So far it’s been a slow Tuesday morning at St. Mungo’s hospital. I consider it to be a good sign when we don’t have many patients. I also enjoy the free time that I get to sit with the few patients that we do have to simply talk with them. The majority of my morning has been spent in conversation with the patients as well as sitting with Neville. Neville has made a habit of spending an hour or two outside his parents’ room in the Janus Thickey Ward once a week. Sometimes I sit with him, but he usually prefers to spend the time alone so he can think. I am thinking about clocking out early when one of the Healers gives me a note telling me that I have a visitor. I go downstairs to the lobby to clock out and meet my visitor. I see Harry standing innocently near the entrance, kicking shyly at the floor.
“Harry, what are you doing here?” I ask, walking quickly up to him and pulling him into a hug. I take notice that he is not wearing his Auror robes. He seems to hold on to me longer than usual before letting go.
“Can we go get a drink and talk?” Harry suggests. I simply nod, linking our arms together and turning us both to leave. I study his face thoroughly out of the corner of my eye, but there are no signs there that anything is wrong with him. I hold on tightly to his arm while we walk over to the Leaky Cauldron in no particular hurry. Harry seems casual and content, lightly kicking at the ground as he walks and looking around to take in all the sights as we pass them by. I, however, am significantly less cavalier as I try to imagine all of the possible topics of conversation that he has in mind.
Harry holds open the door to the Leaky Cauldron, allowing me to step inside ahead of him. He places a hand on my back to guide me to one of the tables. Hannah Abbott, who took over the Leaky Cauldron from Tom not long after the war, comes over to the table to greet us and brings us two butterbeers. She places the two glasses on the table and saunters over to another table of guests. I leave my drink on the table untouched, staring across from me at Harry as I grow increasingly impatient. He sips casually at his butterbeer. I can hear the clock on the wall ticking. I start fidgeting in my seat.
“Okay, that’s it!” I snap, leaning forward over the table. His eyes widen as he slowly lowers his glass back to the table. “I have to know what’s going on!”
He smiles, taking a deep breath and folding his hands on the table. “Listen, Hermione, I’m not sure how you’re going to react to this, but I want you to know before I tell you that my mind is made up and it’s already been taken care of.”
I take a deep breath of my own, bracing myself. “Just tell me.”
“I went to the Auror’s office and resigned,” he says simply.
“You what!?” I exclaim, not caring that a few people turned to stare at us. My mind is struggling to decide on the proper reaction, so I just sit there with my mouth open.
“I decided that it was time to let go of that life, Hermione,” Harry explains calmly. “I know that you’re concerned that it wasn’t a logical decision, but it’s something that I needed to do. This job was holding me back. I wasn’t going to get better and move on if I stayed there. I jumped into the Auror training immediately after the war and then became an official Auror. I never gave myself time to process everything that happened and do what I needed to do for myself. At first I thought it was selfish of me to take time to do that, but yesterday when Draco said –“
“When Draco said?” I interrupt him. “You talked to Draco about this before you talked to me?”
“I knew you would try to talk me out of it, Hermione. I really needed to do this. It’s already done.”
“And what exactly do you plan to do now, may I ask?”
“I haven’t fully thought that through,” he mumbles, staring down into his butterbeer.
“Harry, this is exactly why I didn’t think this was a good idea. Now you have no job and no idea what to do with your life. Where are you going to go? You can’t live with the Weasleys for the rest of your life.”
“I don’t know, Hermione! I’ll figure it out. But there’s more. I’ve also decided that I need to leave the Burrow.”
I close my eyes and pinch the bridge of my nose. “Harry, you have no job. You can’t just leave the Burrow and buy your own place!”
“Well, technically I won’t be buying my own place just yet.”
“So, you have something worked out? You have a place to go?” I take multiple deep breaths, trying not to be concerned. I know that being an Auror was starting to weigh heavily on him, but it’s a risk to just leave your job and move out of a safe, loving home where he knows he’ll be taken care of. Perhaps I’m being too hard on him, knowing that he deserves time to get over everything that’s happened and heal emotionally, but I can’t keep myself from looking at this logically. I take a few sips of my butterbeer to try to calm my mind.
