25 July 2017

SEHE; Chapter 27

"Bell! Oh, it's so nice to finally meet you!" I'm a little taken aback by Jordan's girlfriend, Lisa, who has me in a vice grip of a hug. I throw Jordan a look and he just shrugs. Lisa finally lets me go and dives for Draco. The shocked expression on his face is totally worth any type of hug she could have put me through and I stifle my laughter at the look of sheer panic on his face before she finally lets him go as well.

Jordan has decided the weekend mum is gone with the younger boys is a good opportunity to bring his girlfriend home to meet me and Nate. I have to say, it's pretty smart. After what Nate and Becca went through when they announced their engagement, I'm surprised Jordan's bringing her 'round at all. This also gives us a chance to discuss Nate's wedding without mum overhearing. Part of me feels like we should feel guilty for plotting a wedding without including her, but it isn't my wedding to exclude her from and is none of my business to bring up. If Nate doesn't feel guilty then I'll just have to live with it and hope she never finds out.

It's also nice seeing my family interact with Draco without feeling like a bomb is going to explode at any second. Having mum and Draco in the house at the same time is very tense, even when they're not in the same room. The tension is there and everyone can feel it. Right now, sitting back and watching him converse with Jordan about football, makes me feel like maybe this is all going to work out after all.

Draco squeezes my knee under the dining table and I smile, taking a sip from my wine glass. We've all been sitting around the dining table eating cheesecake instead of dinner. Jordan raises his glass and takes Lisa's hand. It's then that I notice a glittery ring on her finger. "I'd like to propose a toast to love, in whichever way it finds us. And to Nate and Becca, who are the only ones to have outed themselves to mum." We all laugh before Lisa shows Bec and I her ring and Nate, Jordan and Draco all congratulate each other on being awesome men. Insert eyeroll here.

Lisa looks at my ringless hand. "Bell, where's your ring?" I glance over at Draco.

"Oh, uhm, I think I've packed it." Draco grins and pulls a small box from his pocket. "Do you just carry that with you everywhere?" He shrugs and takes my hand from Lisa, sliding the ring onto my finger then letting it go. Immediately I hear squeals from Lisa and Becca and glare at Draco, who just shifts away from me slowly.

"It's absolutely gorgeous!"
"Stunning!"
"Draco's outdone himself!"
"How could he ever afford this?"

I snort a little at the last one. If only they knew how much money Draco was worth. "He didn't spend a cent. His mother gave it to him." That brings on a chorus on aww's and I feel my sanity leaking out of my ears. I am saved by the doorbell however, as the real dinner shows up in the form of takeaway. Everyone leaves the table in separate directions and I stalk toward Draco, who has managed to slip to the other side of the room undetected. "You prat." His eyes widen just enough to fool someone else but I know better. I shove my hand in his face and wiggle my fingers practically up his nose. "I packed this and left it at the Manor on purpose and you knew it."

He takes my hand and kisses my finger, just below the ring. "Yes, but I also thought you might change your mind on wearing it someday and didn't want it to be at the Manor when that feeling overcame you, just in case it left again. I have to seize these opportunities when they arise." I narrow my eyes slightly but feel a smile tugging at my mouth.

"Pizza is served. You two can look at each other later." I take my hand back and sit at the table, claiming a slice of cheese pizza before it's gone. I notice Draco hesitate before taking his own slice and wonder if he's ever had pizza before. He smiles at me briefly before sitting and studies everyone before taking a bite of his own slice. He doesn't seem displeased or disgusted so I call it a win for the Muggles.

After dinner everyone goes their separate ways. Nate and Becca go back to her flat, and Jordan and Lisa decide to hang out in the basement. Draco and I are in the middle of choosing a movie when I hear a tapping at the living room window. I look up to see an owl I don't recognize, and neither does Draco. It's my house so I open a window to let the bird in and it drops a letter at my feet before swooping back out of the window. I pick up the letter and sit beside Draco on the couch, opening it to see Lena's name at the bottom.

Dearest Bell,

Please excuse the lateness of this letter. My family and I have had a very hard time adjusting since the end of the war. It's been such a relief, but so, so hard.

I hope this finds you well and happy. I would like to visit soon so I hope we can work something out.

Give that baby lots of squishes from me. I miss her terribly and cannot wait to see her again. Please send more photos when you can.

I do hope that Draco is all right. I hadn't heard news of him but also hadn't heard from you so I wasn't sure what to think.

I send my love,
Lena


I look at Draco with tears in my eyes. "Oh, I am a terrible friend, Draco."

"You've been-"

"Do not try to make me feel better. I have not been too busy or preoccupied to send her something. I write a long reply, add some pictures, stuff it all in an envelope and send it off with Hector. After I shut the window I turn around to see Draco peering at the VCR. I lean against the sill and smile. I love catching him in moments like this.

"How does this work?"

"I'm not sure exactly. I know it has something to do with electromagnetic signals that the machine reads from the tape. How it does it though, I couldn't tell you." Draco looks at the selection of movies we have.

