Barefoot Is Beautiful

Narcissa Malfoy sat morosely in a large plush chair in her sunroom, knitting furiously. If she didn't finish her booties by Saturday, they'd never be of use. She felt a single tear fall down her cheek and onto the soft caramel and black yarn weave. Priah's favorite. She liked to think of them as Cinder Shoes. Just like... Cinderella.

Attempting to hold back more Judas tears, Narcissa looked up at the glass domed ceiling just as the clouds passed the sun, letting fresh light in. She took a moment to bask before continuing her knitting, adding a memory with each pearl. The day she was born. The first time she opened her eyes. The first time she called him Daddy. The day she left the hospital... The day she went back.

No. Narcissa shook her head and pulled out the last loop. No such memories would be allowed in HER booties. Just as she picked up speed again, however, she was interrupted. Snapping her head to the side, Narcissa identified the soft tapping as an owl, trying as if life depended on it to land on the sill-less window. She rose quickly and made her way to the bird, allowing him entry before turning back around and resuming her seat. The owl followed, landing on the arm of her chair.

"Lucius is in the drawing room," she told him monotonously, not bothering to look up, but the owl hooted and protruded his foot. Narcissa gave him an odd look before turning to the letter tied to his ankle. One simple word was scrawled lovingly on the envelope. 'Mum'. "From Draco?" she asked the bird rhetorically, but he nonetheless hooted as if in answer. Narcissa smiled and shook her head, again setting down her knitting. "I don't know why he bothers... he'll see me again tomorrow anyway," she muttered as she untied her letter. "I'm sorry, I don't have anything to give you... unless..." Narcissa rummaged in her knitting bag for a moment, then finally extracted what looked like a half made, unfilled, darning ball. "Here," she stated, hurriedly tying some string to opposite sides. It looked rather odd, as the string was that warm caramel color, and the hat was a pink and green weave. Nonetheless, she fastened it on the owl's head, carefully tying the bow under its chin. "You'll be the envy of the post office owlry." The owl gave a hoot of thanks before taking off again through the open window.

Narcissa sighed as she watched her messenger fly into an oblivion, unaware of how incredibly silly it looked in that poor excuse for a hat. She then turned back to the letter on her lap, lifting it to carefully admire the addressing word. His script seemed happy enough, if you could tell a mood by one's writing, and she hoped, perhaps, what had happened three days past was beginning to become less of a torture to him. She was sure her hopes were in vain, however, as she knew her son, and he did not get over such things easily. But, he could surprise her. The way he'd handled the past seven years was proof enough of that. She shook her head, curious of what her boy could possibly want to talk to her about which couldn't wait until tomorrow.

"Draco, Draco, Draco..." Narcissa muttered as she tore the seal and extracted a particularly lengthy letter. She started reading with a soft smile, but within minutes it was a mere memory...



I write this to you in hopes that you alone will understand. Firstly, I cannot think of another soul I would want to alert to such ill tidings before you, nor one who would listen and understand the subtleties of my hand like I know you would. I warn you to make yourself comfortable, as I have a lot to say that needs to be said before I come out with the main purpose of this letter. I suppose you're wondering why I simply did not wait until tomorrow? I smile at the thought of you, Mother, and I assure that you will soon discover that tomorrows mean nothing.

I walked briskly from the train station to my London apartment on December the fifteenth, coming home from a dreadful trip to Egypt. Honestly, the inconsiderate things the Ministry has us employees do when our wives are nearly four months pregnant. I had told her purposely that my train would be arriving two hours hence, simply because I knew she would meet me otherwise and in her condition that wasn't wise. I knocked on my door to see that my accusation had been correct, as she was already in her outing clothes, resting her feet for what would have been a rather long walk, as she could no longer fit behind the steering wheel. I noticed with mild amusement that she'd planned on wearing high-heeled shoes and again congratulated myself on my ingenious plan.

"Draco," she squealed as she opened the door, and it wasn't a second before I was attacked. I laughed and returned her kisses and embrace. "Don't ever leave me like that again, Draco... I'll go insane if I have to be alone that long," she pleaded and I laughed, kissing her again.

"Even if I have to, you won't be alone much longer," I told her. The memory of these words causes me pain even to this day. She laughed, however, placing a hand on a stomach much bigger than I remembered. Seven months is much different than four. I led her inside and rested her carefully on the sofa before taking the seat next to her. It seemed she hadn't been lying about not wanting to be alone, as she wouldn't allow me more than an inch of space between us. Not that I minded, of course.

"I thought you said you'd be arriving at two..." she said, "I was going to meet you at the station." I laughed and kissed the top of her head.

"Why do you think I told you two?" It took only a moment for her to realize what I had done, and she pushed me in mild outrage.

"Draco!" she scolded, and I mocked her.

"Hermione!" She scowled at me and I laughed, coaxing her to forgive me with tiny kisses along her neck.

