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The Scientist (Remastered)

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The young witch tugged at her fluffy scarf aware she stood out in a crowd relishing in the warm, almost hot weather. Her walk was slow, each step weighed down by a pain that gained traction daily. Even under heated layers and the kind shine of the sun, the bitter cold in her bones added to her invisible struggle to arrive to the bookstore. She already had what she needed, a new dress for her dinner later today, but she couldn’t resist a treat on such an ominous day. Hermione stopped outside the owl emporium and pulled out a delicate diamond shaped crystal vial. Discreetly, but under the watchful gaze of the young birds looking at her intently from the windowsill, she uncorked the vial releasing a faint green mist that quickly evaporated into the air. The birds hooted curiously, mildly ruffled by the magic that had been released in front of their storefront, their agitation increasing as they witnessed the young witch put her lips to the bottle and with a grimace, began drinking the contents of the vial.

The effect was immediate. Like pure acid the potion scorched her tongue and throat and soon her whole body felt on fire. Hermione hardly registered the sound of glass smashing as feverous beads of sweat started running down her face and her vision blurred white. The birds had exploded into a full cantankerous ruckus and Hermione wondered if Narcissa had measured the poisonous ingredients wrong… but just before the pain laid her unconscious… it all stoped. The birds settled down. Her vision cleared and for small, brief moment, Hermione almost felt cozy under all her woolly layers. The cold quickly took over again.  

Speculo reparo,” Hermione whispered and tucked the fixed vial back into her pocket. One small charm hardly counted as breaking Narcissa’s no magic rule, Hermione reasoned guiltily. 

With renewed vigour the Gryffindor gathered her bearings and resumed her walk to Flourish and Blots. Hermione took a childish pleasure in being part of the bustling streets of Diagon Alley - just one more body in a crowd of extraordinary. Magic bubbled in every corner and she remembered it had been in these streets with their impossible architectures that she had first understood the limitless possibilities she was being offered through membership of this society. 

And then, with Gringots fully in sight, Hermione stopped outside the store that had stolen her heart well over a decade ago. The old familiar bell rung and habit helped her duck as a book floated by her head and back to its place on the shelves. 

“Good morning, Miss Granger,” the bookkeeper greeted from the balcony. “Looking for anything in particular?”

“Not today, Delphius,” Hermione replied with a huge smile.

“There’s a new book on elemental transfiguration I’ve been meaning to write to you about. I’m sure you’ll find it in the back section by the -“

“By the Bartleby Encyclopedia?” 

Delphius chuckled, “Yes, by the Bartleby Encyclopedia.”

“I’ll keep an eye out for it, thank you, Delphius!”

“Of course, Miss Granger.”

The store had a good handful of patrons browsing the shelves, and Hermione was relieved that her exchange with Delphius had gone unnoticed by the other customers in the shop. After the Skeeter article, her natural proclivity for privacy had doubled downed. The thought of running into inquiring masses demanding explanations and offering opinions filled Hermione with a frightening anxiety she hadn’t felt since her days in Hogwarts. 

No.

All she wanted of her Tuesday morning was to calmly peruse the bookshelves for nothing in particular. 

She remembered the first time she had walked into Flourish and Blotts with her nervous parents. They had stood closely next to her as if afraid to lose their only reference in this alien world. Hermione had taken particular delight in slowly seeking each book on her school list, her fingers tracing titles she had never heard of. She remembered distinctly the concentration she had employed, desperate to remember all the authors she didn’t know so that she could look them up as soon as possible. She could feel now, just as she had then, the magic reverberating from within the closed pages and it awoke the hunger that had taken over her the day McGonagall had come knocking on her door. Each book was a secret and there didn’t seem to be enough life to reveal each one. 

“Hermione!”

The Gryffindor jumped in surprise. 

“I thought that was you, how are you doing?” Susan Bones said with a gentle smile. 

“Susan, I didn’t see you there.”

The Hufflepuff chuckled taking her witches hat off and giving it a pat. “Didn’t mean to frighten you,  it’s just been ages since I’ve seen you, although I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to find you here.”

Hermione smiled at the former D.A. member noticing the ministry pin attached to her robes. “They finally recruited you, did they?” Hermione asked nodding at the pin.

