A/N: Hello everybody! Once again, to those who added this story to their favorites and commented, thank you so SO much! Your comments really motivate me to write more. I do apologize for the time it took to write this chapter. Enjoy!
“Good morning, I hope you slept alright,” Hermione chimed from the kitchen table, munching on her buttered toast.
Draco dramatically rolled his neck and stretched his arms over his head, “Well, I’m not so sure—for some reason, my body aches all over and—“
“Alright, alright,” Hermione said, plastering on her brightest smile and batting her eyelashes, “Oh Malfoy, you are just too kind for offering me your bed!”
“Stop it, that’s sort of creepy,” Draco replied with a shudder.
Batting her eyelashes even faster, Hermione jibed, “I’m so sorry! Do I remind you of someone?”
“Seriously—come on, Granger.” Draco crossed his arms and sat across from Hermione. “So, it’s already seven thirty, shouldn’t you be at work?”
“I have a meeting with Kingsley at nine,” taking a sip of her coffee she continued, “So I thought I’d take my time this morning.” She pushed a glass of orange juice in front of him, “Here.”
“Thanks.” Draco lifted it up to his lips and took a big gulp. Right as he put it down, he furrowed his brows and asked, “Granger—where’s my cup? How come it’s not in my purple cup?”
“It’s in the sink.”
“What! Shit, don’t tell me Potter used my fucking cup. If he even touched my cup, I swear—“
“Oh please, don’t be such a baby,” Hermione chuckled. “I used it. Ginny was about to, but I took it from her and told her that I liked it—much simpler than explaining your possessiveness over that cup.”
What Draco wanted to say was, I like that bloody cup because we painted it together at that surprisingly amusing muggle pottery painting place last year, and you painted my initials on the bottom. But what came out of his mouth was, “Right—well, glad you used it.”
Offering a piece of toast to Draco, Hermione remarked. “Harry and Ginny went to the burrow this morning and won’t be back until later so you won’t have to worry about them. And they’re planning on finding a place to live—probably muggle.” Seeing Draco nodding along, she took another sip of her coffee and tried to shake off the strangeness she was feeling. She slept in his bed quite well last night, too well. However, one thing had her perplexed. She vaguely remembered Draco coming in the room and—no, she was probably dreaming or something. Yes, definitely dreaming because he would never be that tender towards her—right? The feeling of his lips pressed against her forehead lingered in the back of her mind since the morning, hence the reason she got up so quickly and went back to her flat. She could’ve sworn that his fingers grazed the sides of her cheek—in her dream, of course. Blame it on the weekend, she thought and decided to proceed with the day, as usual. Dabbing her lips with a napkin, she wiped the faint red outline of her lipstick on the mug. “You’re up surprisingly early; you don’t have any work today, do you?”
“Nope, a drunken Blaise woke me up with his babbling of some pretty blonde girl.”
Hermione nodded amusedly and rose from her seat, tugging her black pencil skirt down while heading towards her desk. Gathering her notes on diricawls, she bent over to pick up her chestnut leather tote and turned around to see Draco with his mouth, ever so slightly open. Putting a hand on her hip, she chided. “Were you examining my derriere, Malfoy?”
Draco scoffed, despite the heat radiating through his body. Hoping that he wouldn’t turn red, he said, “Why would I do that, Granger? It’s not like I’ve never seen your nicely shaped behind before.” He noticed that she went a bit rigid, averting her gaze somewhere else and relaxed. “Besides, I sort of wanted to talk to you about something.”
“Hmm? I was planning on getting to work to go over what I’m going to say…can it wait? I promise we’ll talk—just the two of us, when I get back,” Hermione said with an apologetic smile.
“That’s fine with me. I’m going to go over to the Manor today, and I’m not sure how long that’s going to take, so stick around—yeah?”
Surprised, Hermione’s eyes widened, “Did something happen? You never go there, unless it’s some kind of formal event.”
Draco shook his head, avoiding her gaze. “Nah, Mother just missed me that’s all—I’m not doing anything today anyways. I’m sure she misses having tea with you, Granger.”