"What's a.. twistie?" I slide down to the floor beside him and take out the movie.

"Oh, Twister. It's about tornadoes and storm chasers. I really like it."

"Let's watch it then." I stick the movie in the VCR and press play. While it starts up I get us some popcorn and when it's done pour it into a bowl, then grab us two bottles of water. The entire time Draco has been watching my every move. When he first started doing it, it made me feel self-conscious at first but I've gotten used to it. Now I don't really mind it.

I pick up the bowl, Draco takes the water, and we head to the couch to enjoy the movie.

05 July 2017

SEHE, Chapter 26

I'm reading when I hear the phone ring. "Shall I?" I look at Draco oddly. He's never offered to answer the telephone before. And as much as I'd love to see that, I imagine it's my mum returning her call from yesterday.

"No, I'll just pop down and get it." I heave myself off my bed and head down to the phone. "Lo?"

"Hi, honey."

"Hi, mum."

"How was your night?" I grab a bottle of water from the fridge and twist the cap off, making myself comfy on the floor beside the wall.

"Not bad. Nate stayed with Bec and Jord stayed with his girlfriend. Draco and I read most of the night, watched some telly. How's Cheyenne?"

"Marvelous. We sat her in front of a mirror and she couldn't get enough of herself." I smile sadly, wishing I could have seen it.

"I miss her. You're coming back Saturday, yes?"

"As long as we don't get back too late." I take a sip of my water. "I assume none of you are coming with us then?"

"No, I don't think so. Neither of the boys are home and I think I'm just going to stay here. Have fun with the littles and we'll see you next week okay?"

"All right, Bell. Love you, sweetheart."

"Love you, mum. Give Cheyenne kisses from me."

"I will, bye." I stretch up and place the handset in the cradle then rest back against the wall. I chug half the water bottle and recap it, standing up and going back up to my room to see Draco laying on my bed with his eyes closed. I smile and crawl up beside him, curling my body next to his. His left arm rests on my back while my left hand plays with the hem of his shirt. I lift it up to expose his stomach and trace circles around his belly button.

"That was your mother?"

"Yes. Just calling to ask if anyone was coming along on their trip. I haven't seen my aunt and uncle since Cheyenne was born but I just need the time away from mum. I don't know what it is."

"Hmm." I flatten my palm across his stomach and flex my fingers in and out slowly, smiling to myself at the slight change in his breathing. I apply a little pressure and slide my hand up, under Draco's shirt, to his chest, dragging my fingertips down back to the top of his pants. He shifts his legs a little. "Bell.." I look up at him with, what I'm hoping are, innocent eyes.

"Yes?" He isn't buying it. He flips us so that I'm on my back and he's laying on top of me, his lean body pressing against mine. In this position I have no problem feeling exactly what my little game was doing to him. He brings my hands together in one of his above my head and holds them there, the other supporting the top half of his weight above me on his elbow. I reach up as far as my hands will allow for a kiss and instead Draco dips down to my neck, following the hollow of my throat, the curve of my jawline.

I inhale deeply and close my eyes. I hear a low moan from him as his mouth makes its way down across my collar bone, his tongue pressing gently along it. I feel his hand press my wrists into the bed and take that to mean I'm to leave them there, then feel both hands on my sides, inching their way to the bottom of my shirt.

When I don't protest he slowly slides my shirt up and over my head, tossing it to the floor. I blush a little as I feel his eyes on me, mine still closed, and suddenly feel him kissing my lips. "Beautiful." My blush deepens and I very much want to cover myself up. I haven't been naked in front of anyone, apart from pregnancy related things, since Keelan.

I break the kiss and look away. "Bell, look at me." I hear more than just a suggestion in his voice so I turn my head to look at him. "Do you think I would be reacting to you this way if I thought you were disgusting?" As if to prove his point he presses himself against me.

"No, but-"

"Do you trust me?"

I answer without thinking. "Yes."

"Do you think I'm crazy?" I cock an eyebrow, uncertain of his direction.

"No. But-" Draco leans down to kiss me. It's soft and sweet and delicate, as if he's afraid I'll break or run away.

"Then trust me now. I love you, all of you, every flawed, perfect inch of you. Would you recoil at a new mother who's just undressed in front of you?" I close my eyes again and lean my forehead against Draco's.

"No, I wouldn't. But that isn't all this is, Draco." I pause for a minute to straighten out my thoughts. I feel the bed dip to the side and open my eyes to see Draco retrieving my shirt. I smile sadly and tug it back on as Draco sits beside me on the bed, positioning himself so he's facing me. "I'm still adjusting to a post-baby body, it's true. It's new and certainly isn't what I'd like it to be. I have stretch marks and dimples and soft places I never had before. But I knew going into it that I would never be the same after."

"And you know I don't even notice those things." I smile again and take his hand. He runs his thumb over the back of my hand.

