Ginny and I continue to pull our clothes out of the closet and throw them onto our beds next to our open suitcases. Breakfast this morning was much different than all the others we’ve had here. Everyone was very quiet, trying not to acknowledge the fact that it was the last breakfast we would all be spending together. I can’t help but find the situation amusing. Only a couple months ago we were grudgingly moving in here, sitting uncomfortably around the dining room table, and fighting with Draco. We couldn’t wait to go home. Now we are disappointed to be going home and going back to our separate lives.
After emptying the closet, I move over to my bed and start folding up all of my clothes and placing them neatly in my suitcase. I smile as I fold up the black dress I was wearing when Draco and I kissed me for the first time. I can hear Ginny zipping up her suitcases behind me. I rush to finish shoving the rest of my belongings into my suitcases. I pack up Crookshanks’s bed, bowls, and toys. Ginny and I struggle for a few moments to lure him into his carrier. We look around the room that suddenly looks empty and lifeless without all of our stuff scattered all over it.
“So, it finally looks like we’re really leaving,” I say, coming to grips with that reality.
“The fully packed luggage and empty room certainly gives that illusion,” Ginny mutters, dragging her heavy luggage off of her bed and onto the floor. “I know you’re bummed to be leaving your new boyfriend, but I am definitely relieved to finally be going home.”
Ginny grabs her suitcases and wheels them out of the room. I stare at my two suitcases and the cat carrier. I’m not exactly sure how I am supposed to roll both suitcases downstairs while supporting Crookshanks in his carrier at the same time. I’m going to have to make two trips I suppose. But I don’t want to leave Crookshanks alone. He really hates being in his carrier. As I struggle to pull my luggage off the bed, Draco walks into the room and sneaks up behind me.
“Whoa, Ace, let me get that,” Draco offers, reaching for both suitcases and picking them up effortlessly. I pick up Crookshanks in his carrier and follow Draco downstairs to put my luggage by the front door with everyone else’s. I keep Crookshanks with me as we go back upstairs to the sitting room where everyone is waiting. Narcissa is sitting on her husband’s lap in the chair next to the fireplace. Harry, Ron, and Ginny are gathered on the sofa. I place the carrier on the floor where Cat is laying so that she can play with Crookshanks. Draco sits on the arm of the sofa and I stand there, leaning against him, and looking around the room at the group. This is the last time we’ll all be together.
“Are you all packed and ready to go?” Narcissa asks me.
“Everything’s set,” I say sadly.
“I’m really glad that you all got a chance to stay here with us,” Narcissa addresses the entire group. She genuinely looks disappointed that we are all, or at least most of us, are leaving. “I believe that you’ve all made such excellent and I hope that you believe that as well. If any of you ever feel like you need to talk you can always come back and see me.”
“Ron and I should really get going,” Ginny says after a long moment of silence. “We promised our parents that we would be home to have lunch with the entire family.”
Ron and Ginny stand up and say their goodbyes to everyone, more Ginny than Ron who still isn’t particularly supportive. They leave quietly and it fortifies the reality for everyone left. We all sit in silence awkwardly. None of us were expecting that the end would be like this. Cat sits up, a somber expression on her face.
“I should probably go, too,” she tells us. “My aunt has this whole welcome home celebration planned. Apparently she’s been working really hard on it for weeks.”
“Well, I’m glad you got the chance to join us,” Narcissa says, standing up to give Cat a hug. Cat gives a long hug to both me and Draco, telling me to make sure that I take good care of Crookshanks. Draco and Cat assure each other that they will see each other on a regular basis. I had forgotten until now that they had – how would I phrase it? – bonded quite intimately before he and I had gotten together. I’m surprised that I’m not more bothered by that or jealous of her. Draco chose me though, so there is no reason to worry. Cat moves to say goodbye to Harry.
“Why don’t I help you with your luggage and take you home?” Harry offers her. She smiles brightly, nodding shyly.
“That would be very nice of you, thanks,” Cat accepts his offer excitedly. Harry gives me a quick hug goodbye and tells Lucius and Narcissa that he would be back soon. I can see on Narcissa’s face that she is very pleased that Harry is staying here. I think it’s been really good for her to have all of us around. I know from experiences how keeping busy and feeling like you’re helping others can help ease the memories of everything that’s happened.
