Chapter 6 : Chapter Five: Knight In Shining Armor
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Another crack resounded through the flat. “Granger, I forgot my work binder,” Draco’s voice called out from somewhere in the kitchen. Hermione turned toward the kitchen with a desperate expression on her face. Draco came into view and automatically took in the scene before him. He smirked, like only Draco Malfoy could. “Weaslebee! What a pleasant surprise!” he exclaimed.
“So it’s true,” Ron said flatly. “You’re with this one.”
Hermione wanted to laugh at the jerky head nod Ron made in Draco’s direction, but she could hardly get a breath in to make any sound at all.
“Indeed, it is, Weaslebee,” Draco said, sauntering into the room. He casually touched the small of Hermione’s back as he leaned over to grab the binder he had earlier tossed aside. “Did you show him where his things are?” he said to Hermione.
Hermione blinked and looked at Draco. “They’re by the door, there,” she said in a distant voice. She vaguely registered the concerned look Draco gave her.
“You heard the woman, Weasley,” Draco said. “Grab your things and go.”
“Why do you have some things here, Ronaldo?” Adriana asked, her voice demanding an answer. Unpleasant images of Astoria flashed in Draco’s mind at her tone.
Ron tried to avoid her question in any way he can, so he magicked the boxes into pocket-sized parcels and stuffed them in his jeans. He turned to Hermione, who Draco could feel shaking against his arm as he stood next to her. “Have some sense, Hermione,” Ron said, looking directly at her and completely ignoring Draco. Then he turned to Adriana. “Let’s go. I’ll explain later,” he added at the penetrating look his new girlfriend was giving him. She grabbed his arm reluctantly and they disapparated.
Draco quickly grabbed Hermione by the elbow and pushed her gently down onto the couch, passing her the mug of tea she had forgotten. He put the binder down again and sat on the coffee table, facing her. “Are you okay?”
Hermione burst into heaving sobs. “She. Is. So. Beautiful,” she cried, choking on her words.
Draco gave her a quizzical look. “What?”
Hermione paused for several minutes to regain her composure. She couldn’t act like this, especially in front of Draco Malfoy. “Ron’s…girlfriend. She’s perfect.” Hermione looked down at the ground between their feet.
“I didn’t notice,” Draco said quietly.
Hermione’s head jerked up to look at him. “You’re joking. You didn’t see the Italian supermodel standing in my entryway?”
Draco shrugged. “Good thing I came when I did, eh?”
Hermione let out a shaky breath. “I swear, I could have kissed you when I heard your voice coming from the kitchen.”
Draco smirked. “You should have. It would have made it even more believable.”
“Do you really think he believed it?” Hermione asked, hopefully.
“Oh, definitely. He was seeing red.” Draco cleared his throat. “I was afraid you were going to pass out for a second there, Granger.”
“Me too,” Hermione replied, laughing weakly.
Draco stood up. “Alright, drink your tea,” he said, placing the mug in Hermione’s hands. “Accio, pajamas!” From Hermione’s bedroom came a pair of pajama bottoms. They soared straight into Draco’s hand. He gave them to Hermione. “Get changed and lie down. You’re still shaking. Your body needs to rest so that it’s no longer out of whack from the stress of the situation.”
Hermione wanted to protest, but Draco gave her a stern look before turning toward her bedroom. Hermione grudgingly changed into the pajama bottoms and lied back on the couch. Draco came back minutes later with her pillow and blanket. Her pillow was placed underneath her head and she couldn’t help but smile when Draco tucked her in. He caught her smiling at him, and he smirked.
“It’s the healer in me. I can’t help but care for the weak.”
Hermione tried to sit up, but he firmly held her down with one hand. “I’m not weak, Malfoy!” she growled, struggling against him.
He chuckled. “I’m just teasing you. Now rest. Healer’s orders.”
