Hermione was shaking by the time they reached the stairs. Draco gently wrapped an arm around her waist. She was glad that she resisted the urge to snap at him when she realized that he was shaking as well.
And because they had spoken about this, about supporting each other
They'd had a disagreement just the night before when she'd told him that she needed to go into town to get a dose of her monthly contraceptive potion, and he'd offered to brew it for her instead. Because- he'd said- he could tailor it to her "
specifically, something she couldn't get from an apothecary, and because she'd started taking it for the health benefits in the first place, which would only be better if it was brewed specifically for her, so it only made sense.
She'd hesitated and he'd seemed puzzled, wondering if she questioned his brewing abilities, because they both knew that he was a talented potioneer.
He'd looked absolutely crushed when she finally realized and admitted that she was hesitant to depend on anybody else for such a task.
She'd had to admit to herself that she was worried he'd resent her for the few hours it would take to brew the potion. She hadn't studied it extensively, she knew that it wasn't particularly complicated, but it did require constant attention while it was brewed, and that he'd be giving up an entire afternoon to do it.
"Let me just do a little something to take care of you," he pleaded.
"I don't need to be taken care of."
He took a deep breath. "Maybe not, but I thought we'd decided that we were a team. I know you care for your friends, but I still don't want to be like them. I want you to be able to depend on me as much as I depend on you."
And that had made up her mind. Frankly, the pleading look in his eyes would have been enough. But he'd pointed out to her time after time,over the past few weeks, about how she refused to accept help, or even advice; because she had never gotten it from a peer before and she didn't want to marry a man she didn't consider her equal. She loved that Draco felt the same way.
She kicked her lips. "That would be great, Draco, thank you."
"I think this is just as much my responsibility as it is yours. But even if we weren't….intimate, I would want you to be as healthy and comfortable as possible. Loving you is enough reason."
And that had struck her like a bludger to the chest.
Especially given that they'd had a lot of difficult conversations over the past weeks. The day of their first big fight and- ironically- the day they'd first made love, had also marked the end of what had been something of a honeymoon period following the return of her memories.
Hermione could no longer ignore Draco's behavior at Hogwarts; his casual derision which too often turned to cruelty. It was even more disturbing when she discovered that while he had often believed that he was picking at people that he thought were his enemies, he had also enjoyed the high it gave him to get one up on them. He really didn't understand the damage he'd been doing.
When she'd asked him what Neville Longbottom had ever done to him, he'd looked away and remained silent. And then she'd told him the story of Neville's parents.
But she wasn't innocent. She'd had no idea how much her sniping at him about buying his way onto the Quidditch team had hurt him. She'd had a lot of reason to dislike him at that time, but he had been an insecure twelve year old boy. Hermione could assume that given their bond, the accusation had felt especially devastating.
As for that time that she slapped him? Well, she still believed that he had been very, very wrong in his behavior towards Buckbeak and his attitude towards Hagrid. But had their positions been reversed, she would not have agreed with his decision to hit somebody, and a girl at that, which left her in the very uncomfortable position of feeling like a hypocrite, and possibly a sexist.
All in all, she was not at all as certain of her place in the world as she had been just a few months ago, and the appearance of her father and godfather had only rattled that cage.
All of these thoughts were rushing through her head when Draco kicked the door closed as he wrapped his arms around her after they'd reached their room.
"I'm sorry" she gasped.
"If I spoke too much for you and Teddy, it probably wasn't my place. I just got really defensive."
"I was there too, Calla. If I felt, I don't know, like you were trying to control me or something, I could have said something."
"No, you said some things that I don't think I ever could have said. That I don't even know I would have found the words to say."
She took a deep breath and relaxed against his chest as his meaning sank in. "You're heartbroken too?"
He laughed, but it sounded bitter and brittle. "Yeah. You're not the only one who's had their world shaken, Calla."
"Right, of course not." She put her arms around him and backed him towards the bed. "Just hold me for a little while, I'll hold you too."
"Yes," he agreed, pulling the covers over them as they wrapped themselves in the other's arms.
"We're coming to you," Hermione's Mum said immediately, through the pay-phone Hermione had found in muggle Menton.