Harry follows Cat out of the sitting room to take her home. After Draco explains to his mother that I will be coming over here often now that we’re together so I huge goodbye really isn’t necessary, Lucius and Narcissa go downstairs. I pick up Crookshanks in his carrier and follow Draco downstairs. He grabs my luggage and holds the front door open for me. Despite the knowledge that I will be coming back here and also that my life and relationship with Draco will continue beyond this point, I still can’t help but feel like a chapter in my life is ending. It’s a mixture of emotions. I’m sad to see this story end, but I’m excited for whatever new adventure is next.
Draco takes me home and we’re standing outside on the front steps. We both stand there staring at the front door. Draco can’t even hide how uncomfortable he feels. I know that the idea of being around any Muggles would probably be very strange for him, but my parents specifically must be a whole new spectrum of strange. However, it’s really important to me that my parents meet him.
“Well, I suppose we should go inside then,” I say awkwardly after a long stretch of silence.
“W-what?” he stammers. “Inside? You mean, where your parents are?”
“Of course where my parents are. This is their house afterall.”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”
“Draco, come on, I really want you to meet my parents. And more importantly I want them to meet you.”
“Ace, this is a really bad idea. When it comes to parents I’m much better as a surprise.”
“Well, neither of them has a birthday coming up anytime soon, so I’m afraid the surprise party isn’t a workable plan.” I beg him with my eyes to come inside with me. He makes a funny face while staring at the door. I’m sure that he’s imagining all of the different ways that this situation could go horribly wrong. I’m trying to focus solely on the possibility that it will go well. “Oh, come on, you’ll be fine. Just be yourself and be nice.”
“Those are two completely conflicting pieces of information there, Ace. I mean, which one do you want me to be?”
“Stop it, Draco. You can be yourself and still be nice. I’ve seen you do it. Don’t try to pull that act with me. Just remember – don’t call me Granger in front of my parents. I doubt they would understand.”
His eyes widen slightly as if refraining from using my surname is far too difficult a task for him to undertake. He takes a deep breath and nods. I excitedly shift the cat carrier onto my hip so that I can open the door. I step inside and have to turn back to make sure that he actually follows me inside. Half of me expected him to slide my luggage into the house and then escape while my back was turned. To my relief, he’s still standing there looking horrified. I wonder if it is this stressful for any man to meet his girlfriend’s parents or if it is specific to our situation?
“Mum!? Dad!?” I call into the quiet house, announcing my presence. “I’m home!”
“Hermione!?” my mum’s voice calls back, the pure joy in her tone floating like musical notes through the warm air. I hear Draco close the front door behind me and place my luggage to the side against the wall. Within seconds my parents coming rushing down the stairs and around the corner to greet me. “Oh! We are so happy you’re home! We weren’t expecting you so early!”
“We see you have managed to bring back more things than you left here with,” Dad points out, gesturing behind me toward Draco. I quickly bend down and let Crookshanks out of his carrier. He takes off and disappears, happy to enjoy his own home once again. I stand up and pull Draco forward. He feels like a statue in my hands. I rub his arm gently in an attempt to get him to relax.
“Mum, Dad, this is Draco,” I tell them slowly, hoping they will understand without the need for me to give him any specific label. They look from him to me and then at our linking arms before raising their eyebrows. Finally smiles break across their faces.
“Draco Malfoy, sir,” Draco more properly introduces himself, boldly holding out his hand to my father, who takes it proudly in a firm shake.
“Malfoy?” Dad repeats. “That name sounds familiar. Have we heard that somewhere before?”
“Merlin, I hope not,” Draco mutters dismally under his breath.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I say quickly, trying to avoid any awkward reminiscing of unpleasant memories. “I may have mentioned him once before over the years. We did go to Hogwarts together.”
“Right, of course,” Mum exclaims. “It was his family you were staying with all this time, wasn’t it dear?”
“Yes, that’s right. His mother is quite a brilliant woman.”
