B Disclaimer- Okay, again, I don't own Harry Potter, the characters, or anything dealing with it, it all belongs to the amazing J.K. Rowling. Only the plot is mine.
“I hope you don’t think I’m asking you for permission.”
“You made your decision, you’re not going back on it now.”
“You wrote her off, don’t you remember? You said that staying away would be best for her. You decided, not us.”
“Listen, I know I fucked up, I know I did everything wrong, but it stops now! I won’t lose her again! Potter,” he turned and addressed the wizard sitting at the kitchen table, “please get your wife under control.”
Draco had appeared at their door two hours ago. The shouting commenced shortly thereafter. Ginny was refusing to allow Draco any contact Hermione. Draco was refusing to back down. They had both dug their heels in and were refusing to budge. Harry was at the end of his rope.
“All right, that’s enough,” he said in a dangerously low voice. “If you’re quite finished with your shouting match,” looking at both the culprits, “can we please sit down and try to figure this out.”
Reluctantly they did as they were asked. It was difficult for them to keep silent, each one knowing that they were in the right.
“Draco,” Harry began, “what exactly did you have in mind? Did you honestly believe that it would be a good idea to show up at midnight to try to get information about Hermione?”
“I literally just flooed in. I didn’t want to wait another day. I’ve been without her for too long as it is and,” Draco glared at Ginny, “this would have gone a hell of a lot more quickly and been extremely nice if your wife had just told me what I need to know.”
“It would also be nice,” Ginny injected, “if it would rain Bertie Botts Beans, but neither one of those things are going to happen,” she ended with a glare of her own.
“Stop,” said a very tired sounding Harry, “the longer you two keep this up the longer it will take to iron it out.”
“Listen Potter, I’m not asking for permission to claim what belongs to me..”
“Harry you know how I feel about this, she’s finally found peace…” they shouted at the same time.
Harry was finished with being patient. “ENOUGH! Ginny, go back to bed,” he said as he rubbed his tired eyes, “and Draco, you and I will discuss this at my office. In the morning!”
A much more subdued Draco sat across from Harry a few hours later. The uncomfortable chair faced the back of the office and the window located behind Harry’s desk. A normal person would have noticed what a beautiful day it was, but Draco was too preoccupied to bother with that. A couple of hours of sleep did a lot to clear his head. He knew that he had to handle this situation carefully because he needed to have Harry’s blessing when it came to Hermione. He could always find the information he needed but he wanted to do it the right way. He didn’t want to cause her to have to choose between them.
His first words to the silent wizard in front of him were, “I want the opportunity to present her with a choice. To let her choose if she is still willing to live the life we had planned, before all this shit happened.”
Harry’s demeanor gave nothing away, but it was evident that he had gotten very little sleep after Draco left his house earlier. His hair was unrulier than usual and his robes looked as if they had seen better days. After a couple of minutes, Harry stood and walked to the front of his desk and leaned against it. It was almost possible to see the gears turning in his head before he spoke.
“Believe me when I say that I understand what you must be going through,” he said, “but I have to think about Hermione right now.” Harry continued, “She’ll be here in a week. With her boyfriend,” he emphasized, “and there’s nothing you or I can do about that.”
Before Draco could respond Harry continued, “I won’t do anything to ruin Angelina’s wedding,” he pinned Draco to the seat with his eyes, “so I’m asking you to refrain from contacting her until the day after.”
Draco felt the weight of the world lift from his shoulders. At least Harry was not going to interfere with his attempts to win his lady back.
“Don’t look so relieved,” Harry said as he walked back around his desk and sat down, “you still have a long way to go before you’re in the clear. You handled everything wrong from the very beginning.”
“I know I did, but what did you expect of me, for me to hang on to her when it seemed apparent that I was going to rot in that place?” Draco asked. “I don’t know what it is that you expected me to do.”
Harry didn’t hesitate to answer in a calm voice, “Hermione is an exceptionally intelligent person, I expected you to let her make her own decision. I expected you to know that she would know what was best for herself.”
Draco stood still as a statue behind the pillar as he watched the group of friends greet each other with hugs and kisses. The buzz of Heathrow Airport was drowned out by the humming in his ears. There, in the midst of the crowd, stood his heart. Her hair looked lighter, no doubt the effect of living in the California sun. She was thinner, almost too thin, but her face was beautiful as always. The golden tan she sported made her skin look like honey desperately wanted a taste.
He almost walked over to her, forgetting the promise he’d made to Harry, but then she turned and took the hand of the bloke standing behind her. Two things happened at once.
First, Harry caught his eye as he was about to lunge. The look in the man’s eyes said “back the fuck off”.
Second, Draco got a good look at Hermione’s face. She was smiling, chatting and laughing, but she didn’t look happy. Her eyes, her eyes held sadness in them that he had never seen. It was all just a front. In all the years he’d known her he had seen her happy, troubled, frightened and angry, but never this sad.