"Yes, and I love you for it." I pause again and Draco squeezes my hand. I look at them while I speak. "The part that troubles me doesn't even have anything to do with you. It's all from.. before." My eyes dart up to Draco's face for a second before settling back down to our hands. I don't know what he's thinking and I'm afraid to ask. Will he think me stupid or silly? "Keelan could be very.. careless with his comments. Something he would say in an offhanded manner that impacted me much more than it was meant to. I don't even know if he knew what he was really saying. But some of them have stuck with me, obviously."

I hear Draco sigh and finally look up at him. He's trying very hard to control his expression but I can see anger simmering in his eyes. "So that's my secret. I'm insecure." The anger is replaced with sadness, though I'm not sure for what or whom. He pulls me into his arms and hugs me tight against him. I squeeze my eyes shut and sigh, feeling a heavy weight lift off my chest that I didn't know I was holding onto. I feel lighter than I have in a long time.

"Bell, you home?!" I startle a little as the front door downstairs slams shut and chuckle to myself.

"Yeah, Nate, we're up here! Be down in a sec." I look up at Draco and smile openly. He pushes strands of hair out of my face. "I'm not entirely sure what I did or who I pleased in a past life, but I'm glad cause it landed me with you." I get a genuine smile and am swept up in another kiss.

22 June 2017

SEHE; Chapter 25

Draco sent his owl to his mother after my conversation with Charlie. She sent a response right away and after making sure everything was secured with Cheyenne, we apparated to Malfoy Manor to help Mrs Malfoy fix up the manor. When I see the manor and what they classify as needing "fixed up" I can't help but laugh to myself. My entire house could fit in their lounging room.

It took less than a day to make sure the manor is suitable for a baby. Mrs Malfoy, or Narcissa as she insists I call her, has been very welcoming and open. I expected some latent hostility or anger at Draco picking a muggleborn as his partner, but she's nothing but friendly. She is beyond excited to meet Cheyenne and has already gotten everything she could possibly ever need. "I've spared no expense!" she's exclaimed happily.

I wanted to bring Cheyenne here right away but my mum said she wants to take her to my aunt's house for the weekend. She'd already packed when I arrived at home and I was very annoyed that she'd overstepped me. Charlie told me she just wanted to spend time with Cheyenne before she was whisked off, never to be seen again. While I understand the thought behind it, I'm thoroughly pissed off that she didn't ask me first.

I stopped by Phoebe's to explain everything to her. She wasn't impressed by any of it but understood and is being supportive. She asked when she's allowed to see my new home and I told her soon while fully within the knowledge that she probably never will. Narcissa's hospitality likely only extends so far.

Now I'm currently packing up my stuff. Mum, Charlie, Cheyenne and the younger boys left yesterday. Jordan opted to stay home and Nate is busy finding his own place with Becca. "How are you getting all this stuff to Draco's house?" Jordan and Draco are watching as I pack the things I want to keep into boxes.

"I thought perhaps my purse would do." Jordan's eyebrows raise and I grin. "I've put an extension charm on it. I'll shrink everything though that's not entirely necessary and it will all fit in my bag."

"Is that legal?" I grin as I shrink a box labelled Toiletries.

"No, not really. This charm is under strict supervision and control of the Ministry but what they don't know won't hurt them. I'm doing this to move my things, not conceal anything dangerous."

"Have you always been such a rebel?" Draco snorts before I can reply and I throw him a wink.

"No, actually. I don't think I ever skipped a class or got a detention."

"Are you forgetting that one detention in our 5th year with Snape?" He knows I remember by the slight blush that creeps along my cheeks.

Jordan sits a little straighter. "Whoa, I have got to hear this." I glare at Draco and he just gives me an innocent expression. I sit back against the wall and sigh.

"It wasn't that bad, really. Snape is just a grumpy bastard." Another snort from Draco and I roll my eyes. "Fine, fine. I didn't agree with his assessment of my potion so I called him a codger. He didn't take kindly to that and gave me a detention. Nothing special." It gets a laugh out of Jordan.

"Nothing special? People talked about it for weeks when we made fun of Snape behind his back." The phone rings downstairs and Jordan gets up to answer it.

"No funny business, you two." I roll my eyes as Draco sits on the floor beside me.

"It's as if he doesn't think we can control ourselves. Ridiculous." Draco chuckles.

"Your family is all coming back tomorrow," I nod. "and we're bringing Cheyenne to the Manor." I nod again, a thought suddenly occurring to me.

"How exactly are we getting her there?"

"Floo would be the most efficient."

"I've never traveled by Floo."

"You'll be fine, love. There's no risk. We transport children and elderly this way." I nod and look around my room.

"Yes, I know. I've read about it." I catch Draco's grin and smile lightly. He pushes the bits of hair that have escaped my ponytail behind my ear and traces his thumb over my cheek.

"Hey Bell, mum called and- Oh come on. I was gone for five minutes, tops. You two need muzzles." Draco drops his hand quickly as I roll my eyes at Jordan.

"What's mum want?"

"To talk with you. She's on the line." I get up off the floor and ruffle Draco's hair a little before heading down to the kitchen and the phone.

"Hi mum."

"Oh, hey honey! How are things going?" I sit on the counter and swing my feet.

