It’s only been about three days since the funeral, but I have seen significant improvement in Draco’s mood already. This morning he finally came out of his room and ate breakfast at the table with everyone else for the first time since he found out about Astoria’s death. Of course, my concern for him and all the help and attention I have been giving him hasn’t gone unnoticed by Ron and Ginny. After lunch when we’ve finished eating, Ginny drags me back up to our room. Her expression is stern and her arms are folded across her chest. I sit down on my bed, watching her stand in the middle of the room, and wait for her to begin lecturing me.
Ginny pinches the bridge of her nose as she takes a deep breath. “Okay, Hermione, tell me what the hell is going on?”
“Oh, Ginny, calm down,” I insist, trying not to let her get on my nerves.
“Calm down? It’s obvious that you’ve been hiding something from me. We barely spend any time together or talk at all lately and we’re sharing a room! And now here you are devoting all this time to Malfoy!”
“Astoria is dead, Ginny!” I spit out harshly. “He’s really upset right now! He needs
“This has been going on even before she died, Hermione. I know that you always have to be the one to heal the birds with the broken wings, and if it was only that it wouldn’t be a problem, but –“
“But what, Gin?”
“There is definitely more to this than Florence Nightingale nursing a wounded soldier.”
“Are you comparing me to Florence Nightingale?”
“Are you going to answer my question? What’s going on between you and Malfoy?”
I take a deep breath and stare back at her. I wait a long moment before responding as I think about my answer. I’m supposed to tell her what’s going on with Draco? I’m not even sure that I know what’s going on with Draco. He allowed me to come in his room and talk to him since the funeral. And I keep replaying everything that he said to me at the funeral. So, what is going on between us then? Is he my friend? Is he my boyfriend? I notice that Ginny is growing impatient in my silence.
“Look, Ginny, I don’t know exactly what’s going on between us right now,” I attempt to explain, choosing my words very carefully. “What I do know, is that I really have feelings for him.”
Her forehead wrinkles and she opens her mouth to retort, but I cut her off.
“Now before you say anything, let me remind you that this is my life and I can make my own decisions.”
“I’m old enough to decide who I want in my life –“
“Hello ladies,” Ron sings as he bursts through my door without knocking.
“ – and who I don’t,” I finish, rolling my eyes.
“Jeez,” Ron groans, “what the hell is going on in here?”
“Nothing – anymore,” I tell him, watching Ginny closely. “We were just finishing up our conversation. And I was just leaving.
“Where are you going!?” Ginny demands as I stand up and head for the doorway. I turn around in the doorway to look at her.
“Nightingale has a soldier to take care of and some broken wings to mend,” I mutter. And with that I turn and head down the hallway toward Draco’s bedroom. The last thing that I want, and I’m sure the last thing that Draco really needs at the moment, is for me to become one of those girls who bombards the guy with all of these ridiculous questions about what type of relationship we have and where he sees things going in the future. I’ve always hated girls who put guys on the spot like that. I don’t want Draco to feel pressured or anything, especially if he’s not looking for a relationship. However, I can’t help but have my own version of these questions. I knock softly on his door and crack it open slightly. He’s lying comfortably on his bed, leaning back against the headboard, reading a book. He waves me. I slip inside the room and close the door behind me.
“Hey Ace,” he greets me.
“Hey soldier,” I say jokingly, although realizing at the confused expression that appears on his face that he wouldn’t understand the joke.
“It’s a long story. I hope I’m not interrupting,” I whisper, glancing at the book in his hands.
“A welcome interruption,” he assures me. “Besides, I’ve already read this book about three times. What’s going on?”
I sigh, walking over and sitting on the edge of the bed next to him. “I just got cornered by Ginny, wanting to know what’s going on between us.”
He allows the book to fall closed and he leans forward. “Uh oh. I’m sure that was a civilized conversation. What did you tell her?”
“The truth. That I’m not sure.”
“Are you? Because if you are, I wouldn’t mind if you shared the details with me.”
“I suppose nothing has really been clarified. Relationship talks aren’t exactly my thing.”
