When there is no enemies within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you." -Unknown.
Malfoy had come to pick her up at her flat right on time; she didn’t know if he was ever late with his record so far. She hadn’t dressed up. He had not told her what to expect or how to dress which would have been appreciated since she wasn’t sure, so she had to take it upon herself. If she was supposed to dress up he would have said so, right? She had decided upon nice blue jeans, and a white blouse with a blue, sleeveless pullover over top of it. Once he arrived they had apparated to a street somewhere in wizarding London where there were tall buildings on either side of the street which appeared to carry on for a long ways. The buildings were made up of flats. Big, expensive flats but still it meant that a very large amount of people lived on this street. Other things were mixed in between the buildings but nevertheless, it was a street of development.
Draco walked beside her but a little in front, his eyes were trained ahead, and he took long strides down the sidewalk. He had also dressed very casually in average jeans and a dark coat which made Hermione far less worried about her attire.
“Where are you taking me?” She asked him. The night air was cold, even if it was June. It nipped at Hermione’s skin and she felt her nose go numb. Summer nights were chilly in England, usually as cold as an autumn day.
“I am taking you,” He said slowly, his eyes now scanning each building as they passed it. “To Blaises flat, as soon as I find it that is. He insisted that his best friend’s fi-an-cée would be introduced at his place.” Draco put emphasis on each syllable of the title, saying it sarcastically. Hermione could feel her cheeks flush slightly, and she couldn’t tell if it was from the cold or the idea of meeting her Slytherin peers as Draco’s fiancée.
“Well, at least that’s better than where I thoughtyou were going to take me.” Hermione told him, watching his face for an expression that never came. His features stayed expressionless. “I thought you were going to take me to the Manor. You know… you’re home…” Her eyes were trained on his face and she saw a smirk force his mouth upwards.
“Like that would’ve worked out.” He said with a snort. “You probably would have started crying just from setting eyes on my living room floor.” Now emotion besides his all-too-famous smirk showed itself upon his face. A slight smile grew on the corners of his mouth. He was mocking her.
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him and opened her mouth to speak, speeding up as to walk beside him before beginning her retort. Just as she did this, though, he abruptly turned and she hit into his side, a small squeak escaping her lips instead. He scoffed and pointed to the building they were standing in front of.
“We’re here, Granger. Now watch your step this time, okay?”
Hermione gritted her teeth together. He kept doing that; he kept making her look and feel completely stupid.
Draco opened the door for her and she stepped inside, the warmth immediately hitting her exposed skin. She was suddenly even more grateful they were going to Blaise’s apartment rather than the Manor which she couldn’t imagine was all too warm.
“So, remind me. Which friends are here, and how much do they know?” She asked him as he led her up a staircase to their left. The building didn’t look like much right now with paint peeling from the walls and the tiles that the floor was made up of were obviously old. The got to the top of the staircase and began walking by doorways.
“Blaise, Pansy, Theadore. And they know everything.” They started up another staircase.
Hermione pursed her lips. “Remind me again why you got to tell three of your friends when I get to tell one.”
“Because,” he replied, using the same tone as she had. “You got to tell one friend and then I originally only told one as well. I told Blaise, Pansy guessed and then it just seemed, well, logical to tell Theodore. It wouldn’t be wise to just have one friend who was unaware while the other two know everything. And as I mentioned before your friends would spill upon questioning and mine wouldn’t – haven’t. “ Draco stopped in front of flat number thirty six, turning to face her. “Ready?”
Before giving her a chance to answer that, he opened the door and immediately they were pulled into the apartment by two large, dark hands. Blaise Zabini.
“Hey, Draco!” Hermione could hear a female voice call from somewhere she could not see yet. Malfoy moved from in front of her, and suddenly she could make out her surroundings. She took in Zabini’s flat, it was a lot more posh than the rest of the apartment building but it looked like muggle Hollywood rich instead of something like the Manor, something that just screamed old money. Hermione’s eyes flitted to the tall, black man that stood before her with a wide grin on his face. He looked a lot more carefree than he did at school; or maybe it was just that she hadn’t really taken notice of him at school before. He was a whole head taller than Hermione, he was slightly sturdier looking than Draco and had two large, dark eyes that sat slightly farther apart than one would expect. And honestly, he was rather good-looking, even to Hermione.
“Well, well, well!” Zabini started. “If it isn’t the famous Hermione Granger.” He bowed slightly, taking her hand in his and kissing the top of it. She couldn’t tell if he was making fun of her or just extravagant but she guessed it was the former.
