Masquerade

Hermione drew in a shuddering breath, shoving the dress back in her trunk and slamming the lid. Even through the haze surrounding that night, she could clearly remember the way it had felt. How her lips had burned from his kisses...

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5. The Malfoy Boy

Chapter Five

The Malfoy Boy

The first weekend of term had arrived.

Just as Madam Pomfrey had predicted, Hermione was not at her best. Not even close. Why, just that morning she'd woken up at 11:30! Normally she'd have been up long before, attacking the already mounting schoolwork. 

Sighing, Hermione pushed the cold sandwich away, her stomach churning. None of her friends were present, most likely goofing off on the grounds somewhere. 

"Might as well head back to the Common Room..." Hermione yawned to herself, wincing as an uncomfortable gurgling rippled through her midsection. 

"Miss Granger!"

Groaning, Hermione turned to face Professor McGonagall, who was bustling down the aisle, an envelope in hand. 

"It seems I've caught you just in time," McGonagall noted absently, her bespectled eyes flicking over to the plate of food Hermione had just left. 

Hermione shuffled her feet nervously under McGonagall's gaze, which lingered briefly on her stomach before snapping up to meet her eyes.

"This note is from Professor Dumbledore," McGonagall said, thrusting the letter forward before bustling off.

Tentatively Hermione took it, before turning slowly from the Professor's retreating back. "That was odd..." she murmured, unfolding the parchment as she walked.

It said:

'Miss Hermione Granger,

Madame Pomfrey has informed me of your predicament. I feel it necessary that we meet to discuss any change in plans for the coming year.
Please meet me in my office this afternoon at half past 1. 
Password: Peppermint humbug

Sincerely,
Your Headmaster
Albus Dumbledore'

"Oh, no!" Hermione moaned, shoving the letter into the pocket of her robes. She had completely forgotten about Madam Pomfrey's promise to inform the teachers. "This is positively mortifying!" she squeaked to herself. So caught up in her own problems, Hermione didn't take the slightest notice as a red-headed girl tentatively stepped out from the shadows in front of her. 

"Hermione?"

The timid voice shocked Hermione from her thoughts and prevented her from crashing into the other girl.

"Ginny! Where did you come from?"

Chuckling nervously, Ginny shrugged. Her brown eyes were wide and sad. "Um, Hermione. . .  I want to apologize for. . .  for how I acted on Tuesday." she said softly, chewing on her bottom lip. "I know I should have said something earlier, but I was so embarassed! I can't believe I blew up on you like that! You've got enough. . . " She trailed off sheepishly, sucking in a deep breath and smiling as Hermione raised her hand.

"Calm down Ginny! It's fine, really."

"Are you sure?" The sixth year inquired, lifting her brows disbelievingly. 

"Believe me, I have a feeling I wouldn't be thrilled either if I found out about something like that. No hard feelings." As an after thought, Hermione added, "You know, you reminded me of your mother."

Ginny's shoulders slumped in relief, a grin twisting her mouth. Hermione began walking again, this time with Ginny falling into step beside her.

"Oh, thank Merlin!" Ginny gushed, "I was having horrid dreams about you never speaking to me ever again. . . " Ginny continued, vividly describing all the horrible things that would result from them never reconciling (one particularly bizarre scenario having to do with Pansy Parkinson being named godmother of the baby) until they found themselves standing in front of Roman the Gifted. Ignoring the grumbles and glares that had become a routine greeting from said portrait, Hermione gave the password and entered her Common Room.

"Wow!" Ginny exclaimed, staring around. "All this for two people? You lucky witch, you!"

Shaking her head in amusement, Hermione pushed open her door and beckoned for Ginny to follow. Both girls flopped onto the large scarlet bedspread, sharing a companiable silence for several minutes.

"Well, Dumbledore and the entire staff probably know now," Hermione blurted out, wrinkling her nose.

"What!?" Ginny shrieked, flipping over onto her stomach. "You mean, they know about--about. . . " 

Hermione nodded glumly. "Here, read it." Reaching into her robes, Hermione tossed the letter to Ginny, staring at the ceiling as the other girl ripped it open.

"Whoa," Ginny breathed, finally setting it down. "You think other professors will be there?"

Hermione cringed, shrugging helplessly. "I truly, honestly have no idea."

"Hmm. . . " Ginny stared out the lone window, eyebrows furrowed in deep thought. "Hermione, um, well, what are you going to do?" she asked seriously, her face grave.

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked in cofusion. "I've got to go meet him, don't I?"

"No, Hermione. I mean what are you going to do? When the baby is born?"

Hermione blushed scarlet, fiddling with her wild curls anxiously. "Oh! Well, I suppose I'm going to keep it. . . "

"Don't get me wrong, that's great and all," Ginny began, choosing her words carefully, 
"but you're only 17!"

"Almost 18," Hermione said sadly.

"But you're so young! And what if all this hell with You-know-who hasn't blown over by the time it's born? How will you help? How will you keep it safe from him?"

Hermione swallowed, meeting Ginny's gaze sorrowfully. "I-I don't know."

"You're going to have to figure it out!"

"I know, Ginny. Who knows? Maybe Dumbledore can help me." She stared stonily at Ginny. "But I bloody well know that I'm not about to give it up! I mean, what if it ends up with some horrible, vile family? I don't want my child growing up like Harry did!" Hermione was getting frantic now.

Ginny sighed, nodding.  "I suppose you're right. Just make sure you ask Dumbledore about it today, alright?" she asked severely, a gleam in her eyes.

"Oh, Merlin! I should be heading there now! I'm so nervous, Ginny!" The two walked into the Common Room, Hermione still babbling worriedly. "Who knows what he'll ask! I can't--" Her breath hitched in her throat.

