Chapter 6 : Catching Up
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They finished the night in the park before Draco walked her to her door, kissing her goodnight before returning to his own apartment and turning in for the night, not excited for the media fall out that was sure to happen the next morning. But he thought, we’re off to school in less than a week and then the vultures would be forced to back off. At least he hoped they would, the last thing he needed was his name back in the papers.
The next morning rose bright and shiny as Hermione went through her usual morning routine, throwing her hair up in a messy bun and getting dressed for her run. However upon reaching the ground floor of her building, she realized that the crowd of reporters surrounding her doorstep were going to make her normal route more difficult. Therefore, she nodded her thanks to the doorman and took a side door out onto a separate street.
As the door closed behind her she heard, “morning miss granger,” as Draco smiled at her as he leant against the wall.
“Quite the mob you have out front, I was going to join you for a morning run but I think it might make things worse.”
Hermione shrugged, “They aren’t going to run my life...come with me anyway.”
Draco smiled, “I had hoped you would say that, but I assume you haven’t seen this morning’s prophet then?”
She shook her head, “Nope, I don’t usually get to the paper until later in the morning. Why?”
“Perhaps you should see for yourself.” He passed her a copy of the Daily Prophet.
Emblazoned on the front was a photo of the two of them from the previous evening...
GRANGER-MALFOY RELATIONSHIP HEATS UP
War heroine, Hermione Granger was spotted out last night with none other than Draco Malfoy. The pair went to dinner at hotspot Franco’s with Harry Potter and fiancée Ginny Weasley. Potter and Weasley exited the restaurant shortly after the meal, while Malfoy and Granger lingered at their private booth indulging in desserts and wine before exiting arm in arm and apparating away to locations unknown. Before they left the restaurant however, our cameras caught them in a very steamy embrace, could it be that Miss Granger has moved past fellow hero Ron Weasley? Or is this yet another escapade for Mr Malfoy? Time will tell dear readers, time will tell, after all as the Daily Prophet can exclusively report the two will be attending the Excaliber School of Magic, a training program for advanced magical study. Perhaps their love will bloom as their knowledge grows...
The article was followed by a spread of photos of the pair, some of them kissing in their booth, and others of the two as they made their exit from the restaurant. Hermione laughed at the article before tossing it back to Draco, “they’re not all wrong though.”
“How do you mean? If you’re trying to insinuate that you’re another...what was it?...escapade. then--“ Draco was cut of when Hermione placed a finger on his lips.
“Of course not...I simply meant that they were right about the embrace it was right steamy” Her body now dangerously close to his own.
“Granger...” Draco breathed at her sultry advance, but she only stepped away banished the paper to her apartment and bent to tighten the laces on her shoes.
“Shall we?” She asked innocently.
Draco gaped at her, spluttering “sure...um...yes lets.”
Hermione smiled a satisfied smirk as she turned back and led the way out of the alley into a neighbouring street and away from the mob of reporters. Draco fell into step beside her after a few strides and they took to their usual route around the park.
“So Granger, less than one week left before we head off...excited?” he questioned easily.
“Absolutely, it will be good to understand more about the depths magic can reach.” Hermione responded.
Draco smiled at how passionate she was about learning. They reached the coffee shop soon after and Draco motioned towards it as a suggestion, Hermione nodded and together they entered. The barista filled their order quickly enough, and they were able to leave before the mass of reporters made it to the shop. Holding their coffees in hand they walked back to Hermione’s apartment building through the park.
“Why did you decide to apply to Excaliber Draco?” Hermione said quietly as they walked together.
Draco sighed, “my mother...”
He nodded, “at one point in her life, my mother was great, she was exceptionally talented and strong...” he trailed off again as they reached the Peter Pan statue they knew so well, taking a seat he gathered his courage with a sip of his coffee. Hermione sat down beside him and tentatively placed a hand on his knee.
“look I didn’t mean to pry...it’s fine if you don’t want to talk about it.” She said looking everywhere but at him.
He inhaled deeply, “no it’s fine, its just hard to talk about this side of her...it’s a side I barely knew. She attended Excaliber when she was our age, top of her classes at school she wanted to study further, know more. She barely got through a year with them before her parents arranged her marriage to Lucius,”
Hermione noticed that he did not say father, but chose not to comment on it, allowing him to continue.
