Chapter 12: The Little Rabbit

Acknowledgement: The watercolour painting of two rabbits on a white background and a patch of grass was originally made by renowned British watercolour painter, David Harmer, who has more than twenty years experience in this field and has very kindly illustrated this chapter’s most vital painting. He runs a blog full of his rich collection at offtoafineart.com  and his personal website is davidharmerwatercolour.co.uk . I’d highly recommend my readers to check them out.

Disclaimer: The copyright to Harry Potter characters belongs to J. K. Rowling. Any other characters are purely work of fiction and any resemblances are co-incidental. No money or profit is being earned from this story.

Chapter 12: The Little Rabbit.

Hermione was glad that her Gringotts workshop on Cursed Diamonds ended early on Friday afternoon. It meant she could have an extra hour to visit the Belgian Muggle supermalls and buy Adrian a surprise gift.

It was her son’s first time in a big platform as this and just as his mother would have been, Adrian was nervous, as nervous as a five and half year old boy could be. He kept browsing picture books to decide what to draw for the Drawing Competition. Seeing him like that, Hermione’s friends came forward to help. Eva suggested that Adrian drew the Royal Palace of Brussels just as he had drawn it for his beloved grandpa Gustave. Gabrielle suggested that he drew a winged mermaid; Hermione found it strange that she wasn’t haunted by what happened during the Second Task of Triwizard Tournament. Edmound, by his standards as an animal lover as big as Hagrid, crossed everyone and advised Adrian to draw him riding a dragon. Eva and Gabrielle had roared in laughter, hearing it.

Hermione, as a mother and an avid fan of her son’s artworks, tried her best to comfort Adrian, telling him that it was a friendly competition and being a winner or loser didn’t matter; that they were not participating for money but to help the orphans. But his answer was very different from the one she had expected.

“I want to make my Mama proud.” Adrian had said, his grey eyes round and sincere, “Everyone will say that Adrian’s Mama is the best.”

Hermione had been speechless for a very long time, following that honest statement. It was unnerving that her son, her five and half year old son, could think of making his mother proud, from such an early age. How many boys his age would consider doing that? Hermione wondered. Therefore, before she left for the week’s last day of workshop after their lunch was over, Hermione decided to honour her son by giving him a surprise gift. Adrian loved surprises.

When shopping anything for Adrian, Hermione always preferred Muggle stuffs over magical ones. For one, she did not want to influence Adrian’s immature magic by any external magic; for another, he was too young to handle such things. The only magical thing he possessed was his toy broom and he was allowed to use it only under supervision to ensure he never got hurt.

Hermione left Gringotts, Belgium around four o’ clock in the afternoon and after leaving Laan Grote Markt, the Belgian Diagon Alley, went straight to the nearest Muggle supermall. There she browsed the Kid’s stuff section and after half and hours of careful scrutiny, found what she was looking for: a box of Muggle colouring pencils.

The medium sized black box read ‘Faber Castell Watercolor Pencils:  Albrecht Dürer Studio Box of 120 – Finest Artist Quality’ and contained three trays, each one with forty colouring pencils. The price tag said it was three hundred and thirty Euros, far more expensive than the normal ones Adrian used but Hermione didn’t mind. After all, all her money was for her son and he was the best son in the world. Feeling happy, she picked up the box from the stand and proceeded towards the counter, to pay.

It was almost six o’ clock in the evening when Hermione finally finished her shopping and decided to call it a day. She has spent the afternoon to buy some gifts for the Delacours, her goblin boss Geccemp, her intern Claudia and for Adrian’s best friends, Louis and Gina. As she walked back to the Palace Hotel, the summer air of city of Brussels was heavy with the scent of flowers and freshly brewed coffee. Hermione smiled. Life was beautiful when Adrian was on it.

Adrian was sitting, cross-legged, on the windowsill of one of the high-arched windows and examining a book when Hermione arrived in her suite, hands full of packages from her shopping. He reminded her of her own self, when she was young and carefree, sitting on a windowsill, cross-legged and reading a book.

“Mama!” Adrian exclaimed seeing his mother, left the book and jumped down from the window sill, running to her, “You went for shopping?” he asked her, enthusiastically.

Hermione nodded. She knew it was customary for her son ask what she has brought for him whenever she went to shop.

“What did you bring for me?” the default question followed. Adrian was giving her packages a very curious look, wondering whether it was all for him.

“I’ll show you, little rabbit, but before that promise Mama that you will not jump like that ever again.” Hermione warned her son solemnly, “Okay, Mama’s love?”

“Why not?” Adrian piped, tiptoeing and trying and to reach the packets she was holding above her head.

“Because you might get hurt.” Hermione replied and placed the packets on the highest mantelpiece. Adrian, like most kids his age, had an unfortunate habit of tearing open every packet he found, regardless to whom it might belong.