Lounging lazily on the sofa, tie hanging undone and loosely around his neck, was Draco Malfoy. Suddenly she was very aware of how loud their conversation had been.

"Malfoy," she aknowledged coldly, heart thumping wildly. Ginny sniffed rudely beside her, glaring at the Head Boy.

Completely ignoring her greeting, Malfoy's pale lips curled into a nasty smirk. "Been having a nice chat with the blood traitor, eh?" he taunted, never breaking eye contact. Laughing quietly, he drawled, "These castle walls don't matter much when you really want to hear something."

 

----------

 

"Peppermint humbug." Hermione gave the password reluctantly, her voice quavering. Stepping onto the moving staircase, she gazed upwards, almost willing it to stop. The entire walk to the office her thoughts had been racing. Back and forth they flitted. Dumbledore. Malfoy. Dumbledore. Malfoy. Vaguely she remembered bidding Ginny farewell.

Shutting her eyes tightly, Hermione knocked twice. The door creaked open. Stepping into the spacious office, she was faced with six disgruntled witches and wizards. A heated conversation had obviously been interrupted.

"Ah, Miss Granger!" Dumbledore exclaimed from behind his desk. "Just the young witch we were waiting to see!"

Smiling timidly at the Headmaster, Hermione gazed around dubiously at the other professors, observing their faces uneasily.

"Sit down, sit down!" With a wave of his wand, Dumbledore conjured several brightly colored armchairs. Gingerly Hermione settled herself into a lurid pink one, decorated with outrageous designs of various plants.

Three of the professors--Flitwick, Sprout and Madam Pomfrey--settled gratefully into their own chairs. McGonagall and Snape both remained standing stiffly

Dumbledore smiled kindly at Hermione, oblivious to the thick tension in the air. "Now, as you surely understand, your predicament puts us in quite a situation." Hermione nodded stiffly, choosing ignore the derisive snort from Snape's corner.

"If my memory is correct, I recall Madam Pomfrey telling me your child is to be born in mid-Spring. Unfortunately, I cannot permit a student to stay in school with an infant." Pausing, the elderly professor glanced around at his staff. "Together, we have come to a decision. Either you return home following the birth and come in to take your N.E.W.T.s at the end of the year, or you stay in school and send the baby home to stay with family until graduation. You will, of course, be allowed to go home and visit every weekend if you wish."

Hermione was silent, staring at the floor. She couldn't possibly dump the baby on her parents like that. It isn't their responsibility.

"If I may interrupt, professor," Snape said icily, his black eyes glittering, "You seem to have forgotten an option. If Miss Granger wishes it," his eyes locked onto hers, "she may simply drop out. Even a student as. . .  accomplished as herself may find it difficult keeping up with her studies with a child in her life"

Gritting her teeth, Hermione blinked furiously. How dare he even suggest that? There was no chance of her dropping out! It would mean that the past seven years of her life had been a complete and utter waste! No, no, no. That would not do.

Interpreting Hermione's expressions correctly, Dumbledore turned towards Snape, blue eyes twinkling. "I daresay Miss Granger doesn't seem at all pleased with that idea, Severus."

"I'll go home and study," Hermione blurted out suddenly, wanting desperately to move on.

Dumbledore nodded, before launching straight into the next order of business. "If you ever, at any point in this pregnancy, feel the need to skip your class due to discomfort, do so. Knowing you, I have no fear of you taking advantage of this privelege.  Your professors will also be a bit more lenient about your work."

Hermione nodded gratefully, and Dumbledore turned his gaze on the teachers. "Alas, my memory has failed me. What else is there to discuss?"

"Her appointments," Professor Sprout piped up.

"The Malfoy boy." Flitwick squeaked in the same instant

Hermione narrowed her eyes. What did Malfoy have to do with this?

"Ah, yes. You will be having monthly appointments with Madam Pomfrey, perhaps more often if necessary. Nearer to the end of your pregnancy you will also have one or two meetings with a healer at St. Mungo's."

"Yes, I had a feeling something like that would happen, Professor." Hermione said politely, anxiety evident in her voice. "But, what does Malfoy have to do with all this?"

"Yes, well, the fact of the matter is there may be complications with your pregnancy. You are not only young, but also magical pregnancies can be horribly unpredictable. Therefore we feel it necessary for Mister Malfoy to be made aware of your situation. He will be told of what to do if something very suddenly goes wrong. After all, he is the only other person living with you."

Hermione sighed, grimacing. She couldn't argue, it did make sense. Then it hit her.

"Professor, you'll make sure he doesn't tell the other students, won't you?" she asked, hope fluttering in her chest. Based on his words earlier, she was positive he knew alreaydy! If Dumbledore forbade Malfoy from telling, her secret was safe!

"Yes, if that is what you want." Dumbledore answered, before glancing at the elaborate watch on his wrist. "Speaking of young Draco, he's due for a meeting as well. It seems he's several minutes late..."

Right on cue, three knocks rang through the office.

"There he is now! You may leave, Miss Granger. You seem a bit tired."

Nodding, Hermione made her way to the door as Dumbledore called for Malfoy to enter. The door swung open, and she met the Slytherin's indifferent blue gaze for an instant before slipping past.

 

----------   Slowly Hermione maneuvered back through the stone corridors, a of a hop in her step. Malfoy would be furious when he realized he couldn't spread the word! She was positively elated! Now the only things she had left to worry about was--

"Ron!?"
  --- Author's Note: Thank you so much to everyone who has read and enjoyed this story so far! I love seeing all your lovely comments. :) If you've enjoyed what you've read, please oh please click the like button and tell me what you think! 
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