"They're fine. I'm just packing. Draco and I are going to move everything to his house today and I'll meet you back here tomorrow."

"That's why I called. Auntie Rose and Uncle Davis are going to their cottage tomorrow. They've invited us all to come, you and the older boys as well. If you decide not to, that's fine, but I want to bring Chey either way." I sigh deeply.

"Are you ever going to bring her back?"

"Of course I will."

"When, next weekend? Or will you find somewhere else to take her?"

"Bell, come on. You're taking her away from me. I just want to spend time with her before you do."

"I'm not taking her away from you, mum. I'm moving, that's all. I can visit every weekend if that's what you'd like. Draco's mother has mentioned wanting to meet you. We could do lunch or something."

"I'm not ready for that yet, Bell." I hear her mumble something to someone. "I'm sorry, hon, I've got to go. I'll call tomorrow morning and you'll let us know if you're coming, okay?"

"Yeah. Bye, mum."

"Bye, sweetheart." I hang up and knock my head against the wall a few times. I don't understand her hang up with Draco. I've explained that he had absolutely nothing to do with the war but she just refuses to see reason.

"All right, love?" I twist around and smile at Draco, though I feel anything but happy. He approaches me and I lean against his chest, his arms wrapping around my shoulders into a warm hug. "Your brother had some words for me."

"Oh gods. What did he say?"

"He said that he can see how much I care for you and for Cheyenne. He's happy you've found someone on your level. And if I ever hurt you he and Nathan will make sure my body is never found." I snicker.

"I'd love to see that. He's just being protective big brother. I think they both feel bad that things with Keelan went so fantastically wrong."

"I know. It's sweet, really. They love you and want the best for you." I close my eyes and sigh contentedly. "Have you heard from him? Richards, I mean?"

"No." Draco doesn't continue so I pull away to look up at him. "What do you know, Draco?" He pulls me back to his chest and I frown.

"He's dead, Bell." I close my eyes and shudder out a sigh. "Do you want.. to know what happened?"

"How do you know this?"

"I just do." I think for a minute. Do I really want to know? Keelan was a Death Eater. He was probably murdered by someone. Will it help me to know who did it? Probably not. Will it help Draco to share in this knowledge with me?

"Okay. Tell me."

"I did it." I pull away from Draco and look at him sharply.

"What?" He runs his hand through his hair then crosses his arms against his chest, obviously nervous.

"It was an accident. I was pulled into the final battle by my father." Draco pauses while he paces the kitchen. "I didn't want to be there. I'm not proud but I hid a lot of the time. I couldn't fight with my father but I couldn't put my wand against him either." He stops walking and turns to face me, his hands in his pockets. "Richards found and cornered me with a few.. friends. He started taunting me, telling me that I've gotten his sloppy seconds, and 'how does it feel to know that little brat will never be yours'. Plus some other equally nonsensical drivel."

I can tell he's stalling. "Get on with it."

"Short version is they attacked me. I retaliated and knocked a large portion of the castle loose. Before they could react it fell on them."

"That's it?" I close my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose between my fingers.

"I didn't.. it wasn't supposed.. I just. I'm sorry." I've never heard him so tongue tied before, so unsure of his words and thoughts.

I don't know how I feel about Keelan's death. I had no notions that he would suddenly see reason months or years from now and want to be the father he was supposed to be, but it wasn't supposed to happen this way. And a small part of me mourns for him, for who he was and who he could have been had this all turned out differently.

I take a few breaths before I open my eyes and look at Draco. "For whatever reason, I'm not angry. I feel like I should be but really I'm just tired and sad. I'm annoyed that you've been back with me for four days and we still haven't had much in the way of conversation about what happened. I've been patient because it's only been a week and I know you need to process, but there are some things I should have been told right away."

"You're right, I'm-" I cut Draco off with a flick of my hand.

"I don't care about being right. I just want you to talk to me. Let me help you through this." Drago suddenly crosses the kitchen and practically runs into me, where I'm still sitting in the counter. He takes my face between his hands and pulls me into a deep, hard, heated kiss. He lets out his grief and everything else he hasn't been able to say.

+++

Draco and I decide to spend the night at my family's house instead of returning to The Manor and then coming back in the morning. Nate is staying with Becca and Jordan usually goes out Saturday nights so Draco and I are completely alone for the entire night.

It's pretty intimidating, finally having that alone time with no one to accidentally interrupt us. I'm not exactly ripe with experience myself, only having gone 'all the way' a few times, and only with Keelan obviously. There were rumors around school about Draco and his.. conquests, but I know first hand how false a rumor can be.

"How many people have you slept with?" I blurt this out without thinking and Draco cocks an eyebrow at me. Until now we'd been reading quietly in my bedroom. He places a bookmark to mark his place, closes the book, and folds his hands over it on his lap.

"Is the number important to you?" This question immediately makes my skin flush. It shouldn't matter. If I hadn't been with Keelan for as long as I was who knows what mine would be. Draco never expressed details about any girlfriends during our years at school but that's obviously not something one needs for a sexual partner. "You're thinking too much." I blush again and Draco gives me a small smile.

