Chapter 4 : For the Better
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Hermione was frantic. The entire contents of her closet had been strewn across her room. If someone had entered her room, they probably would’ve guessed an earthquake had occurred. Or perhaps a tornado. Skirts, woolen sweaters, makeup, shoes, jeans, and even robes were thrown wildly across her room. She stared, a little distressed, at her favorite pair of jeans. She was only in her tank top and shorts, still searching for the perfect outfit.
“What are you doing, Hermione?” She asked aloud to herself, “It’s a simple meeting with a man, and you’re losing it.” She sighed, picking up the light-washed jeans and changing into them.
You want to impress him, the nasty little voice at the back of her head sneered, you want him to think you look fantastic.
Was it really true? She flopped across her bed, staring at the ceiling. It was Draco Malfoy, after all. She had hated him. But why, now, did her heart flutter at the sight or thought of him? His alluring gray eyes, perhaps. Or maybe his perfect hair, or even his body…
“ARGH!” Frustrated, she stood up and changed into a simple white blouse, brushed her hair carelessly, and stormed out of the door. Why did she feel so odd? After her talk with Ginny the night before, she thought she had cleared her mind. They had talked about Ron’s death over butterbeers. Two hours later, they were both crying, but felt better after talking about it. They did this sometimes, and Hermione had often wondered if Ginny had figured that Hermione might not have loved Ron the way she thought she did.
Hermione often sat at home at the dinner table, chin in hand, thinking deeply about her past decisions. She had back-up support, of course, in why she thought of Ronald as more of a friend than a beloved husband. Ron had never given up his chains of teasing and to Hermione, they didn’t seem romantic or cute. He also left on business, as he was also in the Auror department. However, Hermione’s job had her in London only, while Ron traveled everywhere, from Cairo to Rome to Athens. The problem was, he didn’t seem to miss her, no matter how long the trip. He just didn’t seem to love her, and Hermione detested that, being the romance-obsessed person that she was.
She sighed, then Apparated to Diagon Alley. She hung around the Leaky Cauldron for a while, nodding to the barman, Tom’s son or something. Suddenly, a flash of platinum blonde caught her eye. Of course.
“M- I mean, Draco!’ She called over to him. He was leaning against the wall by the door, his eyes sweeping the pub. When he heard his name, he jolted slightly and spotted Hermione. A small smirk across his face, he made her way towards her.
“I didn’t really believe it was you,” he replied simply, “I thought that Hermione out of all people would shun the fact that I had a first name.”
“Very funny,” Hermione smiled, “You should be happy that I used your first name. It means that I’ve chosen not to harass you in any way.”
Malfoy, or Draco, whatever, shrugged, “I never said that I wasn’t happy. Come on, let’s go over to Florean’s for ice cream.”
“All right,” Hermione agreed, although she had been expecting coffee or butterbeer.
Draco had ordered a double-scoop vanilla with nuts, and Hermione had ordered a single-scoop strawberry. He quickly paid for her, shaking his head when she tried to pull out her coins. “Next time,” he advised her.
She took the cone appreciatively with a small smile. They took a seat outside at a table with a flowery umbrella, and Draco launched into conversation.
“So, the Aurors think that I’m hiding Dark objects.”
“I suppose so,” Hermione answered thoughtfully, licking her ice cream, “I mean, your dad…”
Draco groaned instantly, putting his face in his hands. Still behind them, he mumbled, “Here we go- it’s all about my father again.”
She cocked her head, “You dislike him?”
He thought about this for a while, then answered, “It’s not that I disliked him. You can’t just- hate your father. It’s not…right. He was just too…puppet-like.”
“He passed away, didn’t he?” Hermione asked softly. She regretted asking, but she wanted to know, really.
“Yes, he did. At least it wasn’t in Azkaban…”
There was a silence, but it wasn’t awkward or timid. It was as if the two of them were both mourning, and their tacit understanding was odd, but interesting.
“But I suppose we should speak of something less depressing,” Draco finally lifted his head and smiled at her.
“Of course,” Hermione agreed, “How is Scorpius doing, then?”
“Just like his father, as everyone says,” Draco answered good-naturedly, “He’s the most stubborn child I know.”
“Unless you count Rose,” she laughed, licking her ice cream again, “She’s stubborn beyond belief.”
“Just like her mother, then?” Draco arched an eyebrow at her with a quick wink.