"I can't believe you," Hermione mumbled, arms crossed and forever a scowl on her face.

"I don't see why not. To think you were planning to walk a quarter mile in these," I said, pulling one of the shiny black shoes from her delicate foot.

"My choice of foot apparel has nothing to do with the fact that you lied to me," she said, still acting in a tantrum, although I knew she couldn't be mad. Not when I had just arrived back.

"Aw, love... you know I did it for your own good. Both of you," I reminded her, relieving her of the other shoe before coming back to rest my head gently on her stomach. I saw a small smile tugging at her lips and she sighed. At that moment, I knew she had forgiven me.

"Must you always think of yourself?" Hermione wondered out loud and I laughed shortly.

"Myself? Please, enlighten me on how you've come to that conclusion."

"You didn't do it to save me, you did it to save yourself from my complaining," she accused and I smiled, shaking my head.

"If that was my intention, then I didn't properly think things through, did I?" I asked, lifting myself again, and she slapped my shoulder. "My selfishness aside, even if you were planning to walk all that way, despite the fact that you can't go from the kitchen to the bedroom without a rest stop, why on earth would you, or anyone in any state of mind or being, wear these god forsaken excuse for shoes?" I had no idea why, but she seemed outraged.

"God forsaken.... excuse for shoes? Draco," she said, snatching her heel back, "These are Giorgio Armani!"

"So; they're still impractical." Hermione frowned, as if beaten, and stopped threatening to hit me with her shoe.

"Yes... but I wanted to look nice," she said softly and I smiled, shaking my head. Before I could articulate a witty response, however, she let herself fall back into the couch and spoke again. "Which is practically a lost cause nowadays." I sighed. She'd been like this since the first pound she gained.


"I hate you for doing this to me, you know," she said, again crossing her arms. "It's your fault, all of it," she accused, and began naming off her fingers. "The fact that I look like a killer whale: your fault. The fact that I've consumed three jars of pickles in the last week: your fault. The fact that I need a rest stop between the kitchen and the bedroom: your fault. The fact that I throw up everything I eat, and yet I still manage to gain weight: your fault..."

"Mia, Mia, Mia," I interrupted, taking her hands for fear that if I didn't, she'd start renaming them. "That's very unfair. It's not all my fault."

"It is too," Hermione countered, "And I could continue if you want me to."

"It is not, Hermione, and you know it. You weren't exactly asleep, were you?" She scowled at me and wrenched her hands from my grasp.

"The fact that I've been going through all this by myself for the last three months is in no way my fault," she said fiercely and I nodded.

"That I can give. It was Potter's fault." Hermione sighed again and shook her head.

"You're right on that one. I can't believe he made you go, just because he's your boss... he's supposed to be my best friend and what does he do?"

"Well, we can't really blame him for all of it, love... if he gave that job to Peterson we'd have an entire department out armed with an endless supply of Obliviate charms. He did it for the good of the Ministry." She seemed to accept this for a moment, then scowled.

"Well if I can't blame you and I can't blame him... who shall I blame then?" she asked me and I kissed her.

"Let's blame the system, shall we?" I asked, again coaxing her with jaw line kisses.

"Alright..." she said, trying it out. "Yes... yes, that'll work. I can live with that. Stupid system," Hermione spat maliciously and I laughed.

I started up the stairs to bed that night, hoping perhaps for a welcome home present. And I got one, but not what I was expecting. It was late, probably just past midnight. Hermione had gone up hours ago, but I stayed behind, finishing up my reports I'd spent so much time away from her to do. As I began my journey from the first floor to the second, I truthfully expected to see her sleeping peacefully, probably with an open book, but I kept a sliver of hope that she'd be waiting for me. In truth, I got what I was hoping for, but it somehow was entirely unexpected.

"Draco..." I heard her call softly and I stopped mid-step. "Draco, I need you," she called again, and I quickly shook myself and hurried up the rest of the flight, spinning around the landing so quick it surprised me I didn't fall flat. When I reached our bedroom, my frozen shock returned. There was my love, my wife... my life... in a pool of blood on the floor next to the bed, an expression of utmost fear and pain on her face while she held her stomach and desperately tried to remember her breathing exercises. It wasn't until she let out a whimper of pain that I realized I had to do something. I rushed to her side, dropping to my knees and ignoring the splitting pain.

"Hermione, love, what happened?" I pleaded, placing a hand on her face. She moved to take hold of my wrist and shook her head quickly before gritting her teeth and squeezing me hard. "Okay... oh, god... I've got to get some help," I told her, standing and pulling my hand back into possession, but Hermione held tight.

"No, don't leave me..."

