The air was still. And dark. For a few days now, she had felt a familiar hand grasp her own, but she couldn’t be sure …
Suddenly her eyelids sprang apart and, after blinking, she saw plain white walls and smelt something sharp and acidic. Her legs moved and the papery blanket over her rustled loudly.
She heard a sigh. “Hermione …”
Her body was lifted up a little and hugged. And then she was smothered with a thousand kisses; they were all over her face, lips and neck. She didn’t need to open her eyes to know who it was. She could feel his short white-blonde hairs tickling her cheeks, smell his musky scent all over her and she knew his touch by heart.
She lifted her shaking hand to his head and reciprocated the hug.
“I thought …” she heard him whisper. “… and then when you didn’t wake up … I didn’t know what to do … I told you, you shouldn’t have gone … and then if anything happened -”
“I’m alright,” she said, but it only came out as a whisper. She cleared her throat. “Draco, I’m fine.”
She blinked and her vision became gradually clearer.
“Clearly you’re not. You got hit with a curse. A powerful one. Potter thought you were dead -”
“But I’m not,” she reassured. “Have you been crying?”
His eyes were extremely red and his face was pale. “No,” he lied. Hermione smiled softly. “Tell me what happened in London. The others still haven’t.”
She recounted the tale as briefly as possible, about the spinning room with the multiple doors, about taking the prophecy, about the brain attacking Ron, about the Death Eaters, about how she felt she knew her way around the place (from when someone Imperiused her under Voldemort’s orders), the Time room and then -
“I can’t remember anything else.”
“Potter said you were attacked by a death eater,” he whispered quietly. “And that that prophecy broke and … Sirius Black died.”
“What? How?” Hermione tried to sit up. Draco stood up and helped her by piling her pillows behind her back.
“My dear Aunt Bellatrix … she killed him …”
“Oh no …” A tear fell down Hermione’s cheek as she lifted her shaking hands to her face.
“I know.” Draco stroked her hair lightly. “I sent a letter to your parents. They said you should go to back to school to do your O.W.Ls and then you can go home for the rest of the year. Dumbledore okayed it.”
“Right,” Hermione whispered. “H-how are the others?”
“Weasley’s fine, his sister had a sprained ankle, Potter’s good, Lovegood’s alright, Longbottom’s been cleaned up, but Patil … she’s in a bad way.”
After dodging the nurses, Draco led Hermione to a ward down the corridor, walking very slowly to where they found Harry, Ron, Ginny, Fred, George, Padma and what Hermione guessed to be the Patil Twins’ parents around a bed.
“Hermione,” Harry leapt from his chair and gave her a hug. “You’re alright …” He sounded so relieved.
Ron gave Hermione a grateful smile and she gave one back.
“How is she?” Hermione asked as she shuffled nervously in her slippers.
“Not good,” Fred told her.
“What happened to her?”
Ginny took over at this point. “After you were knocked out in the Time room, Harry, Neville, Parvati and I went to where that creepy Veil was. Neville was carrying you. I hopped. Somehow, she was hit with a curse. Luna noticed it first. We thought it was the same one you were hit with, but your curse was purple. The one that hit Parvati was orange … fiery.”
Padma sniffled as silent tears fell down her face.
“We’re going to see the doctor,” Mrs Patil told her daughter, and so she and her husband left the room for the children to talk.
The room was silent until -
“I think I’ll go and visit Dad,” Ginny told her brothers. He was in a ward a floor above them still being treated for his snake bite.
“Good,” Padma whispered.
“Excuse me?” Ginny asked.
“It’s your fault she’s here … like this. You and Harry.”
“What?” Harry asked, shocked. He looked like he hadn’t slept in days.
“Parvati liked you, Harry. Why else would she have followed you all to the Ministry of Magic? Parvati was trying to prove herself to you, because she thought she couldn’t measure up to Ginny. She wouldn’t have been there if it wasn’t for you.” She dissolved into tears.
“It’s alright,” Fred told her, touching her shoulder. “She’ll wake up, Padma.”
“Will she? Look at her, Fred. She’s a mess.”
Hermione stood in the corner of the room in her papery hospital gown leaning on Draco. Ron chanced a look at the pair of them.
