Chapter 19 : Chapter 31
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A short while later Hermione and Draco entered the kitchen together. Ginny was feeding Jamie while Harry was finishing up his breakfast with the other two boys. Neither seemed to suspect anything, for which Hermione was grateful, but both she and Draco could tell something wasn’t quite right between the couple. They were being too polite to each other. Ginny airily brushed off Hermione’s concerned question and got up to get them some food. The four adults settled for listening to the chatter of the children and ignoring the tension in the room. Finally, Harry could take no more of the looks Ginny was shooting at him and said he needed to run an errand. When he got up to leave Hermione kissed and hugged him, and Draco shook his hand. Harry then called out a brief goodbye to his wife and children and apparated away.
They both looked to Ginny to see what was going on, but she put on a smile and said nothing. Not long after that, Hermione said they needed to get going. Her father had gotten tickets for the four of them to a matinee showing of a new play and they didn’t want to be late. With a slew of hugs and sloppy childish kisses from Albie they said their goodbyes and left to finish their weekend.
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
That night Draco and Hermione fell out of the fireplace together, laughing happily. Their visit with her parents had been fun and light; something they both needed after the past few weeks. Her parents provided her with a sense of family and home. And, for Draco, it gave him feelings of ease and acceptance that he’d never known. Most every relationship he’d had in the past had been for gain or protection. With Hermione’s family he didn’t feel the need to showoff or be a Malfoy. They only wanted to know Draco, the man who loved their daughter, the man her mother kept teasing was going to provide them with grandchildren, and he reveled in being that person.
“Shhh, listen,” Hermione said into the quiet living room.
Draco went on instant alert and reached out to pull her back, “What?” he whispered.
She turned her head and smiled at him, “Relax, just listen.”
He looked at her weirdly and then glanced around the room. Nothing seemed amiss. “I don’t hear anything,” he finally commented.
“Exactly! Nothing!” she crowed. “We are finally, completely, totally alone!” She turned in a circle and did a little happy dance, her butt wiggling at him. Then she fell across the sofa giggling to herself.
He shook off the tension in his shoulders as he realized there was no danger and shook his head at her. “Okay, crazy.”
She poked her head over the sofa to look at him with a wide smile, “Come on, Draco. You know you’re happy, too.”
He put the bags he’d been holding down and leaped over the sofa to land on her.
“Woo hoo!” he shouted in her face and then started to tickle her softly.
She laughed and pulled his head down for a quick kiss. But, they soon loss themselves in it and his tickling fingers began to slow and slide over her sides.
When he pulled back to look at her happy face, he grinned back, “Okay, so I’m happy, too. I’ve missed being alone with you.”
“Me, too,” she sighed.
They took a few minutes to enjoy the peace and serenity and then prepared for bed. Each ready to get back to their normal lives.
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
The next couple of weeks passed quietly for them, for which each was very grateful. Draco found his life very changed from only a few months earlier, but he liked it. About a week and a half after they’d gotten back, he’d been sitting in the living room watching a Quidditch game and had grumbled to himself over a bad call. He called Blaise to commiserate, but found he and Beth had gone out. He’d really wanted someone to talk to about it and without giving it too much thought, he had picked up the phone, like it was the most normal thing in the world, and called Harry. Only after the game was done and they hung up did he realize how easy it had been. Hermione kept a beatific smile on her face most of the rest of the day, but had refrained from teasing him about it.
She and Ginny had talked about it though. And, she had admitted to being so happy, she could barely see straight half the time. Even when they fought about normal couple things, or daily life stresses it was so normal and easy that Hermione didn’t let it get to her. They never stayed angry with each other long, and making up was always a lot of fun.
She too, found her life changed. For starters she got regular owls from Blythe and Narcissa. Blythe’s letters were always full of boys, how much she missed school, her boredom, and random facts about Hermione’s life that Blythe found fascinating. Hermione reminded herself to remind Blaise to make sure the girl got to come back and visit before school started.
