Chapter 22 : Chapter Twenty-One: Chocolate Milk and Chocolate Messes
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They stepped through the display window of Purge and Dowse, Ltd. After passing the Welcome Witch, Draco and Hermione walked through the hospital’s corridors, Draco smiling and nodding at people as they passed. Hermione hid her smile on many occasions when clusters of nurses would giggle behind their hands when he acknowledged them. He was such a heartthrob and he didn’t even realize it, this boyfriend of hers. He seemed so oblivious to all of the interactions between him and other women.
Hermione slipped her arm through his when they turned the corner and were out of sight from everyone else. “You have a fan club. It’s like Harry in sixth year all over again.”
Draco frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“Oh, please. You’re telling me you don’t notice the women ogling you?”
Draco scoffed. “Yeah, right.”
“I’m serious! They giggle like school girls every time you so much as glance in their direction.”
Draco smirked and slowed them both to a stop in the middle of the large hallway. “Are you jealous?”
Hermione rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “Of course not. I was merely making an observation.”
Draco looked away, smiling. He looked back. “You’re rather cute when you’re jealous.”
“I am not jealous! Trust me, if I were, you’d know.”
It was Hermione’s turn to smirk, “You’d be dodging yellow canaries.”
Draco cocked an eyebrow in confusion but Hermione linked her arm with his again and forced him to continue walking. They turned a few more corners and arrived in the children’s wing. The walls were painted a bright yellow and fluffy clouds hovered underneath the bright blue ceiling.
Hermione couldn’t help but smile.
“Sometimes it rains glitter. It’s the most annoying thing in the world,” Draco muttered.
Hermione laughed. “Draco Malfoy covered in glitter. You must look fabulous after a long day of work.”
Draco rolled his eyes just as a nurse walked out of Cooper’s room.
“Aggie! Is Cooper asleep?” Draco called out.
The nurse stopped and looked up. She smiled at Draco as he approached her. “Not yet. He’s waiting on his bedtime story.”
“I’ll do it,” Draco said quickly. “Tell Margaret she doesn’t have to come up here.”
The nurse smiled kindly. “Of course, Healer Malfoy.” The nurse’s eyes shifted to Hermione and then back in the span of only a second but Draco noticed.
“I’m sorry to be so rude,” he apologized. “This is my girlfriend, Hermione Granger. Hermione, this is Agatha.”
Hermione smiled and shook the nurse’s hand. “Pleasure to meet you.”
The nurse looked shocked. “Oh, my! Hermione Granger! Oh, the pleasure is all mine, Ms. Granger.”
Hermione smiled, embarrassed. “Please, call me Hermione.”
The nurse blushed. “Well, I should be going,” she said, flustered. She began backing away. “It’s so good to meet you!”
Hermione smiled. “You, too!” she called back. She turned to Draco when the nurse turned the corner.
Draco laughed. “And you say people ogle me.”
Hermione blushed. “I’m still not used to that.”
Draco placed his hand on the small of her back and urged her toward Cooper’s door. He pushed it open and they both saw Cooper sitting in his hospital bed holding a large book in his tiny, freckled hands.
“Hey, Coop,” Draco said quietly.
Cooper put the book down and beamed. And Hermione immediately fell in love with the little boy on the bed.
“What are you reading?” Draco asked, sitting on the bed next to Cooper.
Draco smiled up at Hermione who stood slightly off to the side, watching the exchange. “Do you want me to read it for you?”
Cooper nodded and handed Draco the large book. “I like this book.”
“I know you do,” he laughed. “Cooper, this is Hermione,” Draco said, nodding toward Hermione.
Cooper turned around and grinned. He lifted a hand up and waved. “Hi.”
“Hi, Cooper,” Hermione whispered. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” he replied sweetly, shifting his attention back to Draco and the book. “Story time.”
Draco smirked. “Okay, okay. Story time.” He opened the book to the first page and took a breath. “There once was a boy who lived underneath the stairs…”
Hermione sat down on the chair against the wall and watched the exchange between Draco and Cooper. She always enjoyed this side of Draco. He was uninhibited and so down to earth. So open. On some level, he was like this with her as well, but he was…freer around children. He obviously felt most comfortable around them. And she found herself wondering why, as she so often did. He had so many different facets to his personality. It intrigued her. After spending so much time with Ron, who was very straight forward about his likes and dislikes, it was strange and exciting to be with someone as complicated as Draco.
“What do you think, Hermione?” Draco asked, pulling her back to the present.