"I'm not going anywhere," I promised and left her with a temple planted kiss while I crossed the room for a phone, then returned to her side. It wasn't an hour later that we were in the Community Hospital delivery room. Hermione was just barely conscious, but I stayed by her side in my sloppily donned scrubs, holding her hand. She didn't speak to me throughout most of the delivery, but I spoke words of comfort to her. It was all I could think to do. I only peered over the blue sheet once throughout the entire ordeal, and the gruesome show that entered my eyes was enough to haunt me forever. They wouldn't let her deliver naturally, and I had reason to believe she wouldn't have had the energy if they had. There had been so much blood...

"Draco," she whispered, her first word since boarding the ambulance. "Draco, it's too soon; tell them it's too soon," she pleaded, and I shook my head.

"They know, Mia... shh..." Hermione took my advice, and our conversation again became one sided. Something in me feared that she may be right... she was only at seven months... and I was pretty sure the ordeal in the bedroom was not how most new mothers found themselves an hour before delivery. After what seemed hours, a collective sigh was heard from the hospital staff, and the doctor announced that our baby was a girl. I barely heard her, in a daze and staring worriedly at my deathly pale wife. Somehow, despite her weakness and sleepy demeanor, Hermione heard.

"Draco, is she okay? Can you see her?" she asked me weakly, and I turned my head, but the baby was gone, as well as most of the staff, save three women who were cleaning and stitching. I turned back to Hermione and smiled inwardly at the worried and excited expression in her struggling-to-stay- open eyes.

"Yes, love, she's fine," I told her; a lie, but for what reason I didn't know.

"Wha... why didn't she cry?" she asked me, her voice seeming to get even weaker by the minute. I squeezed her hand, which I had let go of only to put on my hospital clothes and wash my hands, and brought it to my lips.

"She is, love... just in the next room. If you listen you can hear her," I told her, although it was another lie, and she closed her eyes, turning her face to the ceiling for better hearing, a smile on her lips. I simply watched her, holding her hand, a hesitant wave of relief threatening to wash over me. I wanted it. I wanted to be relieved... to know that everything was all right with both my girls... but then... Hermione's grip on my hand grew limp. I inhaled sharply and looked up just in time to see the nurse's eyes grow wide. She rushed to the door and called for the doctor, and I turned back to Hermione; my wave settled back into the ocean while Fear and Panic played mockingly in the shallow shore.

They forced me to leave her. God knew if I would ever see her alive again, and they forced me to not only leave her side, but to leave the room entirely. As my rage dulled, I realized I would have just been in the way, and it was better for her this way. I convinced myself that she wouldn't know I wasn't there anyway... but that was before a nurse with bloody hands burst through the doors I was seated beside and I heard her pain filled screams of my name. How she had the energy to put that much volume into her voice after barely being able to stay awake, I would never know. My only guess was that they had given her something to counteract the sedatives and painkillers... which meant she was well aware of my absence, and in more pain than I could imagine.

But I stayed where I was, on the floor directly beside the double doors to the room she hadn't had time to leave, reminding myself that this was better for her. I played in my mind how I imagined she would react when I saw her next, eating ice chips in her hospital room while I rocked our now nameless baby girl. I smiled as I thought of her again accusing me of being selfish... but oh what I would give to have heard her say that. I reminded myself that the first thing I should ask would be what she had chosen as a name. I promised Hermione she could name a girl if I could name a boy, and we agreed... but I didn't think the baby would liked to be named Jack when she could be given a much more suitable name from her mother. At the time, it hadn't occurred to me that I was yet to lay eyes on my baby girl... my priorities were with another woman in that very hospital.

I stayed by that door for another half an hour before another doctor emerged. He sped right past me without so much as a glance, and I rested my head back against the wall. As the doors swung closed again, I noticed one difference from the last time they had opened. Hermione wasn't screaming anymore. I didn't know whether to shake hands with Relief, or let Panic attempt to drown him. Silence could either mean she was sleeping or... she was... either way it was over. In less than ten minutes, the doctor who had left returned and stopped at the reception desk just visible from my position. He and the receptionist exchanged a few words, and then she pointed down my hall. I perked up a bit at this. The doctor turned to me and an expression of eureka crossed his face as he thanked the woman and started toward me. I stood, hoping he may be coming to give me some answers. The smile on his face let Relief fight back.

"Mr. Malfoy?" he asked, and I gave a nod. He chuckled and informed me that there was a waiting room just around the corner and I nodded, causing his chortles to continue. Then his expression grew just a tad darker, as he began to explain.

The words he used blurred in my mind, and by the end all the information I had was that Hermione was okay for now and things were looking up, but it wasn't definite what the outcome would be. I gave a shaky sigh and thanked him, but he assured me it was simply his job. Then, the doctor directed me to the neonatal intensive care unit, where I could find my daughter and someone to explain to me her condition. Again, I thanked him and asked when I could see Hermione.

"Not until they set her in a room, I'm afraid. If you come back in a quarter hour and ask the receptionist, she will inform you of which it be," he told me, and I nodded, thanking him for a third time. "Congratulations, Mr. Malfoy," he said before reentering Hermione's delivery room, which I could see from my position no longer held my wife. They must have snuck her through a different door; probably just to spite me.