“Zabini,” She replied with an edge of coldness to her voice, slipping her hand out of his grasp. She felt uncomfortable with him and the other people she knew were here, although she hadn’t seen them yet.
“Call me Blaise.” He said with a wink. “Now let me introduce you to the others.” He rested his hand on Hermione’s back just between her shoulder blades. He was so happy, so open and so… friendly. The simple touch made Hermione tense even more than she already was. He led her through an archway that she hadn’t realized Malfoy had already slipped through. In front of her were two armchairs, a loveseat and a chesterfield all with the same upholstery, a stone fireplace and a matching coffee table. Pansy lounged on one of the armchairs, Draco sat rigidly on another – and she realized he only tensed when she entered– and Theodore Knott sat with his hands in his lap, pressing himself into the side of the chesterfield as to make as much room as possible in case she chose to sit down beside him. What an odd group of friends.
“Hermione,” She heard Pansy drawl, using her first name in what seemed to be a friendly manner, but Hermione could not be sure. She was suspicious of everyone here.
“Granger,” Theodore said timidly after Pansy had spoken. He didn’t even glance up at her, keeping his eyes trained at the ground.
“Hello, Parkinson, Knott.” Hermione greeted them with a small fake smile. She was all too conscious of the fact Blaises hand was still on her back and the way Malfoy was looking at her, as if he was sizing her up. Seeing her reaction to his friends, the way she interacted with them. She threw daggers at him before quickly looking away, for she did not want to be caught looking at Malfoy for too long even if it was to glare. She stared at her shoes a moment before slowly lifting her gaze back to the blond; he was smiling at her – but only slightly and in amusement if nothing else. It was like he had thrown a bear into a pit with a pack of ravenous dogs as if it was a game, watching to see what would happen as they did in the medieval days.
“Call me Pansy and call him Theodore. No need for the manners, we’re out of school you know.” Pansy said, cocking one perfectly manicured eyebrow at Hermione. Blaises hand fell.
“Have a seat anywhere you’d like.” Blaise told her. “I’m going to go get the beverages.” He whisked back out through the archway and Hermione almost wanted to go after him. He felt safer to be around than the others. She looked to the couch Theodore was currently sitting on, and then to Malfoy who looked at her still with that smile – he could tell she was floundering. So Hermione gathered her wits about her and went to sit on the same chesterfield as Theodore, shooting Malfoy a ‘your move’ sort of glance upon sitting down. Theodore looked uncomfortable and pressed himself even further into the arm of the chesterfield. He had obviously been hoping she’d sit down on the loveseat rather than with him.
“It was Blaise who suggested we meet you in the first place,” Pansy told her. She had light skin, dark hair and she had her lips painted a striking red. Malfoy’s friends were all a lot better looking now that Hermione wasn’t clouded with the same childlike hatred. “I didn’t know why then and I don’t know why now. But we have a while so tell me, Hermione, how is being on the front page every day suiting you?” Was Pansy testing her? Was that the point of this? A test?
“I-uh,” Hermione stumbled over words and she felt foolish. “Well, I hate it, actually. I’m sure you’re not surprised to learn I don’t enjoy being engaged to your friend.”
“No. Not surprised at all.” If this was in fact a test had she won or lost? Or had she neither? Pansy smiled the most genuine smile Hermione had ever seen a Slytherin give. She guessed she had won.
Blaise waltzed back in with a pack of what looked like muggle beer. She hadn’t been expecting this. He set it down with a thud on the coffee table and pulled out a bottle, Pansy and Draco doing the same. Both Hermione and Theodore turned away from the liquid.
“Don’t want a drink, Granger?” Blaise asked, holding up another bottle. She heard Malfoy scoff and she shook her head and set her palms down on her knees.
“Last time I accepted a drink with Malfoy in the room I felt like I had set my mouth on fire and couldn’t think straight the whole next day.” Laughter filled the room from Pansy, Blaise and even Theodore.
“What’d you do to the girl?” Blaise asked Malfoy rhetorically, still laughing.
Malfoy shrugged, he was going to answer rhetorical or not. “It was really her fault that she got sick on drink. She was mad at me so she guzzled a whole jagertee in one gulp.” Hermione could feel colour go to her cheeks and she willed it down.
Pansy smiled at Hermione before speaking, “A whole jagertee? I wouldn’t be brave enough to do that!” She then looked at Blaise and Malfoy. “But then again, she is a Gryffindor!” Blaise rose his glass and drunk to that. Hermione wasn’t sure why he had drunk to her, but the way Malfoy stared moodily at the floor she could tell she was getting along with his friends more than he had expected so that must mean it was a good thing.