She blinked. “I’m sorry?”
Draco looked at her strangely. “Do you think the hero of our story is going to defeat the evil wizard?”
Hermione smiled. “Oh, definitely.”
Cooper shifted on the bed. “I’m hungry.”
Draco frowned. “You haven’t eaten yet?”
Cooper shook his head.
Draco’s frown deepened. They both glanced at the clock on the wall. It was a bit past eight at night.
“How could they not have fed him yet?” Draco muttered to himself. He stood up and walked to the door, pulling it open and looking up and down the hallway. “Genevieve!” Draco called out suddenly. “Gen, why hasn’t anyone brought up Cooper’s food?”
Draco stepped back and a young nurse walked into the room looking confused. “We fed him at seven.”
“Really? He says he’s hungry and he hasn’t eaten.”
Everyone turned to look at Cooper. The adorable red head grinned back at them all. Genevieve pulled the small rubbish bin out from beneath a table and picked out the remnants of a half eaten chicken finger.
Draco shook his head and sighed. “Thanks. Sorry about that Gen.”
Genevieve smiled. “You know how toddlers can be.”
Draco turned around when Genevieve left the room. “You did have dinner, Cooper. Why did you lie?”
Cooper grinned sheepishly. “I want cookies.”
Hermione laughed. “I’m actually getting a bit hungry. Would we be able to take him to the tearoom with us?”
“I don’t know if sugar is such a great idea right before bedtime,” Draco stated to himself. But he lifted Cooper out of bed anyway. “What the hell, let’s go.”
They walked together to the cafeteria on the top floor of the building. Hermione stood to the side as they moved, watching Draco from the corner of her eye. With Cooper in his arms while wearing dark jeans, a white t-shirt, a charcoal cardigan, and trainers- he was the epitome of a hot young dad. She blushed when her thoughts drifted to Draco walking around with a child of their own.
Draco pressed the elevator button and stood back. “What kind of cookie do you want, Coop?”
Cooper put his finger on his chin and feigned concentration. “I want a…chocolate one!”
Draco nodded. “Good choice.”
The elevator dinged and opened in front of them. He motioned for Hermione to walk in first. She ducked inside and Draco stepped in behind her, pressing the button with the number five on it. The elevator began slowly chugging upwards.
“Where’s mummy?” Draco asked, straightening out Cooper’s t-shirt.
Cooper shrugged and lifted a small hand to gently pull on Draco’s hair. “Are you going to eat cookies?”
“I think so. But Hermione and I are going to eat dinner first.”
Draco glanced at Hermione and she smiled. The elevator finally arrived at the top floor and the doors opened into the tearoom. They stepped out and Draco put Cooper down on his feet.
“Can you watch Cooper for a second? I just need to go say hi to someone over there.” He nodded toward the side where an older man stood in a white healers coat.
“Of course.” She held out her hand and Cooper looked up, taking it. Hermione smiled and squeezed his tiny fingers. “Why don’t we go get that cookie?”
Cooper beamed up at Hermione and tugged her toward a dessert station, already knowing where to go.
He reached up on his toes, trying to get a good look at his choices. His head barely reached the counter top.
Hermione laughed. “Do you want me to pick you up so you can see?”
Cooper nodded so she bent down and lifted him up. He threw one arm around her neck and leaned forward, his eyes lighting up at the cookie selection in front of him. He licked his lips exaggeratedly. “Yum!”
Hermione smiled. “Okay. Which one do you want?” She picked up a plate with her free hand and waited for Cooper to answer her.
He pointed to an overly large chocolate cookie with multicolored sprinkles on top. Hermione picked it up with the available tongs and put it on the plate, smiling to herself as she thought of what Draco would say when he saw the cookie.
“Do you want some milk?”
Cooper pursed his lips and thought. He nodded. “Chocolate milk!”
Hermione laughed. “Don’t you think you’re having enough chocolate?”
He shook his head. “I want chocolate milk! Please,” he pouted.
Hermione sighed, his big green eyes blinked up at her, breaking her resolve. “Okay, but if Draco asks, I said no but you overpowered me with your cuteness.”
Cooper clearly had no idea what Hermione meant but she walked over to the milk station a few feet away from him and poured him a glass of chocolate milk and put a straw in it.
“Please don’t be a hyper mess later,” Hermione prayed to herself. She placed the milk next to Cooper and sat down with to him, propping him up on her lap so he could eat the cookie over his plate.
He looked up at her with his large eyes and button nose with the freckles spattered all over it. “Thank you,” Cooper mumbled quietly, taking a bite of his dessert.