“But I am a man now!” Adrian protested and flexed his arm, showing Hermione his muscles. “I am going to be six.” he said as if trying to remind her of the unnoticed fact.

Hermione snorted and took him in her arms before kissing Adrian twice on both cheeks. “Well, Mr. Going To Be Six In January, you may turn five hundred years old, grow a long silvery beard and become a very famous wizard. But to your mother, you will always be her little rabbit.” she said matter-of-factly and handed him the gift box. “Kids never grow old for their Mamas.”

“For me?” Adrian decided to leave the topic of his manhood and accepted the gift, his innocent grey eyes lighting up. He immediately started peel off the brown paper wrappings with his well practiced hands. Smiling, Hermione carried him to the nearest divan and sat there.

“COLOURING PENCILS!” Adrian’s exclaim almost brought down the ceiling of their suite. “YOU BOUGHT ME COLOURING PENCILS? I LOVE YOU, MAMA!” he declared happily and planted a big soppy kiss on Hermione’s cheek, hugging her tightly.

“Okay! Okay!” Hermione patted on Adrian’s back, almost thrown backwards by the force with which he hugged her. She loved these childish moments between them, when Adrian wouldn’t give her a kiss and she would have to coerce it from him, or when he would protest when she tickled him, or when he would laugh so hard that Hermione got panicked. It was perhaps what people called the bliss of motherhood, watching one’s child grow up, healthy and happy. What would Hermione not do to have Adrian like this, always?

“Let’s see what’s inside?” She offered brightly, once the Devil’s Snare hug was over and Adrian was calmer. “Okay!” He tilted his head, sat on Hermione’s lap, and examined the contents of the box with great care and interest. He opened the box, took out all the three trays and counted the pencils.

“That’s forty.” He declared, his eyes as big and round as marbles, as he finished counting the pencils of the first tray.

“So three times forty is?” Hermione asked, trying to teach some basic math to her son.

“Three times four is twelve.” Adrian replied, contemplative. “Now we add a zero. It’s a hundred… twenty.” He declared happy, “Hundred twenty!” he exclaimed, as if he couldn’t believe his ears, “I have hundred and twenty pencils!”

Mother and son, both were stunned; Hermione, because she hasn’t expected her son to solve that multiplication problem so easily and Adrian, because he never expected to own hundred and twenty colouring pencils.

“Little rabbit?” Hermione kissed on Adrian’s forehead, feeling extremely proud, “Who taught you to multiply?”

“Uncle Alexis.” the boy replied happily, as he took out a few pencils and started drawing lines on a paper. “He taught me a trick, how to add a zero.”

“Uncle Alexis is a nice man.” Hermione admitted with a smile. Fleur’s elder brother, Alexis Delacour, was perhaps the most un-Veela-ish man Hermione has come across. He was a quarter-Veela by birth. But like his parents, there was no sign of pride in him. The Junior Undersecretary was a very simple man who loved Adrian like his own nephew. In Delacour household there was no differentiation between Hermione’s Adrian Granger and Fleur’s Victoire Weasley.

“The shopkeeper told me that the colours will never fade in the sunlight.” Hermione told her son about the many aspects of his new colouring pencils, “I want my little rabbit to use it for the Drawing Competition tomorrow.”

“Yay! I will.” Adrian exclaimed again, closing the box and clutching it to his heart, as if it was a treasure. Feeling a great rush of tenderness, Hermione wrapped her arms around him and placed her chin on his blonde curl adorned head. Adrian, too, melted to his mother’s touch. Hermione wished that this beautiful moment would never end; she would love to spend the rest of her life like this: she holding her son and her son holding his new gift that she gave him. Life was here, with Adrian, with her son, with her soul and nowhere else.

“So? Have you decided what you want to draw tomorrow?” she asked him after a while.

The little boy looked up at her and blinked twice, rapidly, as if considering a very difficult problem. “I think I’ll draw something from that Hogwarts picture book.” he replied. “What about The Great Hall?” he asked for her opinion.

Hermione’s smile faded. True that she still loved her school and wanted her son to know all about it but Hogwarts was a closed chapter in her life. Every mention of that place brought out memories that were happy but painful enough to make her want to cry.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Hermione replied cautiously, not wanting sound sad. She knew her son would detect that. “Why don’t you draw something that cannot be found in books?” it was highly uncharacteristic for Hermione Granger to advise her son to not follow the books, “How about something from your imagination?” she offered with a kind smile.

“What’s imagination, Mama?” her son piped, looking curious.

“Well, imagination….um…imagination is….” Hermione struggled to answer, “Imagination is a power to see or feel things that are not there.” She said and the little boy gave her a blank and confused look, “Normally when you draw something, little rabbit, it is present there, in front of you, your eyes and you see and draw. But when you draw something, anything by thinking about it – it’s called imagination.” she explained as simply as she could.

Adrian seemed to consider his mother’s answer for a long moment. “Like that drawing I made with you, me and my papa before our home?” he asked her, trying to deduce her meaning. “That was imagination?”