Hermione opened her eyes the next morning feeling oddly refreshed. It took her a few long moments to remember why she was sleeping on her couch. Then, everything from the night before came flooding back to her. Her stomach twisted, and she felt like she’d be sick. Ron had come back with his perfect, gorgeous, exotic girlfriend. All of his things were officially out of her flat. But instead of feeling lighter with his presence finally gone from her surroundings, she felt leaden. How could he move on so quickly?
Thoughts of Adriana Perelli came to her mind once more. That’s how. The woman was clearly created to be every man’s fantasy. Even if he hadn’t broken up with her before leaving for Italy, he would have called from his trip to break up with her then. Hermione groaned and buried her head deeper into her pillow, pulling the blanket over her head.
“Granger, I’m off to work.”
Hermione quickly sat up, shoving the blanket off of her in order to look less vulnerable. “Malfoy, what are you doing here?” she exclaimed, trying to smooth her hair down, sure that it looked like a bird’s nest after the long night.
Draco was standing in the entryway between the kitchen and living room fixing his tie. “I stayed the night.”
Hermione blanched at Draco’s nonchalance. “What?”
Draco continued pulling at his necktie, ignoring Hermione’s question. When he was finally happy with the way it looked, he glanced up at Hermione. “I wanted to make sure you were okay. You seemed to be in shock last night. Listen, Granger, I’m going to be at work for the next 24 hours. I have a double shift, and I’ll be working the emergency center, as well. If I were you I’d take this time to speak to Potter and the Weaslette about us.”
Hermione wanted to feel indignation about Draco spending the night without asking. But she figured it best to swallow her pride if only for a second. “I will. And…thank you. For watching out for me, I mean,” she mumbled, her cheeks aflame.
Draco nodded and grabbed his briefcase. “I’ll see you soon, Granger.”
Hermione stood up and straightened out her pajama bottoms. “Malfoy-
Draco stopped and looked at her expectantly.
“I hope you slept alright. I don’t want to be the reason you missed the only sleep you’ll be getting before such a long shift.”
Draco smirked. “I slept great, actually. Your bed is really comfortable. And it smelled like lavender, which was an added bonus.” Then he disappeared with a wink and a crack, leaving Hermione staring at the place he was standing, her cheeks tinged a delicate shade of pink.
Draco stared down at Cooper’s sleeping form. “He slept the whole night through,” a voice said quietly behind him. He turned around and saw Cooper’s mother looking at her son with a cup of tea in her hand. She had bags under her eyes but a smile on her face- a smile Draco had not seen since Cooper was admitted four months ago.
He looked back at Cooper, marking something on his chart. “That’s a very good sign. That’s the first time he’s slept more than three hours in a row since July.”
Mrs. Pierson nodded. “Any news on his condition?”
Draco sighed. “No. I’m sorry, but the researchers have been working double time trying to figure out what this could be.”
She nodded, sitting down on the uncomfortable wooden chair that she had fallen asleep on countless times since her son was first admitted to the hospital. The woman was a muggle, as was her husband. They had gone to numerous hospitals throughout London, only to be approached by a doctor in one of the hospitals they had gone to who told them that their son showed early stages of magical ability. They had no idea what he was talking about, but he pulled them to the side, placed a seed in Cooper’s small hand, and they watched it grow into a flower before their eyes. He told them to go to St. Mungo’s, and in their desperation, they did. The idea that they were at a hospital full of witches and wizards had brightened their spirits considerably. Unfortunately, nothing had changed since he had gotten here. He was still a sick little boy with thick, wavy red hair, and a spattering of freckles across his button nose.
Draco and Hilda, Cooper’s mother, froze as Cooper flinched in his sleep. Draco hoped it was a reaction to a dream and not the pain he endured day in and day out. Cooper opened his startling green eyes and stared up at the two adults in the room. When Draco approached his bedside, Cooper grabbed his two fingers and squeezed. Draco ran a hand through his curls, and Cooper smiled at the contact.
“I’m going to go get him something to eat,” Hilda said before leaving the private room.
Draco began his routine. He pressed down on Cooper’s belly and instead of the usual wince that accompanied the touch, Cooper giggled.
“Does that hurt?” Draco asked, pressing down again.