Narcissa’s letters were entertaining and enlightening. She and Draco shared an afternoon of laughter over Lucius’ reaction to the TV and VCR. He had at first, of course, demanded she return those “infernal muggle contraptions.” And, then Narcissa had explained about getting electricity in the manor and he had blown a gasket. He had apparently blamed Hermione for all the changes to his family and cursed her very existence for over an hour. When he had calmed considerably, Narcissa had reminded him about being able to get 24-hour Quidditch matches, and he had done a 180. He had demanded the room be wired immediately and asked her what was taking her so long to complete such a simple task. The next problem had come a few days later when Narcissa had turned the set on and tried to perform the charm Hermione had shown her. She had put the emphasis on the wrong syllable and the VCR had started to smoke, as the TV smoldered. A distraught Lucius had thrown a freezing charm over the whole thing and suggested Narcissa contact a person who knew the charm correctly before trying again.
Narcissa had been overjoyed that Lucius had asked for Hermione, even in a roundabout way, and asked them to come immediately. She hadn’t wanted to go, so Draco suggested they send a patronus instead, for which Hermione thanked him repeatedly that night.
Thursday night, a few days later, Hermione was closed up in the second room grading papers and Draco finally got to spend some time with Blaise. Beth had signed up for a dance class and left him alone and Blaise had asked Draco to come over and keep him company.
“Damn. He really thought you’d sign it?” Blaise said in shock. “I always knew your Father was crazy, but is he also suicidal?”
Draco laughed. It had been a relief spilling it all to Harry, but this was his best friend. Blaise knew every moment of his life growing up, he knew all that Draco had been through and all the things Lucius had done. He knew Draco. Talking to him was normal and natural. Draco had held back some of it from Harry, but with Blaise, he could tell everything.
“I know. It was all I could do to not kill him on the spot.”
“What did he say?”
Draco took a sip of his firewhiskey and then leaned back against the sofa with his eyes closed, “You’ll never believe it, B. Not in a million years.”
“What? Did he all of a sudden proclaim his unwavering love and support?” Blaise joked.
“Got it in one,” Draco said and then opened his eyes to see Blaise choke on his drink.
“Yeah. He told me he loved me. After almost twenty three years B, he finally said it.”
Blaise sobered and sat forward to look at Draco closely. He knew how much Lucius’ lack of approval and always checked emotions had scarred Draco. “You all right?”
Draco looked at Blaise for a moment before he answered. “Yeah, I think I am. It was really weird, but in a kind of good way, you know? I mean I always guessed he did, but to hear him actually say it was…anyway, there’s more.”
He told Blaise about the lunch meeting and Blaise expressed his shock that Draco had been betrothed to Pansy their entire lives without his knowledge.
“What did they expect to happen if they didn’t tell you?” he asked.
“Well, according to Father, they never thought we would make it out of school without falling for each other.”
“Yuck!” Blaise shuddered. “You and Parkinson?”
“I know, but if you remember, she did seem to really like me, so it wasn’t too farfetched.”
Blaise looked at him, “And, of course, she knew all along, right?”
“Oh yeah,” Draco answered. “And, I am sure I looked pretty good to her with all that potential power.”
“Don’t forget the Malfoy fortune,” Blaise added dryly.
“Yeah,” Draco laughed a little. Then he sobered and sighed, “I still haven’t told Mi about our new bank account.”
“When do you plan to?” Blaise asked with a brow raised.
Draco laughed into his cup, “I was thinking sometime around our fiftieth anniversary.”
“Well, I hate to agree with your father about anything, but he was right about that bit.”
Draco looked at Blaise in question, “What bit?”
“Look, D, you know I love that girl, but she’s not stupid. She has to know that getting with you comes with more money than even she could ever calculate in that big brain of hers. What he said about her accepting you means accepting your money is kind of true. Sorry, but it is.”