“I’m so sorry, Padma, for what’s happened to Parvati. Maybe it is my fault …” Looking extremely guilt-ridden, Harry stood up. “I’ll be back later,” he told Padma. “Will you be coming back to Hogwarts after the exams?”
Padma shrugged and held her unconscious sister’s hand.
“I’m going to see Mr Weasley,” Harry said. “Are you guys coming?”
Ron nodded, as did George.
“Do you want me to stay?” Fred asked Padma.
“I’m okay,” she whispered.
“I’ll stay,” Fred said. “I’ll be up in about ten minutes,” he told the others.
They all exited the room and while Hermione had every intention of going to see Mr Weasley, but Draco had other ideas.
“You need to go back to bed. A nurse needs to check you over.” He led her back to her room, where the nurse came in to check her vital signs.
Hermione was released from St Mungo’s Hospital at the end of that week and went back into the castle to join Harry, Ron, Draco, Ginny and the others. On the morning of her first exam (History of Magic), Hermione went down to the Great Hall for breakfast with her huge textbook under her arm. She propped it against the juice jug and tried to take in everything; she had not revised properly in weeks and was (for once) extremely terrified of failing her exam.
Ginny nudged her when she sat down beside her.
“Not now, Ginny.”
Ginny pulled a sad face. “I was just going to tell you the good news.”
“What is it?” Hermione asked after sipping some tea and scanning the page as fast as she could.
“Fred and George are friends again!”
“Friends? They’re brothers, twins. They have no choice but to like one another.”
“Of course they have a choice,” Ginny retorted. “Anyway, they’ve made up again. I guess after seeing Parvati and Padma’s situation they put aside their differences.” Ginny reduced her voice to a whisper. “Fred’s not even seeing Angelina any more.”
Hermione frowned and looked over her book at the twins who were chatting further down the table. “So he’s giving George Angelina?”
“Not in such a blunt way, but yes … I suppose.”
“That’s awfully nice of him,” Hermione said lightly.
Ginny nodded. “What exam do you have?”
Hermione pointed to her book.
“Well, I’ll leave you to it … Good luck.”
Ginny grabbed a stack of toast and skipped out of the hall, wishing a good morning to her brothers as she passed. Getting back to her book, Hermione studied like she had never before. Even after completing the History textbook, she went to her dorm to read three others and get started on her Arithmancy preparation because that exam was the following day.
She was accompanied (or escorted as she saw it) by Harry and Ron to the first exam. She sped through it only thinking that she answered one question wrong and that was the main pattern for the other exams she took. As she sat the most exams in the year, when she had completed her final exam (Defence Against the Dark Arts written exam) she laid back on her chair and smiled. Umbridge had left the school but they still had to complete her method of education where there was no practical test. As the students poured out of the Great Hall, Hermione glanced over at Draco and smiled tenderly; he did not smile back but stared at her so softly and intensely that she had the urge to ravish him on the spot. But rather than doing so, she turned towards her common room and prepared to leave the castle.
Being home while the other students were still in school made Hermione feel quite ill although she was glad to be away from the gossip about The Chosen One and what happened in the Department of Mysteries. When she arrived, her mother treated her as though she were a young child again, unpacking her trunk for her, tucking her into bed and making surplus amounts of tea.
By the time early August came, Hermione was becoming a little irritated with her mother. While her father almost treated her the same, Mrs Granger was still on edge.
“I’m fine, Mum. Honestly,” Hermione muttered as she sat on the living room armchair watching the television. Her mother was watching her intensely after she refused another drink or snack.
“You need to eat. You’re looking thin,” Mrs Granger enforced.
“No, I’m not. You’re just worrying too much.”
“And why shouldn’t I? You nearly died. How could you expect me to calm down?”
Hermione smiled. “I don’t, Mum.” She stood up.
“Where are you going?” her mum asked sharply.
“To bed. I’m tired.” Hermione yawned. It was around ten at night and she had had enough of being treated like a piece of fresh meat by her vulture-like mother. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, darling.” Mrs Granger continued to watch the Evening News while Hermione skipped off to her bedroom and changed into her floral nightdress. Her father was out with his friends probably getting drunk in the local pub and so Hermione sat in her room and began reading the first book she took off the shelf.