Cooper giggled once more. “Tickle!”
Draco stepped back, shocked. “It tickles?”
Cooper nodded, smiling.
Draco continued the checkup with more haste, not believing his eyes. Cooper’s joints were less inflamed and the redness had diminished a little bit too. His breathing was no longer labored or wheezy. What the hell is going on, Draco thought. He looked up when Hilda walked in again. She walked closer to the bed and stared at her son in shock as he smiled brightly at her.
“What’s happening?” she whispered. “Just yesterday he was crying in pain.”
Draco looked just as shocked as she did. “I don’t understand how this happened, but Cooper seems to be getting much better overnight. I’d like to keep him here for a while longer though, incase he relapses.”
Hilda nodded. “Of course. I’d feel more comfortable if he stayed, too. But I’m so happy!” She wiped at the tears that were falling down her face. She leaned down and kissed Cooper on the head, and he held out his arms to be held.
Draco felt like he could cry, too. He had never felt so relieved in his life.
Hermione sat down in Harry and Ginny’s living room the night that Draco left for work. She explained how the situation came to be and everything that had happened since then, finally succumbing to her tears of frustration by the end of it.
“I can’t believe Ron could be so stupid as to bring her to your flat after everything he’s done,” Ginny growled. She set her cup of tea down sharply.
“I know,” Hermione said, dabbing the corner of her eye on the handkerchief Harry had offered her.
Harry cleared his throat and both women looked at him. “I’m just surprised Malfoy came to the rescue.”
“Me too,” Hermione admitted. “He can still be the arrogant little ferret I’ve always known him as, trust me, that part of him shines through more than often. But he switches completely when it comes to certain things.”
“Like what?” Ginny asked.
Hermione paused for a second to think. The way he treated Teddy at his checkup, the way he automatically agreed to pretend to be her boyfriend when Ron showed up, and how he tucked her in the night before all played through her mind. “I think he has a knack for taking care of people,” she finally said, thoughtfully. “He’s a different person- much more mature and selfless.”
Ginny exchanged glances with Harry. Ginny made a face at him. “Oh, babe, you can’t judge him. He’s helping Hermione out. And I’m glad he’s doing this. Serves Ron right.”
Harry heaved a sigh. “I suppose. I’m just going to have to keep picturing the Malfoy that took care of Teddy instead of the Malfoy from Hogwarts. But how long are you going to have to keep this up?”
Hermione frowned. She hadn’t thought about it. “I have no idea.”
“How about, to keep up the charade, we invite you two over for dinner?”
Harry gave his girlfriend a sharp look. “What?”
“Oh, Harry, relax. Don’t you want to actually get to know your best friend’s new boyfriend? Plus, Ron will get suspicious if Malfoy doesn’t come around Hermione’s friends and family soon.”
Hermione groaned. She hadn’t thought about the long-term aspect of this fake relationship. Did she really have to introduce him to everybody?
“Fine. But let’s go out for dinner instead. I don’t think it’s necessary for Malfoy to be in my home.”
Ginny rolled her eyes but agreed. “How about next Friday night?”
“I’ll have to check with Malfoy to make sure he’s not working. Sometimes he picks up extra shifts.”
“Saint Malfoy,” Harry muttered under his breath. “Great, we’ll figure it out then. How about some more tea?”
“Fine, fine. We’ll change the subject,” Ginny grinned, getting the hint. “No need to get your knickers in a bunch.”
Draco walked into his home after his twenty-four hour shift, exhausted but thoroughly pleased. No matter how many times he stopped in to check on Cooper, the three year old remained better than ever. Draco pushed open his study door and startled. “Mother, what are you doing here?” His mother sat in his office chair as though it was the most natural thing in the world.
“I was just wondering when you were going to share the news with your own mother, Draco. I don’t appreciate finding out that you’re moving on through a newspaper.”
“What are you talking about Mother?” Draco asked, exasperated. He had too long of a working shift for this.