“Okay, then you tell her,” Draco sighed. “It’s not the money, so much as the lack of choice in the matter. She’s going to hate my parents even more for just making decisions for us like that.”
“She’ll get over it.”
“I know, but I’m just not ready to fight about it, I guess. And, anyway, there’s more. I haven’t told you or anyone else what happened before I left.”
Blaise listened until Draco got to the end of the story and asked in awe, “Are you gonna use it?”
Draco nodded, “I want to…soon. But, I don’t know if I should.”
“I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes. That’s for sure. Mione’s adversion or Lucius’ pride. You poor bastard.”
Draco rolled his eyes, laid back against the sofa again and sighed, “Thanks for your help, arsehole.”
“Any time, buddy,” Blaise laughed. “I’m here for you.”
‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’ ‘ ’
The end of the first week of August Hermione and Draco finished straightening the apartment and waited for their friends to arrive. The Potter family was coming to celebrate Harry and Ginny’s birthdays. But, since Snoop’s was the day after Ginny’s, she too had been added to the celebration. The party would be at the loft, since it was bigger, but most people were flooing to the apartment first to see her before heading over. They couldn’t go to Ron and Snoop’s as they had stayed at Beth and Blaise’ the night before to help get things ready. What had started as a small get together had blossomed into a huge party. The entire Weasley family was going to attend, as were some of Snoop’s family and friends. Draco had arranged to have an entire floor of a nearby hotel for everyone to stay in, and avoided answering when Hermione had asked how he’d done it.
She reminded herself to ask him about it again later as she fixed the candles on the mantle one last time. When she turned he was staring at her butt again, a thing she’d gotten used to over time. Then his eyes slid up to meet hers.
“Come here,” he said with a smile as he crooked his finger at her across the room.
She smiled, but shook her head, “No. You come here.”
He gave her an evil smirk as he advanced on her from across the living room. The look in his eye was hot enough to melt her on the spot and she leaned back against the mantle to wait for his assault. When he stood in front of her, she felt her body sway toward him. She felt, rather than saw, his hand come up as she stared into his eyes and shivered in anticipation of it sliding up her body. Just when she thought she could hold her breath no longer, he finally leaned down putting his lips within her reach.
“You have some soot on her butt,” he whispered against her lips.
“Mmm,” she sighed in expectation. Then his words registered, “What?!”
He chuckled and reached around her to brush the dirt off of her, “I said you had soot on your beautiful butt. It was obstructing my view.” When she laughed and tried to wiggle away from his patting hand, he added, “No matter, all better now.”
Hermione noticed that his hand hadn’t left her, and raised a brow as his other reached around to join its match on her other cheek.
“Did I have dirt there, as well?” she asked cheekily.
He shrugged, “Can’t be too careful, can we?”
She laughed against him as he pulled her closer, “We have guests coming any minute, remember?”
“I know,” he answered. Then his smirk appeared as he slid his hands up her body, slowly melding them together, “Just getting one last good feel for the day.”
She would have laughed if he hadn’t turned his head at that moment and captured her lips. She sighed in contentment as his lips massaged hers casually and put her hands on his slim hips to hold him there. He opened his lips to deepen the kiss, but they were interrupted by the chiming of her fireplace bells, announcing the arrival of the first of the guests.
They stepped away from the fireplace just as Ginny stumbled out, holding Jamie tightly against her chest. Draco jerked forward to catch her before she fell and she rewarded him with a smile as she grabbed on to his arm.
“Any time,” he smiled back.
Hermione joked, “You can let go of him anytime now and remember your best friend is in the room.”
Ginny laughed with her and leaned forward for a hug. Hermione took Jamie and started to uncover the well-wrapped child, as Harry stepped out holding Albie.
“Hey Harry,” Hermione called. “What about Teddy?”
Harry shook hands with Draco and then grimaced as he answered, “Hey, Mione. He’s coming with Molly.