The group of four talked a bit more and Hermione found that she oddly got along with them all rather well. She found out that Theodore and Pansy were dating and that Pansy worked as an Obliviator and Theodore worked as a Trainee Healer but he wanted to become a Potioneer. Hermione found this all quite odd, but what had she really expected? That they did not have jobs? Theodore had been one of the best in potions, and so it made sense. Blaise said he used to be the conductor for the Knight Bus but now worked as a Welcome Wizard at St. Mungos, revealing that he and Theodore worked together. He also revealed that he was single which Hermione actually found surprising seeing as how girls tended to love the friendly, good-looking, boisterous types.
“Anyway, we do have work to do.” Pansy interrupted the light conversation. Hermione gave Pansy a questioning look. Work to do? “You’re story. We have to figure out you and Draco’s story. You two cannot avoid the press forever, you know.”
“Alright, what’s our story, Pansy?” Draco asked her. Pansy lifted her shoulders and shook her head.
“That’s not exactly my job. Don’t you think you two should figure it out? Draco, you probably know more about Hermione than I do.” Draco and Hermione exchanged a glance.
“I don’t believe that is so. I was learning things this evening along with you three when you all were going around asking questions about one other.”
Pansy opened her mouth in shock. “That’s ridiculous! If I was engaged to someone the first thing I would have done is ask them if they were dating anyone, what their job was-“
“Her job became evident to me when she fell into my office and her relationship status was told to me at least every couple of months in the Prophet. They always have those articles on What the Golden Trio’s Doing Now.” Hermione realized she hadn’t even questioned how he had known she was single and for how long, which she thought was strange. Normally she picked up on everything. She prided herself on picking up the details.
Pansy sighed. “Draco stop acting like this is one of the worst things that’s ever happened to you, and lighten up. It’s not that bad and it’s not going to last forever, you yourself are going to make sure of that!”
Blaise grinned. “Yeah, Draco lighten up! You’re a lucky man engaged to this one!” He said, pointing a finger at Hermione. Pansy cracked a smile and Hermione averted his gaze sheepishly. Pansy noticed how uncomfortable Hermione was and frowned.
“Don’t worry you’ll soon realize that Blaise flirts with every girl he can. It’s just in his nature.” Pansy threw Hermione a friendly wink before further reclining in her chair. “Now no more excuses! We need a story pronto!”
Theodore cleared his throat and spoke for the first time. Hermione’s gaze immediately fell to him and realized he didn’t look much different than he had at school. He was still tall and lanky and looked awkward in every position. He had dark hair combed and greased to the side and deep green eyes that moved slowly around the room as he spoke. Pansy and he formed an unlikely pair. “Well, have either of you even decided how long you’ve been seeing one another?” Draco looked down as if to say no, but Hermione suddenly remembered her conversation with Harry and Ron that had occurred earlier that day.
“Six months.” She spoke up. The others gave her mixed expressions.
“Six months? Doesn’t that seem a bit too short?” Pansy worded what was going through everyone’s head.
Hermione nodded. “It is but that’s what I told Harry and Ron.” The room fell silent.
After a moment Blaise spoke up, “I still find it weird to hear Potter and Weasley called by name, since the only people I ever hear talk of them are not on first name basis with them.” Pansy and Theodore nodded in agreement.
“Anyway, six months it is then,” Malfoy spoke up. “And we got engaged eight days ago, that means just two days before the press got a hold of it. We have not set a date for the wedding.”
The group went silent, thinking this over. It wasn’t much to digest so in just a minute they conversation had picked back up again.
“Sounds good to me,” Pansy said with a smile. “But now what about how you met? You’re first date? And I’m sorry for this, but you’re first kiss? These are all things you’re going to have to figure out-“
“We don’t have to tell the press every little thing in our relationship-“ Malfoy cut in, leaning forward.
“What about to everyone asking at the reunion? You’re going to have to tell them! You have to make up your story, Draco!” Pansy shot back. They stared at each other a moment before Malfoy leaned back, he knew Pansy was right and let her continue. “So,” She began again, a look of triumph in her eyes. “How did you two meet?”
Theodore raised his left hand unceremoniously as if he were still in school as he started to speak, “Somewhere that’s easy, not many complications. Not at Draco’s work or for Hermione’s job which are the obvious choices. Neither of these can be done because the journalists writing the stories will check for details and see Hermione never actually had a reason to be at Draco’s office and that would cause problems.”