Susan blushed slightly, “Oh yeah…” she began in a faintly embarrassed tone, “the Wizengamot kept nagging… I’ll never be able to fill her shoes… but I guess it’s what she would’ve wanted. Keep the family tradition alive and all…” 

The witch before her looked all the part of a respected member of the Wizengamot; from the meticulously pressed robes to the ministry issued white band around her neck. However, the way Susan bit her lip nervously reminded Hermione of the girl she had shared so many desks with at school while Ron and Harry had automatically paired up. Susan had always been a quiet witch, happy to share her space without questions even when the rest of the school was dying to find out the latest golden trio gossip.

“And are you enjoying it?” Hermione asked her as they walked slowly past the shelves.

“It’s actually not as bad as I thought it would be. A lot of work, of course… But it is satisfying. Definitely not the adventures we dreamed of in Gilderoy’s class,” she said with an easy laugh that Hermione shared. “But it’s necessary work.”

“I can imagine, I’ve heard of all the reforms they’ve been trying to get through.”

Susan’s eyes lit up at the comment. “Of course you have,” she said more to herself than to Hermione and the Gryffindor looked away to hide her wince. “Narcissa Black is behind quite a few of those. I think her trial reform is long needed, although you didn’t hear me say that. But some of her other stuff… she certainly keeps me busy, to say the least,” Susan let out a tired sigh and caught sight of Hermione’s growing grimace. “Sorry, I can imagine you don’t want to talk about this, Skeeter had no business publishing your private affairs. That woman has always seemed to have it in it for you…”

Hermione remembered her conversation with Draco, and in a split second decided to confide in her old classmate. “Indeed, she has… and about that… I think Draco Malfoy might actually sue her, and I can’t imagine him letting her settle this outside of court, so just a heads up that you might be getting a very angry Malfoy knocking on your door soon.”

Susan raised her eyebrows with curiosity. “And are you for this?”

For some reason Hermione couldn’t quite pin, she felt her cheeks reddening madly as she replied, “I am, actually. I’ll probably be one of the main witnesses he applies with.”

Susan looked at Hermione curiously for a second but then nodded. “I’ll keep an eye out for the submission file then, and I’ll let you know when it’s been processed.” 

“Thank you, Susan,” she replied, grateful for the Hufflepuff’s impartiality despite Hermione’s new allegiance with a Malfoy. 

“Don’t mention it,” Susan said absentmindedly, “but if you could help me find Tobias Thomson’s compendium on troll rights I wouldn’t complain…”

Hermione lit up, “As a matter of fact, I do know where that is! It’s next to the shelf about house elves, over here -“

The two witches set about looking for the book, enjoying an easy chatter that made Hermione forget entirely about the Skeeter article. Once they had found the right book and Hermione had picked up a few books of her own along the way, Susan pulled her behind a shelf after they had paid up.

“Hermione,” Susan began, and the young witch’s heart dropped knowing it had been wishful thinking to imagine she had got off so lightly. “I know it’s none of my business, and Skeeter had no right to publish your private affairs, but as your friend I feel like I should warn you -“

“I know, I know - once an evil Malfoy, always an evil Malfoy -“

“No,” Susan said gently cutting through Hermione’s exasperated retort. “I really mean it when I say it’s not my business. But you need to know that the Wizengamot isn’t fond of the Blacks, especially ones that used to be a Malfoy. They’ve never really forgiven them for getting away unpunished during the war trials -“

“But Harry testified! We all heard why -“

“I know, I know. I was there. But just because the Wizengamot exonerated them doesn’t mean they did it willingly. It just so happened that at the time it would’ve been political suicide to go against Harry’s testimony,” Susan sighed uncomfortably, shuffling the books under her arms as she tried to find the right words. “Look, all I’m saying is that coupled with some of the reforms she’s trying to push through, any misstep on her behalf and you can know for certain all the senior members will be morphing into angry veela’s for some form of retribution,” Susan raised her hand stopping Hermione’s interruption. “Aligning herself with you will be seen by most as an unexpectedly shrewd move to buy herself more protection and influence in the Ministry.”

“But I’ve hardly even stepped foot in the Ministry since the trials,” Hermione said with a scowl. “What protection and influence am I supposedly giving her?”