Ginny wiped the soot off of Albie and laughed, “He’s not talking to his father right now.”
Harry threw her a look and mumbled under his breath. Draco sat down on the sofa and caught Albie, who had launched himself at him, and laughed, “Trouble?”
Before he could answer Molly and Teddy fell through together. Molly was red in the face and holding a struggling Teddy.
He pushed away from her shouting, “I wanted to do it myself, Grandma!”
Molly harumphed and proceeded to clean the squirming, whining child. When he was clean he pulled away and went to sit on the window seat, his tiny arms folded across his chest.
Hermione had watched the whole thing with her mouth slightly open. She turned to Ginny in question.
Ginny’s voice was low as she shook her head, “Someone thinks he’s old enough to floo on his own.”
Molly joined them at the bar with a harassed look on her face, “That child is going to be the death of me!”
“I’m sorry, Mom,” Ginny said. “But, he’s growing up.”
“Yeah, well, he’s worse than Bill was at that age!”
Hermione laughed and looked over to see Draco and Harry talking quietly. They were laughing over some shared joke and then Draco put Albie down and beckoned to Teddy, who dragged his feet as he walked over to the two men. She couldn’t hear what was said from across the room, but she saw the little boy shake his head once, then nod twice. Finally, his little shoulders drooped and he looked at his father and she saw him say he was sorry. Harry looked at Draco in a bit of surprise, but opened his arms to his son.
Hermione smiled at the scene and thought what a good father Draco would make someday.
“And, then the blast-ended skrewt took him away,” Ginny said loudly into her ear.
“What? Who?!” Hermione said in surprise.
Molly and Ginny both laughed, and Molly said, “Stare at that boy any harder, Hermione, and you’re going to put a hole through him.”
“I can’t help it,” she smiled.
Ginny laughed, “So, where is this hotel place we’re staying at tonight?”
“Only a couple of blocks,” Hermione answered. Then more to herself than them, she said, “I still have no idea how he plans to pay for all of them though.”
Molly and Ginny looked at her as if she’d lost her mind.
Molly finally laughed, as Hermione’s statement had to have been a joke, “I’m sure he can find some pocket change to turn over into muggle money.”
“Yeah, but on his salary…even if you add in mine, which he didn’t, I just don’t think he can afford…” she shook her head.
Ginny laughed a little, “You do know who you’re dating, right?”
“Draco,” Hermione answered, confusion about the question clear in her voice.
“Malfoy,” Ginny added.
Molly nodded, “As in Malfoy of the European Malfoys. As in heir to the Malfoy fortune.”
Ginny laughed, “You can’t possibly have let that teeny weeny factoid slip your mind. He’s got more bloody money than everyone in this room put together a thousand times over! Of course, he can pay for the rooms. Hell, he could probably buy the whole hotel.”
Hermione shook her head at them in horror, “No. That’s his father’s money!”
“And, in all those years that he stalked the halls of Hogwarts telling anyone who would listen about all of HIS wealth, it didn’t dawn on you that he just might get some of his father’s money?” Ginny asked in abject shock.
Hermione shook her head wordlessly as the truth of it crashed over her. Both women watched her face lose all of its color and they looked worriedly at each other.
Molly then put her hand on Hermione’s and said softly, “He’s still the same man, Mione.”
“No. I mean, yes, I know he is…it’s just…he works, hard…everyday, and I thought…I mean, I assumed…I guess I kinda forgot that he’s a Malfoy.”
“Breathe,” Ginny commanded. Then she smiled at her friend, “While it’s endearing that you are so naïve sometimes, it doesn’t change the facts. Fact one, he’s got more money than you’ll ever be able to count. Fact two, you love him. Fact three, he loves you. And, fact four, if you marry him, even without your own considerable fortune, you’ll be able to buy and sell my ass twice over, and believe me, Harry’s no slouch in the money department.”