Hermione replied stiffly, “I did enjoy having tea until your father happened to see us at the café—“
“Look, I’m sorry about that—really. Trust me, Mother made sure he would never say those things again,” replied Draco as he walked towards Hermione. “Mother really likes you and probably misses your company. I know you haven’t owled her and she hasn’t either, but maybe you could owl her? I’m sure she’d be ecstatic.”
Hermione regarded Draco curiously, “Since when are you so sentimental, Malfoy? But yes, I will; I do enjoy her company as well.”
“I’ve always been sentimental, Granger. You just happen to miss it every time it happens.” Glancing at the clock, he commented, “Shouldn’t you get going?” Ushering her into the floo, Draco levitated the container of raspberries and cherry tomatoes over. “Don’t forget these; seriously, you made me bring them over last time and doing it discreetly was difficult enough,” Draco jibed with a nudge.
Letting out a sigh, she smiled, “What would I do without you, Malfoy. Oh! There’s some leftovers in the fridge if you and Blaise want it, and tell Narcissa I say hello,” Hermione said as the green flames engulfed her with a little whoosh.
Draco firmly pushed the heavy wooden door, rigid and filled with an uneven mix of anger and sadness. However, when the smell of sanitation hit him, the anger dissipated. If it weren’t for his hold on the cool, steel doorknob, would’ve fallen to the ground. There was his father, the man of power and hubris, reduced to the epitome of quiescence in bed. If it wasn’t for the slight green vapor surrounding him, Draco would’ve assumed the worst. However, his mother resembled the Malfoy image. Dutifully sitting beside her husband, she sat with her long white hair, with the tortoise shell glasses perched on top of her aristocratic nose looking over papers—remaining strong.
“Draco,” Narcissa sighed and slowly moved her head towards her son. Quietly, she asked, “Have you eaten lunch yet?”
Draco gulped, trying to find his voice and managed to say, “Y-Yes.”
She motioned for him to sit down next to her on the ivory chair. “Hermione must have left you something, am I right?” As he sat down, she tentatively put her hand on top of his. Feeling his hand tense, she gripped it firmly. “She’s a good girl—I like her. I assume that you have given her my invitation?”
“Is your bloody Christmas party that important to you—mother?” Draco strained to keep his quivering voice barely above a whisper. Firmly peeling her hands off of his, he looked into her eyes, missing their usual glimmer, “How could you,” he spat, “not tell me about this—all of this!” He blinked rapidly, trying to push his tears of frustration back. “Father is dying. I’m not blind; he looks like he’s dead already! And on top of that, what the hell was Blaise going on about the company! The man I knew, who detested muggle-borns, was doing business with plain muggles this whole time?” He clenched his fists, not caring about his nails digging into his skin. Desperately looking at his mother, as if she had all the answers, he whispered, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Folding her hands in her lap, she sat up even straighter pursing her red lips into a tight smile. Her gaze locked into his almost translucent grey eyes and said in a clear voice, “There is a reason for everything. I know it must seem preposterous but trust me.” Slightly quivering under her son’s piercing gaze, she continued. “We waited to tell you because we care about you, Draco.”
“You call this, caring? Leaving me in the dark, while you told Blaise?!”
Her soft gaze hardened and scolded, “Do not use that tone with me; I am your mother.”
Draco sneered and replied, “Well—mother. You might think that keeping me in the dark is what’s best, but in the end, I find out.”
“Of course you found out because I told you—“
“I knew about the pregnancy,” Draco said bitterly. Looking past his mother, he fixated his eyes on the small lavender vase and admitted, “I overheard you and father when I was home. And you know what? I wish I had a sister.”
Narcissa took in a sharp intake of breath and stuttered, “I-I had n-no idea…”
“Yeah,” Draco whispered as he lowered his head and closed his eyes. Taking deep breaths, he relaxed his fists and rubbed the back of his neck.
Narcissa wiped a single tear off her face with her handkerchief and gently placed a hand on his knee. “Draco, maybe you should go home. We can talk tomorrow.”