"I'm conflicted. It doesn't matter, truly. But then what if it's like a hundred? That's 100 people I'm going to compa-" Draco silences me with a hand to my lips.

"Let me stop you right there, you lovely, jealous creature. It isn't 100 but it isn't zero. And even if it was 500 I can assure you that I have never loved any of them as I do you. I haven't desired anyone else nor have I felt the need to rush into it all with you. I am perfectly happy to go at your pace." He runs his thumb along my jaw line. "I'm with you, Bell. Don't worry yourself over girls that don't matter." I smile a little, not completely satisfied but definitely feeling better than I had 10 minutes ago. "All right?"

"All right."

03 June 2017

SEHE; Chapter 24

Dearest Bell,

It's impossible to explain through a letter. Know that I'll see you soon and tell you everything. I'm at home for now, I'm safe.

It's over.

Love, Lena


I hug the letter to my chest, half of the knot of tension easing in my stomach. As I read the letter over, committing it to memory a sudden tap at my window startles me and my legs almost give out at the sight of the owl on the other side of my window. I scramble to the window, wrench it open, and take the letter from the great eagle owl, giving him a pat before he lands on Hector's perch. In my haste to get the letter open I almost rip it in half.

What are you doing?

I turn it over. It's blank. "That's it?" Confused, I scribble a short Nothing. on the other side and give it to Bubo. I scream with frustration as I watch him fly off. All these weeks and I finally get something and he bloody well asks what I'm doing? The prat! I look up as Bubo flies back into my room, landing again beside Hector. I take the small piece of parchment from him.

Fancy a visit? What? A soft knock at my bedroom door has me spinning around, my eyes landing on Draco standing beside the foot of my bed. My legs have stopped working and all I seem to be able to do is stare at him. He's here, standing in my bedroom, in my house, and my brain hasn't yet caught up with my eyes. "Bell.." His voice is what finally breaks through and I stand up quickly, practically run and throw myself at him. He wraps his arms around me tightly and I squeeze him as hard as I can.

"You're alive. You're okay. You're here." I say these things to myself, hoping if I say them enough I'll start to believe it. Even though Draco is here and I am touching him it doesn't yet seem real. After a minute he brings his hands to my face and lowers his to claim me in a kiss that sets my toes on fire. It's full of need and desperation and love and everything we haven't had the chance to say. I've never experienced a kiss so full.

He mumbles things against my lips that I can't quite catch but he doesn't break our contact long enough to say them clearer. I decide they're for his benefit, not mine, and lose myself in him instead. When I've finally convinced myself that he's real do I finally pull away just enough to look at him. He's thinner, paler, and his eyes aren't as bright. He's been through something. He pulls me into another tight hug that lasts for several minutes. "I love you, Bell." I squeeze my eyes tight and breathe him in.

"I love you." A rustle in Cheyenne's crib catches my attention and I let Draco go slowly, going to the baby that's just woken up. I pick her up and smile at Draco. "Cheyenne, your daddy is here." A smile lights Draco's face and my heart melts.

"Merlin, she's so big, Bell! And beautiful. Your muggle pictures haven't done her justice. May I?" I gently place Cheyenne in his arms, explaining the proper baby holding technique. She's begun to support her upper body while being held so she's a little wiggly and unstable.

"We just got her first big belly laugh last week. It took us weeks to get it out of her. It was fantastic." Draco smiles warmly and holds one of her small hands with his fingers. She stares at him and then shrieks loudly, her legs kicking and then lets out the biggest laugh I've heard from her yet. I clap my hands together and suddenly feel like crying. You expect pregnancy hormones but no one ever tells you about post-pregnancy ones that make you deliriously happy at the sound of a baby laughing. "How did you get here?"

"I'll tell you everything but I just can't yet. I need to remind myself that I can be happy, that I am happy, before going through it all." I nod and give him a one armed hug. "Being with you, being with Cheyenne, it helps more than you can imagine."

"Don't rush yourself. We've got all the time in the world now." He smiles at me before kissing my forehead. Cheyenne laughs again and breaks the moment in the sweetest way possible.

+++

"He can't stay here? Even for a couple days?" My mum shares a look with Charlie before shaking her head.

"No, I'm sorry, hon." I've asked them if Draco can stay for a day or two and without even considering it mum has said no. I suspect they're scared of him. Or mum is, in any case.

"Then I'm going to stay with him at his house."

"Absolutely not." I raise an eyebrow.

"I'm an adult, mum. I don't need your permission." Her cheeks flush red and her lips form a hard line. "I would very much like your acceptance, though. Despite what Draco's family has done I will not cast him out of my life."

"I give neither my acceptance or my civility. He is not welcome here." I blink my eyes in shock.

"Then nor am I. I'll be packing my things and leaving." I walk out of the kitchen and stomp my way up the stairs. The audacity! The sheer ignorance! I'm fuming by the time I reach my bedroom and Draco looks up when I enter, alarmed at the expression on my face. I hold up a hand before he can ask and sit on my bed. At the sound of a giggle I look over at him. He's sitting on the floor with Cheyenne, holding her up so her feet touch the floor. She looks like she's quite enjoying herself.