Hermione blushed, but was saved from comment as more people began to pour out of her fireplace. In quick succession people tumbled out of the fireplace and into each other. Harry and Draco got up to help people right themselves and the noise level rose as the rest of the Weasley family arrived.
Hermione watched Draco smile at a very pregnant Angelina, happily greet a flirtatious Fleur, and laugh over something with Charlie and his wife, Cynthia. Then she noticed him stiffen and step back a bit as Percy stepped through, carefully avoiding being bumped by his father, who came through last. She didn’t know which man made him more uncomfortable; Arthur who he knew disliked and mistrusted him, or Percy who had been instrumental in putting him in Azkaban.
She moved across the room and placed her hand on the small of his back and felt him immediately relax against her. But, she noticed the smile on his face was still a bit forced. She rubbed his back a little as she called out over the din to ask if anyone wanted a drink.
Several orders were called out and she made her way through them, Draco’s hand in hers, to fix the mix of juices, sodas, and other drinks. He helped get the adults’ drinks together, as she fixed the large number of children their various requests. She heard music start to play from the radio and looked over to see Arthur, George and Percy crowded around it. She wondered what they were discussing, but her attention was soon pulled away as she started answering the calls of the many children asking for their drinks, some grumbling at how hungry they were, too. It was so reminiscent of her classroom, she felt herself putting on her McGonagall face.
Draco noticed and before she could call them to order, took the tray of drinks from her and laughingly offered, “Hey guys, why don’t you give Aunt Hermione a break. Come see what we put together for you!”
They had worked together to turn the spare room into a play room for the day, and charmed it to twice its normal size. Molly, Fleur and Ginny followed to see where they were going and Hermione laughed at seeing her manly, refined and often restrained boyfriend being jumped on by the six excited children.
The noise level in the living room had gone down a fraction when she went back to finish the drinks.
“He’s really good with children,” Angelina commented from the barstool she reclined against. “I never would have guessed it.”
Cynthia leaned across the bar to grab a can of soda, “Was he really that bad back then?”
Hermione laughed, “Worse than you could imagine.” She quickly floated the drinks to their owners and turned back to the two laughing women.
Hermione glanced around and saw Harry talking to Bill and Charlie on the sofa. She heard the word Quidditch and shook her head with a laugh.
Cynthia took a sip of her drink and asked, “So, everything’s okay between you two?”
“Perfect,” Hermione answered without hesitation. Then she noticed the look that passed between the other two, “Why do you ask?”
Angelina shrugged, “I would’ve thought he would be mad longer. I mean, being tailed by your father and Ron couldn’t have sat well with him.”
Neither noticed Hermione’s face drain of color, for the second time in under and hour, as Cynthia nodded, “That’s why I asked if he was really all that bad back then, if he’s handling it so well now.”
Finally, Hermione’s shock got through to Angelina. She closed her eyes a moment and then asked, “You didn’t know, did you?”
Hermione’s eyes flew from her face to Mr. Weasley’s. “Please tell me you’re joking,” she whispered harshly.
Both women looked sadly at her, and Angelina with a voice tinged in sorrow said, “Oh, gods, Mione. I’m sorry. We thought you knew.”
“And, it’s over. Harry made them stop,” Cynthia added quickly. “Ginny told him…”
“They knew?!” Hermione shouted.
Everyone turned to see a red-faced Hermione and the shame-faced looks of both Cynthia and Angelina. No one knew what had caused Hermione’s outburst and they waited to see what had happened. It was into the silence that Ginny and Molly stepped back into the room, their laughter sounding very loud in the room.
Ginny stopped abruptly when she saw the look on Hermione’s face, “What? What happened?”
“How could you?!” Hermione exploded as she advanced on the younger woman.
“How could I what?” Ginny gasped as she took a step back from the angry woman.
But, Hermione turned to face Harry, “And, you!” Then she turned her head to pin Arthur with a harsh stare, “And, you!”