Heaving a sigh, Draco looked up. “I-I shouldn’t have blown up like that. I shouldn’t have even brought it up.” Averting his gaze from hers, he quietly and quickly said, “I’m s-sorry.”
With a light chuckle, Narcissa patted his knee, “Just like your father, can’t just directly apologize. Even if he does, he’s so subtle—so no one hears.” Slowly getting up from her seat, she rearranged her robes. “Well, I think I need a respite before we get to the more technical part of our conversation. I’m going to go for a walk in the gardens; would you like to join me?”
Draco shook his head, “I should get going soon, but I’ll stay for a bit.” Kissing his mother on the cheek, he said, “We’ll talk things through properly—a dinner perhaps.”
“That sounds lovely, dear,” Narcissa said with a smile. “And please, do give the invite to Hermione; it’s time sensitive.” Seeing suspicious flicker across his eyes, she added, “Don’t bother trying to read it, I’ve put charms on it—unpleasant charms.”
After Narcissa gracefully exited the room, Draco returned his attention to his father. He sat down on the chair as emotions filled him to the brim. He needed answers. He desperately wanted to demand them. But that would be futile, because his father was as good as dead. He reached out, through the faint green vapors to touch his father’s hand. However, as soon as his fingers grazed the cool skin, Draco’s jaw clenched and retracted his fingers. Questions about the company, the family, the incident with Hermione, the illness were reeling through his clustered mind. All he wanted to do was shout, yell, even scream until his father would wake up with the answers; but despite his hands gripping the sheets of the bed, despite the vein throbbing at his neck, only one thing came out through his clenched teeth along with a choked sob—Why.
Narcissa was never one to eavesdrop, but she couldn’t help but linger around the door. After a few moments of silence, she began to head towards the gardens. As she was about to go down the stairs, she heard Draco, unmistakably letting out a sound of anguish. Her heart constricted at that sound, but she dampened her desire to go and comfort him. Draco was her son, but he still was a grown man. She closed her eyes and reminded herself of the one thing—person, who could make this better for Draco—Hermione Granger.
“What’s wrong, Malfoy?” Hermione asked suspiciously as she cautiously stepped out of the floo.
Looking offended, Draco replied, “Nothing, is it that difficult to imagine me putting together your favorite meal when nothing is wrong?”
Hermione looked down at the table. Her mouth slightly watered at the sight of baked salmon with a side of white rice and mashed potatoes, “Yes, it is.” Putting her bag down, she sat across him and picked up the fork, “But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy this rare opportunity.”
“Merlin, have you starved yourself all day, Granger? You’re eating like a hungry hippogriff.”
Not bothering to look up, she replied, “It was a busy day, so I just had the fruit.”
Draco was going to just toss her the invite and let her deal with it, but after seeing her, he decided it could wait—for now. Remembering what Blaise did, he gently pushed the glass of red wine to her. “It’s good; you’ll need it for later.”
“Oh, thank goodness. I need it now.” After she took a big gulp, she said in an amused voice. “You’ll never guess who’s the new secretary in our department—well, not secretary but Martha’s assistant.”
“Martha’s still there? Wow, isn’t she—old?”
Hermione shrugged. “I guess, but she’s still brilliant. Anyways, guess who, Malfoy.”
“Beats me, Granger. Who?”
“Samantha,” she said loud and clear with a grin.
Draco shuddered and let out a long whistle. “Wow—she’s not the smartest… how did she even get the job?”
“No idea,” Hermione replied while continued eating.
Waiting for her to finish, he tapped his fingers on his leg, wondering how he would give her the invite. Should he explain first, then hand it to her? Or should he just give it to her and see what happens. He decided on the latter. When Hermione levitated the dishes to the sink, Draco slowly pulled the little envelope out of his pocket. “Here,” he said as he placed it in front of her, “Mother wanted me to give you this, and she specifically told me to make you read it now.”