Hermione’s throat went dry. Draco Malfoy, Draco Malfoy and Draco Malfoy again! She sighed and looked down at her son who was looking expectedly at her, for an answer.

“Yes, little rabbit. It was an imagination.” Hermione replied firmly, ‘and it will remain that way.’ she told herself. Draco Malfoy was never coming back to her life. She has her son and they could build their own home together. There was no need of a man there.

“Adrian, what will you take for supper?” Hermione asked her brooding son, deciding to use the room service again. She did not feel like going down to the Dining Hall amidst the discussion of ten thousand galleons and who would win it.

But the boy did not reply.

“Adrian?” Hermione tilted her head sideways and examined his features. Adrian’s eyes were fixed on his new box of colouring pencils and were unfocused. She was astonished to see that he was frowning too.

“What’s it, little rabbit?” Hermione asked anxiously, thinking that she might have overreacted to his question.

“I don’t want to draw my papa tomorrow!” Adrian declared suddenly. “He left us. He loves purebloods. We are not purebloods.”

Hermione’s heart filled with such guilt that she wanted to strangle herself. She, by their small talk about his biological father, never meant to implant hatred in her son’s innocent and soft heart. Adrian was a good kid, as good as a mother could dream of. There was no point in spreading the poison she held inside her, to him.

“You don’t have to, my love! Not tomorrow! Not ever!” Hermione cried, her voice shaking with emotion, as she tightly hugged her son, internally wishing that the topic had never come up.

“Also, I don’t know how he looks like.” Adrian added, looking miserable.

Hermione hugged her son even tighter, “He looks like a human, little rabbit.” she replied. But he was not one, she told herself. Draco Malfoy, with all his money, power, blood prejudice and family influence was a monster, a monster that changed the course of her life, forever.

Adrian snuggled against his mother and Hermione held him protectively, like a mother rabbit did to her offspring. “Mama, do I look like him?” he asked her quietly. “Everyone asks me. Louis, Gina, Pierre, Adele.”

“No, little rabbit.” Hermione replied firmly. Adrian Thomas Granger, Hermione Jean Granger’s only son, could never look like her mother’s assaulter. “You don’t look like… him. You look like my little rabbit. You look like my son, my dear Adrian.” she gritted her teeth and stroked his curls until she felt him move again. A clock on the mantelpiece struck eight times. It was night, finally, in Brussels.

“I am hungry.” Her son declared and Hermione, feeling relived, smiled.

“I am going to Floo the Room Service and ask them to send up our dinner here.” she gave him one last kiss. “Okay, Mama’s love?” she asked.

“Okay.” Adrian tilted his head and piped.

As he went back to examine his gift and Hermione stood up to reach their fireplace, she wondered for the second time since that night they had talked about Draco Malfoy that where that blasted man was.

•••••

Draco, a Malfoy, has never waited for anybody or anything in his entire life. He was the only child of his parents and they have brought him in a way that he was given everything without having to repeat his demands twice. Besides, he never considered anybody important enough to sit and wait for them, not even Pansy, his old girl friend. He was a Malfoy and the Malfoys never waited for others, they made people to wait for them.

Yet on his fourth hour of listless sitting across the Dining Hall door and waiting for Adrian, Draco was undeterred and patient. During this time, several waiters have come and asked for his dinner order but Draco waved them away, asking for noting but a cup of coffee. He had no appetite and nothing would go down his throat in this state.

Sighing once, he checked his wrist watch. It was ten thirty now. The boy must have decided to take his dinner elsewhere, he thought. To hell with his mother, that Jean! She must be the one behind this foul decision. Draco gritted his teeth; she would pay, she would surely pay once Draco found who she was and who Adrian was: his brother or his son.

He decided to wait another half an hour and see if Adrian, almost impossibly, turned up.

After he narrowly missed the boy that very afternoon, Draco’s sole thought has been Adrian and Adrian only. Under the enchanting spell of his aunt, he fell asleep in his couch and just as she had wished, had several dreams, all of them showing him running and reaching out for Adrian in every possible manner and yet somehow the boy was always out of bounds, no matter how hard he tried. He woke up, drenched in sweat and after taking a bath, spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the vast hotel and its grounds hoping to meet Adrian there. But Lady Luck didn’t favoured him and after finishing his long walk with a heavy heart Draco decided to wait for the boy in the Dining Hall, to catch him when he turned up there for dinner.

The clock chimed eleven times at last and noticing that the waiters were slowly starting to pack up, Draco left his seat. Adrian was not coming here tonight and he left the Dining Hall, cursing his luck under the breath and extremely disappointed.

•••••

How a small glass of milk could miraculously solve two burning issues, was witnessed by Hermione Granger on Saturday morning.