“Then they could have bumped into each other in the street.” Blaise offered after Theodore had finished speaking. Hermione shifted her gaze out the window which was situated behind Malfoy. It was night now, the sky was dark and lights from the neighboring buildings sparkled against it in contrast. Malfoy had his elbows resting on his knees, his hands clutched together and his head resting upon them, he was obviously listening deeply to the conversation, taking in each bit of information as it came and most likely memorizing it. Her eyes drifted downwards slightly and she could see he had his sleeves rolled up, revealing his Dark Mark. Hermione shivered when she saw it. It brought back so many terrible memories for her. Suddenly he looked up at her and Hermione could feel her breath catch as she looked away. She made sure to keep her eyes on Blaise for at least a minute, he was saying something about their first encounter but she wasn’t listening. It felt like there was cotton in her ears. Hermione stole another glance at Draco and saw that he was still looking at her. His mouth was a straight line and his grey eyes bore into hers. Does he know his mark is in full view? Does he know I saw? His mouth opened and he said something but she didn’t hear him, it looked like her name on his lips but that was preposterous. Her eyes dropped once more to his mark. The mark was the same as every other Death Eaters, obviously; it was a black skull with the snake coming out of its mouth in a horrific manner which gave Hermione the chills…
“Hermione!” She heard Pansy behind her and she whipped her head back to look at the dark haired woman. She was smirking – it seemed to be a Slytherin thing.
Blaise chuckled. “You were completely zoning out there, Hermione. Draco said you’re name but you were completely out of it!” Hermione, her eyes still wide with the image of the skull, shook her head back and forth as if to wake herself back up.
“Sorry, I just- I…“ She had to stop herself from looking back at the mark. She wished he would just roll down his sleeve; she didn’t want to see it anymore. It was a mark she rarely saw and it reminded her of the war.
Pansy let the smirk fall from her lips. “Doesn’t matter, we’ve got it planned out so you two listen and stop staring at each other, alright?” At her words Hermione forced herself completely out of whatever trance she was in a fixated her gaze upon the others. She had to forget about the mark, it really shouldn’t mean so much. “You were both eating at Rosings Café and bumped into each other, and I mean actually bumped into each other. Hermione spilt her coffee on your suit and was apologizing profusely trying to clean it up with a napkin. Then you realized who the other person was, it was awkward but Draco you offered for Hermione to sit with you and things went from there.”
Theodore took over from where Pansy left off, “Your first real date, although you consider that your first date, was at Hermione’s flat. Hermione made Draco a homemade dinner of spaghetti and garlic toast.”
“A man’s heart is through their stomach!” Pansy chirped.
“And then,” Blaise finished off. “You’re first kiss was shared two weeks later on the street in the rain after Hermione yelled at Draco over something neither of you remember. She was yelling and Draco just leaned forward and voila!” Blaise winked. “You agreed to spend the rest of your lives together only five and a half months later!” More silence.
“Does it have to be so… gushy?” Malfoy asked, he seemed to be avoiding eye contact with Hermione as much as she was now avoiding his.
“Of course it does!” Pansy rolled her eyes. “The people won’t accept anything less. You need gush and mush and lovey-dovey romance to keep the people happy! Once you two are married they’ll have forgotten everything!”
Hermione raised her eyebrows. “But we aren’t getting married.”
“Yeah, right,” Pansy cleared her throat. “Once you two break up they’ll be over it. Soon enough, anyway.”
Hermione bit her lip. “Okay, that’s it then, right?”
“Right.” Theodore answered, looking at her for the first time since Hermione had arrived. He barely smiled at her but still, the intention was there.
Pansy shot up suddenly. “Wait! Hermione Granger you’re coming with me!” She leaned over the coffee table and grabbed Hermione’s wrist. “We’ll be right back, boys.” She winked at the male occupants before dragging Hermione out of the archway and through another door into a plain bedroom. It held one bed, one vanity, a small beige rug, a suitcase, a chair and a rather ugly lamp.
“Why-“ Hermione began but Pansy cleared her throat as she picked up the suitcase, flipping the locks open and shaking the contents onto the bed. Dresses. A mass of fabric fell from the suitcase and it was all dresses. Hermione could feel her mouth hanging open.
“I thought all of your clothes would be drab, prudish ones.” Pansy began. “So I brought over a few of my old ones. Don’t fret I haven’t wore any of them more than one or two times so no one will recognise them.”
“Drab and prudish?” Hermione repeated.
Pansy laughed. “Oh, come now! The most skin I’ve seen you expose was your arms and throat at the Yule Ball!”