Feeling a little better than I had even minutes ago, I followed the directions the doctor had given me and soon found myself in front of a door labeled N.I.C.U.; the dread of every new parent for decades. Through this door, I found a waiting room, complete with worried fathers and snoozing older children.

"Sir?" asked a woman behind a counter to my left, and I turned to her. "May I help you?"

"I...erm... my name is Draco Malfoy..." I stated, without much conviction, and she smiled.

"Of course Mr. Malfoy, I've been expecting you. That door leads to the nursery, you may go right in," she told me, in an overly perky voice, as if speaking to one of the children in the room, but I was in much too much shock to bother caring. I followed her directions, through the door to the nursery. Almost immediately, yet another nurse sought me out.

"Are you Malfoy or Perrins?" she asked me and I again recited my name. She led me through the many incubation chambers, each housing an infant, names scrawled on note cards, until finally stopping and welcoming me to view my daughter. Her card simply stated Malfoy, as I had yet to name her. As I stepped closer, I was amazed to see how incredibly tiny she was, encased in glass like a doll on display. While I stood frozen at the sight of the tiny unmoving creature wearing a diaper sizes too large, covered in tubes and monitors, the nurse lifted a clipboard from the cart below and turned the cover page. "I would say you lucky, Mr. Malfoy; this is one of the minor cases we're housing right now... just a common premature birth," she said, and began listing the problems which may arise from such a thing, giving me heart wrenching worst-case-scenarios as if they were as serious as an ear infection. Once finished spouting haunting stories, the nurse replaced the clipboard, gave me a pat on the shoulder, and left me with my tiny daughter. She had said I could touch her, but to be careful not to upset any of the equipment.

Taking her advice, I allowed my hand entry through the circular hole in the side of the incubator, running my fingers lightly over her miniscule and outstretched hand. I didn't take my eyes off my baby until the clock chimed four. If I left now, I could see Hermione. She would want me there, to yell at, if I was lucky... so with a fleeting glance, I removed my hand from my nameless daughter's tank, pressed my fingers to my lips, and touched the glass before I turned to leave. The receptionist told me that I could come back whenever I could, and that the NIC-U was open twenty-four hours. I thanked her, and returned to the hallway I'd spent so long waiting in. The receptionist gave me what I was looking for, and I quickly made my way to the room she'd identified as Hermione's.

She was lying like a sleeping angel on crisp white sheets, the dull glow of the over-bed light illuminating her unconscious form. The room housed only my wife, although there was another empty bed beside her. I pulled a chair as close to her as I could and seated myself for what I knew would be a long night, taking her hand in my own. At my touch, however, Hermione stirred, but her mumbles were incoherent.

"Shh... I'm here," I whispered and felt her hand return my squeeze. I had never felt something so wonderful in my life. I stayed there until you arrived the next afternoon, Mother. I only left her side once, while the nurses changed her bedding. She didn't wake up again, nor did she squeeze my hand. Do you remember when I came out to meet you, and took you to the nursery? You looked so proud, Mother. But we were only there for ten minutes before a nurse came for me. Do you remember what she said, as I do? She said, "Mr. Malfoy, your wife requests your immediate attention." Did you think something was wrong? I certainly didn't, not with the calm and cheery tone of that nurse. I didn't dawdle on my way back, but I certainly didn't hurry.

When I again returned to her room, it was to a ghastly sight. Not only was there a morose looking trio of nurses tending to my wife, but they seemed to be unhooking her machines.

"What are you doing?" I demanded, stepping up to Hermione's side once more. At the sound of my voice, and to my surprise, she opened her eyes. At once, I put the nurses out of my mind. "Hermione?" I asked, taking her hand in my own. She smiled weakly.

"Draco..." I was so happy to see her awake, I forgot myself entirely and began to explain my absence through her ordeal.

"I'm sorry," I repeated more times than I could count. "They wouldn't let me stay." She took a breath and nodded.

"I know," she said, and winced slightly as the nurse removed the needle in her wrist. Again I was reminded of their actions, and again I demanded to know why they were rendering my feeble wife helpless. She stopped me, however. "Draco, they can't do anything... I told them to let me die," she said, and I could hardly believe she'd spoken.

"Wh...what? Why? No, love. Put them back," I commanded the nurse, but Hermione shook her head and I turned back to her. "I can't let you do this." A single tear fell down her face.

"They've given me no longer than morning... I don't want to spend the rest of my life asleep, Draco. Please, stay with me..."

"I'll never leave you," I promised, and I kept it. As the nurses left, I asked how long they thought she had. Without the machines, they gave her two hours. Two hours. And to think that less than a day ago we were fighting about shoes.

"Draco..." she weakly beckoned and I returned my eyes to hers. "The baby..." I opened my mouth to tell her everything... but the look on her face took the words from me. I couldn't tell her... I couldn't repeat the awful possibilities the NICU nurse had brought forth to my dying wife.