It was finally the day of the Drawing Competition and from the glimpses that Hermione stole from her balcony, it seemed like a National Treasure Hunt Day. Press, media, renowned wizards and witches of Belgium, and children from different walks of life, started coming like a relentless wave of sea as soon as it was morning. The Hotel Manage, Leopold, was almost mad from trying to have everything under control. By eight o’ clock, the crowd swelled so much that Belgian Ministry had to send a special troop of Aurors to prevent the magical population from being detected by the Muggles. To Hermione, it was almost like Quidditch World Cup. Such was the power of ten thousand galleons prize money.

To avoid the argument she had with Adrian over his unfinished glass of milk, Hermione took care to ask the room service to flavour her son’s milk with a completely different item today, for chocolate, strawberry, banana, peach and a list of ten other items were, according to her son, boring. Today was a special day for Adrian and she did not want to spoil it by arguing with him on such petty matters.

Adrian, to Hermione’s surprise, woke up early in the morning and did his ablution. Hermione followed him and after their baths were over, he sat down, like his mother would have done in this situation, to see if he could find a way around the problem of what to draw for the competition. The sight of her son looking through picture books and trying hard to make his dear Mama proud, melted Hermione’s heart. For a five and a half year, Adrian was trying his level best.

“Adrian, Mama’s love, come. Let’s have breakfast. It’s almost eight o’ clock and the competition starts at nine.” Hermione called her son, once the breakfast was served through the Room Service. This morning, she knew, the Dining Hall was bursting with the crowd of the extra guests that were visiting the Palace Hotel for the Drawing Competition and therefore, she preferred to take the breakfasts in their suite. Adrian was already nervous, there was no point scaring him more.

Adrian nodded, and leaving the book he was scanning for an idea, came and sat beside his mother. Hermione, Eva, Edmound, Gabrielle and Adrian, they all ate in silence, for the youngest of them all, Adrian, was too quiet. Hermione buttered a piece of bread and gave it to Adrian, who took a bite from it, uncharacteristically absent-minded. He then reached for the glass of milk and took a small sip.

“Mama, why does the milk taste different?” Adrian looked up at Hermione, noticing the change in taste at last.

“Because it has almonds.” Hermione replied with a wide grin, “I read somewhere that almonds in milk is good for our brain and asked the room service to add it. My little rabbit will need all his potentials today, won’t he?” she stroked Adrian’s silvery blonde curls fondly.

They stared at each other for a while, Hermione’s brown pairs on Adrian’s grey ones. Then the boy’s pair widened and slowly a smile spread over his pink lips, as if he has suddenly solved a difficult problem. “Little Rabbit?” he repeated after Hermione, looking happy.

Hermione exchanged astonished looks with the rest of the table who were silently watching them.

“What’s it, Adrian?” Gabrielle asked the little boy who finished his glass of milk in one go and wiped his mouth clean, triumphantly.

“It’s a surprise for Mama.” Adrian replied grinning from ear to ear as he planted a kiss on Hermione’s right cheek, “She is right. Almonds are good for our brains.” he declared to the surprise of a dumbfounded Hermione.

•••••

Draco Malfoy, clean shaved, hair neatly brushed and impeccably dressed in his black robes, was waiting expectantly for his guests to arrive in his suite. As the host of the event, he has taken the liberty of inviting the judges of the Drawing Competition – Sir Anton von Dyrk, Pieter Bruegel and Jacob Jordeans – for a cordial breakfast with him in his suite.

Malfoys never invited people for meals without some hidden purpose behind it. This invitation was not an exception either. Draco had important plans to execute.

His esteemed guests arrived precisely at eight o’ clock and after exchanging pleasantries, Draco led them to the carefully laid breakfast table.

“Please help yourselves.” He offered them like a generous host, keeping an eye on Jacob Jordeans. Unlike the other two judges, Jacob was younger and quieter. He was famous for making Group Portraits and led a quiet life even at the peak of his fame. He was just the kind Draco was looking for.

The breakfast ended successfully with the guests thanking Draco profusely for arranging the Drawing Competition for the Belgian Wizarding Orphans and like his late father would have done in this situation, he waved it all away, with a kind nod of acknowledgment. Only he knew what he was after. As the judges prepared to leave for the event in the Ball Room, he escorted them to door and promised to join them in a minute.

“Ah, Monsieur Jordeans!” Draco feigned remembering something when that particular painter was about to leave, “I just remembered that I wanted to ask you something.”

Jacob looked expectedly at Draco.

“Can I take a minute?” Draco asked Jacob with an extra cordial smile.

“Sure.” Jacob nodded to his generous host’s appeal and turned to the other judges who were waiting for him. “Please excuse us. I will join you in a minute.” He said and the judges gave a tiny nod before leaving Draco’s suite.

Draco was delighted beyond measures. Everything was going on according to his plans. He had Jacob now.

“Monsieur, I have heard highly of your abilities to draw Group Portraits.” Draco escorted Jacob to the couches around the fireplace and gestured him to sit.

“Merci.” Jacob nodded politely.