By the time she got to the tenth page of ‘Gadding With Ghouls’ by Gilderoy Lockhart, she heard a knock at the front door. Ignoring it, she continued reading until her mother yelled, “HERMIONE! DOOR!”
She threw the book down and tumbled down the stairs languidly.
The last persons coupled together that she expected to see on the doorstep was her father (looking livid) standing beside her boyfriend - both soaked by the heavy rain outside. Hermione had not even noticed the bad weather.
“Who is this, Hermione?” Mrs Granger asked, not recognising Draco from two years ago; he had changed a lot - and she wasn't wearing her glasses.
“Draco!” Hermione ran forward and smothered him with a hug.
Mr Granger pulled her away slightly. “You’ll catch a cold.” Mrs Granger smiled with the realisation of who this young man was.
“Don’t be silly, Dad.” She turned to Draco and began pulling off his soaked jacket. “This is Draco, remember?”
“Pleased to meet you - again.” Draco shook her parents’ hands briefly.
“So pleased to see you,” Mrs Granger greeted. She had always glad to see her daughter’s best friend - especially when they were on speaking terms. “You get more handsome with the years - as Hermione said.”
Draco smiled awkwardly while Hermione blushed. “What are you doing here?”
“It’s … erm … a long story …” He looked towards her parents.
“Well, you better start explaining,” Mr Granger said. “You can’t just turn up here unawares -”
“Sorry, I couldn’t send an owl,” Draco explained. “I came here straight away.”
“From where?” Mrs Granger asked as she rushed him over to the electric fireplace.
Draco sat down uncomfortably. “My house.”
Hermione stared at him sadly, knowing that what he would tell her was very far away from being good news.
When Mrs Granger tried to coax a story out of him, Hermione interrupted by saying, “Could you give us a moment please?”
Her parents - after a little persuasion - left the room to stand in the kitchen, where unbeknownst to Hermione and Draco, they were watching them.
Hermione grabbed the remote control and turned the volume of the television up so her parents could not hear even if they tried. She hugged Draco again, her own clothes getting completely sodden. He gripped her tightly, stroking her thick hair.
“Why are you here?” she whispered into his ear, her cheek again his wet hair.
He closed his eyes briefly. “My mother told me to go. For my own good. My father is in Azkaban now and she doesn’t want me to be in any danger. You-Know-Who wanted me to stay, so she packed my bags for me and told me to leave.”
Hermione looked around for a sign of his luggage. “Where are they?”
“She said she’d send them here in an hour.”
“And she knew you’d come here? To me?”
“Where else could I have gone? I tried to Floo here, but seeing as you don’t have a fireplace, I used an unauthorised portkey.” Hermione frowned at him. “I know, I know; it’s illegal. But what else could I do? I had to leave tonight. I didn’t even unpack my Hogwarts trunk.”
“Won’t your mother be in danger? If she stays in the Manor?”
Draco sighed. “That’s what I told her. But she said she’ll make it seem as though I left without telling her. Or that I’m staying with friends.”
Hermione bit her lip. “He won’t buy it,” she muttered sceptically as she curled up beside him on the two-seater.
Draco nodded and looked around. The living room was cosy and warm, mismatched pillows scattered on each chair, neutral carpets and walls and photos of the Grangers all around the room. It looks homely with the tea stains on the coffee table and muddy shoes piled in the corner by the door. Whatever he was expecting from Hermione’s home this was not it - but he loved it all the same. It showed him what his home lacked - love and a real family.
Draco had glanced over at Mr and Mrs Granger’s wedding photograph when Hermione nudged him lightly.
“I missed you,” she whispered. “I’m sorry I didn’t say bye when I left.”
“That’s alright,” he replied. “How are you feeling?”
“Better now that you’re here. It’s been terrible with my mother treating me like a porcelain doll. I’m seriously okay now but she just doesn’t see it.”
Draco laughed. “Even I don’t believe you. But the people who care about you usually never listen when you say you’re fine.”
He leaned down and kissed her lips momentarily. Hermione leaned away and blushed. “Draco … my parents …”
“They’re not here,” he said simply as he tried to hold her.
She smiled as she removed his arms. “Not now. Especially you just turn up out of the blue expecting them to put a roof over your head without any warning.”
“Yes and I can see that your father’s gonna need some time to get used to me,” Draco muttered with a grin.
