”I don't get you Gryffindors. You can't leave your friend alone for one minute if you think there's something wrong with them? Jeez, I bet that's annoying.”
Hermione smiled at him, her eyes twinkling merrily. ”You'll get used to it.”
It had been over six weeks since Hermione had last seen her parents, and now that they were coming to visit her at the safe house, she was excited to see them, but also a bit nervous. She knew they must have been worried sick about her, for it had always been a bit difficult for them to understand the magical world. Having their only daughter kidnapped by the cruellest group in such a strange society probably hadn't made it any easier. She'd most likely have to reassure her parents and make them believe that she could handle things and that they didn't need to try and protect her or anything like that. It was her life and she would live it her way.
Hermione's uncomfortable fidgeting and the worried facial expressions she sported at breakfast tipped Draco off to her restlessness. He knew she hadn't slept well. Their rooms were side by side, and he'd heard her tossing and turning in her bed for a long time before finally falling asleep. Obviously he hadn't been trying to listen to what she was doing, he'd just heard it...involuntarily, of course.
”You didn't sleep too well last night, did you?” he asked.
”No, not really,” Hermione admitted. ”I guess I had a lot on my mind. I haven't seen my parents in a long time, and...well...I was afraid of falling asleep. You know, because of that nightmare.”
“You didn't want to have another one?” Draco asked quietly.
She shook her head.
“Of course you didn’t, but you can't keep avoiding sleep, you know that, right?” he continued concernedly.
“Yeah, I know. I'm sure it'll get better once all this hassle goes away, but thanks for looking after me,” she replied, smiling.
The rest of the morning went by quickly, and before she knew it, it was time to get ready to see her parents. The Grangers would be brought straight to the living room, so that's where she waited for them. She had only just sat down when she heard the familiar popping sound of Apparition. She turned and saw that her parents were on either side of Kingsley Shacklebolt, who had undoubtedly managed to calm their nerves significantly. They rushed to wrap their daughter in a massive hug,Hermione's mother droppingthe ginger cat she had been holding in her arms in the process. They heard an angry meow, but none of them seemed to notice. Kingsley subtly left the room to give them some privacy.
“My darling, I'm so glad you're alright,” Mrs. Granger cried in Hermione's hair. Mr. Granger was wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, too.
They spent the next couple of hours talking in the living room. Crookshanks sat in Hermione's lap all the while, purring contentedly. Just as she had predicted, she had to convince her parents there was no need for her to leave the magical world behind. The protection she had was far better when she wasn't amongst Muggles and she reminded her parents about Harry and Ron – two boys the Grangers had grown quite fond of and who were also extremely protective of her.
“But it wasn't Harry and Ron who saved you this time, was it?” Mr. Granger asked, furrowing his brows.
“No,” she replied, “not this time...”
Hermione told them about the boy that she and her friends had hated back at school, but who had,surprisingly, proven to be quite heroic.He'd left his whole life behind him in order to help her escape. Mr. and Mrs. Granger were both eager to meet the boy who had saved their daughter, and their chance finally came when Tonks informed them that dinner was ready.
Crookshanks kept fussing at Hermione's feet as they made their way to the dining room. The table had been neatly set and, as the Grangers entered the room, Crookshanks headed straight Draco’s chair and settled comfortably in his lap.
Hermione's brows shot up. “Look at that,” she mused. “I think he likes you.”
As Draco hesitantly patted the cat, Mr. Granger walked over to him and offered his hand. Draco shook hands with Hermione's father from where he sat, as the rather large cat in his lap prohibited him from standing.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Granger,” he nodded politely.
“The pleasure is all mine, young man,” the older man said. “I hear you've risked your life to rescue my daughter. I want you to know that you will always be welcome in our home.”
“Oh...thank you,” Draco said and glanced at Hermione.
She didn't hear the rest of their short conversation, as her mother leaned in closer and began to speak.
“What a charming young man,” the woman whispered, clearly impressed. “When are you bringing him home with you?”