He had done this to her. His decision had caused her to lose the sparkle of happiness. And he would do whatever it took to fix this, to fix her. It was the thought that he still had a chance to be with her that prevented him from destroying Josh. He knew that he had to get the hell out of here before he compromised his resolve to wait. There was no way he could be in the same place with them if that idiot kept putting his hands on her, no way he’d be able to remain hiding. With a last look at his love, Draco turned and walked away.
Draco went behind a column at Heathrow and quietly apparated away, going to the only place he had right now and landed in the foyer of manor. His parents had disposed of his old flat when he was sent to prison and he had not looked for another place yet. He was waiting to see where things went with Hermione. All his artwork and furniture were being stored in the attic of the manor, awaiting the outcome of his confrontation with her.
Just thinking about it made Draco’s heart race. As difficult as it was to think of her without going to her, real fear kept him in place. He had to make sure that he did this right. He couldn’t chance losing her forever. Soon, a couple of days more, and he would be able to see her, speak to her, try to explain his reasoning to her. One thing was certain; he could not live without her. Merlin help him.
“What has you in such deep thoughts my love?”
Draco turned to see his mother looking at him from the sitting room entryway. How was it that she always seemed to be near when he needed her?
“Nothing much Mother, merely the chances of me ever getting my happy ending,” he replied. At the questioning look from his mum, he clarified, “I want her back so badly, that I’m terrified that I’m going to completely mess this up more than I already have.”
Narcissa walked over to him and hooked her arm through his. “Walk with me,” she said as she led him to the French doors that led to her private garden. The two of them strolled around the beautifully manicured yard in silence for a bit before Narcissa asked the question million dollar question, “So, what are you planning to do son?”
“I really have no idea, that is the crux of the dilemma, isn’t it?” Draco knew he was looking to his parent for answers that were not easy to give. “I had everything in the palm of my hand and I threw it all away in a fit of rage.” He continued to talk as they walked, pulling at his hair in frustration, “I made such a big deal of her not contacting me and moving on, that I essentially abandoned her to deal with the loss of our baby on her own. And now, she’s moved on and has someone new. She’s come back for the Weasley wedding, but she’s brought him with her. Potter’s right, I fucked up bad and I don’t deserve to have a second chance.”
“Language Draco,” reprimanded his mother, “I know things look bad right now and they seem a bit,” she said as she sat on the marble bench by the yellow roses she had planted the year after the war finished, “complicated, but,” she said a she held up a hand to silence him before he said something sarcastic, “you need to remember one tiny fact that you seem to be overlooking.”
Draco looked at her and shook his head, “And what would that be mother?”
She looked at him with a knowing smile, “There is not a person alive who is more loyal than Hermione Granger. She stood by Harry’s side, through all the turmoil he encountered, she never waivered in her loyalty to him. She defended the Weasley’s every time someone ridiculed them. Her loyalty to them is apparent in the fact that she would come here knowing that it would be painful for her to do so,” she continued, “People in our world have always admired her intelligence, and I do to, but not as much as I admire her for her steadfast dedication to those she loves and Hermione Granger loves you. Not this wizard she has brought with her. She loves you.”
“How can you be so sure,” Draco asked as he looked down at his mother, “after all this time? A whole lifetime has passed.”
“Sit down dear,” Narcissa said as she gently urged him to join her on the bench, “I’m sure she still loves you because I saw the way she looked at you every time you were together, I saw how devastated she was when everything fell apart, and I know that she would not have stayed away for all this time if she didn’t love you.”
He wanted to believe her, but he also knew that it was a long shot at best.
After a long night of tossing in bed without any sleep, Draco was dealing with such a high level of anxiety that he had to force himself not to seek her out. He couldn’t remember feeling like this since he was in solitary confinement. The need to see her, if nothing else, prompted him to steal away to Diagon Alley in hopes of catching a glimpse of her.
A simple concealment charm was enough to distort the color of his eyes, the shape of his nose and mouth and, with the scarring on his face, he was reasonably certain that he would just be someone who looked a bit familiar.
His premonition proved true when he spotted her walking toward a small shop at the end of the street. For the first time since he had left her yesterday, his anxiety evaporated, his heart beat a steady beat, as if it knew that its reason for existing was close. She looked a bit harried, running late as usual, he thought with a smile. He could see the witches and wizards on the street stop and stare at her, he could also feel her apprehension; she hated the attention she got. Draco made sure that he kept out of sight as he followed her as far as he could. She was met by Angelina in front of what turned out to be a dress shop, but she turned back before she went in, as if she was looking for someone. Draco took that as a sign that he had better leave before she saw him.
Sitting in the pub later that afternoon, Draco didn’t know how to process his mother’s words from the day before. He prayed that he would be able to sort this out in his favor. Every fiber of his being was wracked with pain at the thought of not having Hermione in his life, but his heart kept a steady stream of hope pulsing through his body.
As he sat there he thought back to the night he had seen her dancing with another man at that nightclub. How he wanted to throttle the man for daring to touch her and now he wanted to dismember the asshole that came to England with her. He couldn’t do what he’d wanted to then and he unable to do it now. Well, fuck.
He was careful to sit in a dark corner, away from the general public as he couldn’t afford to have someone recognize him and word get back to her before he was ready to confront her.