“I was about to ask you if you could draw me a family portrait.” Draco offered the artist with a smile. “I can draw quite well myself but I am certainly not as good as you are.” He confessed as modestly as a Malfoy could.

“You do?” Jacob asked, looking interested.

“Yes, I do.” Draco nodded as he offered Jacob a cup of coffee making sure he could smell its wonderful aroma. “Let’s discuss while you finish that cup.”

Jacob accepted Draco’s cup and unsuspecting, took a deep sip from it. Draco, on the other hand, took a small sip from his one. The clock ticked on. One minute, two minutes, three minutes…

Five minutes later, Draco was standing in front of a mirror looking at the reflection of Jacob Jordeans in his neat black robes. That was coffee was spiked with a Sleeping Draught and as he removed a deeply sleeping Jacob’s robes, he smirked, before donning it himself.

“Lesson number one: don’t drink anything a stranger offers unless you know what it is.” he whispered into Jacob’s ears as he arranged his limbs to a more comfortable posture. “Sweet dreams!” Draco winked to his sleeping doppelganger and left his suite on pursuit of his aunt.

Audré Chombrun Malfoy, in a simple but elegant green dress robe and pearl jewelry, was already waiting for her nephew in the lobby that led to the Hotel’s Grand Ball Room. Her blue eyes were smiling at those who passed and greeted her. Draco, in a great mood, tiptoed to her and whispered into ears. “Madame Malfoy, your nephew is sleeping.”

Audré turned her gaze to him and snorted. “A true Malfoy indeed; lazy and useless.” she smirked. “Let’s go to the competition, Monsieur Jordeans.” She gestured Draco to the entrance of the Grand Ball Room.

“After you, Madame.” Draco courtesied like a gentleman.

The Grand Ball Room, where the Drawing Competition would start in just fifteen minutes, was a vast hall with rich wood floor, stunning chandeliers and high arched floor-to-ceiling windows. It was already full of kids of different ages and Draco, as soon as he walked in, scanned for any sign of silvery-blonde curls.

“He isn’t here.” He tsk’ed and checked his watch. It was quarter to nine now. If Adrian was staying in the hotel, why was he late?

“Don’t worry. He’ll come.” Audré’s ears didn’t miss Draco’s annoyance, her own eyes on the entrance door, too. “Why don’t you go and tell the other judges that Mr. Malfoy will not be attending the competition due to some unavoidable circumstances.” She reminded him.

Draco nodded curtly and strode to the two judges, Sir Anton von Dyrk and Pieter Bruegel, who were talking to some patrons. He informed them of ‘his’ inability to attend the competition due to some unavoidable circumstances that showed up at last moment and conveyed them ‘his’ apology. The judges shook their heads, looking sad but otherwise accepted ‘Draco Malfoy’s’ apology.

Feeling nervous that the boy might have somehow fallen ill, Draco checked his watch. Ten minutes to nine. The Hall was now bursting with kids and yet there was no sign of Adrian. Where was he? What would happen if he didn’t turn up? Has Jean somehow caught wind that Draco was organizing the Drawing Competition and decided to leave it on the eve of the competition? But that was impossible! Leopold, the hotel manager, has made sure, that the newspapers publicized the event anonymously, leaving out the name of Malfoys. Except for the judges and some patrons, no one knew that the Malfoys were behind it all. If Adrian didn’t come, everything was meaningless for Draco. He didn’t care for the money he has spent to organize the competition. It was the boy he sought.

Following the judges, a very restless Draco was about to take his seat in the Judge’s Panel when he finally saw him. The one who brought him here, the one he was looking for; the one he has arranged everything for one long week.

Adrian entered the Grand Ball Room, through one of the corner doors, carrying a small black attaché. Contrary to their last time before the Tuileries, when he was in plain Muggle T-shirt, he was on formal clothes today: white shirt, black trousers and robes and a red neck tie. Draco stopped midway between standing and sitting, unable to stop himself from watching the handsome boy, mesmerized.

Adrian looked around the Grand Ball Room in awe, unaware that a man in the judge panel was closely inspecting his every move. He then moved across the room to find a quiet place and upon finding it, settled down on the heavily carpeted floor with two other kids.

Draco felt a cautious tug on his right hand and slumped on his seat, his eyes glued to Adrian all the time. He hardly listened to what the other judges talked about. Adrian was here and nothing else mattered now, not even the world, time, money, fame, or glory. He was so lost in watching the little boy making himself comfortable that he did not even realize when one of the patrons stood up to make the announcement.

“Bonjour, dear children!” the patron, Henri Matisse addressed the hall full of kids.

“BONJOUR, MONSIEUR.” The kid’s bellowed back, happily.