“That’s odd, it’s an invite to her Christmas ball, party, whatever you call it considering that it’s my first one.” Taking note of Draco’s worried demeanor, she hastily opened it and was surprised when she saw a letter. Quickly, she began to read and as she neared the end, her mouth was ajar, in disbelief. “You, you prat! How could you not tell me this?”
Draco put his hands up and sputtered, “Wh-What did I do? I swear I didn’t know about the Christmas—“
She rushed over to Draco and embraced him tightly. “You should’ve told me.”
Surprised at her action, he asked, “Told you what?”
“About your father,” she said quietly.
Relaxing into her comforting embrace, he closed his eyes and let out a deep breath. “I don’t know what to do, Granger,” he whispered, “I just don’t know.”
“It’ll be alright—Draco. Your mother asked us to come as soon as I read it,” she said as she absentmindedly rubbed circles on his back.
Draco nodded and gently pulled away. “Alright, but are you not too tired right now? We can wait until tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry about me; worry about yourself!” With a quick peck on his cheek, Hermione rushed to her room, “I’m going to change real quick, okay? I’ll meet you at your floo.”
Finishing the glass of wine on the table, he went over to his flat, surprisingly feeling a bit lighter. He had to remind himself to thank his mother later—for doing the hard part and telling Hermione. It felt good, real good, to have her with him. He turned to see Hermione already in his flat, dressed in jeans and the same thick, white cardigan—the same one from the telephone booth. Seeing her, as an unwavering pillar of support, his mind shook off the fog and focused. Draco reached for her hand and together, they stepped into the floo.
“I’m so glad you two came,” Narcissa said while pouring three cups of tea. “I thought meeting here, in the library would be best,” she glanced towards Hermione. “I remember you once said that libraries help you feel more—relaxed.”
With a meek smile, she nursed the cup of hot chamomile tea and replied, “I’m surprised you remembered that, Narcissa.” She looked up at the magnificent oak bookcases, rising towards the ceiling, each shelf filled with books. “It really is magnificent, but—“ glancing towards Draco, she continued, “Are you alright? It must be very difficult for you and D-Draco.”
“You can call him Malfoy if that’s more comfortable, Hermione. I don’t mind at all.”
“Maybe at the flat, but here, it feels like I’m referring to everyone within this house,” Hermione said quietly.
Narcissa nodded and regarded the pair before her. There was Hermione, looking nervous as if she were waiting for the walls to cave in. She couldn’t blame her though; what she wrote in the letter wasn’t exactly—settling. Draco on the other hand looked much more composed and relaxed compared to his demeanor earlier. He might not be aware, but she knew the effect Hermione had, and she liked it.
Draco’s voice cut through the silence as he asked, “Mother, what did you exactly state in the invite?”
Tucking her hair behind her ears, Narcissa began. “As you now both know, the Malfoy company has had a discreet muggle branch for generations. It was quite surprising for me as well when I found out; everyone is aware of the family’s former stance on muggle-borns.” She kindly looked at Hermione and continued. “Hermione, I’m sure that you have realized that Draco, naturally, is to take his father’s place. However, there were some complications, and Blaise has agreed to be in charge along with Draco.”
At that, Hermione’s eyes widened, “So that’s why he’s here.”
“Precisely. I know that he doesn’t seem to have strong work ethics, but I assure you, he does. Now, this is where you come in, Hermione, as I have mentioned earlier.”
Draco abruptly interrupted, “What do you mean, where she comes in. You can’t just spring this on her! Whatever you’re going to say, I’m sure it’s ridiculous, and she didn’t do anything to be involved in thi-this MESS!” He didn’t want to get her involved. Getting involved with muggles on such business ventures was illegal. Messing with the law was the last thing on Granger’s mind. His thoughts were interrupted when he felt her hand gently squeezing his under the table.
Surprised by his outburst, Narcissa took a sip of tea and reassured him, “I don’t plan on forcing anything, Draco. It’s clearly her choice after she hears what I have to say. Isn’t that right, Hermione?”
“She made it clear in the letter, Draco. All she asked was that I come listen to what she has to say or offer,” Hermione said in a gentle tone.