“Does this mean we have some sort of relationship?”
He doesn’t respond, though his eyes soften as he seems to studying the details of my face carefully. Eventually he takes my hand. “Listen, Ace, I like you – a lot.”
“I like you a lot, too.”
“But I’m not some fairy tale prince who believes in happily ever afters. I’m not that romantic bastard who buys you flowers and tells you he loves you every day. I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for when you think that you want a relationship – but I’m fairly certain that I’m not that guy.”
“I’m not looking for you to be that guy. I’m not looking for you to be anything other than what you are. I like you, Draco. I don’t need flowers to convince me of that. I’m also not going to tell you that you have to give a relationship with me a shot if you don’t think that it’s for the best. I’ve told you how I feel – I’ve done my part. If you decide that you want to test the waters and see if we can make it work, then you know where to find me.”
I attempt to stand up and leave, but he doesn’t release my hand. I look back at him, slightly surprised. He pulls me down toward him. I reposition myself so that I’m lying down next to him, pressed up against his side. He rests his arm around my shoulders, holding me to him, as I rest my head on his chest. I can feel his chest rise as he takes a deep breath.
“I want to be with you, Granger. But I won’t lie to you – I have no idea what I’m doing and I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to do anything right. I’m not romantic and I don’t do ‘I love you’s, I need you to know that now.”
“I understand, Draco.” I lay there silently, smiling to myself. I got the answer that I wanted. I try not to let my thoughts drift to how Ron and Ginny will react. At least I know that Harry will be supportive.
The tension increases exponentially as we all sit around the table during dinner. Draco decided to tell everyone about the choice we made earlier about trying to take our relationship a step further. Some of them took it well, others did not. Cat practically cheered at the news. Harry looked very pleased. Blaise and Lucius both had completely expressionless faces. Narcissa looked pleasantly surprised. Ginny looked disappointed, however, not surprised. The only problem was Ron.
Ron’s face is turning red – the shades becoming darker than his hair. Harry has a hand on his shoulder in case any sort of restraining is required. Draco, of course, looks smug at this reaction. Ron’s jaw is clenched tightly. Finally he can’t seem to contain his disapproval any longer.
“What the fuck are you thinking!?” he spits at me. “Is this some sort of joke!?”
“Ron, calm down,” Harry pleads.
“Don’t tell me to calm down! It’s obvious that you knew about this and didn’t tell me!”
“This is exactly why we didn’t tell you, Ronald,” I tell him calmly. “We knew that you would overreact.”
“You think I’m overreacting!?” he shouts. “This is Malfoy for fuck’s sake!”
“Excuse me!” hisses Narcissa defensively.
“Let it go, Mother,” Draco assures her, still smirking smugly at Ron. “It doesn’t bother me.”
I sigh down at the table, frustrated by all the tension. I wish that my friends could just let me make my own decisions about my life and support me. Well, of course, Harry has always done just that, but I really hoped the others would as well. I take a deep breath, hoping it will give me courage, and look up at Lucius. He is already looking at me and our eyes lock intently. Given everything that he has always believed about Muggle-borns, it can’t be a particularly pleasing thought to find out that his only son has gone against those beliefs.
“This is just ridiculous!” Ron continues, exasperated.
“Oh, shut up, Ronald!” I snap without thinking. Everyone looks at me in shock. I roll my eyes and decide to look directly at Ron. “I am with Draco because I want to be. That is the decision I’ve made and it is my decision – not yours. He’s changed and if you were mature enough to let go of this grudge, you may have seen that. Now, as much as it would mean for you to support me, I know that you won’t. So the least you can do is just leave me alone about it.”
He stares at me, flabbergasted by the outburst. He doesn’t seem to know what to say, which is better off since I don’t want to hear a word from him at this moment. I know that Draco has a very questionable past and he’s never treated Ron kindly. I know how difficult it is to forgive him for everything that he is done. But the fact that one of my best friends can’t support me in something that means so much to me really hurts.