Susan raised a patient eyebrow, “I’m supposed to be the Hufflepuff here and you the one in bed with a Slytherin - I shouldn’t have to spell this out to you… The point is, you’re walking head first into some very old grudges; old and strong enough that all parties involved won’t hesitate to drag you into them.” 

Hermione suddenly felt very tired again. She nodded. Susan squeezed her shoulder reassuringly, “but you’ve dealt with the Umbridge type before,” the Hufflepuff pulled out a Galleon from her robes and winked at Hermione as she turned back towards to the exit. “If my memory serves me right a small rebellion was involved.” Susan twirled the Galleon in her fingers and just before she tucked it back away and walked out, Hermione noticed that it lacked a serial number on its edges.

Hermione stood for a moment looking out of the door of Flourish and Blotts. Her friend had become another hat in the crowd and the young witch was hesitant to enter the sprawling mess of people shopping. The relief she felt from knowing that she had a friend looking out for her in the Ministry was slightly overwhelmed by the knowledge she now had unknown enemies in it. And then, as quickly as a candle being lit, Hermione understood her parents’ hesitation every time they stepped into the wizarding world. It was a wonderous world with limitless possibilities, but a certain brutality always hung around the edges. It was not a world meant for those feint of heart. Hermione shook her head, trying to dispel the discomfort in her chest, and walked back out to the sunny street. 

The discomfort stayed with her all the way back to the Fortress. 

“Did the siren’s call of a new book distract you?” Narcissa asked casually as she placed a kiss on her forehead when Hermione arrived. The younger witch nodded absently, taking her cloak off and setting her books on the table. “Ah, I see the pull led to more than one,” Narcissa commented fondly. 

Hermione debated whether or not to tell her about her conversation with Susan, grateful the older witch was making herself busy in the potions lab. 

“Did you know about the Chamber of Secrets?” Hermione asked suddenly, surprising herself with the question. Narcissa froze. 

“What do you mean?” 

Hermione scratched her head, suspecting an oncoming headache. “Did you know there was a great big monster at Hogwarts attacking the students - albeit the muggleborns - and that Dumbledore had no idea what to do about it?”

The initial surprise of the topic of conversation had quickly disappeared from Narcissa’s face, replaced with an inscrutable expression. “Of course I did, and not just because Lucius was on the board of governor’s - Draco wrote to me, told me all about Filch’s cat and how you, Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley were at the crime scene.” Narcissa took the chair next to Hermione and started jarring the assorted ingredients in front of her. “And even if he hadn’t, I would’ve found out sooner or later from one of the other parents. Why?”

“Wait, so all the parents knew?” Hermione asked shocked.

“I don’t know if the muggle parents knew, I imagine you’d be in a better position to know that than me.” 

“No, they didn’t know; but I didn’t realise that was just us. I mean Harry had no one else to tell and Ron never wrote home…”

Narcissa tutted.

“What was that for?” Hermione asked.

“Nothing,” Narcissa said in the carefully reserved tone she usually reserved for work. “But let me gander a guess… you and all the other muggleborns knew you’d be taken out of Hogwarts if your parents found out.” The derisive drawl she was renown for was creeping back into her voice.

“Well of course! There was a basilisk let loose! Muggle or not that’s not something that can be brushed off."

Narcissa’s posture straightened, and she stopped chopping the ingredients she was pickling. The round room was well illuminated with candles floating languidly around the room, casting long shadows over the walls of ingredients. Hermione could tell Narcissa was choosing her words carefully. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but in Dumbledore’s defence no one knew it was a basilisk until after it was killed so… heroically… by Mr Potter.” 

“Basilisk or not I was petrified,” Hermione argued, failing to understand why she and the pureblood weren’t seeing eye to eye about this.

“Yes, a condition easily reversible provided you have some good mandrakes and even the most minimal of competence in potion making, which naturally, Severus had. Poppy assessed you after your attack and it must have been evident to all involved that there was no permanent damage to your personhood. If a petrification was grounds for pulling children out of Hogwarts, no wizard would receive an education,” Narcissa said with an infuriating little shrug. “In my experience muggle parents sorely lack the perspective necessary to get by in the magical world. Any tiny little incident sends them running to the hills…”

Hermione sighed, knowing she was fighting a losing battle but not ready to relent just yet. “Perspective? Is that what you’re going to blame their common sense on.”