“As I was saying, since Hermione here is of muggle heritage and obviously, is very knowledgeable about the muggle world, she could be a liason of sorts. Only a select few businessmen are aware of who we are; they were bound to secrecy before your father came into the company. They know about the war and most are skeptical of our intentions after discovering which side we were on.”
“And I would be idea since I’m a muggle-born, was on the other side, and relatively close friends with Draco?”
Narcissa smiled and said in a lighter tone, “Exactly, it’s no wonder they call you the brightest witch of our age. Plus, I’m sure you and Draco would make a fabulous pair.” Unable to ignore her son’s stare, she cleared her throat. “However, there is one other qualm. This muggle branch isn’t approved by the ministry; they don’t even know it exists. We would like to make this Ministry approved to—“
“To make sure the Malfoy name won’t be tainted further and show the wizarding world that we have left our former—stance on things,” Draco interjected.
“So, I would come into this because I work within the Ministry and have close relations to Kingsley?” Hermione’s shoulders dropped and let out a sigh. “As much as I respect you and your family, Narcissa, this is asking for a lot.”
Narcissa reached across the table and took Hermione’s hands in hers. “All I ask is that you consider this. I can make sure that you’re well off, financially; doubling your current salary is easy, even tripling it is possible. If you’re worried about your current job, we can find a way to balance the two out—anything you need.”
Gently separating their hands, Draco said with a tinge of annoyance. “You’re making her feel guilty now, mother. For something she doesn’t even have to do.”
“I’ve put some documents together for you two look at. I left them in the room, so I’ll be right back,” Narcissa said as she rose from her chair.
Grabbing Draco’s hand, Hermione pulled him up and followed Narcissa. “We’ll go with you—if that’s alright.”
With a smile, the three of them went through the dimly lit hallway with Narcissa leading the way. Draco realized that Hermione’s hand was still wrapped around his and shifted slightly. Hermione looked down and abruptly dropped his hand, much to his dismay. She mouthed a sorry, and picked up her pace, walking in front of him. Draco stuffed his hands in his pockets and trailed behind.
As Hermione stepped through the door, she could barely stifle a gasp. She couldn’t believe how a man, who just last week was walking about, was confined to bed, still as a corpse.
Draco came up from behind and put a gentle hand on her back. Leaning down he grazed his lips against her ear and whispered, “I know, but Mother assured me that he apologized to her for the incident last week. Thanks for coming, Granger. It means a lot to me, no matter what you chose.”
Narcissa waved Hermione over, shuffling through papers. “Here there are. Feel free to look through them and let me know what you think.”
Taking the papers from her hand, Hermione replied, “I will, thank you.”
Shaking her head, Narcissa perched her glasses on her head and said, “No, no dear, thank you—for coming here and-and listening.” Giving Hermione a peck on each cheek, she said, “Oh, Draco—I need to show you something. It’ll be just a moment, Hermione.”
Bewildered, Draco was ushered out, leaving Hermione—alone. She placed the documents in her purse and sat down on the chair. “You chose the wrong time to be ill, Mr. Malfoy. Narcissa wrote that you apologized for what happened and that everything she told me came to a consensus with you.” Looking down at him, she continued, “Despite the fact that you despised my kind, I’m not surprised that you did business with muggles. You truly are ambitious—anything to get your way, get more.” Mustering up her Gryffindor courage, she slowly reached out and placed a hand on his arm. She stilled, waiting for him to wake up and push her hand away. After a few moments, just loud enough for him to hear, she muttered, “Draco’s told me stories about you—doing what was best for your family. I really hope you don’t leave—not yet at least. Draco…he respects you a lot more than you think.” Hearing footsteps, she patted his arm and slung her purse over her shoulders. Looking back, she could’ve sworn that he briefly nodded in her direction. With a little smile, she pulled the door open. “Goodnight Mr. Malfoy.”
“Granger, I swear, I didn’t know that my mother had all that planned. If I knew, I—“
“Shh, it’s okay. It’s alright, Draco.”