Draco suddenly beams, his body language seemingly much more relaxed. I smiles as my proudly at my declaration of fondness for his mother. It makes me so happy to see how much love and respect he has for her. It makes him seem more human. Despite many years of him acting as if he were so heartless, his relationship with his mother dispels all such thoughts. Even though I am pleased by his reaction, I did mean what I said. I do find Narcissa to be a rather intelligent and intriguing woman. She’s very strong and independent and powerful – she knows how to take care of herself and her family.
“Is that so?” Mum says cheerfully. “Well, I would love to meet her!”
“I’m sure she would love that, too,” Draco says kindly, and it seems that his polite response may actually be genuine. It would mean so much to me if my mum and Narcissa got along. “Perhaps a nice dinner is in order.”
“Oh, that would be wonderful!” Mum seems to get lost for a moment, ranting about the plans she’s already making for this dinner. She always runs through a million different meal choices every time there is some sort of occasion to be had where there is food involved. There are so many different choices that she enjoys cooking that she has trouble making a final decision until that last minute. She gets very excited about having guests over.
I admit that I’m surprised Draco was the one who suggested having a dinner. One minute he doesn’t even want to come inside and he’s as stiff as a board. The next minute he’s perfectly relaxed and planning family dinners. He is always a surprise. Just when I think I know what he’s going to do, he turns out to be completely different than I could have expected. Although, I can’t be surprised that he would take the opportunity to show off his mother, especially to other parents. I’m certainly that he believes his mother his more fun than anyone else’s mother, so he must prove that to everyone so he can have all the bragging rights.
“Well, what are we all doing standing at the door,” Dad says. “Let’s all come in and sit down in the living room.”
“Oh, I’ll make some tea!” Mum suggests, rushing into the kitchen.
“We’ll be right there,” I say loudly so they can both hear me. “We’re going to drag these suitcases upstairs, that way I won’t have to do it later.”
Draco immediately reaches for my luggage and I grab the now empty cat carrier. He follows my lead up the staircase to my room. Part of me feels a little bit odd having him in my bedroom at my parents’ house, especially considering how our relationship carried on in his bedroom. Other than the time I spent away at Hogwarts, I have been living in this bedroom since I was a little girl. I’ve never once brought a boy up here. I’ve never even let Harry or Ron in my room before. Draco pulls the suitcases into the room and leans them against the wall just inside the door. He then takes his time looking around the room at everything.
“So this is your room,” he simply says. I can only imagine what he’s thinking. There is a lot of light blue and purple everywhere. A lot of the things around the room have flowers on them. It’s not overly girly, but it’s girly enough that he probably is amused by it all. He finally smiles. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many books in my life outside of an actual library.”
“Oh, that’s not true,” I scoff. “You have just as many books in your own room. Don’t even start teasing me. Besides, you should be glad that my collection is of books and not something completely useless and impractical.”
“I don’t know. What are random things that people collect? Stamps? Dolls? Stuffed animals? They have no purpose. They just sit there and take up space. At least my books are educational as well as enjoyable.”
“So would this be a bad time to tell you that I have a stamp collection?” he jokes. I roll my eyes at him, but he simply laughs at himself. I look around my room happily. It’s good to be back. Everything is so familiar and comfortable. I wonder what it’s going to be like to finally leave this place for good. I realize that if we stay up here for too long my parents will probably get suspicious and come up here looking for us.
“We should probably get back downstairs,” I tell Draco, making my way toward the door. He makes no motion to leave whatsoever. “If we don’t go back down there my parents will send up a search party.”
“Oh, well, if there’s a search party at risk,” he mocks sarcastically, putting his hands up in surrendering and turning toward the door. Before he can leave I grab his arm and stop him.
“Before we go back down, I just wanted to say that I’m really glad that you came inside with me. I know that you were nervous about meeting my parents, but it means so much to me that you’re being so nice.”
“Well, they are your parents, I suppose I have to make them like me, don’t I?”
“Yes, you do. I just still wanted to tell you myself how happy I am and how much it means to me what you’re doing for me today. I’m sure you’re only doing it so that you don’t upset them and make things extremely difficult for us, but it still means a lot.”
“That’s not the only reason.”
“What’s the other reason?”
“I’m doing it because I love you.”