“What do you expect?” Hermione asked. “The most I’ve spoken of you is when I thought you were the worst thing about my life. It’s going to take some getting over - even if I got over it months ago.”
Draco thought back to when Hermione had told him she hated him and felt a stabbing pain in his chest.
“Are you alright?”
“Fine. Come here.” He held out his arms and she shuffled into them. He dragged a blanket from the back of the sofa over the two of them and they slowly drifted to sleep.
When Mr Granger awoke the next morning, showered and prepared for the week to begin, he strolled downstairs forgetting who had arrived the night before. A blonde young man was holding his only daughter so close to him that their activities were questionable. The television was still blaring loudly as he stepped into the living room. He switched it off and then shouted, “UP! NOW!” while clapping his hands.
Hermione and Draco flinched and woke up.
“Dad …” Hermione mumbled.
Draco jumped up from the beneath Hermione faster than he thought possible. Mr Granger looked like a kind guy, but any man could turn vicious when it came to their baby daughter - Draco would act the same way.
Mr Granger raised his eyebrows and unfolded his arms.
“Morning Mr Granger,” Draco said brightly.
“Morning,” he replied. “Now we need to hurry up and get ready. Your mother says you need to help her prepare of your Aunt and cousins,” he said to Hermione.
“Aunt Laura?” she said.
“Yes. And Edward and Jennifer.”
“Oh no …” Hermione sighed.
“Are they that bad?” Draco asked as she led him upstairs to the bathroom.
“Edward thinks he’s the next Einstein, Shakespeare and Ghandi rolled into one while Jennifer likes to take everything that is mine.”
“Is she young?”
“A year younger than us. Fifteen last week. Ed’s nineteen.” Hermione grabbed a towel for him. “The shower takes a while to heat up. Don’t use all of the shampoo.” Smiling, she left him alone.
The dinner table was set at five that evening. An old candelabra stood in the middle of the round wooden table for seven; one chair had to be added. Hermione sat twiddling her fingers in the living room in a dark purple dress while her parents finished up on the meal in the kitchen. Draco was upstairs getting changed; his trunks had arrived early that morning cluttering up most of the guest bedroom.
When the doorbell rang, she switched off the television and skipped over to the door. She breathed, smoothed down her hair and pulled the door open.
Tall and brunette, Edward stepped forward to give Hermione a hug.
“It’s been too long,” Hermione muttered politely to her cousin.
“I’ve got so much to tell you,” he gushed. “I’ve been doing some research on the genetics of some human beings, intelligence and special abilities … I’ll be getting the Nobel Prize in no time, I swear -”
“I doubt it,” Jennifer said behind him. She squeezed in with her mother and closed the door. Hugs were passed around as Mr and Mrs Granger came into the living room where they were all settled.
As they all talked, Jennifer sat beside Hermione, twirling her blonde hair between her fingers.
“How have you been?” she asked. I haven’t seen you since Uncle Will’s wedding last August.”
“I’ve been busy with schoolwork,” Hermione shrugged off. “How was your birthday?”
She smiled. “Fantastic. Me and my friends went shopping and then we hung out for a while. I got loads of money, no present from you, might I add, but I really don’t - Oh my God, who is that?”
Jennifer’s mouth hung down low as she gazed up at the staircase. Draco had walked slowly down the stairs looking more handsome than he ever had. His light blonde hair hung gently over his eyes and his slender body was covered by a fitted blue shirt and black jeans.
He put his hands into his pockets and stood in the doorway as the room fell silent.
Hermione stood up beside him.
“Everyone, this is Draco … my … boyf - best friend from school.”
Mr and Mrs Granger looked at each other briefly while Draco simply blinked at her, wondering why she lied.
Edward shook his hand and soon after Mrs Granger called everyone into the dining room for dinner. Hermione sat beside Draco, Edward opposite her and Jen beside him (and opposite Draco). As they ate their soup starter, Jennifer’s ogling did not cease.
“Honestly, Jen close your mouth,” Laura told her daughter.
“I think she’s a little overwhelmed,” Edward stated plainly. “You’d think he was the only guy she’d ever seen in her life.”
“Shut up,” Jen said to him - then she quickly went back to staring at Draco while pushing her spoon around her bowl absently.
