Chapter 10 : The Date
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Frustration was made known by the sigh that escaped her lips upon entering the Room of Requirement. A loveseat sat in the front of the fireplace with two large armchairs on each side. A mahogany coffee table was place on the center of the ensemble upon a carpeted floor. The room gave a warm, orange glow from the already ablazed fire. Otherwise, the room was completely empty.
Realizing that the older witch might be on her way, Hermione decided to wait for her for a few minutes. She still had forty-five minutes left for breakfast before they leave Cassie with Madame Pomphrey who had been the actually ran a daycare center in her cozy hospital wing for the seventh year kids. The brunette walked her way towards the loveseat and took a book from the coffee table which she hadn't noticed when she first arrived. Fifteen minutes, that's all she could give.
The first five minutes has gone by silently with only the cackling fire and the soft rustle of turning pages from Hermione's book only the company of the witch. On the next five, Hermione had already taken over the whole loveseat, with her body spreadout and head resting on the arm. She did this to stop herself from leaving. But where was the professor?
The door opened with a start. The witch on the couch sat up quickly and frantically closed the book she'd been reading. The witch's moves were so clumsy that her cheeks were tainted with dark pink when the book, instead of dropping on the coffee table, dropped on the floor with its pages open and folded awkwardly.
The newcomer had the look of confusion and amusement as he watched the witch in the room. The blond wizard leaned on his side, arms crossed on his chest with a smirk on his face. Deciding to take pity on the other occupant of the room, Draco cleared his voice.
"Granger, what in Merlin's face are you doing here?" He drawled, but lacked the malice in his voice.
The witch jumped at his voice. Hermione turned around to see her partner, then a confused look etched to her face. Furrowed brows, pursed lips, Hermione almost glared at him before looking away and sighed. They've only made up their sensitive relationship- if you can call whatever they were that.
"What are you doing here?" She said plopping herself down on one of the armchairs, instead of the love seat. "Aren't you supposed with Cassie? Where's Cass?" As if on cue, Hermione's hostility-slash-embarrassment was replaced by frantic worry. Images of a hurt Cassie entered her mind until she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Merlin, Granger, calm down. I wonder how Potter and Weasel actually lived with it all these years. You worry like there's no tomorrow," Draco said in an amused tone as he walked towards the armchair across her, and sat.
"Professor Merrywood asked my presence here." He said answering her first question. "And Cass is with Potter, playing with James."
With a sigh of relief, Hermione relaxed a bit, leaning her back fully on the chair. "Professor Merrywood asked me here too, said it is about my grades." She explained, then frowned. "She's ten minutes late."
Draco merely shrugged and took the book on the coffee table. It was the same book Hermione was reading when he came in. There were few pages that were folded but otherwise the book was in tact. It was about family planning and parenting. Typical. Draco thought.
"She really has to show up." Hermione grumbled and crossed her arms on her chest. With an angry pout, she watched th flames of the fire dance to the unheard music of silence. The woman needed to learn how to be punctual. Hermione had half the mind to teach the older witch that.
Draco put the book down after inspecting it and settled back on his chair. He watched the witch across him and noted the pretty little pout of her lips. He quickly stopped himself. That was Hermione Granger. His train of thought would do well for him, for both of them really. He just mimicked her gaze and watched the silent performance before him.
Just then, a small pop echoed through the room. A small yellowish parchment appeared from the thin air above the coffee table, between Hermione and Draco. Both the students eyes followed the parchment as it floated down, swaying slowly with the almost non-existent current, and finally landed on top of the book at the coffee table.
Hermione glanced at Draco with curiosity before she leaned over and took the parchment. She read the letter aloud.
"Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger,
I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to meet up with you. However, you both being in here is not a mere coincidence. Instead, it is a premeditated plan. I have been aware of your current dispute, and it has been affecting both your grades and your daughter, Cassiopeia.
In lieu of this, you are not allowed to leave the Room of Requirement until you haven't settled your differences, including the reasons of your petty row. Think of it as a repeat of your first lesson, though instead of arriving with a schedule of who to take care of your daughter, please arrive with a deeper understanding of your partner. In that way, you will both know when to elongate your patience and tolerance.