After having what she thought was a well deserved breakdown in her bedroom following the confrontation with her father, and spending several minutes hyperventilating with her face buried against Draco's neck, and then resting in each other's arms, she'd pulled herself together and gotten ready to go into town so that she could make a phone call to her parents.
Because she wasn't going to tell them this news via owl, or even via one of the Nott elves who were taking turns keeping an eye on her parents for extra protection when her mum and dad were beyond the wards they'd erected around their house.
Especially because now that her father was free- though she knew that the elves meant well- she was going to have to re-evaluate the elves' trustworthiness anyway, because they ultimately answered to Lord Nott.
"I don't know if it's safe Mum," she wiped her nose, apparently she had started crying again. Maybe she hadn't stopped, she couldn't be certain. "I don't know anything anymore."
"We've rented a house, we can cancel or refer our patients at least until you return to Hogwarts. From what you've told us, the way that you can travel there's very little difference between being in France or England, but we're listed with your Ministry, so it would be better for us to go away to stay hidden. Unless you would rather come home, love?"
Of course her parents had also made contingency plans. Gods how she loved them and just wanted them for comfort. She'd go home in a heartbeat, but she had to take Draco and Teddy into account.
"Please, come here," she whispered.
"One of us will be there tomorrow," her mum answered.
"Do you feel unsafe? We can send you money if you need to get a hotel for tonight."
"No, just really, really sad," she sniffed. "Can-"
"I know it's weird but can Teddy and Draco come stay with us when you get here, if they want to? I just feel weird being away from them."
"Of course. I assumed that they would."
"Thank you Mum."
"We're your parents, this is what we do."
Helen couldn't have known how that cleaved through Hermione's heart. Hadn't she just demanded that from her biological father and godfather? Yet she doubted she'd get it.
She took down the address of the house her parents had rented, her heart aching just a little bit more when she realized that she wasn't even comfortable with her Mum and Dad coming to the Malfoy villa to retrieve her.
She didn't think her father and godfather were a threat to her, but she wasn't sure if they were a threat to her parents. She wasn't sure about anything anymore.
"What do you think Professor Snape is doing here?" She asked Draco after she had told him about her conversation as they strolled through town, their heads pressed together. Teddy had chosen to stay behind at the villa, she understood and respected his need to spend some time with their father.
"He was sent to report back to the Dark Lord, about how you are adapting. And about how malleable we are to the cause." Draco answered with little hesitation.
His confidence in his answer scared her- that he believed a man they should have been able to trust, as their teacher, might have been sent to spy on them was deeply disturbing. Especially because she didn't think Draco was wrong in his assessment.
"Do you trust him?" She asked.
Hermione ran her fingers along the still-new tattoo on Draco's forearm. She tried not to preen too much about how much she liked it, how she felt like it gave her a further claim on him. But when she'd confessed that, he'd just laughed and ran his fingers over the dragon bracelet she never removed.
"In what sense?" She questioned, unfortunately returning to the topic of their potions professor. "I don't think he means us harm on a personal level. But I don't know what his endgame is."
Given her retrieved memories of Snape from her childhood, paired with Dumbledore and the Order's odd behavior since the Department of Mysteries, she didn't know what to think. Except that she knew they had to eliminate Voldemort to be free to live their lives.
"Is there any sense in hiding our loyalties anymore?" Draco interrupted her thoughts, "I don't think we can go running to your Order, but I can't pretend to be on the Dark Lord's side either."
"No, but our parents will probably have to. But it's all the better if we get out. We'll just look like rebellious teenagers, we can really sell that act we started at the Ministry."
"You think that will work?"
"I hope so."
"And you think Potter can win?"
"I know what you think of him, but he's far more capable than you give him credit for. And according to Dobby, he's been doing everything he can to learn and train this summer. But I hope it won't come to that."
"Calliope, would you at least tell me about yourself?" Her father asked over dinner, and the sheer longing on his face cut at her heart.
She set her cutlery aside. "What do you want to know?"
He seemed surprised by her calm answer, and gave her a tight smile. "Well I assume you no longer play with dolls, so what are your interests?"