“So, Hermione,” Aunt Laura said across the table. “How is school going at the moment? Are you enjoying it?”
“Yes, very much,” she replied.
“I hear you’re top of the class,” Laura said smiling.
Draco cut in: “Hermione is the best student in our year. No one can beat her grades. Especially when she’s taking nearly every subject possible.”
Edward looked over at her, shocked. “You’ll overwork yourself, Hermione. According to -”
“I didn’t know they let boys into your school,” Jen whispered to Hermione.
“What?” Draco said. “Of course they do. Hogw -”
“Didn’t we mention that Hermione’s school is mixed? Boys and girls,” Mr Granger filled in hotly.
“Right,” Laura replied. “What kind of school is it again?”
“A specialist academy for the exceptionally gifted or highly intelligent individual,” Hermione quoted as though she had been telling this lie for years. “As you’ve heard, I’m good at most things.”
“And you …?” Laura said, trying to remember his name.
“Draco,” he supplied.
“Draco,” she repeated slowly. “What’s your specialty?”
“Music,” he said plainly, the first thing that popped into his head.
Edward gazed up from his empty bowl and said, “It seems very odd that I haven’t heard of this place.”
“Does it?” Draco asked, smirking. Mrs Granger came around and collected all the bowls from the table.
“Yes,” Edward continued. “Where is it?”
“Wales,” Mr Granger said. “It - It’s in Wales.” Wales was nowhere near Scotland.
“Oh.” Hermione could tell that Edward was going to go home and do some major Googling.“And will you be applying to Oxford University?” he asked. “I’m sure they’d love a student from your school and I know you are a bright girl.”
“Possibly,” Hermione muttered cursing his every word. He was way too nosy and academic for a nineteen year old.
“Right,” he said slowly, unconvinced. “What about Cambridge? Imperial College? St Andrews? Warwick? York?”
“Possibly, Edward,” Hermione huffed. “Give it a rest.”
“I’m merely pointing out -”
“Yes, we know you go to Cambridge, the UK’s number one university,” Hermione said. “And that’s fantastic for you. It really is,” she said sarcastically.
Draco watched as she slid down her chair, clutching her serviette. Her face was blazing hot. Somehow, Draco knew that he was getting to her, both of her cousins were. Edward was rubbing it in her face that she won’t be attending a top university like she had thought when she was younger and Jennifer was looking at Draco as though he was the next course about to be served to her on a plate.
“So … how long have you two been friends, Draco?” Jennifer said later over an ice cream dessert.
Draco looked at Hermione. “Nearly six years.”
Jennifer smiled and nodded. “And do you … have a girlfriend?”
“Jennifer!” Mrs Granger yelled.
“I’m just asking!” she replied to her Aunt. She turned back to him. “Do you?”
“Yes.” Jennifer deflated. “And she’s the most wonderful girl in the world. The best.”
Hermione shuffled in her chair and smiled. “You know what that means, Jen …”
“But she’s not here,” Jennifer whispered.
“I heard that, young lady,” Laura said sternly. “Ever since you turned fifteen, you think you can do whatever you like. Well, you’re wrong. Leave Draco alone.”
Jennifer pouted and gave up on her vanilla tower of ice cream. Occasionally, she looked over at Draco and he tried to ignore her as best as he could.
The evening went mildly after Jennifer settled down and came to terms with the fact that Draco would never be hers. Some time after the Grangers began talking over family events, Draco had slipped away upstairs, claiming to have gone to the toilet.
Two hours later, when Laura, Edward and Jennifer finally left, Hermione bid her parents goodnight and ran upstairs to Draco. She found him sitting in the guest bedroom, gazing at a picture of himself and his parents.
He looked up at her with tears in his eyes and instantly she held one hand out with saddened eyes. Draco took it and the photo into Hermione’s large pastel pink bedroom. They laid on their backs, holding hands.
Hermione took the photo lightly from his hand and took a glance. Draco was stood in between his parents at around the age of five in a drawing room in his home. He was smiling and waving while his parents looked down at him, genuinely ecstatic with their young son and looking very much in love as they held each other. The truth was, seeing Hermione with her family, seeing love, made Draco upset and angry at the way his life was. He was in hiding from Voldemort really and he missed his mother even after one night. Adding to that, his father was a convicted criminal. He just wanted things the way they were when he was a child.