“I'm just saying, darling,” Mrs. Granger replied with a sly smile. “The boy is rather fetching.Just think of how beautiful your children would be!”
“Oh my god, mum, stop that! I'm not having children with him!” Hermione hissed in embarassment.
“A woman can always dream,” her mother replied, heaving a great sigh and ignoring the appalled look on her daughter's face. “Let's sit down for dinner, shall we?”
Hermione sat down, looking at her mother with wide, wary eyes. The woman had better keep her mouth shut – it would be beyond embarrassing if she voiced her wish for grandchildren in front of everyone! Besides, Harry and Ron were also in the room, and they would tear Draco apart if he made even the tiniest comment on the subject. She was sure he would, too.
Against her better judgement, she decided to steal a glance at the blond. He raised a questioning eyebrow at her as their eyes met. Hermione pursed her lips and shook her head. There was no way she would ever tell him what her mother had said.
The dinner was pleasant, even though Hermione kept constant watch of her mother in case she would blurt out something embarassing. Luckily, she didn't, and it was soon time for Kingsley to take the Granger couple back home. The whole group proceeded to the lobby to say their goodbyes, Hermione straining her ears to listen to what her mother said to Draco. To her relief, it didn't seem too bad. The woman's words to her daughter were another story, however.
“Hermione, darling, I feel much better about you staying here now. I can see you're in good company,” she stated and smiled in a pleased manner. “Do make the most of your time here.”
”Thanks, mum. I'll try my best,” the girl replied and rolled her eyes before waving goodbye to her parents.
* * *
A couple of hours later, Hermione noticed that she hadn't seen her cat for a while. She searched the whole house, calling for her pet, but he was nowhere to be seen. Of course, there was still one room she hadn't checked. It was a room she had been avoiding. It seemed she would have to face Draco if she wanted to find her cat.
Indeed, Crookshanks was lying on Draco's bed, purring loudly as the boy scratched him. Looking up at the newcomer, Draco gave her a crooked smile.
“Hey there. Looking for this furball, are you?”
“He's not a furball,” Hermione protested and crossed her arms. She thought about remaining in the doorway, but it seemed that Crookshanks was enjoying himself too much to get up. Sighing, she closed the door and went to sit on the bed, too.
“He is a bit lazy, though,” she continued irritably.
“Too right he is,” Draco replied with a chuckle. “He came in, laid down, and hasn't moved since. I guess he likes the attention.”
Hermione didn't reply so Draco decided to change the subject. “Your parents seem nice. What do they do for a living?”
”They're dentists. They take care of people's teeth,” she told him.
”Right...teeth,” he said and nodded in comprehension. Suddenly, he remembered something that made him frown. ”Hey...didn't you use to have, uh...large teeth?”
To his surprise, she grinned. He had hesitated in asking the question because he knew girls could be touchy when it came to their appearance. Apparently, Hermione wasn't one of those girls.
”I did, actually. I should probably thank you for getting rid of them,” she said with a smile. “Remember when you hit me with the Densaugeo hex back in fourth year?”
Draco looked rather uncomfortable and she giggled. “Oh, don't worry about it, it got better after that. Madam Pomfrey shrunk my teeth and I let her take off a bit more than she should have.”
“Couldn't your parents have done that if they take care of teeth?”
“Yes, of course, but they wouldn't let me go through with the operation. I had to live with the ugly teeth for years and I hated it, but you made it better with that hex...so thanks.”
”Well...you're welcome, I guess,” Draco said. “By the way, what where you and your mother talking about before dinner? You looked kind of funny.”
“Nothing, absolutely nothing,” Hermione replied firmly. “And don't you pester me about it because I'm not talking.”
He raised his brows curiously. “It can't be that bad. I won't tell anyone... I promise.”
“Yeah, well, neither will I so you might as well drop the subject,” she replied forcefully.
Draco nodded and they sat in silence until Hermione excused herself, grabbingCrookshanks from hisbed, and left the room. Draco stared thoughtfully at the door as she closed it behind her. He’dbe sure to find out what she and her mother had been talking about.
