Chapter Three:

Madam Pomfrey was alone in her office, scribbling notes on pieces of parchment by torchlight, when the fifth- and sixth-year students arrived. It took her several seconds to notice their presence, seconds in which Ginny's grip on his arm tightened considerably. He glanced down at her in something that might have held a touch of concern, one white brow rising in question when she met his gaze, as if asking if she were all right.

She nodded, the motion jerky, her eyes swinging back to the nurse in silence, easily communicating the cause of her increased nerves. Neither had the time or inclination to think about the fact that they could speak to each other so clearly without the use of words, and be understood, because at that moment, Poppy Pomfrey looked up from her desk and spotted the unlikely pair.

She stood and made her way briskly out of her office, concern and chastisement in her gaze as she reached them. "Mr. Malfoy, Miss Weasley, what brings you here so late?" 'And together', she thought with a curious glance at the redhead's white knuckled grip on his arm.

The two students exchanged a glance, his questioning, prodding, hers unsure and fearful. Madam Pomfrey watched them with narrowing eyes as they looked from each other, to the empty hospital beds, to her office, to the door to the wing, back to each other. Having some idea as to a possible cause of their nervousness, she gestured back the way she came. "Why don't we talk in my office?"

The offer of privacy seemed to help somewhat and the youngest Weasley nodded shakily and was led into the small room by the tall blond at her side, his free hand reaching out to help her now-trembling form into a chair. He didn't even appear to notice the gentlemanly action, and the nurse had to keep her brows from rising at the display of the manners he had no doubt learned early in his pureblooded home. All purebloods, especially high born ones, were tutored extensively in the manners and protocols expected in their circles, but she had rarely seen them evidenced with any but their fellows, and despite the Weasleys' purity of lineage, they were not a Malfoy's fellow.

So why were the youngest of their lines sitting together in her office, exchanging silent, but meaningful glances, as she waited for them to speak?

She had been the school nurse for quite a number of years, and had encountered a multitude of situations and problems with the children in her care, but there was only one she could think of to explain the all-out fear in Ginny Weasley's eyes, the death-grip she maintained on Draco Malfoy's arm, and the almost reassuring look he shot her in response. A surge of pity flooded her and she gentled her normally brisk, professional tone. "What can I do for you this evening?"

Ginny swallowed hard, opening and closing her mouth twice before managing to force out a few words. "I- I need-"

The young witch broke off, obviously having to battle tears as the trembling in her limbs increased. So much potential, so many years of mostly carefree happiness, all evaporated before her eyes as they fixed on the two students. 'Such a waste', the nurse thought, even as she looked down at Ginny's grip on his hand and saw a flash of hope. That hope was fed, as was her respect for the young wizard - which had suffered a great deal when she'd realized their probable situation - when he straightened his shoulders and raised his head, cutting off the witch at his side before she tried again to state her problem.

"We need verification of conception." His voice was steady, though his eyes would not quite settle on her face, and the words were a tad more formal than he would likely have used if he were at ease, but that was no doubt a response to his stress. So many purebloods fell back on their behavioral codes when unsure how to proceed, and it pulled a bit of sympathy from the Mediwitch.

His use of the word 'we' instead of 'she' also helped the elder witch's opinion of the boy before her, and softened her gaze still further as she looked from one to the other. 'He will be taking full responsibility', she thought, something that would help them both in the eyes of society, but might actually harm them a little with their families. There was no love lost between the Malfoy and Weasley lines, she knew, and she had one moment to pity them for what would follow, then pulled her training and experience around her and stood.

"That can be easily done." She walked around her small desk and was about to lead them to a bed when she remembered the reason they had come into her office to begin with, and changed course. "We can perform the diagnostic spells here, it will only take a few minutes."

Draco nodded in response, the gesture somewhat stiff, but Ginny only swallowed harder and struggled to retain control. Poppy Pomfrey felt another wave of sympathy, and respect, as she gestured for the young witch to stand and watched the blond automatically help her to her feet, though his face remained stoic and he didn't meet anyone's eyes.