“I talked about this with Narcissa during my session this morning. Now before you get upset that I didn’t tell you first, I wanted to get as much of this figured out before I confronted you as possible. I know how much you love to think logically about everything, so I wanted to have some answers for you. Narcissa isn’t going to be continuing these sessions with everyone for much longer. I’m not ready for that, Hermione. I feel like I’m just starting to piece everything together. Talking it through with her has been working for me.”
“So the two of you decided that you would live there so that you could continue to talk to her whenever you needed to,” I finish for him, realizing where this was going. I give myself a moment to process the information. At least he has a place to live and he will be doing exactly what he says he needs to be doing, working through his past. I know that he will be taken care of there until he starts a new job. I suppose he has thought this through. “I’m really glad that these sessions have been so helpful for you, Harry. I think it’s wonderful that Narcissa is giving you the opportunity to stay and continue your sessions.”
“Thanks, me too.”
“I’m sorry that I overreacted.”
“You don’t have to apologize, Hermione. You were concerned. I understand why and you know that I appreciate that you’re always looking out for me.”
“I’m always going to look out for you, Harry. However, it’s important that I’m also looking out for your emotional well-being. You’ve clearly thought this through. I’m still a little bit concerned about your future, but if you need to work through everything I’m here for you.”
He leans back in his seat with a satisfied smile and reaches for his butterbeer. I sigh before reaching for my own and sip at it slowly. It’s great to see Harry so happy and content. It’s also such a relief that he’s making significant steps in letting go of all his pain. I wish that there was more that I could do to help him make sense of his life, but until then all I can do is sit here with him and watch him smile.
Harry clears his throat, an amused smirk appearing on his face as he taps the tip of his fingers on the rim of his glass. “So, Hermione, time to tell me about your personal life.”
“What do you mean?” I ask innocently, anticipating his answer with a shy smile down at the table.
“You know exactly what I mean. What’s going on with you and Draco?” He gives me a knowing eyebrow raise.
I sigh. “What did Draco already tell you?”
“I think you know what he told me. I want to hear you tell me.”
“We are not going to have this conversation, Harry, especially in a public place.” I laugh, rolling my eyes at him. “Besides, if Draco already told you what happened – remind me to kill him for that by the way – why do you need to hear it from me?”
“Because I knew that it would make your face turn that unbearable pink from embarrassment.”
“So you’re making fun of me?”
“I’m your best friend – it’s my job to mess with you.”
“Well, at least you have some sort of job.” I tease, laughing at the shocked reaction on his face. He looks surprised for a moment, then laughs.
These are the moments that the world should be made of - sitting in a pub with your best friend, drinking butterbeers, and laughing at each other’s stupid jokes. It makes me appreciate what I have and what I could have lost. I reach across the table and hold Harry’s hand. His eyebrows wrinkle in confusion for only a moment before he smiles at me.
“So, you and Ron are spending the day together tomorrow,” Harry reminds me. “How does Draco feel about that?”
“He was upset at first,” I tell him, remembering the fight we had, forcing myself not to blush at the memory of what followed. “But he came around. I know that he doesn’t like Ron and he’d prefer that I wasn’t spending the entire day alone with him – but he’s being as understanding as he can be.”
“What are the chances that you can convince Ron to be just as understanding?”
I sigh, thinking hard about my answer. “It’s not my job to convince Ron to understand. You know how much I wish he would support me. But I really love Draco and I can’t let Ron ruin it for me. I’ll try to talk to him, of course, but I shouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t immediately let go of this rivalry.”
“I admit, part of me can’t blame him for holding a grudge.”
“I haven’t forgotten what Draco did, Harry. I know that Ron has plenty of reason to hold a grudge against him. It’s just that –“ I shake my head, pausing a moment to carefully choose my words before speaking, “ – you and I were both able to put it behind us. Why can’t Ron?”
“I couldn’t tell you. It almost seems like Ron hates Draco even more now that you and I are on good terms with him than he was before.”
“Well, you know how jealous he can get. We haven’t exactly been giving him much attention since we moved into Malfoy Manor. It can’t hurt for us to spend some time with him and let him know that he hasn’t been replaced. I’m just hoping that there’s something that I can say tomorrow that will help the situation.”
“Even if tomorrow doesn’t work out the way you’re hoping, I’m sure that he’ll come around eventually. He probably just needs time to get used to the fact that the two of you are together. Maybe if he sees for himself that Draco is treating you right and making you happy, he’ll be able to let go of this rivalry – whether it’s because he believes Draco’s changed or simply out of support for you as his friend.”