* * *
The next day brought with it a new hassle in the form of Molly and Ginny Weasley. One would have thought that there were a dozen new people in the house, but no – the Weasley women were really just that noisy. It was something akin to a herd of stampeding rhinos. After their arrival around noon, everyone gathered in the kitchen.
“My dear girl, you are awfully skinny,” Mrs. Weasley fussed as she hugged Hermione tightly. “You really need to put some meat on your bones. Here, I brought you some chicken soup.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione said politely and smiled as she took the heavy container from the older witch.
“It was the least I could do!” Mrs. Weasley replied sweetly. “Now sit down and eat, love.”
Mrs. Weasley shuffled to the cupboard to get a bowl for Hermione and, while doing so, she noticed Draco standing in the doorway. He hadn't dared come straight into the kitchen for he wasn't sure he'd be welcome. The Malfoy and Weasley families had held a grudge against each other for longer than he could remember, and the Weasley matriarch was likely to frown upon seeing him.
The tension in the room seemed to rise rapidly as the two eyed each other. The redheaded witch took a deep breath...and smiled. She wasn't about to let some old quarrel get in the way, not after the boy had saved Hermione. She loved the girl like she was her own daughter.
“Why don't you sit down too, Draco? Here, have some soup,” Mrs. Weasley said amicably and took out two bowls. “You are quite pale, it could put a little colour in your face.”
Draco nodded in disbelief. She had let him off the hook, just like that! Why? Was it because of what he had done for Hermione? The Weasley woman wasn't even related to the girl! Maybe it was some sort of ‘good people’ thing that Gryffindors did. Merlin knew they had weird tendencies. He grabbed his spoon and started to eat, lost in his thoughts.
Hermione looked at him with a small smile. It was good to see that Mrs. Weasley had accepted him, for she could be very persuasive (and a bit frightening) when she wanted to. Even though her sons were adults, she could convince them, or force them, to be nicer to Draco. This would definitely come in handy. At the moment, Ron was shooting daggers at Draco, incensed that his motherhad invited him to havesome of her delicious soup, while he hadn’t even been asked to sit down. It was easy to see that he thought it unfair, and that made him dislike the blonde all the more.
Harry wasn't taking sides –his neutral attitude towards Draco was a positive surprise. It seemed like he was adjusting to the situation, even though he wasn't quite ready to wholly accept the Malfoy heir.
Ginny was taking it even further and Hermione could see the wheels turning in her friend's head. The girl had been fine with Hermione spending time with Draco, and now she had an almost hungry look in her eyes when she glanced between the two of them. Hermione shook her head and made a mental note to avoid any private discussions with the redhead. Merlin only knew what she was plotting. Hermione had a hunch thatGinny would probably try to hook her up with the blonde.
She looked at Draco again and instantly became worried. He had finished eating and sat there, looking at his plate, clearly unhappy about something. She had thought that knowing that everyone didn't hate him would make him feel good, but it didn't seem to be the case. Suddenly, he excused himself and left the kitchen without even sparing her a glance, or anyone else for that matter.
Hermione felt a rise of panic inside her. Whatever he was planning couldn't be good. She still had a little soup left and she lapped at it hurriedly. After thanking Mrs. Weasley for the food, she got up to leave and was in such a rush that she didn't notice that a certain person was pursuing her. Until she called her name, that is.
“Hermione, we need to talk,” Ginny’s voice rang out behind her.
“Ginny, I'm in a bit of a hurry right now, can we talk later?”
“We are going to talk now, unless you want me to hit you with a Bat Bogey hex. Now get in here,” Ginny stated firmly and opened a closet door, gesturingfor Hermione to get inside. The Gryffindor obeyed reluctantly and stepped into the small room.
“What is this about?” she asked and sighed in defeat.
“That's what I'd like to know,” Ginny replied, frowning in disapproval. “You've been keeping things from me! Guess what Harry and Ron told me? That you spent the night with Draco!”
“Calm down, Ginny, it wasn't like that,” Hermione exclaimed and huffed in annoyance. “I had a nightmare and he woke me up. He stayed because I didn't want to be alone. You can hardly call that spending the night.”