I know you're not the best of friends, Mr. Malfoy and Ms. Granger, but think of this as an extra credit and a friendly date in one. Please use your time wisely.
Professor Alice Merrywood
P.S. You can try and think of what kind of room you'd want to be in, however, a trusted house-elf of mine would ensure that you wouldn't leave the room until I say so. Good luck!"
And by that, the parchment glowed and disappeared. Hermione looked at Draco, now with surprise and confusion. How could the woman do that to them. Whatever their relationship was, it was still on the rocks. And she seriously believed that time was the solution to their problem. But the fact remained. They wouldn't be allowed to leave until they've settled whatever they needed to settle.
"So..." she started, only to room changing ever so slightly. The fireplace slowly dissolved and was replaced by a huge window overlooking the lake. The room expanded, and soon she felt as if her chair was dissolving too. Afraid that she'll fall on the floor, Hermione stood up as Draco did the same.
"What are you doing?" She shrieked as the chairs and the table disappeared.
"Changing the scene. Its too stuffy in there." Draco replied. "Besides, I'd rather have an outlook at the grounds, and see Cass from afar you know. Its already awkward as it is," he drawled and walked towards the window.
Closing her eyes, Hermione thought of some bookshelves, containing Muggle and Wizarding literature about parenting and other topics they needed. She thought of extending the window sill so that the two of them will fit somehow. By the grunt she heard, she considered it as an approval. And finally, Hermione thought of a huge piano to fill up the vast space. It was a random thought, but somehow she felt it right to be there. "Winky," Hermione called as she opened her eyes.
A pop echoed through the room and the used-to-be drunk elf appeared in front of her. "Miss, what can Winky does Miss?" The house-elf squeaked, her voice a mix of fright and grief that it made Hermione's heart broke into small pieces.
"I'm sorry to disturb you Winky, but are you the elf Professor Merrywood asisgned to guard us?" Hermione asked in a soft soothing voice as she kneeled in front of the elf. Winky almost scurried if not for the fact that she'd seen the woman before. "Yes, Miss." The little creature retorted, almost shy.
"Alright, can I ask you to bring up some food? We've missed breakfast and we can't leave to get some, can you do that?" She asked, although it pained her a bit to do it. She still hated asking house-elves for something she knew she could do. However, the brief brightening of Winky's demeanor quickly relieved Hermione's hesitation.
"Yes, Miss. Winky is gets the food quickly, Miss." The elf squeaked brightily and popped before Hermione could complete her mouthing of gratitude. Another minute passed and a floating tray appeared, complete with various fruit slices, bread loaves, a pitcher of pumpkin juice and two glasses. Hermione caught it with her hands as she walked over to Draco who was seated on the window sill. Unbeknownst to her, he watched the whole interaction between Hermione and Winky and simply admired her manners, even if he couldn't discern why she was too kind to the elf.
"Best we eat," Hermione said with a shrug as she put the tray on the place between them and sat on the sill herself., leaning on the wall opposite Draco. She was glad she wore trousers today. It was weekend after all. Hermione took a bread loaf and buttered it with a knife before leaning back to the wall. Her eyes went to the view before them and she sighed as she spotted the blond head of her daughter with the black hair of Harry's son. Their smiles reached their ears as they play chase under the watchful eyes of the Potters- might as well call them that.
"She perfect isn't she?" Hermione said, risking a glance to Draco. Draco nodded as he took a loaf himself and poured juice on the glasses. He lightly nudged the other glass to Hermione's direction and took his. "Thank you," she said.
Draco shrugged and watched the scene before them. Why on Earth did her daughter became best friends with a Potter was beyond him. Although, being Granger was her mother, it was bound to happen. He just didn't thought it'll be possible, even if Cassie was his pretend daughter. He didn't actually thought he could be in a more tolerant environment with Potter and the She-Weasley, but it happened. It was the Weasel though that he couldn't tolerate when he opened his yap. He was actually glad the git's son wasn't that close to his daughter.
"What happened to the old Draco Malfoy?" Draco heard Hermione's voice and pulled himself from his reverie. He contemplated in silence while glancing at her every few moments then back to the scene on the Hogwarts' lake. He heard Hermione sigh and poured another glass of pumpkin juice on her own.
