, holding kindness and a humble look on her young face. And, if her ears had not deceived her yesterday, the girl was to wed Master Draco and Beta couldn't help but to feel a joy for the upcoming union.

Their union was going to change everything, she could feel it in her fragile bones.

And with a smile after that thought, the house-elf walked towards the bed. "Miss," she muttered in a low voice, coming to the edge of the bed where the witch hung her head. "Miss?" She said again, jabbing a skinny finger onto her cheeks. "Miss!"

"Ginny," the witch growled, shoving the finger away. "Not now. Go away," she said with her voice dripping with sleep.

Beta jabbed harder. "Miss Granger."

"Ginny, I said—" At the instant that Hermione opened her eyes, she jumped startled at the sight of the house-elf. She clutched the silk sheets close to her body, but by the velvety texture — something she wasn't used to at the Burrow — Hermione tossed them away from her with confused eyes.

"Miss is just like young Master Draco," Beta said with a smile, patting the silver sheets of the bed. "He grows quite frantic whenever Beta wakes him up."

Looking around the grand guest room, Hermione felt the memories of the night before sink into her head. And by the demeanor of the room, but the oddness of it, she had nothing left to do and resign with a defeated sigh that she, in fact, just had a sleepover at the Malfoys.

For fuck sakes, she thought as she rubbed her eyes to push the sleep away.

"Good morning, Beta," the witch settled on being polite, yawning lightly as she tried ignoring the fact that she was sleeping on a Malfoy's bed.

"Good morning, Miss." The house-elf bowed. "Beta is very sorry for startling you, Miss, but Beta intercepted a letter from a strange owl a minute ago and found that the parchment was for you."

Pushing herself into a firmer sitting position, groaning internally as she saw the emerald nightgown on her body that was most definitely not hers, Hermione took the letter from the house-elf's hand with a mumbled, "thanks."

This is going to be hard to Oblivate from my head, she thought to herself again as she recognized the writing on the cover of the letter.

'Mione,

We are terribly sorry if we wake you up earlier than you're used to or the owl brews problems with you and the Malfoys, but we are in dire need at the moment of you and your kind heart.

As you know, since I have bragged about it all the train ride to the Burrow, our wedding is to be held on New Years, and seeing as we've a limited time to get everything set, mum has forced Harry and I to spend the entire morning, and possibly evening, shopping for things that are important for the ceremony.

The thing is, Harry was supposed to watch over little Teddy today, but seeing as the plans came unexpected yesterday night over our annual Christmas dinner, we have no babysitter. Andromeda will be joining us as well, as it is important to Harry, and Teddy is left unattended. And Mum refuses to let Teddy stay with Ron. (You know he's absolutely rubbish with the baby and she doesn't want to risk a row with Andromeda because of Ron's stupidity.)

So as our friend and my Maid of Honor, we ask of you for the smallest favor: watch over Teddy?

We love you,Ginny and Harry.

"That bloody ass-kissing witch." Hermione laughed, folding the letter back into its original square. "She knows how to convince me," she clucked her tongue, kicking the bedsheets with her feet and jumping out of the bed. "Beta, is there a fireplace around here?"

"Miss is expecting someone?" Beta replied in a question, watching with curiosity as the young witch spread an expression of deeper warmth, of affection throughout her entire pale face. Even humming softly as she found a pair of slippers that Narcissa Malfoy had sent her before she went to bed last night.

"Yes," was all the brunette said as images of that blue-haired baby that she'd grown to adore played behind her eyelids. It had been a while since she had seen Teddy Lupin, four months to be exact, and she felt a dire need to see him again. She felt exactly like Harry and Ginny did, possibly not as intensely seeing as they were the Godparents, but she did enjoy the baby boy's presence.

"Right this way, Miss." Beta took a hand of the girl, reminding herself to punish herself later for such daring act.

Hermione smiled, letting herself be dragged to the furthest corner of the room where a beautiful and elegant fireplace sat. "Thank you, Beta," she whispered as she waited, standing in front of counting seconds.

One.

Two.

Three — Oh Crap, Malfoy! What if he doesn't react nicely to the fact that Teddy's here? He's been civil with me because, unfortunately, we have to marry, but Teddy's nothing. Well not nothing, but still! He's the son of a known werewolf and….

Her worried thoughts were cut short as the bright scarlet fire started burning green, and in less than a millisecond a face emerged from the fire; smiling at her with spectacles on its face. Glittering in the fire, a body started forming from the flames soon after the face was formed.

Hermione watched as Harry Potter walked out of the fire, smirking at her as he handed her a diaper-bag, all in one movement.

"Be nice about it, Harry." Five seconds later, a redhead emerged from the flames as well, but she was carrying a bundle in her arms. "She is doing us the favor anyway, so wipe the smile off before I smack you," Ginny Weasley scolded her fiancée as he kept smirking at the brunette.

"Thanks, 'Mione." Harry tried to push off the smirk with an overly large grin, handing her a rattle and a box of baby-wipes.