“Yeah, but still, I can smell a great romance coming and I want to witness the beginning of it,” Ginny said. Hermione noted that she didn't seem so angry anymore.
“Honestly, what the hell is wrong with everyone? First my mum wants me to have children with him, and now you're grilling me about something that's not even there!”
“Your mum said that?” the redhead giggled. “She wants you to have his kids?”
“Yep, that's pretty much what she said, but it’s beside the point. There is absolutely nothing going on between me and Draco,” Hermione stated soundly.
“You've said that before, but I've seen the way you look at him...it’s like you care,” Ginny replied. “You might not be ready to accept it, but I'm telling you...the two of you will end up together.”
“You know what, Ginny? I think you're delusional. Now if you'll excuse me, there are some things I need to do.”
Hermione flung open the closet door and hastened towards Draco’s bedroom. When she finally got there, his black bag and all his belongings were piled on his bed. He was packing.
“Draco, what is this?”
He looked up but didn't answer or stop what he was doing. Hermione closed the door behind her, rushed over to him and grabbed hold of his arms. It wasn't an easy task for a small girl like her to tear the young man away from his bag, but somehow she managed to do it.
“What are you doing?” she demanded.
“Let go of me,” Draco grunted. “I shouldn't be here. I have to go.”
He tried to maneuver past Hermione to get at his bag, but she drew her wand and pointed it at his jaw.
“You are not going anywhere until you tell me what the hell is going on.”
He saw the fire blazing in her eyes and shook his head. Why wouldn’t she just let him go? It would be best for everyone if he left to be on his own. A Slytherin could never fit in with a group of Gryffindors, everyone knew that.
Draco sighed dejectedly. “I don't belong here,” he said quietly.
“What are you talking about? Sit down and tell me,” Hermione ordered.
When he didn't comply right away, she pressed her wand against his throat. “I said, sit down.”
Draco decided to do as she said, in case she thought it a good idea to hex his face off. He moved a pile of t-shirts aside and sat down, but still he didn't say anything. He didn't even know what he could say. He'd had a great time with her, but it wouldn't – couldn't – last. They were from two different worlds, and the fact remained that a majority of the people in her world couldn't stand the sight of him.
“Don't try the silent treatment with me. It won't work,” Hermione stated coolly.
He glanced at her and noted the determined look on her face. He was going to have to suck it up and speak.
“Look...this just isn't my place,” hesaid softly and then sighed. There was a sleeve of a shirt hanging from his bag, and he twirled it around his fingers. “It's too weird. You're all supposed to hate me, and then suddenly some of you don't. Like Mrs. Weasley – why is she so nice to me? Our families have never been friends. I just... I don't deserve it.”
“But that's not how we think,” Hermione shook her head. She flicked her wand to move some of Draco's things out of the way before sitting down next to him. “Just because your families don't like each other doesn't mean it should always be that way. I'm practically a part of their family and you did me a great favor. That pretty much makes up for it.”
“But that was just one thing,” Draco protested. “How could it possiblymake up for everything I’ve done?”
She shrugged. “It just does.”
They sat in silence for a while and Hermione lifted her legs up onto the bed in order to get more comfortable. Unfortunately, she was wearing a skirt, which made the task quite a bit harder and she fought for a moment to find a sitting position that was comfortable and one that didn't show her knickers. Draco didn't even seem to notice her struggle.
“I think you've spent enough time with me already,” he murmured. “You should go and be with your friends.”
“What do you think I'm doing right now?” she asked quietly.
Once again he looked up at her, but this time in surprise. She thought of him as her friend? Yet another thing he didn't deserve. How could he ever be worthy of her friendship, with everything he'd done in the past? As he looked at her, he saw things he had never noticed before. He saw her calm and patient expression and the trust in her doe-like eyes. She believed in him. If she thought he had something good in him, who was he to say no to that? But he had to be sure.
“Shouldn't you hate me?”