The Mediwitch began to pass her wand over the redhead with steady, sure flicks, muttering the necessary incantations under her breath as she did so. Soon various runes and symbols appeared in the air above Ginny's stomach and she lowered her wand, dismissing the images. Her expression was composed, professional, when she looked up at her newest patient and the subtly anxious wizard next to her, but the elder witch's eyes were soft and sympathetic, as was her voice.

"Well, I have verification. You are approximately eight and a half weeks along, and both mother and child appear in good health, though," she focused her gaze on the redhead's pale face, then on Draco's stilted calmness as she hardened her voice just a touch, "you need to get more sleep and eat a little more. You're exhausted, and are going to be underweight if you're not careful."

Ginny nodded shakily at the last statement, in contrast to the single quick nod the Slytherin gave her as the nurse's gaze shifted back to him. "We’ll see to it, Madam. Perhaps a few weak sleeping potions might help, in addition to the normal vitamin potions."

"Yes, I believe that would be a good idea; I'll have to order the vitamin brews, but I have something on hand that will do in the meantime. Before I can do so, however, I am obliged to inform Miss Weasley's parents of her medical condition, as per school rules."

No matter the gentleness of her tone, or the expectedness of the statement, Ginny still swayed slightly at the announcement, prompting Draco to reach out a steadying hand as he helped her back into the chair. It was a moving sight, though whether she felt more respect or pity for the future parents she wasn't sure. Either way, she had a job to do, and she made her way into the office's second room to access the inner-school Floo and inform the Headmaster of what was happening, and what the Weasleys would need to be told.

It was late, and the Weasleys would most likely be ready for bed, if not already there, but school policy was clear. In the event that a student required specialized care - including, but not limited to the procurement of treatment not immediately available on site - or was diagnosed with a condition that would have long-standing effects, a parent was required to be notified immediately. Present circumstances, unfortunately, qualified on both accounts. She had been required to notify parents of qualifying circumstances before, serious Quidditch injuries mostly, but there had been the incident with the Vanishing Cabinet, and of course the Petrifications three years previous, but this was only the second notification of pregnancy she'd done in her years at Hogwarts.

She was grateful, as she ended her conversation with Dumbledore, that it would be him and not her who would be left to break the news to Ginny's parents, having had previous experience with an emotional Molly Weasley when Charlie had been injured in a Quidditch match in his fourth year. That experience made her pity for young Ginny even sharper, being able to anticipate the scene that would unfold upon the Weasley matriarch's arrival. Apparently she wasn't the only one to have such foresight, however, as she overheard the Malfoy heir's words as she prepared to re-enter the main room of her office.

"Will it be better or worse if I'm here when they arrive?"

"I- My father," she bit her lip, looking away from him and Draco nodded, having known what her answer would be, but still having felt the compulsion to ask, so she wouldn't think he was simply avoiding the drama that would ensue. It was strange, feeling a need to not hurt her, even indirectly. He'd never cared about it before, even when they'd been verbally sparing so satisfyingly, even when they'd... well, perhaps he'd cared the slightest bit then. But nothing like how he felt now, the urge to protect her having grown steadily more noticeable since she'd delivered her news. It wasn't so strong that he couldn't ignore it a good deal of the time, couldn't keep his reactions minimal, but it was still bothersome.

At the same time, however, it was unavoidable, and he found himself wanting to remain at her side until the others arrived. "I can go speak with mother while they're here."

"How will she-" Draco cut her off, knowing exactly what she was trying to ask.

"The only one she'll be upset with is me. Mother can't abide foolishness, especially from someone she knows is capable of adequate sense."

Ginny regarded him for a moment before nodding in acceptance, seeing that he felt the subject closed, and instead focused on the challenging task of slowing her heart rate to a mere gallop.
End Chapter Three
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