Hermione frowned. “It was a low V-neck dress.” By Pansy’s expression she was not helping her case. “And at Fleur and Bill Weasleys wedding I did wear a short red dress.” Pansy didn’t look impressed. “Short, really! It was knee-length and-“
“I’ll admit that is more than I thought you have ever shown.” Pansy interrupted. “And is about as long as the dresses I have for you here. Just choose at least three okay? These things need some use and you need to look, well, more suited to be Draco’s bride than you are.” Hermione felt her stomach flop at Draco’s bride. She really had to get used to that. “Now I’m going to leave the room and when I come back you are going to be carrying three dresses.”
“Pansy, I can’t take your-“
“Shut up, yes you can! Now take them and let’s be done with this! You won’t be leaving here until you do, I have all night, you know. And it wouldn’t exactly look good for your reputation for you to stay the night at Blaise Zabinis house would it?” Hermione sighed and Pansy walked out of the door, closing it behind her.
Only a few minutes went by before Hermione exited the simple bedroom with three dresses in her arms. A white sundress, a green off the shoulder evening dress and a summery yellow dress which she was surprised Pansy even owned. Pansy appeared in the archway as soon as Hermione stepped through the door.
“Awesome, for a minute there I thought you’d be too good and selfless just to take some dresses. Now, let’s see which ones!” Pansy looked at Hermione’s pile and tugged at the green one. “This one will set you and Draco off splendidly. So that’s good.” She looked at the white one next. “And opposites attract, right?” She came to the yellow one next but only smiled at it as if she was remembering something crazy she’d done in that dress, not actually commenting on it. Hermione looked at Pansy with a puzzled expression but before she could ask about it Malfoy appeared in the archway behind Pansy.
He stuffed his hands into his trouser pockets. “I can take you home now, Granger.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Theodore just apparated himself home.” Hermione realized she hadn’t even heard Theodore cast the teleportation spell, even if she was in a guest bedroom, which meant he must be a rather practiced wizard. Hermione found herself rather impressed with the lanky, black haired boy.
Pansy placed her arms around Hermione in a hug and then did the same to Malfoy. “I’ll see you two at Hogwarts, I guess.” Pansy smiled. “Now I wonder where Blaise is-“ Pansy walked around Malfoy and stepped back into the living room, evidently looking for her friend. Draco took this moment and placed his hand on Hermione’s shoulder, about to apparate.
“You don’t get to leave without saying goodbye,” Blaise interrupted, coming out of the living room with Pansy at his heels. He threw his arms around Draco and Hermione in a loose group hug. “I’ll be seeing you at Hogwarts Hermione.” He said to her. “And I’ll see you tomorrow, Draco.” Malfoy, Pansy and Blaise talked for a minute more before Draco turned back to Hermione, his hand still on her shoulder.
“Ready?” He asked. Immediately Hermione felt the familiar sensation as Draco cast the nonverbal spell, not giving her time to say any more goodbyes or even say whether or not she was ready to leave. They landed outside of Hermione’s apartment but before entering Hermione turned to say goodnight to Draco who had already began informing her on what was going to happen the day of the reunion.
“Now I won’t be seeing you again until June 7th first thing in the morning, the day of the reunion. Until then lay low, okay? Don’t say a word to journalists or your friends – or anyone for that matter - and we should be alright. Again, I won’t be seeing you for a few days and I’d rather have no reason to, so don’t mess anything up this time.” Hermione nodded okay, knowing that getting flustered and retorting at the way he barked commands as if everything was always her fault would get her literally nowhere. And really it wasn’t very far from the reunion but she was glad to have some time away from Malfoy, because with it she would have time away from being engaged and could just be herself again. “Lay low,” He told her again as he cast the apparition spell once more, disappearing with a crack.
Only now did Hermione open the door to her flat and step inside, closing and locking it behind her. She leaned against the back of the door and breathed out. What a night. And she guessed there would be more of those as long as she was with Malfoy. Hermione smiled as another thought struck her: Three more days and she would be back at Hogwarts.
Hey guys! Sorry this took so long to get validated but with summer drawing to a close I've been rather busy. I hope you like this chapter, I feel the ending was a little rushed but I decided to post it and give you guys another chapter instead of doing more revising and editing. I hope you guys enjoy! Please don't forget to leave a review, it really does only take a second and I love to hear from you guys! I hope everyone had an amazing summer, I know some people are back in school already. Anyway, for me school starts in a week but it should not make me take too much time away from writing so chapters will still be posted regularly. Thank you for reading.