“I don’t know what they got up to in the Gryffindor common room, but in Slytherin it was a right of passage to learn how to cast a jelly legs jinx. Utterly harmless magic that’ll either wear off in an hour at the most, or can be remedied with an even simpler counter curse. However, you jinx a muggle with that and they lose their minds thinking they’re dying of some sort of brain disease they can get, which is reasonable -“ she added seeing Hermione’s mouth open to argue - “but they lose their minds because they lack the perspective to understand it’s just a little magic. Barbaric they would call it. We can’t afford not having thicker skins.” Narcissa looked at her with a friendly smirk. “I’m surprised we’ve ever had to have this conversation considering Miss Edgecombe still bears the marks of your handiwork.” 

“That was different -“ Hermione faltered as Narcissa laughed triumphantly with an easy smile on her face. The pureblood stood up and placed her hand on the back of Hermione’s neck bending around to place a playful kiss on her lips, “If you say so, dear.” 


In Wiltshire, Draco had begun his day with what he could only describe as a whiff of absurdity in the air. Astoria had planted a kiss on his cheek to remind him she had to go pick up her new dress for tonight’s dinner, and he nodded through the motions letting habit rescue him from paralysis. 

The young man ran his hand through his blonde hair looking at his reflection wearily. Little sleep had graced him the night before, nerves keeping him tossing and turning as he ran awkward scenario after awkward scenario in his head. Draco’s hand hovered over the seven razors on his counter, the second one floating up to his hand while a boar brush applied a generous layer of lather on his cheeks. He’d been dreading this day since Astoria had persuaded his mother to host a dinner for her and Granger. It was one thing to exchange information and reaffirm uneasy truces while they waited for his mother’s potions, which reminded him… Draco knocked back a small gleaming vial, shivering as the poisons snaked through his body with an acidic burn… But it was a whole other thing to be expected to engage in the formal activities of polite society for a whole dinner. A dark silver tie slithered around his neck looping itself into a full Windsor knot. What would they even talk about for five courses? 

“It’s going to be fine, you know?” Astoria said with a reassuring smile as she smartened his tie.

“Of course, darling.” He said with pursed lips. “I’m sure we’ll all fondly reminisce about our schooldays together. Or perhaps our war days. And if that fails I’m sure conversation of our happy families will rescue the day.”

Astoria laughed gently, not at all put off by her husband’s sarcasm. “Well, if you’re nervous, just imagine how nervous she must be, but it will do you both good. You’ll see.” Draco huffed in response as he fiddled with his cufflinks. “If this ends disastrously I am taking no responsibility.”

“Yes, yes,” Astoria said appeasingly. 

The day trudged on both painfully slow yet terrifyingly quickly. Before he knew it Draco was once more fiddling with his cufflinks whilst he finished arranging his dinning robes. Just as he sat in his favourite chair in the parlour the ancient doorbell rang announcing the arrival of his guests. For a moment Draco was transported back in time to the last time that doorbell had rang with Granger behind it. Dread filled his body as he waited for his aunt’s cackle of magic to fill the room or for Greyback’s stench to reach him. Instead he felt a warm squeeze belonging to his wife bringing him back to the present. 

The door opened and he stood up automatically, bending his head down to the floor respectfully while he felt his heart beating up to his throat. His mother’s shoes appeared in his field of vision and in a second her hand had cupped his cheek lifting his face to kiss the other side. “Thank you for having us, Draco.” She said sincerely, her eyes sparkling with joy. He smiled at her, relaxing ever so slightly at the tenderness in her expression. 

She took a step back revealing the younger witch in muted gold and blue robes. Their eyes locked and both seemed terrified by the sight of the other. Draco took a tentative step towards her and Hermione reciprocated. In a further wave of absurdity he could almost hear his father hissing “Manners!” at him before smacking him on the back of the head. It was his turn to extend his hand to her. 

“Thank you for coming, Granger,” he said awkwardly as they shook hands. 

“Pleasure, Malfoy,” she replied. The other two witches exchanged amused eye rolls and sat down. “The flowers outside look beautiful,” Hermione offered nervously.

“Thank you!” Astoria said with pleased delight. “I’ve always been rather passionate about Herbology. Mummy hated me getting my hands muddy but that’s part of the satisfaction. Do you grow yourself?” 