Hermione rolled her eyes, stuffing the items into the bag before heading towards Ginny. "You know, Harry, I don't feel bad that I'll be changing his diapers. You, on the other hand, will be spending hours with three women deciding what will go perfectly in your wedding reception." She sent him a smirk she'd learned from the Slytherin Prince. "Think of all the colors, patterns, fabrics, and textures you'll be seeing."

Harry frowned at his best friend, resisting the urge to give her a shove as she took Teddy from Ginny's arms. "Now I see why Ron didn't want to come." The two girls smirked at him, his frown became deeper. "We'll see you later on then. Take care of him for me." Uncharacteristically for the Boy-Who-Lived, Harry placed a chaste kiss on Teddy's forehead, pushing aside his hair. "I'll try to end this torture as soon as I can."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Ginny snorted as she gripped on to Harry's arm, then she sent a quick victorious wink at the brunette as she and Harry disappeared with a loud Crack.

"A baby," Beta breathed, gawking at the small bundle pressed tightly to the brunette's chest. "It has been a while...years...since Beta has seen a baby in the Manor." She lifted herself a few inches taller with the tip of her overly-large toes. "Beta thinks the baby looks peaceful," she said with a kind of awe.

"Adorable, isn't he?" Hermione smiled, touching the tip of the baby's chin. "I think I should go tell Mrs. Malfoy about him," she thought aloud, receiving a nodding agreement from the house-elf. "Here," the Gryffindor bent down towards Beta, "take him for a bit while I go inform Mrs. Malfoy about Teddy. When I call you just bring him, please."

"Miss wants B-Beta to take care of the b-baby?" Her large blue eyes stared shockingly at the witch. "Beta feels strangely honored, Miss," she said with a quivering voice as Hermione placed Teddy on her slender arms. "Beta promises to take very good care of the baby." She bowed gently as Hermione headed towards the door.

The witch smiled. "I know you will, Beta." And then opened the door, her head racing with thoughts.

Here goes nothing, she crossed her fingers behind her back as she closed the door of the room and headed to find the master bedroom.

X

"…Breathe, Hermione," the young witch said to herself, pacing silently in front of a grand marbled door. "Mrs. Malfoy seemed really pleased with you yesterday night...There shouldn't be a problem for having Teddy — Yeah, but what about Mister Malfoy?" She contradicted herself. "He hates half-breeds, and you know he will chuck Teddy out in a heartbeat. Ugh. Just because Remus was—" She stopped herself, her throat growing dry at the mention of the man she had learned to grow fond of. (Damn her sensitivity at the moment.)

"Just do it," she shook her head, getting back on track. "Where's the Gryffindor courage?"

She waited for something to contradict her, like always, but nothing came. This time there was no logical voice. It was just her and the fact that she knew what she believed in. And if her future father-in-law — she cringed — wanted to throw Teddy out, well then she would leave with him. (And if it came to that, she wouldn't let Draco visit his parents after they were both married.)

Taking in an inhale, Hermione fixed the nightgown on her body, making sure no wrinkles were present, then she proceeded to life her knuckles onto the marbled door; making a soft knock.

She waited.

Knock.

She still waited.

Knock.

"Enter," Narcissa Malfoy's elegant voice spread through the slightest gap of the door; sending another jolt of fear through Hermione's system as she was still expecting silence.

The brunette witch took a moment to take a deep, deep, breath and then she pushed the door forward.

"Hermione."

"Good morning, Mrs. Malfoy," Hermione said in a gentle voice as she took a careful step in, almost giving her a courtesy. "I'm sorry to wake you but—"

"Not at all dear." Narcissa laughed, turning away from her large vanity mirror and smiling brightly at the girl. "I've been up for the last two hours, so don't fret, darling."

Raising her eyebrow, Hermione asked, "couldn't sleep, Mrs. Malfoy?"

She watched as the blonde woman gave a soft laugh. "As an ancient Pureblood woman, Hermione, I was raised to be up at the crack of dawn. I couldn't sleep past the rising sun. It was important and taught to us to be fully awake before our husbands." She gestured to the empty bed at the center of the room where the silk black sheets were spread perfectly on the mattress, holding no body wrapped in them. "And please, call me Narcissa," the woman added.

Hermione gave a hesitant nod. "Mrs — Narcissa," she corrected quickly, allowing herself a few steps closer to the vanity, "I've done something that isn't…well something that I shouldn't have done without your permission or consent."

"Did you steal a book, Hermione?" Narcissa giggled, returning back to look at her reflection and grabbing a silver brush from the top of the vanity.

"No," the young witch tried to tug on a small smile on her face to go along with Mrs. Malfoy's laughter. "I received an owl from Ginny Weasley a few moments ago, asking for a favor an important favor. And I couldn't really deny her, seeing as it would be rude to just leave…." Hermione heaved another puff of air, trailing off. "…It's better if I just show you."

Mrs. Malfoy rose an eyebrow through her reflection. But before she could asked, Hermione looked up to the ceiling and whispered, "Beta."

At the call for the house-elf, an apparition sound popped around the master room and Beta appeared with Teddy Lupin fully awake and attached to one of her bony hands.