"She's fine, Hermione. Perfect. She's big and healthy... and you should hear her cry," I told her, holding back tears. Hermione smiled widely and I remembered something I had earlier contemplated. "All she needs is a name."


"P-Priah?" She nodded.

"Do you like it? It took me days to find," she said, and I was once again reminded that she wouldn't be able to spend days doing anything else anymore. Even if she had suggested Piccadilly I would have nodded, just like I did, and said, "It's perfect."

Our conversation was surprisingly sparse after that decision. There were just so many things to say... that I couldn't think of a single one. And in the end, I wish the nurses had low-balled and told me half an hour, because she died in under one. 47 minutes, to be exact. She had closed her eyes and spoke of unimportant matters, which seemed world-class news to me as I listened. Then, less than five minutes before she would be gone to me forever, she opened her eyes and turned to me.

"I'm sorry I blamed you," she told me, and I laughed damply, through the tears I had long since given up on hiding. "I think I'm..." she then said softly, and I got her meaning loud and clear, straightening and bringing her hand tighter to me. I whispered my 'I love you's and I promised they would always stay true. Hermione simply smiled.

"Take care of Priah... I love you, Draco," she said to me, and closed her eyes. I burst into a tiny sob and showered her with kisses as I watched the life drain from her face.

"You were beautiful without the shoes," I told her, and a tiny smile crossed her lips before the one machine still standing sounded loud and strong, signaling the departure of my one true love. Although dead, I stayed with her for almost an hour more, before the doctors took her away again. And I returned to you, Mother, where you sat cheerily in the nursery, speaking softly and holding Priah's hand. "Mum," I had said, and you looked up, the smile immediately gone from your face the moment you saw mine. You were my only comfort that day, Mother, and I am eternally grateful.

Father arrived that evening. Although you never told me so, I knew you had talked him into it, and though I may not have enjoyed his visit, I am still thankful he came. I know you know what happened that day, but as I am sure the police would like to see this letter post your reading of it, I shall refresh your memory. I sat at Priah's side for the rest of my stay in that hospital, as I had already lost the element that kept me away from her in the first place. I cried while I held her hand, wishing she would move, even the tiniest amount. If I lost her too... and then, Father arrived. You led him in, to where I was... where Priah was... and you left him feet away while you returned to my side. You thought I didn't know you were there... oh, but I did. I just couldn't face him. I knew... I just knew he would say or do something to make me feel even worse. And I was right, wasn't I, Mother? First, however, he surprised me.

"I'm sorry, Draco," he said, sincerely as a matter of fact, and I looked up from my baby girl. Father took a step toward me and placed a hand on my shoulder. "She's tiny, isn't she?" he asked, and for a moment, I thought he might actually pull through, be the Father I was never sure was in there somewhere... but it was a ploy, wasn't it Mother? He leaned down, then, close to my ear, and said, "It's your fault, you know." I stopped breathing. I already felt so guilty... perhaps if I'd told Potter to stuff himself and stayed home, she wouldn't have been alone... it might have helped... some how... and here's my Father, putting into words all the things I'd been spending the last day trying to convince myself were untrue. "It's this muggle hospital that killed her, Draco." You wanted to scold him, Mother, I know you did... and I don't blame you for not doing it; god knows what might have happened then.

"If I'd taken her to Mungo's, I would have lost both of them before we even made it to the door, Father," I reminded him, and he seemed to grant me that one truth.

"Well, I suppose you're not entirely to blame then, are you?" he said, and again, for a fleeting moment, I thought him compassionate. Again, I was wrong. "It was HER idea to move you away, then, wasn't it?" I had held back the urge to remind him that the manor is twice as far from St. Mungo's as our home. Father never did like Hermione much, did he Mother? I think we can agree that that is a savage understatement. The only reason he didn't shun me when we were married is because she dueled him to the ground. I'll never forgive him for that. How dare he raise his wand to a lady... much less his daughter-in-law.

Priah was in the hospital for almost a year before they allowed me to bring her home, and even then she required full time care and frequent visits to the doctor. They gave me a list of all the things they found wrong with her. There were enough to successfully compose a list, Mother. I never showed you that list... I never showed Priah that list either. It is in the top drawer of the black filing cabinet in the den, Mother. I kept it high so she could never see. In a folder marked RECORDS. You should find it, Mum. Three pages long. Her asthma was always the most prominent of her problems, though, wasn't it? I will always remember the heart broken look on her face when I told her she couldn't play little league soccer with her friends. And do you want the excuse I gave? Practice will interfere with your doctor's appointments. I couldn't very well tell her that if she ran too fast, she might faint and spend another weekend in the hospital... or if she were stung by a bee, she might wake up with a tube down her throat.