Hermione melted. She would have given him all the sugar in the world at that moment had he asked for it.
Draco slid into the seat across from them. His eyes widened at the chocolatey mess his patient had become. “You are unbelievable,” Draco said, laughter in his voice. “The biggest cookie they offer and chocolate milk?”
Hermione turned red. “I figured he deserved a treat.”
Draco smirked. “You couldn’t say no.”
Hermione opened her mouth to deny her moment of weakness but hung her head instead. “I know. I’m sorry.”
Draco laughed, leaning forward to kiss Hermione on the top of her head. “Don’t worry about it. I would have done the same.”
Hermione smoothed back the soft copper waves on Cooper’s head as he sipped his chocolate milk. “He’s rather beautiful isn’t he?” Hermione said softly.
Draco watched Hermione and Cooper together and his heart warmed. “Yeah, he is.”
“We should bring Teddy over to play with him.” Hermione looked up at Draco as the idea popped into her head. “They would have so much fun.”
Draco smiled as he thought about his two favorite boys meeting one another. “That sounds like a great idea.” He looked around the room. “What do you want to eat? I’ll get it for you while you sit with Cooper.”
Hermione shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Surprise me.”
Draco raised his eyebrows. “Hermione Granger, living on the edge.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Shut up and go get the food.”
“Okay, bossy,” he muttered, walking away.
Hermione smiled and watched him as he picked up plates and utensils. She looked back around at Cooper who had finally finished his cookie. “Oh merlin, you are a mess, aren’t you?”
He gave her a chocolate smile back and held out his sticky fingers for her to examine, trying to stick on of his hands in her mouth.
Hermione laughed and stretched back out of his reach. “I’ll get my own cookie later, Cooper. Thank you.”
Cooper smiled and brought his hands back to himself.
Draco sat back down with several plates hovering in front of him. “I figured we’d have a variety of choices.”
Hermione reached for a slice of pizza. “Good idea,” she mumbled, taking a bite of it and struggling as the cheese stretched out infinitely as she tried to place it back down. Cooper looked up and grabbed the stringy cheese with his messy hands, pulling it toward him. Draco laughed and stood up, about to grab him off of Hermione’s lap.
Draco stood up, and he and Hermione looked around. An older woman approached them. She wore a white healers coat and a tight smile on her face.
Draco’s smile faltered. “Healer Rhodes. How are you?”
“I’ve been better. It’s been a busy day on the third floor. It’s like nobody can make a decent potion anymore.”
Healer Rhodes looked critically at Hermione and to the messy child in her arms who had began to fuss.
Draco steeled himself for what he knew would be a rude comment from the woman in front of him. “This is my girlfriend Hermione Granger.”
The healer smiled condescendingly at Hermione as she quickly wiped her hands to shake Healer Rhodes’ hand. “I don’t recall reading that the Hermione Granger got herself knocked up before proceeding to wreck the home of my goddaughter. The child is clearly a Weasley.”
Hermione dropped her hand as quickly as she had offered it. “Excuse me?”
Draco clenched his teeth. “Not that it’s any of your business Herminia, but this is a patient of mine- not her son, or a Weasley for that matter. And I don’t appreciate you speaking to Ms. Granger that way. What happened between Astoria and I is between us, and your comments are unnecessary and unwelcome. Now, if you’d excuse us, we have to get back to our dinner.”
Draco stiffly turned back around to grab a squirming Cooper out of Hermione’s arms. Healer Rhodes sniffed, turned her nose up, and stalked away. Hermione noticed that a few nurses at a nearby table had seen the exchange. They quickly turned back around when Hermione caught their eyes.
She took a deep breath as Draco shifted Cooper in his arms. “So that was Astoria’s godmother?”
Draco said nothing, grabbing his wand from his pocket and magically cleaning Cooper’s hands and mouth with some difficulty as the three year old began to get restless.
“Don’t let her put you in a bad mood, Draco. Honestly, I’ve heard worse.”
Draco glanced at Hermione and away again. “Well, you shouldn’t have to hear anything. I don’t like having people give you a bad name. That bloody woman is infuriating to begin with. All of Astoria’s bloody family is infuriating.”
The nurses at the table nearby kept peeking at them as Draco’s tone became more venomous.
“Language, Draco,” Hermione warned softly.
Draco looked around. He huffed. “Bloody annoying,” he mumbled under his breath.
“Bloody!” Cooper suddenly exclaimed loudly. “Bloody!”