“We can only hope.”
I try not to think about the idea that things tomorrow won’t go the way that I’m hoping. Having Ron come around to my relationship with Draco is extremely important to me. Our friendship may never be the same as it was before – but that it to be expected when best friends start dating and then break up. Draco is the first person that I’ve dated since Ron and I broke up, so there’s no way for me to know if his hostile reaction is based solely on his bad blood with Draco alone or if it has something to do with our past relationship. Just like I told Harry – we all know how jealous Ron can get. Although I want to believe that Ron can be mature enough not to let our history get in the way of our friendship.
Harry and I finish our butterbeers and go for a walk through Diagon Alley. He can’t resist stopping by the Quidditch Supplies shop. I don’t really have an interest in Quidditch, but I always indulge Harry and look around the shop with him whenever we are in Diagon Alley. Just as I indulge Harry in the Quidditch Supplies shop, he indulges me in all the bookshops. We even pass back through the Leaky Cauldron to explore the bookshops along Charing Cross Road. Harry and I spent almost two hours sitting on the floor of one of the bookshops with tall piles of books stacking in a circle around us. Harry spent most of that time looking through the Quidditch book that he bought while occasionally showing interest in one of the books I picked out.
Harry always made teased me for constantly having a book with me and always going to the library, but he secretly enjoys the luxury of reading – maybe not to the extent I do, but he can get lost in a book himself sometimes. There is something about a book. When I open the cover it’s like getting transported to another place. Suddenly all the troubles of my world disappear and I’m living in someone else’s world. I allow myself to become emotionally invested as I make new friends and experience new adventures page by page. Every day is a new book, a new world, a new group of friends, a new lesson to learn, and a new problem to solve. There’s nothing else like it.
After realizing how much time has gone by, Harry and I sort through the books I collected and put them back where they belong. We walk back to Diagon Alley before Apparating back outside the gate to Malfoy Manor. We take our time to walk up the long walkway to the door, our arms linked.
“So, Harry, are you sure you’re alright with keeping Draco company tomorrow?” I ask. “I mean, I don’t want you to feel obligated. I just suggested it because I figured you would both be home and it would take Draco’s mind off of the fact that I’m with Ron.”
Harry simply laughs. “Hermione, I already told you that I have no problem babysitting your boyfriend tomorrow.”
“I did not say babysitting! Don’t say babysitting! He’ll kill me if you told him I said babysitting!”
He just continues to laugh at me, pulling open the front door and holding it open for me. We go back into the dining room. Draco and Blaise are playing chess at the table. Cat is sitting next to Draco, petting Crookshanks who is sitting on her lap watching the boys move the chess pieces across the board. I move around the room to sit on Draco’s other side and wrap my arms around him. He smiles but doesn’t take his eyes off of the chessboard.
“How was your day?” he mutters, using his knight to capture Blaise’s bishop.
“Wonderful,” I reply, smiling at Harry. “We went to visit a couple bookshops.”
“Uh oh,” Draco laughs.
“A couple bookshops?” Harry scoffs. “Try every bookshop. I dare you to find a single book that she hasn’t looked through by now.”
Draco and Harry both laugh. I simply shake my head, rolling my eyes.
“You’re exaggerating – a little. Besides, I lost count of how much time I spent following you around the Quidditch Supplies shop.”
“What!?” Draco finally looks up from the chessboard, staring wide-eyed at Harry. “You went to the Quidditch Supplies shop!? Oh, come on!”
Harry laughs. “We can go back tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Draco’s eyebrows furrow in confusion for a moment then he looks to me. I can’t hide the slightly guilty expression on my face and suddenly he remembers. “Oh. Right. Tomorrow.”
“I’m sure you two will have fun tomorrow, Draco,” I assure him, trying to keep Ron out of the topic of conversation. “Besides, there seemed to be all kinds of new stuff at the shop when we were there. You’ll have plenty to do.”
“I suppose I’m going to be spending far more money tomorrow than will please my father when he finds out,” Draco mumbles, making his next move. “Checkmate.”
Blaise sighs heavily, frowning down at the outcome of the game.
“I’m going to go break the news to Ron and Ginny,” Harry tells me. “Draco, I’ll see you tomorrow for a very long day.”
“Can’t wait,” Draco says sarcastically. “See you tomorrow.”