Letting Hermione gently push him down on the couch, he felt all the energy dissipate from his body and slumped forward. He buried his face in his hands. He felt so embarrassed showing Hermione his vulnerability and was about to retreat into his room when he felt her hand on his knee.
Slowly rising to her feet, she stood in front of Draco and let him rest his head against her chest. Feeling his body ever so slightly shaking, she wrapped her arms around him—being there for him. The shakes turned into little sobs and she could feel his tears against her bare collarbone. She soothingly ran her fingers through his soft hair and rocked him—slowly, back and forth. She looked down at Draco’s figure, leaning against her, shoulders heaving—so broken, and hot tears began to fill her eyes. Blinking back her tears, she took a big gulp and whispered, “I’m here for you—I’m here.” After repeating this, like a mantra, over and over, Draco’s breaths calmed down, and Hermione began to pull away.
Gripping her cardigan, he said in a hoarse voice, “Don’t go— please.”
Hermione’s heart lurched at his request. “I-I wasn’t going any—“
“Just stay, stay with me tonight.”
With a nod, she replied, “Alright, let me go get some tea.”
Quickly washing Draco’s cup, Hermione put the kettle on the stove and changed into a pair of her blue striped pajama pants and a baggy grey shirt. Reaching back to unclasp her bra, she pulled it out underneath her shirt, tossed it on the nearby chair, and plopped down on her bed. She was overwhelmed—too many things to think about. Rubbing her temples, she remembered what was most important—Draco. Hermione pulled the calming draught from her drawer and went into the kitchen. Pouring two cups of tea, she poured a generous amount of the potion into his.
Hermione slowly opened the door to his room. Sitting next to him on his bed, she handed him the tea. “Here, it’s in your special cup. You’ll feel better after taking a sip—trust me.”
With a weak smile, he took it from her hand. “Thanks, I’m acting like a prat and here you are, taking care of me.”
“You’re not being a prat; it’s normal. It’s the least I can do.”
“Thanks—for not, you know, leaving me,” Draco said sheepishly.
“It’s not a problem. Like I said, I’m here for you.”
The rest of the night passed in mostly silence. The two of them leaned against the headboard and mindlessly watched some television. The silence was filled with little conversation, mostly about work and childhood memories—nothing they didn’t know already. Somehow, Draco’s arms were around her petite shoulders, as she curled up against his chest, letting out long, even breaths. As his eyes began to droop, he gently removed his arm and laid Hermione down in a more comfortable position. After making sure she was at least an arm’s length away, Draco snuggled into his comforter and was about to close his eyes when he felt a leg being draped across his. Attempting to be the gentleman he was taught to be, he lifted her leg and slid his arm underneath her head—trying to move her back. However, as Hermione began to stir, he froze. After what seemed like hours, her breaths evened out and with a content sigh, she snuggled into his accidental embrace, pressing her back against his chest. Not wanting to wake her—that’s what he told himself, Draco decided to let her use his arm as a pillow and pulled her a bit, just a little bit, closer. Letting out a shallow breath into Hermione’s quite unruly hair, he kept his other arm around her waist, and finally closed his eyes as he said in a faint voice, “I’m afraid—afraid of losing my father,” and in a voice so soft, Draco didn’t know if he actually said it out loud, “and I’m afraid…that I like you, Granger.”
Draco was sleeping perfectly well, for the first time in days. That’s why when he awoke to an annoying pecking at the window, still dark, he grumbled—slightly annoyed. Hoping that the bloody owl would quit and leave, he tried to fall back asleep. However, the owl was relentless and Draco slipped his arm from underneath Hermione’s head and groggily padded to the window. When he saw the dark brown owl with the almost gold-like beak, his heart dropped. Eyes wide open, he shakily opened the window and untied the letter from its leg.
Hermione rubbed her eyes and asked, “Draco? It can’t be six yet, is it?”
Clenching the letter in his violently shaking hand, Draco took ragged breaths. Struggling to find his voice amidst the strangled sob that was about to erupt from his throat, he stammered, “W-We have. T-to go. He’s gon-gone."
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