I always thought, of anyone, Priah resembled you most, Mother. She had Mia's eyes, and my nose... but almost everything about her reminded me of you. I'd always tell her that if she dyed her hair blonde, she'd look just like you... and then she would ask if she could. And, although I told her she was too young, my mind told me the chemicals would probably make her hair fall out, as opposed to changing its color. She did have Hermione's hair, though. At least, color wise. A soft brown, which became a dirty, honey blonde in the summer. It never curled up in the slightest, however, and Priah told me she was glad. I showed her pictures of her mother, and she told me she thought her pretty, but her hair didn't do her justice. I simply had to agree.

It wasn't until last year that we really had any major problems with her health, was it? There were still the numerous visits to the hospital, but they gradually grew from once a week to once every two... to four... It was a month before her sixth birthday that that big day came. I awoke to her painful coughing from down the hall, and immediately left my bed to comfort her. When Hermione was here, she would always close the bedroom door... but I left it open, just incase Priah decided to join me. This night, I was glad I did so, as I surely would not have heard her otherwise, and had it been morning before I was alerted, god knows what would have happened.

I entered her room, painted in pastel pinks and cluttered with stuffed animals, to see her sitting up in bed, hands over her mouth as she rocked back and forth, shaken by her deep coughs. I wasn't too worried... this was almost routine. At least once a week I would wake to her crying, or coughing... this night, like all the others, I lifted the plastic pitcher on her bedside and filled a glass of water before sitting beside her and rubbing her back. The water seemed to help; it dulled her coughs and made them a bit less continuous. She turned toward me, still clutching her empty glass, and I whispered words of comfort to her, as always. She was crying by then, and I didn't blame her. Just hearing her in that much pain hurt me. I held her until the coughs started to pick up again, and then tried to take the glass from her hands, planning on refilling it. She let it go without protest, but as I placed it on the table and let it be showered in the light of the ballerina lamp behind a matching clock, my heart skipped a beat. The clear plastic cup was smeared with red fingerprints, and the quarter inch of water left inside was no longer distinguishable as clear.

"Priah?" I asked, turning back to her and lifting her from the fetal position she'd taken on my lap. The moment she moved, she covered her mouth again, and continued her bloody spasms. "Baby, show me," I told her, and she tried her hardest to stop as she held out her hands, which were covered in a good amount of blood. At first I thought she'd cut herself, and I took them in my grasp, examining for abrasions... but Priah couldn't hold herself back anymore, and let through one more throat-stinging convulsion. This time, however, it was accompanied by a flow of bright red blood. It mixed with her tears as it dribbled down her chin and Priah looked up at me with terrified eyes. "Pia? Pia, baby, listen to me, okay?" I pleaded with her. "Can you tell me where it hurts?" She put her blood-covered hands to her throat and shook her head.

"I'm so cold, Daddy..." she gasped and I pressed a hand to her forehead, unsurprised to feel it scorching. I spun and opened the bedside table, pulling out the ear thermometer we kept there for emergencies, and I took her temperature. 103. My Pia was burning up. Despite this, for her sake, I tried my best not to look scared. Although, I was terrified.

"It's okay, Pia, I'm right here... we're going for a little ride, love," I told her and stood from her bed. She gave a strangled sound and reached out to me, and I shook my head. "I'm not leaving you, baby," I assured and pulled away the covers. She gasped at what I'm sure must have been a rather cold draft and I bent down for her to wrap her arms around my neck. Once she was holding on tight, I hoisted her on my hip and fled to her closet, pulling out the first pair of jeans and the heaviest jacket I could find. Priah cried softly on my shoulder, her body shaking and hot, although her teeth chattered through the still-bloody coughs. I brought her down the stairs and didn't set her down until we reached the door. "Put these on, baby, it's cold outside," I instructed, and she held my shoulders as I helped her into her jeans. I strapped on her Velcro shoes without even bothering to look for socks and quickly put on and zipped up her coat over the cotton nighty, decorated with random teddy bears. "Okay, ready? Come on," I said, holding out my arms for her again, but she didn't come into them.

"What about you, Daddy?" she asked me shakily and I shook my head.

"I'm not worried about me, Pia, I'm worried about you. Come on," I said again, but she giggled and wiped the blood from her mouth on the back of her hand.

"But you're not wearing pants, Daddy," she pointed out, eyeing me in my t- shirt and shorts. I smiled slightly and pulled my longest trench coat from the hat stand by the door. As quickly as I could, I slid it on and did the first button.

"Better?" I asked and she nodded, so I picked her up again and sped out the door.

"Daddy," she asked as I continued to the parking lot behind our apartment complex; the same one she'd lived in since the day she was conceived. "Where are we going?" I rushed her to my car and fished in my pocket for my keys. It's a good thing, really, that she made me wear a coat, as if I hadn't, we'd have had to either hail a taxi, or go back upstairs for my jingles, as Pia always called them.