Hermione looked a little shy under the attention of the three Slytherins. “I’ve always toyed with the idea of growing some of my own materials for potions but the space in Grimmauld Place isn’t very inviting, so I’ve never got around to it.”

“Oh, you know what you should start on then?…”  

Draco reached out to grab a glass that had just popped on a silver tray in the middle of their circle. The elves were under strict instruction to keep the drinks flowing throughout the evening, a small mercy he figured he wouldn’t be alone in appreciating, especially as Granger nervously gulped down half her flute while Astoria and Narcissa commented on indoor plants. With sardonic amusement he noticed that everyone had made the deliberate choice to avoid house colours. He wondered what that said about them.

The Gryffindor was actually sitting in his aunt’s usual chair. He bit his tongue before he accidentally vomited that fact out. It was almost silly what a few years and a number of choices could do, Draco thought to himself. The last time Granger had been in this room he’d been convinced none of them would make it out alive; and with the way Granger sat with her back ram rod straight in attention he imagined she was thinking about that too. Draco almost felt pity for the girl in front of him, he knew how difficult it was to feel enclosed by the same black wooden panels that had once witnessed your screams. The pity stopped short when he remembered the circumstances that precipitated the occasion. Even as the two witches sat in front of him his mind still couldn’t really wrap itself around the idea that they were together. He kept expecting one or both to jump and scream ‘April Fools!’ An occurrence that would make much more sense even though April was more than a quarter year past.

Once all glasses had been emptied a crystal ball on the mantlepiece glowed twice indicating a move to the dinning hall was in order. Draco watched his mother stand up, a renewed joy colouring her graceful movements as she offered her hand to Hermione. A pang of sadness struck his stomach as he failed to remember if his father had ever made her smile like that. Draco leaned onto his cane as they shuffled into the dinning room. The chandeliers shone brightly letting light bounce on the stone columns. No one noticed his brief hesitation before he sat at the head of the table. His father had made a point of reclaiming the seat, and Draco was intent on honouring that wish no matter the nausea involved… the chair was his birthright, so that was that. 

Draco sneaked a glance at the Gryffindor, noticing the way her eyes darted around the room as if making note of every exit. A shameful part of him took satisfaction in her discomfort. The porcelain bowls filled with steaming soup that spread a warm and comforting smell. Her tension was even evident in the uncertain way she held her silver spoon. Guilt flooded his chest. Astoria was right, he was not the most uncomfortable person in the room. Draco took a sip of the soup, enjoying the heat that spread through his chest and wondered what he could possibly say that could be considered an olive branch? The table had fallen quiet and he knew everyone felt the rising tension even though they were all making a concerted effort to seem engrossed by their soup. What was he supposed to say? He couldn’t be expected to conjure confetti her way and he didn’t actually know her beyond the insufferable know-it-all that always dominated attention in class. Well… there was something in that department she could help settle. 

“Granger,” He began as neutrally as possible. All three sets of eyes shot to him. “There’s something I’ve always wondered…” Hermione cocked her head slightly waiting for him to continue. “How did you take all those classes in third year?”

Hermione let out a relieved little laugh. “Oh, boy… did everyone notice?”

“That you were in every class?” Draco’s tone was sarcastic but none of the bite was there. “You did have a fondness for speaking up.”

“But wait,” Astoria said scrunching her face in concentration as she did the mental arithmetic. “You couldn’t have taken every elective, there isn’t enough time.”

Hermione flashed the table a conspiratorial grin and seemed to relax a little. “I’m not supposed to tell… And I’m pretty sure Professor McGonagall could still put me in detention but… time-turner. They gave me a time-turner.” 

Despite themselves, the three Slytherins broke out in a barrage of questions which Hermione seemed game to answer. By the time the four of them were enjoying their delicately stuffed quails the awkwardness had been significantly reduced and Draco found himself almost enjoying the conversation. Almost. The tentative joy being shared at his father’s table tasted bittersweet to him. There was just something about seeing his mother and wife trading sincere smiles over Granger’s company that sent something desperate and nostalgic squirming down his throat. Since the start of the week the portrait of his father had vacated his seat and was still nowhere to be seen. The absence in the frame felt doubled at the table and Draco couldn’t help but feel like the chair he sat in was too big for him.