Henri Matisse, like an excellent actor leaned back, as if thrown backward from the collective greetings of kids and everyone, except Draco, laughed. “As we all know, we are here today to support a noble cause: to raise funds for the Belgian Wizarding Orphanage.” He started in a pleasant tone, “I believe that all of you are familiar with the rules but I am stating them once again. You must have noticed that we have placed Age Lines around the entry doors?” he asked and the kids nodded, some of them even raised their head to have a better look of the Age Line. “Children younger than five or older than ten can’t gain illegal entry.” Matisse explained to his young audience. “The competition will start sharp at nine o’clock and will finish at two o’ clock in the afternoon. You can draw anything you like but you can’t use magical colouring materials, which I believe you already know and have prepared yourselves accordingly.” He declared and repeated his announcement in French and Dutch.

“He looks more adorable than in your memory, Jacob.” Draco heard his aunt whisper calmly. It was she who had tugged him, when he was standing like a petrified statue, watching Adrian.

“He looks like an angel.” Draco whispered back, not caring to turn his gaze away from Adrian. The boy, by his innocence, has somehow cast a spell over Draco and he just couldn’t have enough of him.

The Grand Clock struck nine times and following a wave of Henri Matisse’s wand, a piece of drawing sheet appeared before of each participant. Draco watched in awe as Adrian reached for the drawing sheet he was given and attached it to the cardboard frame he carried. He opened his attaché, took out a black box and leaned over the drawing sheet, as if ready to strike.

Following the other judges, Draco left his seat and started walking around the room, feigning he was examining the children’s work. He passed rows and rows of children, sometimes standing to watch them work as if it was interesting. But from the corner of his eyes, he watched Adrian, who was seated on the east side of the Grand Ball Room, lost in his work.

Draco noticed how concentrated his demeanor was, how focused his gaze appeared and how fluidly his small hand moved across the drawing sheet. He walked faster now, eager to watch him from close.

‘The boy is a wonder!’- He thought as he finally stood behind him, unable to believe his eyes. Adrian was so young and yet he behaved so maturely. No fidgeting, no squinting at other’s works, no unnecessary chatting, he worked as if he was an accomplished artist. Draco’s hands ached to touch him, his silvery blonde curls, his small head, his soft skin, his small but elegant hands.

He crouched down and sat beside him as if trying to examine his work. He deliberately placed his nose behind his head and inhaled deeply.

Adrian smelled of peach and honeysuckle, Draco noticed, savoring in his scent. He wished he could trap it forever in his head to relish it afterwards. He opened his eyes and found Adrian looking at him curiously.

Their eyes met – as the sharp larger pairs bore into the innocent smaller ones. Adrian’s eyes were exactly the same as Draco remembered them to be – Grey, as innocent as a deer, as tender as a bud and as clear as water. His small cheeks were slightly pink, like the innocent blush of a bride and his pink lips were just like his ones minus the famous Malfoy sneer. His silvery blonde curls were an exact shade of his own.

Suddenly, the question Audré had asked rung inside Draco’s head and he closed his eyes.

‘What if you find out that Jean was actually your father’s secret mistress and Adrian is actually your brother and not your son?’

‘Adrian is actually your brother and not your son?’

Draco opened his eyes and found a curious Adrian staring at him, slightly confused. But he didn’t care. He knew now, in his heart, in his soul, in every fiber of his being that Adrian could never be his brother. Adrian was his son. There could be no other way. Ever.

Draco fisted his hands and stood up. If he sat there for another five minutes he might lose him mind. Besides, he couldn’t afford to touch Adrian here of all the places, where a single mistake could destroy his whole week’s work.

Draco resumed his walk, confident that the boy was born from his seeds. ‘He has sired such a wonderful boy!’ he thought proudly as he went back to his seat in the Judge’s Panel.

Now the question that remained unanswered was: who was Jean and how she conceived Adrian without Draco’s knowledge?

•••••

Hermione was patiently waiting for Adrian to return from the Grand Ball Room. It was almost two o’ clock and he was still there. The entrance for the participant children had an Age Line around it thus making it impossible for her to enquire about her son.

‘He’ll be alright.’ she told herself, ‘It is just a Drawing Competition, Hermione, not a Triwizard Tournament.’

The Grand Clock struck twice at last and a great rumbling noise came from the Ball Room as the kids started moving for the door, wanting to leave the place. Hermione prayed that they maintained discipline and didn’t stampede her little son. To avoid confusion, she has already instructed Adrian to look for her in the balcony that led off to Ball Room while Gabrielle, Eva and Edmound were stationed at various points to catch Adrian whenever he came out, following the great rush of kids.

“I am so worried, Gabrielle.” Hermione bit her lips when five minutes passed and still there was no sign of Adrian. “He’s so young! I hope other kids won’t hurt him.”

“Oh, Jean, don’t worry! Adrian will be just fine.” Gabrielle comforted Hermione with a kind smile, “I think I will use some of my Veela charms and get those men out of way.” she indicated at the Ball Room door with the Age Line that was being heavily guarded by some Aurors to ensure that the kids maintained discipline as they exited the Ball Room, “You stay and wait for Adrian here.”