Hermione glared at Draco. “See what you did?”
Draco managed a laugh. “Sorry.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Cooper, that’s not a nice word. Don’t say that.”
Cooper smiled mischievously at Hermione and continued to try to squirm out of Draco’s hold. “Bloody!”
Draco laughed again and Hermione smacked his arm. “You are horrible. Honestly.”
Draco tangled his fingers in her hair and pulled her closer to him to press a kiss against her lips. “Why don’t we put Cooper to bed and take this food home?”
“Good idea,” Hermione said. “And I could teach you the proper etiquette to have around children.”
Draco rolled his eyes and Hermione grabbed the plates of food.
“Ready?” he asked when she turned to face him again.
A week had gone by since Hermione and Draco’s day of ups and downs. And with every day that passed, Draco seemed to fall harder and harder for Hermione. The frenzy that the headline about them both being in love with their exes caused slowly fizzled out, leaving Hermione, Draco, and the rest of the Malfoys less tense than before. Lucius had warned Draco to be on his best behavior and Draco had complied, which is why Astoria burst into Draco’s office later in the week looking ferocious.
Draco looked up with raised eyebrows. “Please, come in,” he muttered sarcastically.
Astoria threw a piece of paper at him. “Why did I receive an owl from your secretary saying that you’ve cancelled lunch?” she demanded.
Draco sighed and motioned to the chair across his desk. He waited until she tossed her bag on the chair next to her and sat down rigidly. “Astoria, being together isn’t a good idea. It’s been over between us and I’m not willing to risk any more headlines stating otherwise.”
“You’re telling me you can’t afford to be my friend? You’re going to let some stupid tabloids ruin our friendship?”
Anger spiked through Draco. “No. I’m not. But I’m not going to stand around and be insulted by the people we know. Herminia accosted Hermione the other day for being attached to me. If that’s what having a friendship with you entails then I don’t want any part of it.”
“Herminia? What did she say?” Astoria asked, her face paling.
“It doesn’t matter what she said. But the fact that she had the gall to say anything at all makes me angry. Hermione is my number one priority, Astoria. And if being connected to you in any way upsets her then I’m more than willing to drop any association with you whatsoever.”
Astoria looked frantic. “I’m so sorry about whatever she said, Draco. I swear I have no ill feelings towards Granger. I don’t know how she feels about me but-“
Draco cut her off. “She couldn’t care less about you from what I could tell. But, in my opinion, the less I have to do with you, the quicker people will stop antagonizing her. And that’s all I care about.”
“I’ll talk to my family,” Astoria promised, clearly desperate. “I’ll tell them to leave Granger alone.”
Draco leaned forward in his seat, studying her. “Why do you want to be my friend so badly?”
Astoria opened her mouth to answer but quickly closed it again. She took a deep breath and began to speak. “I’ve told you before. I’ve always had you in my life, Draco. I can’t imagine it being any other way.”
“Being friends is a bad idea, Astoria,” Draco said quietly.
Her blue eyes began to swim in tears. Draco groaned quietly to himself and closed his eyes to block out the image. “Draco, please,” she whispered. Her voice broke on the last word. “I’ll tell everyone to go to hell. They won’t bother you or Granger again. Please.”
Draco took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. I can’t do this.”
“Draco,” she whispered desperately.
“I’m going to meet with Ron tomorrow,” Hermione admitted to Ginny. She nervously tucked her hair behind her ear and avoided eye contact with the fiery red head.
Ginny rolled her eyes. “You’re going to regret it. You’re going to wish you never laid eyes on Ron again. And I’ll be here saying I told you so.”
“We could be friends,” Hermione said hopefully. “I mean, he’s been in my life for ages. He has his girlfriend and now I have Draco. I think we’re both mature enough to be in the same room together.”
Ginny huffed. “Whatever you want. You’re impossible to deter once you set your mind to something.”
Hermione pursed her lips. She knew Ginny was right about everything. “Well, I’m going to have lunch with him.”
“And what does Draco think about this?”
Hermione picked up her glass of water and took a slow sip before putting it back down on the coaster. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” Ginny repeated, glaring at her friend. “You mean, you haven’t told him yet?”
Hermione sighed. “I just don’t want to have a fight.”
“If you’re so sure he’ll be unhappy with the idea then why are you rocking the boat? Ron doesn’t deserve your forgiveness. Just let it go and be happy with Draco.”