"Just for a ride, Pia, don't worry," I said, unlocking the door and strapping her into the front seat. I closed the door and rushed to the other side, getting in beside her and starting my Benz, blasting the heat.

"Where?" she asked me, her chattering increasing tenfold. I didn't answer; I simply backed out and sped onto the street, heading on the familiar path to the hospital. "We're going to the hos'cal, aren't we?" she asked bitterly, and I sighed.

"Pia, there's something wrong, I don't have a choice," I told her, stopping only to gage traffic before blatantly running a red light. She crossed her arms and scowled, her coughing substantially diminished.

"I knew I should've closed my door," she mumbled and I stole a terrified look at her.

"Priah, has this happened before?" I demanded, but she didn't answer me. "Priah." I repeated warningly and she sighed. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Cause I knew you'd make me go," she said, hugging herself and turning toward the window.

"How many times?" Again, she ignored me. "Priah, talk to me; can't you see you're scaring me to death?" She turned to me slightly and the tight scowl on her face softened.

"Only three other times," she admitted, like a triple stab to my heart.

"T-Three?" She nodded, but a shiver stole her for a moment and she let out a shaky breath.

"It never came with cold, though..." I pressed the gas a little harder.

We arrived at the hospital at quarter after one, and I carried Priah into the emergency room. I could only hope she was asleep, and hadn't passed out. They took her away from me, and again I was left to wait while my girl went through hell without me in the wee hours of the morning. This time I spent it in the waiting room, where I knew the doctor wouldn't pass me by. He came to me in less than an hour and told me what was wrong with my little Pia. Priah had a cyst embedded in the wall of her esophagus, close to the pathway to her lungs, which caused her bloody coughs. He said that it was likely that she'd had it since birth, and we'd simply never noticed, as it had been for the most part dormant, but recently had started to grow. The doctor told me that her asthma attacks had been a major part of the swelling, and that the cyst itself was responsible for many of them. A vicious cycle. I admitted that they had become more frequent in the last year, especially in the summer, but I had blamed it on her growth as a child, becoming more active and wanting to be outside.

He agreed that he would have thought the same thing in my situation, but also stated that I had been horribly wrong. They cyst had passed into a near critical state, and was continuing to grow. Had we found it sooner, there would have been more chance of a quick recovery... but Priah hadn't told me. I had three options. One, I could do nothing and watch my baby be choked to death by her own body. Two, I could give permission for radiation, which would hopefully shrink the cyst and help to again allow it's dormancy, or three, I could give the go for immediate surgery, which held with it uneasy mortality rates and could prove absolutely unnecessary. Taking the doctor's advice, I opted for choice number two.

And so it began. Over the last year, Priah has gone through so many different kinds of radiation and chemotherapy; I couldn't tell you which ones helped and which ones didn't. For a while, she resented me. She said it was my fault she was stuck in that room, with a leukemia-infected roommate she didn't like, not allowed to go outside. Blaming me, just like her mother. I couldn't tell her that she had almost killed herself by not allowing me to do this to her sooner... I, personally, liked her roommate... and I told her of this. Priah told me I was crazy, but once she got over my bringing her back, she opened up and made good friends with Dorian. Although he and I were the only guests, he somehow made her hospital room birthday party more enjoyable. Which reminds me, Mother... I'm not sure if he knows yet... could you perhaps visit Priah's hospital room one last time and find out? I know she would want that.

It was exactly a week ago today that we got that terrible news. The cyst was getting bigger, and more rapidly than ever before. There was no other choice but surgery now... unless, of course, I wanted to watch her die. I told Priah as gently as I could, and she told me that she understood, although I'm not sure she did. I think she may have agreed because she knew how much I needed her to. The night before the surgery, I slept at her bedside. My sleep was sparse and restless anyway, but it was a sharp tug at my hair that woke me in the morning; so early it was still dark, and Dorian's fitful snores sounded softly in the twilight.

"Daddy?" Priah said to me, and I lifted my head.

"Priah? What's wrong, do you need something?" I asked, rising to a straighter position and pulling the small cord that turned on the overhead light. She was smiling at me. "Do you need me to take you to the bathroom?" Her smile grew for a moment as she shook her head, but it then fell deep and she crawled a bit closer, wrapping me in a hug. "Pia, honey, what's wrong?" She didn't answer for a moment, simply hugging me tight. I returned her embrace of course, comforting her as best I could without knowing what the problem was. She sniffled slightly and pulled back, wiping the dry tears from her eyes.

"Daddy... how come you call me Pia?" she asked me, and I smiled slightly.

"I'm sorry; do you not like it?" She shook her head and returned to our embrace, as did I.

"I do like it, Daddy... but no body else calls me that." I nodded, holding her close and running a hand over her frail back. My Pia was always so tiny.

"Well... I suppose it's because of your Mother," I said, and she pulled back again to look quizzically at me. "I always used to call her Mia, and nobody else did." Priah looked thoughtful.