Hermione nodded and Gabrielle moved towards the door of the Ball Room which was already packed with parents and children who have come out. Ten minutes passed. Twenty minutes passed. Hermione checked Eva and Edmound and they shook their heads, Adrian still wasn’t out. She was getting dead worried when she spotted Gabrielle walking to her, grinning and holding Adrian firmly by his hand.

“Merlin!” Hermione exhaled in extreme relief and welcomed her son in her arms, as he came running to her. “Mama was so worried, little rabbit!” She embraced him, making sure that he was really back, “Why didn’t you come out when the bell rang?”

“They told to make a line.” Adrian replied, “I was in the end.”

“Okay.” Hermione smiled brightly, not wanting to probe the matter any further, “Tell me, now. How was the competition?” she asked as Eva and Edmound joined their small group and they started to leave the crowded hallway.

Adrian grinned. “It was awesome!” he cried excitedly, his grey eyes wide in joy. “A judge liked my drawing very much. He sat behind me and watched me work.”

“What did you draw, little rabbit?” Hermione asked, curious. They were almost at the entrance Hall now, and she decided to take a Floo to their room.

“I drew us.” Adrian replied simply, motioning between them.

“You mean you drew me?” Hermione stopped on her track, narrowly avoiding colliding with a boy who was coming from opposite direction. Did Adrian draw them standing before their cottage, just as he did a few weeks ago?

“Yes.” Adrian declared, “With….a…a…. imagination.” he finally remembered the particular word and replied.

Hermione was dumbstruck for the second time that day. She stared at her son for a long moment and decided that it was enough; they should take lunch now.

“I am starving.” Hermione tightened her grip around Adrian’s wrist and nodding, Eva, Edmound and Gabrielle followed her to the nearest Floo fireplace.

•••••

As per his plan, Draco has tried to catch a glimpse of the woman that might be Adrian’s mother, Jean. As soon as the Drawing Competition was over, he asked the kids to make a line and maintain discipline as they left. He purposefully placed Adrian at the end of line, so that he could catch a better look of the woman when most of the kids left and the crowd thinned out. But what he saw perplexed him. Surely that young girl with long silvery hair and pale but pretty features was not Adrian’s mother! She looked so young, like she was in her teens now. But, somehow, Draco felt like he has seen the girl before. He tried to remember but to no avail.

“Monsieur Jordeans? Monsieur?” someone called and Draco came out of his reverie. He was not Draco Malfoy here; he was Jacob Jordeans, the third judge. He should be in the judge’s panel now, examining the drawings and selecting a winner.

“Pardon?” he asked and turning around, saw that one of the patrons was calling him.

“Please come and see this.” the patron asked and Draco reluctant and his mind on the young woman he just saw, taking Adrian by his hand and leaving, examined the drawing he was given.

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It was a drawing unlike anything he has ever seen. Two rabbits, one large and the other small, were sitting on a patch of grass field surrounded by flowers. The little rabbit seemed to snuggle against the larger one who held him protectively to her chest. Except for the grass and the flowers, everything else was white and yet the white rabbits were clearly visible against its white backdrop. All thoughts of Adrian suddenly gone and his mouth half-open, Draco’s eyes automatically darted to the name of the artist. Then he gasped.

There, in the upper left corner of the drawing was written a name in large and loopy handwriting: Adrian.

Draco was dumbfounded, surprised beyond measures, and too lost to voice a single word!

This was his son’s work! His son’s! Adrian’s!

“I have never seen anything like this before.” The patron commented in wonderment as he showed the drawing to the other judges who seemed impressed by it too.

“How old is he?” The judge named Sir Anton asked, looking as dumbfounded as Draco did.

“The list says he’s five years seven monthes and three days old.” one of the English patrons, Sir Thomas Cooper, replied, checking the magical list of kids and their ages.

“Incredible talent!” the second judge, Pieter, exclaimed. “Five and a half and he draws this? This?” his hand ran over the drawing, with extreme care and tenderness.

“Why?” Sir Thomas asked, not understand why the judges were making such fuss over a piece of drawing with nothing but two white rabbits on it.

“Because, sir, it’s very difficult to draw white things in a white background.” Pieter patiently explained to Sir Thomas, “It’s like dipping a piece of chalk in a glass of milk; the effect may be lost and the chalk in the milk might never be visible.” He looked at the picture again shaking his head in disbelief. “Amazing talent! This boy is going to be a very famous artist one day.”

“Monsieur Jordeans. Is this the winner?” he heard Sir Thomas asking him, showing everyone the drawing of the two rabbits.

Draco, at first, was unavailable for any kind of comment. He was standing there, staring at the air with a vacant expression, a result of too many thoughts whirling inside his head.

He son was gifted even more than he was and ever could be!

“Monsieur Jordeans? Jordeans?” the second judge, Pieter, asked this time and Draco felt a hand on his shoulder. It was Audré. She was asking him to respond.