Arthur was the one to realize what she upset about, “Mione, dear, we just wanted to make sure you were safe. We didn’t think…”
“Exactly!” she bit out. “You didn’t think! You and Ron, both. I knew you didn’t like that I was dating Draco, but to stoop to this! Spying!”
“Arthur, you didn’t!” Molly squeaked in horror.
His face reddened and then flushed, “Molly, Ron and I…”
Molly stepped forward, her hands on her hips, “You spied on him?!”
“No, only him,” he said, as if that made things better. “And, Harry suggested we stop, so we did.”
Ginny felt Draco behind her, but didn’t turn around. She wanted to make sure they both knew her part in it. And, that she was on their side.
“Mione, listen to me, please.”
Hermione turned her head to look at Ginny. She saw Draco’s pale, angry face behind her friend and wanted to cry. He had just come to think of them all as friends. The betrayal on his face made her gut twist.
“I promise you on our friendship that I didn’t know. Not until the weekend you two stayed with us. That’s when I found out.”
Things fell into place for Hermione, “That’s why you were fighting.”
Ginny let out a relieved sigh, “Yes. I wanted to strangle them myself. All of them. Ron and Dad for doing it and Harry for letting them.
“Gin, I told you…” Harry started to say, but was cut off by his wife.
“You let them!” she hissed, angry all over again. “Mione, he did make them stop that day. That’s why he left so suddenly.” Ginny then reminded herself that it wasn’t just Hermione who needed explanations. “After you two went to bed that night, we talked. Harry realized how much he liked Draco. And, he told me how happy he was for the both of you. How good you are together. Then he admitted to feeling guilty about everything Dad and Ron were doing.”
Draco’s eyes met Harry’s over Ginny’s head. Harry looked so sorrowful, apologetic and guilty that Draco swallowed some of his anger, not all, but some.
Ginny continued to speak to Hermione, but she knew she had the attention of everyone in the room, so she said her next words with care, “I will not speak for Harry, it’s his job to apologize for himself. But, please know, I love you, Mione. And, I’m starting to really care for Draco, too. I would never be part of something that would hurt either of you.”
Hermione saw Draco’s eyes close as he drew in a calming breath. She saw some of the pain had left his face and looked at Ginny, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Mione, we’re talking about my father, brother and husband! And, no matter how wrong they were, I couldn’t do that to them. I did what I could. I had Harry put a stop to it. But, honestly, think about it, if you were in my shoes, what would you have done?”
Draco took the small break in their conversation to step forward. He placed his hand on Ginny’s shoulder to silently accept her plea for forgiveness and thank her for her loyalty and acceptance. Then he moved past her to Harry.
Hermione still fumed, but knew it wasn’t really her fight.
“Draco, I’m really sorry. Truly,” Harry said. He looked at the man in front of him, who he was coming to think of as a friend and sighed, “I know this puts us back a step, and I know you have no reason to believe me, but I am. My only excuse for letting it happen is that Hermione means more to me than you will ever know. I knew your history. I knew what you used to be capable of. And, as much as I wanted to believe you had changed, I couldn’t let myself completely.”
Draco held himself stiffly as he asked, “So, what did they find out, Potter?”
Harry’s face flushed a bit at the use of his last name, but he held Draco’s stare, “I don’t know. I didn’t ask.”
“What?” Draco asked, his eyebrow high.
Harry sighed, “Draco, I might not have stopped it, but I didn’t condone it, either. I wouldn’t invade your privacy like that.” Then he looked over at Hermione, “Or, yours.”
Draco seemed to contemplate Harry’s words for a moment. The only sounds in the apartment were the shouts and laughter from the children in the other room, and the soft sniffles from Cynthia and Ginny. He looked over at Hermione and saw the anger and sadness on her face. He knew it was for him, and that helped him with his next answer. He looked back at Harry.