”I probably should, but I don't,” she shrugged. “You were an ass back at school, I don't deny that, but we were kids. You have been there for me at a time when I've needed a friend more than ever, and that's way more important.”
He nodded. If she really felt that way, he should accept it with gratitude.
“Draco...if you don't mind myasking, who's your closest friend?”
He started a bit as he realised that she was probably his closest friend at the moment. But it was probably best he didn't tell her that. ”I... I don't really have that many friends. Or at least I'm not that close to any of them.”
“Well, how about back in school, or growing up?”
“Uh... I guess Crabbe and Goyle, but I didn't really think of them as friends. They were more like minions,” he replied with an embarrassed grin.
Hermione smiled amusedly but didn't comment. “What about your parents, are you close to them?”
The fact that his father had tortured Hermione came rushing back to Draco. He clenched his fists to control the sudden rage he felt towards the man. If he ever saw him again...
“I never really gotten along with my father, but my mother always seemed to care about me. She sacrificed a lot to help me,” he told her. “If you don't mind my asking...why are you giving me the third degree?”
“It's just a little Muggle thing called psychology,” she said with a smile. “Maybe it's so weird for you here because you've never really had anyone be nice to you without pretense. Crabbe and Goyle were probably just sucking up, and your mother is supposed to like you. You just can't believe that someone would appreciate you for who you are and what you've done.”
“And you do, huh?” Draco received another smile in response. “Well, I still don't understand that Mrs. Weasley... I mean, sure, she might have forgiven me, but shouldn't she be mad at you for breaking up with her son? You're obviously not together anymore.”
“It's a funny story, actually,” Hermione replied with a laugh. “Mrs. Weasley was the one that told me I'd probably be better off without Ron. It was the summer after graduation and we spent a lot of our time at the Burrow. Naturally, she kept an eye on us and in the processshe heard the two of us bickering a lot because – well – that's what we do. Finally she came up to me and said that, uh...she thought I deserved better. Obviously she had thought about Ron, too, but there are just so many things about me that he'll never understand.”
Hermione took a moment to breathe and collect her thoughts. “We split up soon after that. It was a bit awkward for a while, but our friendship is back to normal as you might have seen.”
“Yeah...well, that's good.”
Draco stole a glance at her, furrowing his brows a bit at a thought that was bothering him. “So, uh...it didn't get weird even though you'd...you know...seen a lot of each other?”
“Oh, no,” Hermione blushed, shaking her head. “We never, uh...we never went there.”
”Oh,” Draco uttered, trying to hide the triumphant smirk that was threatening to plaster itself all over his face. “That's nice, um, I mean it's nice that you, uh, didn't have to deal with that.”
“It's heartwarming to see how much you care about my well-being,” Hermione quipped sarcastically, a smile tugging at her lips.
He grinned in response. He couldn't deny it – she made him smile. That in itself was enough of a reason to not go on some stupid hideout journey all by himself. He tugged at the sleeve he'd been playing with to get the shirt out of the bag.
”So... I take it you're staying?” Hermione asked and raised her eyebrows expectantly.
Draco shrugged. Even though she knew what Ginny would think if she ever found out, the brunette decided to play the damsel-in-distress card. “You know, I might have another nightmare some time, and who would I turn to if you left? You're like a knight in shining armour for me.”
”I'm afraid I don't have my armour with me,” he chuckled as he rifled through his bag. “D'you think silk boxers will do?”
Hermione grinned. “I'm sure you'll make a great hero in your silk boxers.”
Draco raised his brows and zipped his bag, a mischievous grin on his face. “If you’d ever like to testthat theory, let me know.”
A/N: A huge thanks to dracosgem for beta reading this chapter. :) Any errors you might find are there because I was too stubborn to correct them. :D
How did you guys like Hermione's parents? I was pretty happy with the way they turned out. There was also quite a lot of progress made in the long talk between Draco and Hermione. Did you think it was too long?
There used to be a sneak-peek from Chapter Seven here, but since the chapter got so long that I had to do some splitting, the scene is actually in Chapter Nine. I thought I'd edit my A/N so you guys don't get too confused. :)