“I did actually hunt the quails myself,” Draco said in reply to his mother’s question. “Now you can’t complain I don’t get out enough.” His mother smiled fondly at him and he let the conversation move away from him. He took a large sip of wine watching the way the three witches swapped anecdotes easily and tried pinning down the source of his sadness. It would be easy to blame Granger, even easier to direct his discomfort through anger at the Gryffindor. His grip on his fork tightened and he forced himself to consider whether he would have actually preferred McLaggen Sr. in Hermione’s seat. With an imperceptible sigh he relented - it wouldn’t have been that much easier.

Their top plates disappeared leaving the bottom ones empty for the boards of cheese that now filled their end of the table. Draco reached for the Stilton. So this was it. He watched his mother telling Granger to try the Little Dragon by passing her her cheese knife. His father was gone. Intellectually Draco was more than aware that his father had been gone for quite some time now, but as long as his mother remained the solemn widow the door between the present and the past felt cracked open. But here they were, Hermione Granger, of all people, making his mother smile more in one evening than he usually saw her smile in a month. He could almost hear that door slamming shut. Shut to the Christmas mornings when he’d wake up his begrudging parents; shut to his birthday trips to Diagon Alley; shut to the hug they would give him before leaving in September with both sets of arms wrapped tightly around him, his mother’s silent tears falling on his collar while the metal of his father’s ring accompanied the feel of his fingers being run through his hair.

Draco shook his head forcing his attention back to the dinner. “Dessert, anyone?” Astoria asked cheerfully, tapping her fingers twice on the table making individual cups of chocolate mouse appear in front of everyone. “You know if you need any help getting your birthday celebrations in order, I’d be more than happy to help.” 

“Thank you, I expect I will.” Narcissa replied.

Draco gathered his courage and directed his look at the Gryffindor. “You’ll soon be discovering the horrors of trying to buy a gift for my mother.” Hermione blushed but seemed comfortable under Draco’s attention. “I’m glad it seems I won’t be alone in the panic.”

“Not at all,” he replied, “it’s been downhill for me from the day hand drawn cards stopped cutting it.” The two of them actually managed to share a rueful smile.

“Oh, you both make me sound like a harpy!” Narcissa exclaimed with a laugh. “I am not that hard to get presents! And in any case, your company will be more than enough.”

“That’s what she always says,” Draco drawled with mirth. “And that always makes it harder.” 

“Do you agree with this, Astoria?” Narcissa asked feigning offence.

Absolutely not, Cissy, no one could possible be any easier to buy a gift for than you…” The beautiful woman bit her lip trying not to laugh but all four quickly broke.

“Well, on that note I must thank you both for the wonderful meal,” Narcissa said graciously. 

“Yes, I really enjoyed it,” Hermione added. “It was all lovely.”

“The pleasure was ours,” Astoria replied, nudging her husband. “Right, Draco?”

Draco jumped in surprise. “Yes, yes, absolutely. Must do it again sometime.” Narcissa raised an amused eyebrow at him making him feel like a boy caught breaking a vase. “I mean it, mother. I’m glad we did this, Granger.” He said nodding his head at her politely. They moved towards the fireplace and he held out the floo powder to them. 

“You go on first, Hermione,” Narcissa offered gently. The muggleborn took a handful of the powder and threw it into the fireplace. “Grimmauld Place!” 

Narcissa pressed her son in a tight hug. “Thank you, Draco,” she said earnestly. “That meant a lot to me.”

“Of course, mother.” His voice was tight but sincere, and he returned the embrace. Narcissa stepped into the fireplace waving goodbye to the young couple as she disappeared in a roar of green fire. Astoria slipped her arms around her husbands waist, hugging him from behind and placing kisses on his neck. “She seems really happy.”

“Yeah,” he replied noncommittally. 

“They both do.” 

Draco turned around to hug Astoria properly, taking a moment to enjoy the florid smell that hung from her hair. “I-“ Draco hesitated saying what was on his mind. “I miss him,” he spat out. Astoria grabbed his hand guiding him to the door. “He’s not gone” she said reassuringly. 

He was about to open his mouth to contradict her but before he could she nodded at the portrait in the hall. Lucius was back in his seat, hands crossed against his chest, head held up high, pretending to be asleep.