His voice was forceful, but soft as he said, “I am going to trust you, Pot…Harry. I am going to trust that you wouldn’t lie about this, maybe to me, but not to Hermione. I am going to trust that you will have them destroy whatever it is they found. I don’t know or care what they may or may not have seen over the past few months. I am going to TRUST you, Harry, to trust me. This ends here.”
He looked at the other occupants of the room as he continued to speak. His voice whipped out over the gathering, not loud, but as forceful as if he’d yelled. “I know who I was, who I am and what I did. And, I paid for it, dammit! It is time for all of you to move on.” Then he looked at Arthur, “You didn’t just invade my privacy, Weasley, you invaded Hermione’s. With the history between your family and mine I could almost understand, even commend, you on your actions against me. But, I will not, because your biggest crime wasn’t spying on me, it was hurting her! I want you to look at her. Look at her! You did that. YOU and that idiot ass you call a son! In all your investigations of me, did it never occur to you that she was there, too? That you were spying on the person you claim to love as a daughter!”
Arthur Weasley looked into the brown eyes of the woman he had watched grow up. He still saw the young girl she had been; the girl he had hoped would grow old with his son. He had seen that look of hurt and betrayal on her face many times during their school years, and more so during and after The Fall. But he had never been the one to put it on her face. He didn’t care about Malfoy’s feelings, well, not too much, but the father in him crumbled as she looked back at him one tear sliding down her flushed cheek.
“Mione, I…I’m,” he stuttered.
Ginny stepped away from her mother and looked at her father, “I think you should go back home, Dad.”
“But, Gin, your birthday party and…”
She shook her head at him and looked away.
He turned to look at the rest of his family and saw the looks of shock and disappointment on their faces. He turned to look at Harry and saw the younger man look away from him. Last, he turned to his wife.
“Just go home, Arthur,” she said tiredly, refusing to meet his gaze. “We’ll talk when I get back.”
With a resigned sigh he moved slowly across the room to the fireplace. Then with his back to the room he said, “I want you to know, the rest of my family had nothing to do with this. They knew nothing of it until today. It was just Ron and me. And, as insufficient as it is to say now, I do apologize. I didn’t want to hurt you Hermione. I would never want that. I’m so very sorry I…we did. And, Draco, you should know, we found nothing. You were…clean. I apologize to you, too.”
Draco crossed his arms, his face impassive, “I don’t care what you did or didn’t find, Weasley. I want it all destroyed. Gone. I will not have our personal life out there for just anyone to find and exploit. Then, just maybe, I won’t press charges.”
Hermione looked at Draco and for the first time saw the boy she’d known in school. His anger was evident in his sneer; his body held rigidly in protective haughtiness at the insult shown him. Only his eyes showed the hurt. Had she glanced around the room, she would have seen that everyone else saw it, too.
Arthur nodded. His face wet from his silently shed tears he turned to look back at Draco and opened his mouth to speak again. Draco stopped him.
He looked at the older man and saw his tortured sorrow. His voice was soft, but confident, as he said, “I am not my father, Weasley. His sins are not mine. You need to get used to that. But, I do protect what is mine as fiercely as he does. And, whether you want to accept it or not, that now includes Hermione. It is your decision from this point forward. It ends now…or never. Your choice.”
Arthur nodded once, “It ends now.” With one last glance around the room at his family, he stepped into the fireplace and was gone.
In the silence that followed, no one moved. They all stared at each other, unsure what to do to move forward. Finally, Draco took a breath and let it out slowly, breaking the tension.
Harry took a chance and stepped forward, “I really am sorry. I should have stopped it.”
Draco fell back on the comfort of sarcasm, “Yes, you are sorry. But, one thing has nothing to do with the other.”
Angelina giggled a little at the comment, and everyone else followed her lead. The laughter was nervous, but needed.
Draco smirked a little at his own joke, but still needed time to let go of some of his anger. He knew the people left had little if anything to do with it. And, he believed Harry and Ginny’s story. But, he didn’t need the looks of sympathy. He just needed time to himself. “I’m going to check on the children.”