Narcissa Malfoy stood up and handed Draco that morning’s edition of the Daily Prophet. A photo of Astoria walking out of a café, shielding her face from photographers was blazing across the page with the headline: Greengrass Finds Fiancé Malfoy in Bed with Another Woman. Draco groaned. She made him out to be a cheater. Of all the things in the world, Draco Malfoy was no cheater. He scanned his eyes down the article, but Hermione’s name was not mentioned. But the claim that Draco had begged Astoria to take him back was jumping out at him. He looked up at his mother and winced at the glare she was giving him.
“I did not cheat on Astoria,” Draco said desperately, handing the paper back to his mother. “Mother, we’ve been broken up for almost two months now. She’s just mad that I’m dating someone new.”
His mother’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. Draco ignored her look. “And who, may I ask, is this new woman?”
Draco took a deep breath. It was now or never. “Hermione Granger.”
His mother took a step back. “What?” she gasped, her hand flying to her heart. “Since when?”
“Er…about a week now.”
“I see the trial really made you change your mind about her.”
“Yeah…it really made me see the light.” Draco tried to mask the sarcasm from his tone.
“When did you ask her out?”
Draco ran a hand down his face. He was sleep deprived and these questions were making his brain fuzzy. “We ran into each other a week after the trial, and I told her I owed her dinner for seeking justice for Father, so I invited her over for dinner.”
“And she said yes? Just like that?” Narcissa Malfoy had always been a curious person. She liked to know every detail of every thing there was to know.
“It took some persuading,” Draco shrugged. “But she said yes eventually, and the rest is history.” Draco had walked to his liquor cabinet and poured himself a drink. He was beginning to get a headache. “Mother, please. I worked a double shift. I need to get some sleep.”
Narcissa pursed her lips. “Will she be joining you?”
Draco coughed on the amber liquid. “Excuse me?” he spluttered, turning toward his mother in shock.
“I just don’t understand why you’re so desperate to kick me out.”
“Because I’m exhausted, and you’re beginning to irritate me, Mother.”
Narcissa smiled indulgently at her only son. “Alright, alright. Well, I expect Ms. Granger to accompany you to dinner at the Manor soon. Your father comes home in two weeks.”
Draco turned back to the liquor cabinet and rolled his eyes. “I know. September the eighteenth. I have it marked on my calendar.” He closed the bottle of Firewhiskey and put it away.
“Exactly, so I think the following day will be the perfect opportunity to introduce Ms. Granger as your girlfriend to the family.”
“Family?” Draco repeated.
Narcissa smiled. “Yes, Draco. I’ve reconnected with my sister Andromeda. After everything that has happened, I realize that life is short. I missed my sister.”
“Well, I don’t think you’ll have to introduce Granger to Andromeda. I’m pretty sure they know one another.”
“Either way, darling, she’s due for a visit soon, anyway. She’s coming with her husband and grandson.”
“Teddy?” Draco asked, perking up a little.
Narcissa thought for a moment. “Yes, I do believe that’s his name. How do you know him?” she asked suspiciously.
Draco immediately regretted bringing it up. He sighed. “He’s Potter’s godson, so naturally, Granger is close to him, as well.”
Narcissa clapped her hands together. “What a small world! How wonderful. Then we shall invite them as well.”
“What? No, Mother-
But Narcissa wasn’t listening. She had picked up her purse, kissed her son on the cheek, and apparated out of sight.
Draco groaned and dropped himself into his chair. He downed the last of his Firewhiskey and closed his eyes. His headache was getting worse. He opened his eyes and right in front of him was the paper that his mother left behind. He frowned. He despised being thought of as a cheater. He treated women with respect. His father taught him that much. But the wizarding world wouldn’t know any better. They’d believe whatever the media told them. And as far as Draco was concerned, everyone who read the Prophet this morning believed him to be a womanizer.
He dropped the newspaper in the rubbish bin next to his desk. He’d deal with the situation when the time came. He just hoped nobody believed that Hermione Granger was the woman he had “cheated on” his fiancée with. When Hermione and him would finally become public, to keep up the façade, he would want her name to be clean. She wouldn’t deserve the nasty publicity that would surely come with the libel. He idly wondered what Hermione was thinking about the article as he dozed off in his chair.