“He changed her, there was no questioning Lucius, she lost her spirit her will to be who she was, and she kowtowed to that rat bastard. Lucius didn’t dare hurt her while she was carrying me, his heir, but after I was born and while I was growing up, nothing we did was ever good enough, bad enough. The dark lord returned and Lucius gained confidence, he wanted me to be just like him, wanted me to follow in his footsteps...mother just saw red, she had taught me secretly all through the years that the easiest way to get by was to allow Lucius to believe he was getting his way, believe that I agreed with his ways. I had impeccable Occlumency shields by the time I entered Hogwarts, but he had his spies so I had to give the impression that I was my father’s son...”
Hermione sat shocked, her hand frozen on his knee, unsure what to do or say as he continued his tale.
“She was the one who managed to postpone the day I would have to take the Mark, she was the one who sent house elves to me when my father beat me, she was the one who saved me...and she was the one who told me about her dreams, of her past, of how I could be more than the Malfoy reputation, that I could be more like her...she only wanted to help me, to give me a better life, and he tried to kill her for that...in many ways he did kill her, she was never the same.” Draco finished in one big breath, desperately looking away from Hermione.
“Draco...” Hermione breathed, but he ignored her forcing himself to regain his composure before he looked at her.
“Draco,” Hermione tried again, her hand coming to rest on his chest above his heart. His hand came to cover hers and he looked at it, staring at the hand of the woman he once called an enemy.
“That part of her isn't gone...you see the people we love, the people we care about are never gone from our hearts. They live on in us; that part of her lives on in you...”
They sat in silence; the only sound their breathing and the rustle of leaves in the winds. Each lost in their own thoughts of those who had been lost, and those who remained. Their coffee’s were cold by the time either of them remembered they were holding them, and breaking their reverie, Hermione reached for Draco’s cup rising to throw them in the nearby garbage can.
“thank you,” Draco said, as she stood. Hermione smiled a tiny smile and threw away their cold coffees.
Hermione slept fitfully in those nights leading up to the day when she would leave her apartment behind and travel to Excaliber, her mind would not let her rest as it tossed and tumbled through the wide array of thoughts from Draco to Ron, to Harry and Ginny’s wedding, to those challenges she would face at Excaliber. Needless to say, on the morning of September fifth Hermione Granger was tired and nervous. She was up before her alarm and pacing her room, trying to make sure she hadn’t forgotten to pack something she would need. In the end she waved her wand over the apartment spelling all things she may need into her waiting bags, breathing a sigh of relief and thanking god for magic, she poured herself a bath and decided to try and relax.
Draco was in his own apartment doing much of the same thing, pacing back and forth, he gave up waiting as a bad job and sent an owl over to Hermione asking if she was up and wanted to join him for coffee before they had to leave.
Hermione had just gotten out of the shower when the owl tapped at her window; she pointed her wand so the owl could get into her room and picked up the note in its beak. With a smile she read through Draco’s note, and quickly dressed for the day, levitating her bags over to sit by the door as she went. When she was finally ready she grabbed a jacket and her purse and left her apartment behind, glad for an escape from the anticipation and nervousness she felt about embarking on Excaliber, and she knew that Draco would be able to understand the emotions and worries running through her mind.
Ten minutes later Draco and Hermione stood together in line at their usual coffee shop before ordering and taking their individual coffee drinks over to a secluded table where they could sip at them by themselves without being intruded upon. Hermione smiled into her coffee surprising comfortable with the silence that surrounded them as they tried to put into words the emotions they were feeling.
“This shouldn’t be so comfortable,” Hermione said quietly into her coffee cup.
“Draco, it’s strange, you can’t deny that...I feel like my heart and my mind are fighting against each other.”
“Which is winning?”
“I don’t know yet.” She continued, still refusing to look up from her cup.
“Hermione,” Draco plied, “Hermione look at me.”
Hermione looked up slowly, looking everywhere but his eyes, unable to meet the smoky, silvery depths, she knew waited there.
“Hermione, I know this is new, I know it’s strange. Given our history, and your experiences with my family. Maybe it would be best if we were to try to be friends before we think about going any further than that.” Draco continued.