“This won’t always be this way,” Hermione whispered through the air.
Draco said nothing.
Hermione gave the photo back to him and he held it to his heart. He never was one to talk about his emotions - at least when they concerned his parents. They were as precious to him as Hermione was, except they were more. They gave him life and made him who he was and now everything had changed.
“You have me,” Hermione said earnestly while squeezing his hand and staring at he white ceiling. “And I have you. If ever we need something, we have that. And even if everything else in our lives goes wrong, we have each other.”
The tears Draco had been building were released in one wet stream down his left cheek. Draco shifted a little on her small bed and cleared his constricted throat. “Will you be my girlfriend?”
“What? I already thought -”
“Yes, we are. But I never really asked. May as well make it official. So will you?”
“Of course I will.” Hermione kissed his cheek lightly.
Sighing with relief, Draco sat up. “I better go then.”
“Don’t,” Hermione pleaded quietly.
They stared into each other’s eyes tenderly. Draco tore his gaze away. “I think your father would think it be best if I stayed in the guest room.”
“Right,” she whispered, disappointed. “Goodnight.”
The Grangers did not think themselves to be nosy parents - concerned was a better word for it. So it was only fitting that the pair eavesdropped on the conversation their daughter and her boyfriend had while they were in her bedroom. Mrs Granger had just finished a few glasses of wine when she wondered where they were. Instantly, Mr Granger had gotten the insane idea that they were up to no good and rushed upstairs to peek through the door, only to hear the young man ask Hermione again to be his as well as leaving the room to respect her father. Initially, he was angry with the fact that they were alone on a bed together, but soon softened. Although Mr Granger was surprised, he could not have been more happy that his daughter had chosen a polite, well brought up boy.
Over breakfast one day the next week, the atmosphere was nice as they asked each other about their plans for the day (Mr and Mrs Granger were going to work) in a polite mannner; Draco's presence was no longer an issue.
“I think I’ll show Draco the area,” Hermione said spontaneously.
“Good idea,” he replied over his bowl of cereal. “I’d like that.”
When the morning meal came to an end and everyone was preparing to leave the house, Mr Granger pulled Draco aside for a moment while his wife and daughter prepared to leave upstairs.
Mr Granger tried to look intimidating; he did not smile, folded his arms tight and spoke in sharp utterances.
“Do you know what a real man is, Draco?”
Draco said nothing and waited for the aging male to speak.
“A real man appreciates a good woman, earns his keep, and is willing to do anything for his family. Yes … and he’s honest. As for wizards, I am not sure, but you must have the same basic principles.”
“Yeah, basically the same, Mr Granger,” Draco replied.
“Don’t be smart with me.” He tried to look even more foreboding by leaning away from the wall and standing straight, only an inch taller than Draco. “Besides … I haven’t finished yet … ” Mr Granger took a deep breath. “Now, my Hermione is a very smart girl, very bright. And I don’t want you to mess her around.”
“I won’t -”
“Still talking. I saw the way you two were last week that night after her aunt and cousins came for dinner. Very cosy. I’m a reasonable man, but more importantly I am a father.” He started pointing now. “And I know what’s in your mind. If you ever ever hurt my daughter - in any way - I will hurt you.”
“Mr Granger, I -”
“I don’t know magic like you do, but I do know how to fight, make no mistake about that.”
Draco held in his laughter. Mr Granger did not look that able to fight in his eyes. “Mr Granger, I’m sure that won’t be necessary.”
“You better make sure it’s not necessary,” he said threateningly.
“Really,” Draco reassured him. “I love Hermione and I have since I was eleven years old.”
“Don’t think I’ve forgotten what happened when you found out her mother and I can’t do magic.”
“I don’t -”
“Nor what happened when she was with Cedric Diggory. You broke her heart.”
“I know. And I promise I won’t hurt her again. Because if I do, I’ll only be hurting myself.”
“So it’s more important to satisfy your own ends, is it?” he asked angrily.
“No, that’s not what I meant.” Draco straightened up. “I meant that if she’s upset, I am too. I only want to see her happy.”
Mr Granger stared at him for a moment and then said, “Be careful with her, Mr Malfoy.” He held out his right hand.
Draco smiled and shook his hand. “I will, Sir.”
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