Narcissa Malfoy spun around on her bench, dropping the brush on her carpeted floor from what just appeared in her bedroom. Her eyes slightly widened at the sight of a figure much shorter than the house-elf, standing a couple of feet before her. "Is t-that...?"

"Narcissa, this is Teddy," Hermione said, taking her chance as her future mother-in-law trailed off. Her stunned eyes gaping at the blue-haired baby. "Teddy Lupin."

"...A-Andromeda's..." Narcissa breathed as she rose up from her small bench. Her eyes grew open much more as Teddy stared back at her, smiling as his hair faded into a white-blonde; matching Narcissa's perfectly. "….He's got Andy's eyes," the woman murmured, looking deeply into the grey eyes of the child.

"Actually, we believe they're Remus'," Hermione chirped, a satisfied expression on her face as Narcissa seemed fascinated by the infant. "But he does have his mother and Grandmother's natural dark hair."

Mrs. Malfoy bent beside her sister's grandchild. "Has my sis — erm — Andromeda asked you to watch after him?" She questioned, fingering Teddy's blonde hair gently with awe.

"No, it was Harry." The brunette bent on the opposite side of Teddy, smiling more largely as Narcissa clasped a hand over her mouth as Teddy proceeded to copy the shape and color of Narcissa's blue eyes. "Andromeda is accompanying them in their hunt for things for their wedding come New Years. Andromeda has become a vital person in Harry's life, alongside Teddy since the war. Tonks and Remus made him godfather before they...before they…." Hermione couldn't find her voice to say it, especially in front of the boy.

"Very well then." Mrs. Malfoy caressed Teddy's chubby cheeks with an emotion that wasn't quite usual on the Pureblood woman's face. It was almost as if she felt something for the boy who was rightfully a member of her family. "I'll go inform Lucius that we have a guest," she smiled as Teddy leaned into her touch.

"So, he can stay?"

"Of course, Hermione." Narcissa stood up, looking at the brunette with a glitter in her eyes that looked like gratitude. "He's family after all. And Teddy is welcomed whenever, same as you. This will one day be your manor, dear, and the Mistress of the house has a say in everything." She gave her another smile and turned towards the door.

"Mistress, should Beta inform the other house-elves about the baby?" Beta asked her mistress before she could fully leave her bedroom.

"Certainly, Beta. We'll need baby-food and anything necessary for a baby, of course." Narcissa gave another great laugh as the house-elf trailed behind her. Both of them exiting the door, excitement written on both their faces like Christmas had repeated itself and they got twice of wonderful gifts.

Hermione dropped herself on the carpet, stretching her arms open as her face held an expression of amazement and relief. "You're a danger, Ted," she said, gesturing with her stretched fingers for him to come to her. "I can imagine the hearts you're going to break once you are older." She paused, frowning for a second. "Much, much, older Ted."

"Pfffft," the boy let out a gurgle, clapping his hands animatedly as he wobbled his way to Hermione.

"That's it Ted, few more steps, baby, few more steps!" She encouraged, happiness expressing itself throughout her pale face and stretching all over. She couldn't really explain the joy she felt whenever Teddy was around, it was almost a maternal feeling in her, something that scared the magic out of her because it was unknown. It was something that was far beyond her imagination, something she never gave much thought of.

Hermione Granger was many things, but a mother seemed impossible to ever be. She was the Brightest Witch of the Age, One-Third of the Golden Trio, a War Hero, an Activist, a Daughter, a Friend, a Fiancée, but a Mother seemed so silly and complex. Simply because she was never the fairytale type of girl.

Sure, she had imagined that she would get married one day, that she'd fall in love and settle down, but that wasn't a priority. It wasn't her dream, it wasn't something she fantasized about. Well, she wasn't going to lie that when the war was happening and she was constantly almost dying every other day that she pictured growing old, she pictured a family, but she never actually thought of it.

But now what?

Now she was going to have to just do it just because? What if she wasn't good at it, at being a wife? (Not that she really cared about that one too much. Malfoy could handle his own for all she cared.) But when the rest would happen — the rest that came with marriage? What then?

"There you go, Teddy!" She squealed as the still blonde baby collided into her chest. "I knew you could do it! You're growing up so fast!" She bounced him up, sending him flying a couple of inches into the air. "You're going to be flying a broomstick next, you watch, baby!"

Teddy's giggled resided and echoed around the room, a smile so heartbreakingly innocent and charming on his face as he continued to fly.

I'm going be a horrible mother, I just know it, she said mentally as her giggles mixed with the soft, excited ones of Teddy repeatedly.

And as she did, as she distracted herself, by the small opening that Narcissa Malfoy had left unclosed, a single grey eye peered in. Watching the girl play with the small child, growing interested at the sight of the glow on her face whenever the baby boy laughed along with her. Enhancing her strange beauty as she smiled warmly, making her glow in a way that was never really fully seen.

She'll be a great mother, Draco Malfoy thought as he pulled his eye away from the gap, an unnatural smile, one filled with affection, spread along his mouth. If I am to have children, I'm glad it will be with her.

And for once, he meant something honestly. Though he doubted anyone would ever know of it.

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