Hermione blushed, but pretended to contradict, “I’m not stubborn.”
“Right,” Draco snorted, “Not stubborn.”
She laughed, “Okay, maybe a little bit. But so were you!” She added defiantly.
“I’m not denying that,” he replied. “Anyways. How are you, Hermione?” He asked quite sincerely, taking a lick from his ice cream.
“I- I’m fine, I guess,” she faltered, and she knew that he caught the hesitancy.
“What’s wrong?” He furrowed his eyebrows immediately.
“It’s nothing,” she waved her hand at it, “Don’t worry about it.”
He still looked dubious, but he nodded, “All right. Did you want to go anywhere else?”
What was going on? This didn’t seem like the Draco Malfoy she’d known for years. What had happened to him? He was more mature, for sure. But he also seemed more compassionate and understanding. Hermione’s head spun. It didn’t seem quite right, but the personality that he had was just- perfect for him.
“I should probably drop by the Apothecary,” she stood up, straightening. Her ice cream was completely gone now, and she wiped her hands on a napkin.
“Me, too,” Draco agreed, “I’m all out of ingredients.”
On their way to the Apothecary, Hermione finally plucked up the courage to ask, “Draco- do you think we’re too old to be- well- I mean- doing this?”
Draco didn’t answer at first. He looked down at his hands, “Are you saying there’s an age limit on hanging out with old classmates?”
Hermione sighed, “You know what I mean, Draco. Don’t you consider this- I don’t know…a date?”
“Yes, I do,” he answered slowly, “But I don’t think we’re too old for it. Unless you need to take medications or something because you can’t keep up with me.”
“That’s not funny,” she narrowed her eyes, but laughed, “I’m not that old. And I can certainly keep up with you.”
“I doubt that,” he smirked again, a glint in his eyes, “But we’ll leave that off for later, shall we?” He winked at her as they walked into the Apothecary.
She blushed at his suggestive words and his heart-melting wink, but followed him inside anyway. The Apothecary was unusually quiet, as it was a Thursday, and most people were at work. There were several older men and women who were grumbling and complaining, but otherwise, the shop was empty.
She purchased all of her necessary ingredients, then turned to find Draco again. He was nowhere to be seen. Sighing exasperatedly, she walked towards the back of the shop to find him.
“Draco?” She called out.
Someone jumped out from behind her and grasped her shoulders suddenly. She shrieked in surprise and swung around quickly. Sure enough, it was Draco.
Her heart still beating wildly, she closed her eyes, “That wasn’t funny, either.”
“Oh, I don’t know…I found it to be quite amusing,” Draco grinned, “Now will you believe that you can’t keep up with me?”
“No,” she answered firmly, “I cannot possibly be that ridiculously old.”
They left the Apothecary, laughing, and things began to ease up between them. They walked aimlessly down Diagon Alley, talking about Hogwarts, their children, life in general, even Quidditch. They spent some time arguing as well, and Hermione found herself enjoying their debates. Draco was nothing like Ron when arguing. He didn’t let her win that easily, like Ron did. Ron had always just given up, storming for the next hour or so. But Draco argued light-heartedly but continuously. Hermione found it to be interesting, and they moved through topics quite quickly.
I haven’t had this much fun in years, she thought to herself. He really knows what he’s talking about, too. It was fulfilling to talk with him, and she couldn’t imagine them ever running out of things to argue or chat about. Ron wasn’t ever like this, was he?
She felt like she was trying to make herself forget Ron- to forget that she had married him. After all, he had been her husband for years, she couldn’t forget that.
Before she knew it, it was three already. We’ve been talking for six hours?? She was shocked that she could ever hold such an extended conversation with someone she had detested for years.
“How about I buy you lunch?” Draco suggested, “I suspect you’re nearly as hungry as I am.”
She nodded, “All right, but this time, I’m paying.”
He thought for a moment, then agreed, “That’s only fair, I suppose.”
They ate lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, talking over steaks and salad. Hermione found herself to be fully immersed in everything they spoke about, and she was thoroughly enjoying herself.
Maybe it’ll be all right, she thought to herself, Maybe he’s changed for the better. After all, I wouldn’t really mind if he did.
A/N: Yay! Another chapter finished. Anyhow, I’m really sorry if you thought this chapter went by way too slow. The next one will be more eventful. Rate and review, my friends!
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