Hermione groaned in her head, mentally slapping herself for asking that question. They were friends, barely, before the incident on Cassie's birthday happened. But she never did think of asking him what happened to the intolerant bully, Draco Malfoy. She knew that he liked Quidditch, that he was good in Potions because his mother was and she was friend with Snape before, that he still has his inheritance although Malfoy Manor was currently under the Ministry until he graduated. She knew trivial things about him, but she didn't know Draco Malfoy. And Merrywood was right, if they wanted this partnership to work, they needed to know each other.
The witch mimicked Draco's action and simply watched the scene. The kids were in the shallow water of the lake, near the shore with Harry and Ginny on their side as they enjoyed the last bits of fall. Soon, the lake would be frozen, and it wouldn't be fun to be at the lake anymore. She heard him sigh then poured some more juice into his glass.
"I needed to change." He said, making Hermione's gaze lift from the scene to him with a look of surprise. Draco, however, looked away from her and watched the scene. He loved how happy his daughter was. He didn't realize his happiness would depend on other people, much more he would love other people.
"The war, it changed me. It made me see what I, my whole family, had turned blind eye on. I... I couldn't live like that anymore. I have to change, or else I'll go insane." Draco said, struggling slightly with his words. He had barely said those things to Blaise, his best friend, but here he was, talking to Granger whose life he'd made hell when they were younger.
"I- I understand," Hermione replied when the initial surprise wore off. They would actually talk now. They watched as Cassie splashed some water on James who ran faster before Harry could catch him. That made Cass follow the father-son tandem and soon, Ginny too. The four of them played chase and their merry laughter filled the air. Even if she was feet above them, Hermione could still hear them in her head.
"You would think that the Slytherins would have learned their lessons from the war, wouldn't you?" Draco said interrupting her thoughts.
"I don't know. I hoped so. Though the looks I, we've been receiving since the beginning of the year is far from tolerant."
"That's right. Only a few of us really saw the war, Granger. Only few had been forced to grow up quicker than them. Only I, Blaise, Greg, Theo. Not even Pansy or Daphne did." Draco said grabbing an apple and tossed it on his other hand.
"Their families did their best to hide them from the Dark Lord. Mothers had flown to other countries to hide their kids, but not us, never us. We've been born, taught, and trained to be a Death Eater. We couldn't defy it. But not everyone know that. Not everyone knew of what we've been through." He said flatly although Hermione could sense a bit of bitterness in his words. "The world is not black and white." He added then stood up from his seat and walked to the bookshelves.
Hermione remained silent as she listened to him speak. She dared not lift her eyes to look at him, afraid that she'll see what she'd been afraid of. The pain, the fright, the rage, every emotion of his was what Hermione had been afraid of. She half expected him to explode, but in the new Draco Malfoy way, he maintained his composure despite the harshness in his voice.
She understood what she was saying. She wanted to forget, she simply wanted to move on. She'd been forced to grow up quicker like him, she'd seen much more than she thought she would have seen had she been a simple teenage muggle. She'd seen how Muggleborns were turned into statues to carry the bigger statue of witch and wizard in the Ministry. She'd seen how people cower in fright. She obliviated her parents memories just to keep them alive. She'd seen the fall of people from both sides in the final battle, some were mere children like her. She'd seen them all. She'd seen the grey areas Draco had been talking about. She understood him.
Standing up from her seat, Hermione walked on the grand piano, lifted the cover of the keys and positioned her fingers above it. Her mother insisted on her learning of the piano despite her being part of the Wizarding world. Dr. Jean Granger thought Hermione could be the best of both worlds. Hermione's mind began recalling her favorite piano piece, Beethoven's Fur Elise. Her fingers glided on the balck and white keys of the piano, softly filling the air with harmonious music. She tried to pour her soul to the music, and she'd been successful.
Whatever words that hadn't been said between them was communicated through her music. Hermione opened her eyes to look at Draco's, which was not a hard task as he was looking at her directly despite the open book in his hands. As the music played on, their eyes talked. She told him that she understood, and through an almost imperceptible nod, Hermione knew that Draco knew why she understood. Both of them had changed, this time for the better.
Thank you everyone for your continued support, I'm sorry for taking so long. I write as I get new stuffs in my head, but I'll try to be quicker next time. Thank you.