"Bell?" I run my hands over my face a few times, willing my pulse to slow down.

"I'm leaving. Today."

"You're what?" I slide down to the floor and rest my head against the bed.

"I asked my mum if she'd mind you staying a day or two. She flat refused. When I told her I'm an adult and don't need permission she said you're not welcome here at all. So I'm leaving."

"Oh, Bell, don't do this on my account." I shake my head and smile at Cheyenne when she looks at me.

"You aren't to blame here. I had to leave some time, this was just the tipping point for me."

"I would bring you to the manor but it isn't safe there yet."

"I'm going to ring Phoebe. I doubt very much she'd mind."

"I'll owl mother and see about getting the manor fixed up. It shouldn't take long." He sets Cheyenne on the floor and goes to my desk, rummaging around a little before looking at me. I hide a grin with my hand.

"Yes?"

"You have no quills." I raise my eyebrows in mock surprise.

"No? You're sure?" Draco rolls his eyes and I laugh before getting up to assist him. "This is a pen. It has ink in a chamber inside the pen so you don't have to dip it." I hand him one of the pens on my desk.

"Fascinating. How does it work?" He twirls it around his fingers.

"There's a tiny ball at the end, hence ballpoint pen, that rolls when you write with it, dispensing the ink. It's much more convenient than a quill."

"I'm surprised with how easy your muggle trinkets make your lives."

"Well without magic it needs to be done some way. I guess this is our own magic of sorts."

"You know I thought that the first time I came here, when you explained to me your ell- elec- tristy?" The uncertain look on Draco's face makes me smile.

"Electricity, yes. It's wonderful watching you learn about my muggle world and the things within it."

"I find it all so intriguing. Did you learn things the same way as well?" I glance over at Cheyenne and she looks content, laying on her playmat, so I sit on the bed while Draco sits on my desk chair.

"Some things, yes. Most things I grew up seeing, like the lights or doing the dishes. Things need correction or direction, of course, but overall it's a lot of watching and mimicking. You'll see that with Cheyenne. She already does some things, mostly facial expressions."

Draco looks at my pen thoughtfully. "You don't mind me asking you these questions? About how things work? I know you don't always know the answers." I trace lines across his knee in what I'm hoping is a comforting gesture.

"Not at all. I love helping and watching you learn. And maybe it will be good practice for when Cheyenne starts asking questions." Draco takes my hand from his knee and kisses my finger tips. My heart stutters a little and I feel a warmth spread across my chest. I'm about to pull him to me when there's a quiet knock at my door. I take my hand back. "Yes?" My mum opens the door slowly.

"I had thought I would take Chey to visit Phyllis. Is that okay?"

"Yes. Her bag is beside the wardrobe." She gathers the bag and the baby in silence, leaving my door open a little after she leaves the room. "So what are you going to tell your mother?"

"The truth. That you've decided to move out and she needs to make sure the manor is presentable for an infant." He pauses and I can tell there's something he would like to say. Probably a lot of somethings, but I know we'll get to those in time. "My father is dead." I'm about to offer my condolences when he stops me. "It was his own doing. After my refusal to follow him and join the Death Eaters, mother said Voldemort was very angry and punished him by giving him outrageous missions and tasks. Instead of admitting lack of capability, he failed one too many and Voldemort killed him. I'm sad for my mother but I feel nothing about it myself."

I suspect that's a load of crap but keep my thoughts to myself. He'll have to sort that out for himself in his own time. "Mother had me leave school and go into hiding to ensure my safety. The manor was being used as a headquarters of sorts. I didn't wish to know much about it." I don't know why but a thought pops into my head.

"Nate is getting married. We've been invited to attend." Draco smiles a little but it doesn't reach his eyes so I keep yammering to distract him. "It's in Thailand, next month though I can't remember the exact date. It's on my calendar. Phoebe has said she'll watch Cheyenne so we'll be alone, relatively speaking." At that his interest peaks a little.

"Alone you say." I hide a grin.

"Indeed. I thought we could go hiking and explore and just stay outside all day." A smirk graces Draco's face as he gets up off the chair and pushes me back onto the bed, then climbs over me while keeping the majority of his weight off me.

"We could. There are a couple other things I think we could do since we'll be entirely alone for the first time ever." I wrap my arms around his waist.

"Hm, like what?" Instead of answering he brings his face down to mine and brings me into a deep kiss, his fingers threading through my hair. I press my body up into his and feel more than hear him groan into my mouth.

"Oh, gross, we do not need any more babies." Draco jumps off me, back into the desk chair, breathing a little heavily. I sit up to see Jordan standing at my door with an amused smile on his face. "Charlie wants a word, Bell." I sigh and get up, walking past Jordan to go downstairs where Charlie is waiting in the kitchen.

"You wanted to see me?" He holds up a finger to finish writing something down. When he's done he pushes aside the pen and paper and motions to the chair across from him. I sit.