"Actually, Hermione Granger wasn't really a fan of dolls."
"Wait, what? You loved dolls," Teddy interrupted.
"Well, as it turns out, having your memories erased can alter your personality."
There was a long silence.
Hermione took a deep breath. Despite her anger at her father, godfather, as well as the resentment with her godmother she'd been thus far suppressing, she wasn't enjoying the pain she knew that she was causing them by saying such a thing. "I had a good life, it was just a different life," she clarified.
"Perhaps you could elucidate, my dear," her Aunt Cissa said in a strained voice.
Draco gave up cutting his meat and reached under the table to place a hand on her leg.
"My life in the muggle world was less sheltered. My memories from early childhood are very clear, I think it probably has something to do with the fact that they were locked away for so long, when they returned it was like they were brand new," she bit her lip, "I don't know."
Draco squeezed her thigh.
"My point is that I feel certain in saying that I spent most of my time at Highvale Park or Malfoy Manor for the first five years of my life. Whereas I traveled quite a bit with my adoptive parents. I attended primary school. I did extracurricular activities. My world was simply different."
"Also I didn't have a twin or a Draco to boss around. The muggle children I associated with tended to fear me due to my accidental magic, which we obviously couldn't explain. So I tended towards my parents' interests. I like to read. I like to watch football with my dad, though I'm hopeless on the pitch. I like to play tennis with my mum. I'm terrible in the kitchen, I just don't have the patience, though I like to sit with them when they cook. However, Mum is quickly recruiting Draco," she shot her betrothed a sly glance, but he just shrugged.
"Finding out that I was a witch was both the most relieving and horrible thing that's ever happened to me. I didn't want to go away to school, but I thought I had finally found a place I would fit in. I had only been on the train for about an hour before I realized how wrong I was. Is that what you wanted to know?"
"I suppose so," her father answered, his voice had gone all gravely and Hermione felt another cut to her heart, but she knew she couldn't back down, or expect Draco or Teddy to take care of this for her.
"On that note, the three of us are going to be moving out tomorrow," Hermione continued. She'd discussed it with Teddy and Draco and she wanted to spare them as much of the pain of this conversation as possible. She thought that Draco was actually relieved to be leaving, but she knew that Teddy was conflicted.
"Pardon?" Aunt Cissa asked.
"My parents have rented a house. We're going to stay there. You can understand why they might be concerned with me staying in a place with two escaped prisoners."
"I suppose not," Aunt Cissa answered rather distantly.
"That's all well and good, Calliope," Uncle Lucius sat up straight, he'd been just glaring at her for the duration of the meal thus far, "but I won't be allowing Draco to accompany you."
His glance drifted ever so briefly to Snape, his eyes went wide like he was trying to communicate something, and suddenly Hermione wasn't sure how to react.
"Calla-girl," her father said, "I've missed you so, if you feel you must leave please at least come back to visit frequently."
There was a flicker of something- as if Hermione wasn't seeing the full picture. It was irritating, but she couldn't back off now.
"I've missed you too. But I don't feel safe here anymore." Something told her to stop talking about her parents, she didn't want the three Death Eaters in the room to have any more information about them.
Her father just gave her a slight nod, his eyes bored into hers and then he glanced at Uncle Lucius, "A few weeks with some muggles won't do any harm. Unless you object to Calliope's upbringing in the muggle world and we need to look at breaking the betrothal."
Hermione was thankful that her hand was already on Draco's thigh when she saw her father subtly glance at Snape, and then towards her again. Purposefully.
She clamped down on Draco's thigh so hard she would have to apologize later, but she wasn't sure if he was seeing what she was seeing and she didn't want him to ruin even a mere possibility.
"Of course not, Tahvo," Uncle Lucius answered smoothly, "they've been destined from birth, I wouldn't dream of allowing anything to tear them apart, especially at this stage."
Maybe she was being naive, but she didn't think so. They were putting on an act for Professor Snape so that he could report back to Voldemort that they were dutiful in getting their children on board.
And then she looked up and met her father's eyes for the first time in over a decade, took in the love and conviction she saw there, and she knew that she wasn't wrong.
Their fathers had decided to fix it.