"Oh," she said, and was silent for a few moments longer.

"So, are you going to tell Daddy what's wrong?" Again the frown crossed her lips, and again she returned to my embrace.

"I'm scared, Daddy," she told me, and my grip on her tightened.

"What? My Priah? Scared? Since when?" She laughed slightly, but I could see there was no joy behind it. "Pia, listen to me... you have absolutely no reason to be scared."

"Yes I do... they told you it was dangerous, didn't they?" I raised an eyebrow.

"They told you?" She shook her head before replacing it on my shoulder.

"No... but I heard them tell you."

"Priah, listen to me; no matter what happens tomorrow, the outcome can not be bad," I promised her, and she pulled back a third time, a look of childish confusion on her face.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, if things go as planned, you'll come back to me, and we'll resume life as usual, just you and me," I told her, holding her face and gently brushing my thumb over her pale cheek.

"And if they don't?" I smiled.

"Then you'll get to meet Mummy," I told her, trying my best to hide the tears as a smile brightened her face.

"Really?" she asked, sounding excited, and I nodded.

"Really. But I still want you to come back, baby." Her face became serious again.

"Me too, Daddy," she said, and my smile became a bit more genuine as I pressed a kiss into her forehead.

"I love you Priah, you remember that. No matter what."

"I love you too, Daddy," she said, and paid me back with a kiss on the cheek. "I just have one question."

"You should go to sleep, love... you've got a big day," I told her, pulling her arms from my shoulders and trying to push her into a reclining position.

"Just one, Daddy, please... in case I don't get a chance to ask you tomorrow." I couldn't say no to that, as much as it pained me to have to admit it to her. "If I go to Mummy... will I ever see you again?" I smiled.

"Of course you will, baby."


"Well... I'll meet you there."

I lost my Pia that next day. The doctor told me they lost her before they could even successfully remove her cyst. I sometimes wonder if maybe I shouldn't have told her what I did that night. What if she didn't fight? What if she let herself leave, wanting to meet her mother and knowing I would someday join them? Although, it ended her pain. The chances of the surgery working were fairly high, but her asthma would have worsened... her health would deteriorate. She may have needed oxygen before she entered Junior High. I think, perhaps it was better this way.

And this is where I come to the present, Mother. I have thought long and hard about this, and I do believe that my decision is the right one. I have set all my affairs in order, and have nothing left. I've lost my Mia... and I've lost my Pia. They were my life; filling the half of me that made me whole... and although my time with each of my girls occurred separately, they both meant the world to me. My life with Priah lacked something, and I am not fool enough to say I don't know what it was. Hermione. I have missed her since the day I left for Egypt. The few hours I spent with her before her death were in no way enough to take away that loss. And, as you can see, Mother, I have finished. I have nothing. My girls are waiting for me; no doubt Pia has spread word of my promise. I see no reason to prolong my absence. I love you Mother, and I always have, but there are some things more important than tomorrow.

With love, your son,



Narcissa, breathing hard, brought the letter from her eyes and looked again to the ceiling, as if the sun would dry her tears. She knew what this letter confirmed. Draco was dead. At his own hand. She couldn't say it was entirely unexpected... but she'd imagined he'd have waited more than a few days. Had he lived on, Narcissa knew he'd never be the same. Her son had been through so much heartache. First the absence of himself during a crucial point in the life of his wife, then the gruesome and premature birth of his daughter, the death of his wife, the chronic suffering of his daughter, the news of tragedy in her health, and finally, just days ago, her death. He'd been so strong for so long... he deserved to be at peace, and with the ones he loved. Her only problem now was how to inform Lucius that he needed to report Draco's suicide, as she would never herself be able to set foot in that home again. And of course... how to tell the pallbearers that Draco would be above their shoulders, and not amongst them that Saturday.

For now, however, she must pursue her granddaughter's Cinder Shoes.

A/N: Priah is pronounced Pry-uh.

ILM: I dedicate this to my great grandfather, affectionately known to all of us as Pops, who passed away on Wednesday, June 25, 2003. He was 91 years old, and an avid reader of Harry Potter. I don't know if he was a D/Hr shipper, but nonetheless... Let us never forget your tobacco, the way you could eat anything we could without the use of your teeth... and the buckets and buckets of double-bubble bubble gum. We shall forever miss you. And let me say, that it saddens me you never got to finish OotP~

I do not own Harry Potter or:

I wish I could have told you the things I kept inside, but now I guess it's just too late

You're gone away, I'm left alone- a part of me is gone and I'm not moving on

So wait for me; I know the day will come

Now you're gone, I wonder why you left me here

I think about it on and on and on and on and on again

So many things remind me of you

I hope that you can hear me. I miss you, this is goodbye one last time

I'll meet you there, no matter where life takes me to

I'll meet you there and even if I need you here

I'll meet you there, and where I go you'll be there with me

Forever you'll be right here with me

Meet You There by Simple Plan

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