"Yes. First I wanted to say that I'm sorry for the way Claire reacted earlier. She's been worried about you and seeing Draco in the house brought up a lot of feelings." I cross my arms and nod to show I'm listening. "After some discussion she's agreed to let Draco stay here for a couple days. Nate is at Bec's so he can use his room. She knows this doesn't and won't fix anything but she wants you to know that she's sorry she overreacted." I snort.

"No kidding." I think for a minute and nod, having made up my mind. "She's right, it doesn't fix anything. But even if it did I can't stay here anymore. It's time for me to go." Charlie nods.

"I figured that's what you might say. She said that's fine if you feel the need to leave but doesn't want Cheyenne caught up in anything so she's welcome to stay here until you secure a permanent living arrangement." I open my mouth to argue, to guarantee that making sure of that won't be a problem, but I can't.

It could take a day to clean up the manor or it could take a month. Phoebe can't possibly have us there for more than a few days, maybe a week. And I don't honestly have any other options. I manage to get out a 'fine' before getting up and leaving the kitchen, so I can cry without any witnesses.

28 May 2017

SEHE; Chapter 23

"Another unexplained death has surfaced this morning. Investigators suspect it's linked to the other random deaths popping up throughout the country but there have been no leads or links between any of them. Further-" I shut the radio off, shaking slightly.

"Bell, we were listening to that." A sudden anger fills me and I stand before I realize what I'm doing.

"No! I refuse to have these deaths reported to me when I know what's going on and who's doing it. These could be people I know, mum. People I went to school with! Don't you realize that? These may not be strangers to me." I pause while Charlie and my mum sit, staring at me as I break down. I can feel it yet don't know how to stop it. "One of my teachers was killed simply because of the subject she taught. She was a great teacher and a lovely woman and she was murdered!" I sink to the floor, my legs unable to hold me up.

"Draco's family is in the middle of this. He refused to join them and was branded a coward and is now in hiding until it's over. I haven't gotten a letter in weeks. I don't know if he's dead or alive and have no way of finding out. My friends at school are being beaten and tortured. An insane maniacal bastard has taken over the government all while I sit at home, safe and sound, listening to their deaths on the damned radio. No." I start crying then. Big, hard tears that fall from my eyes onto the floor. I feel my mom's hand on my shoulder and close my eyes.

"Sweetheart, I'm sorry. I didn't realize how close to home this is for you. I'm glad you're home though, honey. If not then I'd be one of those worried parents, wondering if you're okay." My anger has been waning at her words but it resurfaces now. I break from her hand and stand roughly while she looks at me in shock.

"You don't get it. The only reason I'm home is because I was stupid enough to get pregnant. I could just as easily be there with them. You may not worry about me but I'm sick with fear for what's happening to each of them. I could tell you what they're going through but I don't want to give you nightmares, too." I turn and stalk out of the living room, almost running into Jordan, who is descending the stairs, and slam the back door on my way out. I think briefly of Cheyenne but know she's fine with everyone at the house. I need a few moments to get myself under control so I decide a walk is a good idea.

About halfway down the block I hear footsteps behind me and turn to see Jordan jogging to catch up. When he stops in front of me a fresh surge of tears make their way down my face and I lean into him as he wraps his arms around me. "What's going on, baby sister?" I just shake my head, knowing I wouldn't be able to explain right now if I wanted to. So we stand on the sidewalk in silence for a long amount of time while I cry out my worries, frustrations, fears and grief. When the tears stop Jordan falls beside me and we make our way back to the house. "I told her to just let you be when you come back." I nod and smile up at my brother.

It's quiet inside the house, save for Cheyenne making noises at Nate. She's been close to giving her first real belly laugh for a few days now and everyone has been trying to get it out of her. I have a feeling it's going to be Mark that does it. Nate looks up as I come into the living room and sit beside him on the floor. Cheyenne is in her little bouncy chair and wiggles when she sees me, letting out a big shriek. I laugh and press her tiny feet to my cheeks. Her presence is calming and I feel a hundred times better than I did an hour ago. Jordan sits beside Nate and I on the floor and smiles at his niece. I sigh, knowing it's time to explain now.

"Did you guys hear any of what I'd said?" They glance at each other and then both nod. "From what Lena has told me, some crazy wackos have taken over the school and are using the torture curse on the students in detentions. There are three unforgivable curses; this being one of them. Another is a mind control curse. While under it you do exactly as the castor wills you to do, no matter what it is. The last one is the killing curse. That one is pretty self explanatory. I'm telling you this to tell you just how horrid this all is. The torture curse used against children! It's disgusting! Cheyenne accidentally hits herself in the face and I smile a little despite the topic of conversation.

"If it wasn't for her, I would be there right along with them all. The fact that I'm not does nothing to make me feel better. It makes me feel worse because I can't support and comfort anyone. All of their parents and loved ones worry themselves to death while mum sits here feeling happy that I'm not one of them. She doesn't understand it. All of the people that are being killed, I know at least a few of them. My own teacher was one because she taught Muggle Studies." I pause, collecting my thoughts.