Draco nodded, still unable to produce any recognizable voice.

“There is none better than this.” he heard Pieter commented, “Adrian! The Clear Winner!” he announced.

Finally, with the winner of the ten thousand galleons secured, the judges and patrons left the Ball Room for the Grand Parlour where a special lunch for the judges was being hosted. Audré, like a generous host, ushered them there. But Draco sat on his chair, still blinking, perplexed.

•••••

Hermione opened the closet, took out her best dress robe, Lilac with pale golden trimming around the edges, and threw it over her shoulders. The name of the winner for the ‘Drawing For Charity’ would be announced at seven o’ clock that evening and she wanted to attend it looking as best as she could. She knew that she was no beauty pageant but if tried a bit, she could look quite presentable.

Adrian was taking his nap on their bed. He seemed tired after the morning’s hard work and excitement. Hermione decided to visit the beauty salon of the Palace Hotel and see if they could do something about her unruly curls. She left Gabrielle in charge of Adrian and made her way for the salon.

•••••

The Grand Ball Room was bursting with kids, their parents and their noise as Draco entered it, quarter to seven. He was still disguised as Jacob Jordeans while the real one slept on the couch in Draco’s suite. All around him, press, newspaper and media personalities were waiting for the moment when the winner of the ‘Drawing for Charity’ would be announced. There excited chattering was almost deafening.

Draco took his seat on the raised platform that the hotel authority has erected and scanned the Ball Room for the boy who was behind it all, Adrian.

But he was still not here. Draco felt irritated. What would people think if the winner was late?

Audré, now in an elegant blue robes and silver brooch, was examining Draco with a curious expression on her face. “You look disturbed, Draco?” she enquired.

“He’s late.” he replied curtly.

“No, he’s not.” Audré checked her wrist watch. “There is still ten minutes left.”

Draco chose not to answer. Adrian was depriving him of his precious ten minutes to watch him, unnoticed.

Just as Draco was starting to lose his patience, he saw Adrian entering the Ball Room, carried by a man with three ladies on tow. He leaned forward and narrowed his eyes to get a clear view, from his seat far from the door.

He could not recognize anyone except Adrian. His silvery blonde curls were too prominent. Draco was brought back from his reverie when a deep voice boomed on his right and he looked at it to find that Sir Thomas and Sir Anton were standing, side by side, there with wands directed to their throats.

Sonorus!’ they said in unison and their voices amplified.

“Good Evening Witches, Wizards and my dear children! Welcome to the award ceremony of ‘Drawing for Charity’.” Sir Thomas’s announcement boomed across the Ball Room followed by the same announcement in French by Sir Anton.

“We are very proud and pleased at the huuuuggggeeeeeee response we received from all of you.” Sir Thomas said to the applauding crowd. “There were three hundred and seventy four entries for the competition and we examined each drawing with great care and dedication. We know the children gave us their best.”

Sir Anton said the same in French.

“After an agonizing struggle, we were finally successful in choosing an entry that was simple, innovative, and won votes from all three judges and patrons.” Sir Thomas gestured at the wizards and witches sitting on the judge’s panel. “Remember my dear boys and girls, no one lost in this competition. Everyone, who came forward to participate for a noble cause, won; you won the love of those orphans for whom this money will be used.” He smiled and nodded at the sea of children, “But for the sake of competition, there must be a winner. And winner is…” he held his speech for a moment and retrieved a piece of parchment from the inner pocket of his robes.

Draco did not notice he was holding his breath.

“Adrian Thomas Granger! Son of Mademoiselle Granger!” Sir Thomas announced to a deadly silent audience. “Adrian and Jean Granger, please come up on stage to collect your prize.” he requested.

Someone started clapping in the corner Adrian was sitting with his company and soon it infected others, the applause now thundering and echoing around the Ball Room like the word ‘Granger’ tore Draco’s senses apart and ripped through his soul.

‘It cannot be!’ he thought, shaking from head to foot, ‘It just cannot be!’ He looked bewildered as a woman in Lilac and golden robes approached the dais, carrying Adrian in her lap. She climbed up the few steps, walked past directly before Draco and reached Sir Thomas and Sir Anton.

She was none other than Hermione Granger.

Draco, forgetting to blink, breathe or even feel who and where he was, simply stared at her. This couldn’t be true! No! This couldn’t be true!

Hermione, meanwhile, was crying and smiling at the same time as she examined the winning drawing of her son, Adrian.

“This is my little rabbit, Adrian!” she cried, pointing the smaller of the two rabbits, “And this is his mother, this is me, Jean Granger!” she burst into tears and kissed Adrian feverishly.

From his seat, a demented Draco, finally realized what Adrian chose as his subject matter. Hermione holding and kissing her son Adrian was actually the mother rabbit protectively holding her little rabbit, Adrian.

One thought on “Chapter 12: The Little Rabbit

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