Hermione inhaled deeply, feeling as though she was about to open the floodgates and admit her biggest fear. “It’s just hard for me, Ginny. I feel like I failed in my relationship with Ron. I want to salvage our friendship so that I don’t feel this weight on me anymore.”
Ginny pushed herself further back on the couch before turning her full attention onto Hermione. “Failing doesn’t make you weak. And you didn’t fail. Ron failed. He gave up on you. You tried your hardest to make your relationship with him work but you can only do so much, Hermione. A relationship involves two people. Two separate minds. You couldn’t have forced him to work with you if he wasn’t into it anymore.”
“But why wasn’t he into it anymore?” Hermione asked desperately. “Was it something I did wrong? Should I have dressed differently? Behaved differently? Why didn’t he want me anymore?”
The frenzy in Hermione’s voice put Ginny on edge. She scooted up, throwing her arms around her best friend. Hermione buried her face in Ginny’s neck and breathed deeply and evenly to stop the tears from spilling.
“Ron is a git. That’s all there is to it,” Ginny whispered. “You’re perfect, alright? I don’t want you thinking otherwise.”
Hermione pulled away and sniffed. “I can’t help but overanalyze every little thing I’ve done in the past five years.”
“It’s over, Hermione. What does it matter?”
Hermione threw her arms up in despair. “I don’t know! What if the same thing happens with Draco? What if I’m not enough to keep him around too?”
Ginny frowned. “Stop thinking like that. And don’t see Ron tomorrow,” Ginny begged. “This is the worst thing you can do to yourself.”
Hermione shrugged. “I need answers, Ginny. It’s who I am. And besides, Draco is going to have lunch with Astoria this week and I’m not making a fuss about it.”
Ginny raised an eyebrow. “So basically, you’re getting back at him.”
“No! Of course not. I just think that he’ll be understanding of me seeing Ron if I’m understanding about him seeing Astoria.”
Ginny laughed. “Your perception on relationships is comical, Hermione. I never took you for the naïve type.”
Hermione looked offended. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that Draco could see Astoria every day for the next year without you getting mad but as soon as you decide to see your ex he’ll flip.”
“That’s not true. Relationships are about giving and taking, equally.”
Ginny rolled her eyes just as Harry walked into the sitting room they were in.
“Hey, Hermione,” he greeted.
“Let’s ask Harry then,” Ginny said, smirking.
Hermione groaned. “It’s not necessary Ginny.”
“What’s not necessary?” Harry asked slowly, looking afraid of the glint in his fiancées eyes.
“If Cho Chang wanted to catch up with you some time next week over lunch, would you go?”
Harry looked warily between Hermione and Ginny. “Why would she do that? I haven’t spoken to her in ages.”
“But she wouldn’t.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Just answer the question.”
“No. You’re setting me up for a trap.”
Hermione laughed. “She’s just trying to prove a point about men and women.”
“What’s the point exactly?” Harry asked.
“Just answer the question!” Ginny growled.
“It depends on whether you’d let me I suppose,” he answered quickly.
Ginny smiled sweetly, having him right where she wanted him. “And let’s say that I did let you even though it kind of bothered me.”
“Okay…” he said slowly.
“And then let’s say Dean Thomas wanted to catch up with me the following week by coincidence. Would you let me go?”
Harry’s eyes flashed. “Did Dean ask you out?”
“Seriously? Did he?”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “No, Harry. I’m just trying to prove to Hermione that Draco will not be supportive of her seeing Ron just because she claims she’s okay with him seeing Astoria.”
Harry blinked the anger from his eyes. “Oh. Well, obviously he’d be pissed if you went. You allowing him to see Astoria is your own decision.”
“But wouldn’t it be fair if he extended the same courtesy to me?”
Harry snorted. “Yeah, right. Because relationships are about being courteous.”
Ginny threw a knowing look at Hermione. “Told you.”
Hermione huffed. “Oh, this is ridiculous. I think you’re both wrong. Draco will be understanding.”
“I wouldn’t mind placing a wager on this,” Ginny said to Harry.
Harry grinned. “Same.” He turned to Hermione. “Ten galleons saying that Malfoy will flip his shit when you tell him you’re going to see Ron.”
Hermione scoffed. “Ten? Let’s make it twenty.”
“To both of us,” Ginny said, smirking.
Hermione stood up. “Fine. I’ll be home thinking up ways to spend forty galleons when the two of you lose.”
Ginny stood up as well. “You’ll have to spend it on buying yourself a new boyfriend.”
Harry laughed as Hermione harrumphed and turned to the fireplace to floo back home.
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