"And Draco is in hiding. I don't know when I'll hear from him again, if I even do. Cheyenne might grow up without her dad because he was brave enough to stand up for what he believes in. She may never know him and it kills me." Since I'd cried myself out earlier no tears fall this time. I suspect I'm too tired to cry anymore. "She just doesn't get it" I lean against Jordan's shoulder and Nate takes my hand. To distract myself from my own life I look at Nate and motion my head toward Jordan. "Does he know?" It takes him a second but he understands and nods.

"Yes." A genuine smile lights my face.

"When is it, have you decided?"

"June, I think. Her granddad's birthday was in June and she wants to honour him since he can't be there."

"That's quick." Nate nods and shrugs.

"It is, but we love each other, so why not now? Everything we've watched you go through, Bell, has just confirmed that we shouldn't wait."

Jordan has been quiet thus far but pipes up, "And where are we going?"

"We finally decided on Thailand. Better brush up on your Thai." I sit up straight.

"You are absolutely kidding." When Nate shakes his head I tackle him into a hug. "No way! This is amazing!" Nate and Jordan both laugh as I sit up.

"The other two places we considered were Turkey and Spain. Thailand won out by a slim margin. And don't worry about the money, either of you. We've got it all covered. Ticket are bought, hotels are booked, everything is going along great."

"Are we allowed a plus one?" I glance over at Jordan before looking back at Nate.

"I'll ask Bec about that. We want it to be very small and intimate for the ceremony. We'll have a big reception for everyone else later on."

"Oh, I'm so honoured that you've chosen me." Nate smiles at me and Jordan.

"Of course you're coming. I wouldn't get married without you two there."

"Is Cheyenne coming?" Nate shrugs.

"That's up to you, I suppose. We don't care if she comes. She'd look way too adorable in a little flower girl dress though." I smile and look down at her. Apparently the lack of attention has bored her enough to fall asleep.

"I'll bet Phoebe would love to spend a few days with her. I'll ring her and ask." I get up and head to the kitchen, grabbing the handset and dialing Phoebe's number. Her mum answers. "Hi Marge, is Phoeb there?"

"Sure hang on." A minute later Phoebe is on the line.

"Hey Bellie." I roll my eyes and chuckle.

"When are you going to let that ridiculous nickname go?"

She cackles. "Never! So what's up? How's my baby?" I sit on a kitchen chair and tuck my feet under my bum.

"Your baby is perfectly fine. She's going to laugh any day now, I can just feel it."

"I miss her. When are you coming by?" I look at the calendar on the fridge and the clock on the wall.

"Tonight? We could order dinner and pretend we're teenagers."

"Gabe is coming tonight. Is that okay?"

"When do you ever ask?" We both chuckle. "I had a question for you so that works out great."

"What type of question?"

"I'll explain and ask you later. Cheyenne's just fallen asleep but probably won't nap for long. How's 3 o'clock?"

"That sounds good. I'm just finishing up an essay and I'm all yours for the evening. I'll have Gabe bring crisps and soft drinks."

"Okay, see you soon."

+++

"So what was your question, Bell?" Cheyenne, Phoebe, Gabe and I are in Phoeb's living room. She's holding Cheyenne and I'm spread out on the floor.

"Oh Gods I almost forgot. Nate and Becca are getting married and-" Before I can finish Phoebe lets out a squeal. "And. They're eloping in Thailand in June."

"Wow, that's quick!" I look over at her as Gabe chuckles.

"Can I finish?" Phoebe makes a show of locking her mouth shut. "They've asked me and Jordan to be there for the ceremony. Jord asked if we're allowed to bring someone so I think we'll finally get to meet his mysterious lady friend. I asked if Cheyenne is coming and they don't care either way. So I thought I would ask you first if you'd like to spend some time with your baby."

"You asked me first?" I nod and smile up at her.

"Of course I did, you dunderhead. Nate said the 29th, it's a Monday."

"I'll make it work. Oh, I'm so happy." She gives Gabe a sly glance and I laugh.

"No babies for you two. For a long time." Phoebe grins at me.

"Don't worry there. No immediate plans for any of that."

"Good. They're cute but a hell of a lot of work. I'm exhausted."

"This trip will be good for you then. Rest, get lots of sleep. Is Draco going with you?" I hesitate, not knowing how to answer. I haven't told her the extent of what's going on in the wizarding world. It isn't her burden to bare and I don't want to worry her.

"I'm not sure. I suppose it depends on what his plans are after the term ends." She gives me an odd look.

"Surely he would come right to see you. When did you last see him?"

"After Cheyenne was born."

"I can't imagine he would want to wait."

"His family may want to do something. I don't know." She doesn't push, and for that I am grateful. As expected I haven't gotten any word from Draco. Lena has sent me two letters, both short, both just to let me know they're all fine. I've sent more pictures, hoping to brighten their day a little bit at least.

Suddenly Gabe stands up. "Okay, whose for pizza?"