Hermione stepped forward. He smiled a little, but he shook his head at her and kept walking.
When he disappeared into the playroom, she turned to face the room.
Cynthia wailed, “I am so sorry, this is all my fault!”
Charlie put his arm around his wife, “Cyn, no.”
“No, it’s mine, I shouldn’t have said anything,” Angelina added on a hiccup.
Ginny looked at Hermione and said, “I should have…”
Hermione shook her head, “Stop. All of you, most of you did nothing wrong. And, those who did,” her eyes went from Ginny to Harry, “have explained themselves. I actually somewhat understand why it was done. I don’t like it, I don’t appreciate it, but I…we will get past this, I’m sure. Now, Bill, George, could one of you turn the radio back on please. It’s too quiet in here. I’m just going to go get some snacks from the kitchen.”
She turned to walk to the kitchen, but Ginny’s quiet voice stopped her.
She knew what Ginny was asking. She needed Hermione to say she was forgiven. Hermione wasn’t yet ready to absolve Ginny, so she didn’t turn to look at her as she said, “I need a minute, Gin. Just give me a minute.”
When Ginny didn’t reply, Hermione went into her kitchen and shut the door. After taking a breath, she placed a silencing charm on the kitchen and sent one to her bedroom. With a then muffled pop, she stood next to her bed and waited for Draco to come to her. She didn’t wait long before he stepped into the room quietly.
“How’d you…” he asked in surprise.
She sent him a “duh” look and then walked across the room to him. When she stood barely an inch from him, she looked up at him and whispered, “I am so sorry.”
He let out a harsh laugh, “What the hell for? You didn’t do anything. It was your damn friends.”
“I know, but, I feel like…”
He pushed away from her and paced the room, “Stop with the martyrdom, Hermione. This wasn’t your fault, and you will not take on their damned guilt!”
She jumped a little when he snapped at her, but he continued, “Hell of an agent I am. Being tailed and I didn’t even know it. The sad thing is I should have expected it. I’m surprised Father hasn’t done it to you. If only Weasley knew how much like Father he is, he’d curl up and die. And, Harry…he…ARGH!”
Draco fell back across the bed with his arm flung over his eyes. “This new friends shit sucks!”
Hermione almost laughed, but she held it back and sat on the bed next to him, “The reason I said I was sorry, was because I know Harry being a part of it hurt you. I know you felt…feel betrayed. And, I am sorry for that.”
Draco lowered his arm and looked at her. Then he reached out to slide his hand down her face, his thumb caressing her lips, “He did it for you.”
She nodded, but could think of nothing to say.
“As, Blaise would have done for me.”
She looked at him in confusion and he continued, “I can forgive that kind of loyalty, Mi. I’m barely upset with Ginny or him. It’s the fact that I have to go spend the afternoon trying not to kill that red-headed asshole in front of his family that I am trying to swallow.”
She smiled softly and leaned down to give him a kiss before she straightened and smirked, “No worries there, love, his family may do it for you. Now, you ready to go back out there?”
He nodded and sat up. She stood and started to move away, but he grabbed her wrist and pulled her back in front of him.
She looked down at him, “Draco?”
He smirked and put his hands on her hips to pull her between his legs, “What do I get for being such a forgiving person and giving the Potters another chance?”
She giggled, “What is it you want?”
He quirked a brow and leaned forward to lift her shirt and kiss her stomach. She put her hands in his hair and enjoyed the sensation of his tongue swirling over her belly button. But, when his hands moved up to cup her breasts, she stopped him. “We have A LOT of people just outside that door, remember?”
He squeezed once as he nodded, “Okay, but you owe me.”
“And, I always make good on my debts,” she smiled before she leaned down to give him one last kiss.
She removed the charms she had set and together they went back to the living room.
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Author’s Notes –
Every read is a treasure, every review a gift. And, I thank each and every one of you!
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