Hermione laughed to herself as she stared down at the Daily Prophet that was propped against her legs as she sat in bed. “Sources report that Draco Malfoy feels terrible about the entire situation and regrets that he ever was foolish enough to hurt the love of his life, Astoria Greengrass. According to a close friend of Astoria’s, Draco Malfoy has been begging for her to take him back but to no avail. The home wrecker’s identity has yet to be divulged.” Hermione prayed that her name would not come out as the “home wrecker” because the last thing she wanted was to come up with another lie to get her out of yet another sticky situation.
She finally forced herself to get out of bed and get ready for work. It had been a long weekend, and she was thankful for the beginning of a new week that would, hopefully, get her mind off of the mess that her life had become. Grabbing a granola bar from her pantry, she apparated to just outside of the Ministry before walking into the phone box and dialing 62442.
“Hermione!” a voice called, as she walked into the main atrium.
She spun around and saw Harry running toward her. She waited patiently as he approached. “Hi, Harry. What’s up?” she asked, beginning to walk toward the lift again with Harry.
He held up the Daily Prophet. Hermione groaned. “So is this the official story?” he teased.
“No, not at all. That’s just Astoria Greengrass being her usual self.” Hermione jabbed the button on the lift that was labeled with the number two, and the lift began to descend.
“What does Malfoy think of this?” Harry asked, amused.
“I have no idea, Harry,” Hermione bit out.
“Ron stopped by my house at about the crack of dawn.”
Hermione swallowed the impulse to react.
“He saw the article and assumes you’re the woman.”
Hermione couldn’t help herself. “What? How dare he! I am not some home wrecking trollop!” Their lift opened onto the second level and they both stepped out. Hermione dropped her voice to a hoarse whisper. “If he thinks I would stoop so low, then he clearly never knew me. I swear, that Ronald Weasley makes my blood boil. The nerve of that man!”
Harry chuckled. “You sound a lot like Ginny did when he came by. Don’t worry, Hermione, she put him in his place.”
“Harry, when Malfoy and I become public, I don’t want people thinking that I’m the woman he left his fiancée for.”
Harry shrugged. “It’s bound to happen. You’ll just have to get through it until people forget about it.”
Hermione sighed heavily. This was going to be more complicated than she thought. They both walked into her office, and Harry shut the door behind them.
“And either way,” Harry began, “it’s not like you’re going to marry the guy. You’ll pretend break up with him the same way you began to pretend date him.”
“Speaking of pretend…Ginny wanted me to ask about dinner on Friday.”
“Oh, I forgot! I’ll write him now and ask.” Hermione pulled a piece of parchment out from underneath the pile of work that had accumulated on her desk over the weekend. Harry and Ginny invited us to dinner on Friday around seven o’clock. I wanted to check and see if that was a good time for you. Let me know. – Hermione.
“I’ll have Hedwig deliver it,” Harry said, holding out his hand for the letter. “It’ll be easier than you finding an owl to use this early on a Monday morning.”
Hermione placed the letter in Harry’s hand and smiled. “Thanks, Harry. And thank you for being so understanding about this strange situation.”
Harry grinned. “I hate to say this, but I like seeing Ron squirm after everything he did to you. He deserves to realize that you won’t be his doormat forever.” He turned to leave but stopped again. “Just go easy on him, Hermione. He’s still my best mate.”
“Don’t worry. I’m just doing this to maintain some semblance of dignity in front of Ron.” The irony was not lost on Hermione.
Harry nodded and left, the letter clutched in his hand.
Hermione spent the rest of the day working diligently in her office. She had promised herself that she would not leave until she had gotten through the entire stack of papers in front of her. The last document was a release form for Lucius Malfoy. He would be getting out of Azkaban in less than two weeks and all of the necessary forms had to be filled out beforehand which meant that Hermione was due for a visit to Azkaban before the eighteenth of September.
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