Hermione finally found a way to meet his eyes, and taking a breath she nodded, exhaling a sigh of relief, “that’s probably best...let our hearts catch up with our heads.”
“Glad that’s cleared up...now then; perhaps we should return and gather your things so as to arrive on time.”
Hermione smirked and shook her head at him, “shall we?”
Clutching their cups they exited the coffee shop, and began the walk back to Hermione’s apartment building taking the scenic route through the park, their park.
“Draco, what happened to your family?” Hermione asked as they passed the statue of Peter Pan, her thoughts suddenly turning to what he had told her about his mother.
“Well as you know, father is serving many a life sentence in Azkaban solitary. Aunt Bella is gone now, thank god. And mother, well she’s coping, she’s moved out of the manor and into a cottage by the sea, it’s helping her I think, being away from the place where my father was at his most evil, being away from the memories that haunted us. We’re clearing the manor out and then I’m tearing it down, there’s simply just too much evil there.”
Hermione nodded sadly, shivering slightly at her own memories of that place.
“I’m sorry.” He murmured, squeezing her shoulder for support.
“Thanks, but please don’t apologize again, I think maybe in the interest of starting over we should just move past the hurt and sins of our past and try to begin again.” Hermione outstretched a hand with a cheeky smirk, “Hi I’m Hermione Granger.”
Draco cracked a smile, and grasped her hand to shake it, “Draco Malfoy.”
“Well then Mr Malfoy I do believe we have places to be and things to do.”
They had reached the doorway to Hermione’s building and Draco pulled it open for her gesturing for Hermione to go through first. They made their way to the elevator and up to Hermione’s floor in another comfortable silence, by the time they reached her apartment door they had lapsed into an easy conversation. Hermione unlocked her door and they stepped into her apartment. Draco hesitated once he entered then laughed aloud at the sight of her many packed bookcases that lined the living room.
“What?” Hermione asked, noticing his smirk.
“Nothing Granger, you really are a huge bookworm aren’t you.”
“I like to read Malfoy...what of it?” Hermione said defensively.
“I do to but really, is that our first year transfiguration textbook?”
“Yes, you never know when it might come in handy.” Hermione sniffed, “can we please move on now?”
Malfoy sniggered, “defensive miss granger?”
“Annoying Mr Malfoy?”
“So we have to be at Heathrow airport in an hour and a half, so we should probably head over soon, security is really intense to get through?” Hermione asked, subconsciously checking over her apartment trying to see it through his eyes.
“Sounds like a plan, although you do realise that you’re a witch right, you could always confund your way through security.”
“Draco that’s wrong. The whole point of security is to ensure that the skies are safe.”
“I know, but it’s so much more fun my way.” Draco said picking up Hermione’s bags and leading her out the door.
Hermione locked the door again and they rode the elevator back down to the lobby, but Draco told her to wait there he’d be back with his own bags and then they could go together. Hermione stood in her lobby drinking it in, making sure she remembered every detail of her home before she had to leave it. She turned to face the door just as a shiny black Astin Martin pulled up in front, Draco got out of the passenger’s seat and turned to Hermione with a smirk on his face.
“Nice car,” Hermione breathed.
“You sound surprised.” Draco said reaching for her bags to pack into the trunk.
“Not by the model, that’s very you, but by the fact that you own something so muggle.” She said moving to the passenger side door.
Draco finished packing up the trunk and they slid into the car, Hermione admiring the sleek leather interior, noting the Slytherin emblem embossed on the floor covers. Draco pulled out of the entryway and onto the road on the way to the airport; Hermione was surprised to see how well he could drive.
“Where did you learn to drive?” she murmured over the hum of music Draco had playing.
“A neighbour of my mother’s, her new cottage is in a very muggle friendly neighbourhood.”
“Hmm” Hermione sighed, “maybe you can teach me.”
“Wait a minute, you can’t drive?”
“No I never got my license, I wanted to but things got so crazy I never got around to it.”
“Well well, Miss Granger you surprise me...but I’ll teach you anytime.”
Hermione relaxed into the highly comfortable seats and watched as London sped past her window. The remainder of the drive over passing by quickly, and when they reached Heathrow she was more excited than nervous to start on this new chapter in her life, and she was surprisingly happy that she would have Draco by her side as she did it.
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