He had just noticed that the place was quickly becoming filled with employees of the Ministry when he saw them. Harry was sitting on the other side of the room with a group of men. Draco’s eyes immediately locked on the dark haired wizard sitting next to George Weasley. An unreasonable fury threatened to overtake for the second time in as many days, but it was merely a drop in the bucket compared to the rage that seemed to sear his very soul when a couple of minutes later Hermione walked in and greeted him with an embrace and kiss. He couldn’t hear their conversation but their bond was more apparent tonight than it had been the yesterday at the airport. I damn near killed him.
Draco had not allowed himself to cry when his child died, or when he was told the Wizengamot’s verdict at his trial, or when he was beaten to within an inch of his life. All those moments, he had been victorious in the battle to control his emotions, but this, this was too much and he was too tired to fight anymore. As the tears gathered in his eyes, he quietly walked to the nearby corridor, her scent seeking him out as he apparated away.
He could not say he was surprised to see Draco leaning against his front door at three in the morning. The man was becoming a bit predictable.
Harry moved back so that the man could enter, “I saw you there tonight mate. What were you thinking?” he asked as soon as they got to the kitchen. “We had an agreement, no contacting her until after the wedding, did you forget?”
“Years, Potter, it’s been years,” Draco didn’t try to deny it, “Could you keep away from Ginny if you were separated this long and suddenly she was within touching distance?”
“I didn’t think so.”
They didn’t say anything for several minutes, Harry sat at the table, his hands making a mess of his already rumpled hair. Draco paced back and forth with his hands in his pocket, as if he was forcing them to keep still.
“Look Malfoy, I’m not telling you..”
“Potter, you have to unders…”
“I’m just saying that what if someone..”
“I tried to stay away, but it was..”
“The shit pile we would have been left w…”
“I don’t give two fucks about the wedding!” Draco’s harshly whispered words stopped Harry’s argument. “Short of you arresting me again, nothing is going to stop me. So,” desperation consumed his features, “please, tell me where she’s staying.”
The defeated look Harry wears plainly showed he had been expecting this all along. After several long moments he said, “Tomorrow evening. She’ll be at the rehearsal in the evening, but,” he quickly added, “you need to let me break it to her. Draco, I’m serious, you have to let me tell her that you’re free and then, and only then,” he pinned the man with his eyes, “if she wants to speak to you, I will send her to you and you can have your say.”
Draco wanted to argue, he wanted to shout, but he held his tongue. He knew that Harry was right and that this was the way it should go down. Merlin knew that he had made all the wrong decisions when it came to him and Hermione.
The fluttering was back in his stomach. The blasted feeling refused to be kept at bay. He knew he would see her today and he had no idea how to handle it. He had hurt her so bad that he seriously doubted that she would ever let him back into her life. Being without her for so long had changed him. Even though he had handled the whole thing wrong, the results had been good for him. Ron knew that leaving Hermione had almost destroyed her and he was sorry for that, but he was also sure that he had done the right thing.
Living in Australia had a lot of benefits, the least not being that there was a lot less people there than in the United Kingdom. The first months after he left Hermione were the most difficult months of his life. He had left everything and everyone he loved behind, waking up most nights screaming and covered in sweat. The only peace he had been able to find was in the solitude of his new environment.
When his mother told him about Hermione and Malfoy dating, he had rushed home to talk some sense into his ex-girlfriend and maybe even try to work things out with her, but the events that occurred during that visit made that an impossibility. Instead of reconciliation, he was left with more regrets and feelings of guilt. After Malfoy’s trial he had returned to Australia. For him, that whole ordeal was validation for his years of living in fear for her safety and he was wracked with more nightmares. In a desperate move to save his sanity he decided to try a muggle cure. He sought therapy and found Dr. Elizabeth Morehead. The beautiful young muggle doctor had been his salvation. Her piercing green eyes belied her quiet demeanor, but were a testament to her inner strength.
His first sessions had been awkward because of the necessity for him to alter some of the facts concerning his situation. She, obviously, would not understand his night terrors concerning a wizard war. Apparently his ability to lie was shit, because Dr. Morehead had called him on his bullshit. It was that conversation that led to him quitting therapy and asking her out to dinner.
It was not very long after their first date that Ron realized that he was falling for this redheaded angel and after six months he had sat her down and confessed his life story to her. It required some fancy wand work and a trip to the Burrow for her to be convinced that her new boyfriend wasn’t completely insane, but in the end, she had believed him and was better prepared to help him deal with his issues. Now, a year later, Elizabeth had all but wiped away his nightmares. When he asked her to marry him, she had said yes, with one condition. She wanted him to make amends with his ex-girlfriend/best friend.
To be completely honest, Ron knew that he would have to meet with Hermione again one day. He felt like a complete tosser for not going to see her in America, he had many opportunities, but he had been too scared to follow through with it. He knew that this was the right time. He was prepared to do whatever he needed to do to make everything up to her.
With a quick prayer and a shaky breath he apparated into the house in the Burrow. A couple of seconds later he was face to face with his sister and Harry.