“Excuse me,” I whisper breathlessly as I stand up from the table and rush out of the room. I storm wildly down the corridors, unsure where I’m going until I get there. When I finally stop and look around, I’m standing in the drawing room, where Ron had once protected me. I stand in the center of the room and I can hear the crashing of the chandelier and the shattering of glass. I can feel Ron’s arms around me, pulling me out of the way. Before I can allow myself to become overwhelmed by the memory, I hear footsteps behind me. Part of me expects it to be Harry or Draco coming to comfort me. The other part of me is hoping that it’s Ron coming to apologize. I turn around and, with a small gasp of surprise, see Lucius Malfoy standing in the doorway.
“May I join you?” he asks politely, gesturing vaguely to the entire room. I nod slowly, slightly embarrassed by my behavior at the table. I’m sure that having an outburst like that can’t make him any more confident in my worthiness of being with his son. He takes a few cautious steps into the room, looking around with a grim expression. “I come in here a lot.”
“To remember all the horrible things that happened in here?” I watch him curiously as he walks to stand in front of the large fireplace.
“To remember what I almost lost,” he corrects me, staring blankly into the empty fireplace. I hear him sigh heavily. “To remind me that Narcissa and Draco need to be the most important things in my life. Draco is extremely important to my life, Ms. Granger.”
“He’s important to my life, too, Mr. Malfoy. If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t have risked two of my closest friendships to be with him. Ron and Ginny, despite the conflict you have with their family, are extraordinary people. I love them dearly.”
“And yet they don’t seem to be very supportive of you. Perhaps you have chosen correctly in your decision of who is more important.”
“I never said that Draco was more important to me than my friends. However, I also never said that he was any less important either. I have feelings for Draco that aren’t going to go away. I would never forgive myself if I gave up the opportunity to at least see if we have a future together. My friends don’t understand that. They’re shocked, they’re upset, and they’re overprotective of me. It’s no secret to you how your son treated all of us when we were in school.”
“Let me guess, Ms. Granger – you expect that your friends will take some time to calm down and then they will come around. You believe that they will learn to accept your relationship with my son and everything will have a happy ending.”
“What’s so wrong with a happy ending?” I laugh humourlessly. “Why don’t you and Draco believe there could ever be such a thing?”
“Because we both have seen many endings to many different stories, Ms. Granger, and they have never been happy ones.”
“Perhaps you’re reading the wrong stories.”
He stares at me for a long moment, his expression unreadable. I wait patiently for him to say something, anything. He bites his lower lip lightly in concentration to collect his thoughts. I see his chest grow with his large intake of breath.
“You know that our family has high expectations - expectations of those born into the family and those who marry into it.”
I take a deep breath. I half expected this topic to arise at some point during my stay here. “Your expectations, Mr. Malfoy, are unrealistic as well as close-minded. You can force Draco to marry a rich, pureblood woman and you can continue on with your family traditions that you have been so openly proud of all these years – but he won’t be happy. I’m not a pureblood, but I know that you won’t be able to find a pureblood who cares about him as much as I do, who understands him the way I do, or who will challenge him the way I can. My blood status doesn’t hold me back in any way, Mr. Malfoy. I am just as intelligent as your son and just as capable of meeting all of the other expectations that your family has set. Perhaps you should consider the fact that you were the one who said that Draco must be the most important thing in your life before anything else – including expectations, traditions, and blood status. Whatever it is that makes him happy should be what sets the expectations.”
“You’re a brave young woman, Ms. Granger.” He takes a few slow steps toward me. “I can see now what my son sees in you. You far surpass reasonable expectations. If this is what he wants, and if you can be trusted to be good to him, then I suppose it is important for me to let him live his life.”
“That’s very big of you.”
“If I don’t allow him to think for himself, then all he’s ever going to be is –“ he turns slowly in a circle, looking around and gesturing toward the large empty room “ – this. I don’t want that for him. I want him to have more than horrid nightmares and heavy regrets. He deserves better than that.”
“Perhaps you do, too.”
His empty eyes fill with shock at my statement. He opens his mouth to respond, but closes it again. I take his speechlessness as an opportunity to end the conversation and go find Draco.
“Goodnight, Mr. Malfoy.”