Chapter 27 : Cat Out of the Bag
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P.S. My apologies for the funky and rather extreme spacing of this chapter. (: I seemed to have fixed it, but just in case.
Hermione had stayed up far too late the night before, going back over her almost-kiss with Draco again and again, as if it might become something more substantial and relationship-provoking the more she thought about it. So, unfortunately, it was eleven o’clock, and time for Malfoy breakfast, when she arose.
She had tried to dress slightly more girlishly than normal that morning, sporting a light pink cardigan her mother had knitted her, and a cream lace dress. Once satisfied with her appearance, she strode downstairs with a little more gusto than she would normally have used.
Draco had leaned into kiss her and that meant something. He had asked her several questions about her romantic life, which showed obvious signs of interest. And he leaned in. Hermione felt absolutely ridiculous but she hoped today would be the day. She would simply get Draco alone and ask him about last night, hoping that he wouldn’t decide to be a prick and would accept that it had, indeed, happened.
“Good morning Hermione!” Came a girlish chirp as Astoria appeared beside her, looking just as feminine in a baby blue skirt and white chiffon top.
Hermione tried to walk a bit faster, but Astoria matched her pace.
“I just want to apologize for walking in last night.” She said with a pout.
“Oh, don’t worry about it. We all make mistakes-”
“Yes, I was hoping you’d say that. I’m very glad I did not walk in on anything uncomfortable, thankfully you and Draco aren’t really a thing, right?”
Hermione almost came to a full stop, but tried to keep her feet moving at an even pace. “What ever do you mean, Astoria? Those engaged tend to really be-”
“Sorry,” The blonde apologized. “I just mean, your engagement was quite the turn, and I found it rather hard to believe. So I simply asked Draco about it when he took me back to my room last night, and he told me everything. All about how their is nothing between you two.”
Suddenly their was an anchor inside of Hermione’s chest. “What?” Her mind went to the way he laid with her on her bed, and the way his lips had lightly moved across her own, seconds before the interruption. “Nothing?”
“Don’t worry, no one else knows.” Astoria sent Hermione a playful wink. “And I’m sorry,” She continued. “Since I imagine this is a little awkward, but do you think that Draco could, well, fall for me again? I know you two must be such good friends and he probably tells you everything.”
Hermione’s lower lip fell and she clenched her fists. They were nearing the dining room now, and she wanted to rip Draco apart for telling Astoria. Of all the stupid, sentimental things for him to do.
“It’s just that I forgot how much I like him,” Babbled the blonde. “And now I’m finally ready to have the sort of serious relationship he wanted with me. And I mean, I’ll obviously wait for your inevitable breakup, but I’m just wondering.”
“Well, I don’t know.” Hermione responded slowly. “He might, or he might not. He didn’t seem too entirely pleased when you showed up last night.”
“Of course he wasn’t! He was tired, I was being a nuisance. Understandable for him to be upset, really.”
“I mean, I would be upset too.”
Astoria suddenly turned to Hermione just before they entered the dining room. “You know, Hermione, I think we’ll be wonderful friends in the future. My looks, your brains, we’d be unstoppable.”
Before Hermione could reply, and thankfully because she had no idea how to respond to such a statement, Astoria threw open the doors and walked in with a Hermione very much less pleased with life than she was but ten minutes ago.
“I am simply famished! What did the elves cook up for breakfast?”
But there was nothing on the tables, and everyone except Draco was present. Even Astoria’s two older sisters were there, Queenie who had been in Hermiones year and hadn’t seemed to have aged since seventeen, and Daphne who had been a year above Hermione, and resembled a falcon.
“We’re having a picnic out on the lawn, as suggested by Mrs. Greengrass.” Narcissa announced, although she said it with distaste, and Hermione wondered how Augusta hadn’t caught on to Narcissa’s obvious dislike of her. Every time Narcissa mentioned the woman it sounded like she’d rather die than say her name again. “They made us an assortment of breakfast foods.”
“Oh wonderful!” Astoria clapped her hands together and made her way towards her sisters. Hermione stared at the demonic, elegant trio for a moment, and she wished Narcissa would just tell them all to go home. A week was too long to spend with such awful company.
“Now did you girls have a good sleep last night? You definitely slept in.” Augusta remarked, her husband engrossed in The Prophet.
“Yes, I think that was the best sleep I’ve had in ages, Narcissa your guest rooms are marvelous.” Astoria said.
“Thank you. Now shall we go out onto the lawn?”
Narcissa gracefully led everyone out onto the grass, and sure enough, a little ways away, was a beautifully carved picnic table, and a classic picnic basket sitting atop it - although it seemed more for decoration than anything else, since the food, plates and cutlery were already laid out.
“Where is Draco?” Astoria asked as if she had just now realized that he was missing.
“He is in his office, and will be joining us later on. He has some very pressing work to take care of.” As Narcissa said the last part she looked at Hermione quickly, and immediately she understood that he was working on something to do with the dark mark and Barman situation.
Hermione wanted to race inside and figure out what was going on, but continued onto the lawn with everyone else, as if she actually believed he was in his office signing papers or sealing envelopes.
“It is too bad Draco isn’t coming,” Augusta murmured rather moodily. “Astoria looks so darling this morning.”
Narcissa slowly arched an eyebrow. “Why would Astoria’s appearance be something Draco needs to witness?”
“Oh, it doesn’t - it isn’t.” The chubby woman’s cheeks went pink. “My mistake.”
The picnic wasn’t too far away, and soon everyone was piling their plates with pancakes, eggs, fruit crepes or vegetable omelettes. There were pitchers filled with juices of all different colours, but Hermione, after remembering the Jagger tea incident, decided to stick with something she knew, and poured herself pumpkin juice.
The parents began talking about what Hermione supposed was considered ordinary. Mr. Greengrass was asking about how the Malfoys train their house elves, and Augusta was saying that she was thinking of bringing in a few younger ones but was worried about how long it might take them to learn how to keep up a household, since all of her house elves had been her parents and they knew more about her family than she did.
Hermione, not participating in the conversation, noticed that the three sisters had taken the red and white checkered blanket from the picnic basket it and had spread it out on the lawn a little ways away.
They were quite the trio. Daphne with her extremely long, slender body, angled features and dark hair; Queenie with her corkscrew curls, large smile and loud laugh; and Astoria with her angel-face, soft features, and petite shape.
Astoria noticed Hermione watching them and immediately broke out in a grin. “Hermione! Come sit with us!” She called, waving her hand.
Hermione looked over her shoulder at the parents, but none of them seemed to care if she decided to go sit with the younger company, and so hesitantly Hermione did so.
Queenie and Astoria shuffled to make room for her between them on one of the corners, although Daphne seemed disgusted at the idea of eating with Hermione Granger, and physically raised her head and looked away.
“We were just questioning Daphne about her relationship with Terence Higgs.” Astoria giggled.
“The cute Slytherin seeker, when we were in second year.” Queenie added when Hermione seemed not to recognize the name.
“Well, he wasn’t all that cute when I was dating him.” Daphne said. “Thankfully I cut that off before I got in too deep.”
“He must be feeling terrible.” Astoria cooed.
“If he is then good, the brute god what he deserved.” Daphne took a sip from her goblet, Hermione the only one effected by the way she spoke of her ex.
“What about you, Queens?” Astoria changed the subject, turning to her other sister.
“I haven’t been with anyone lately.” She responded. “Not since Blaise, anyway.”
This sparked an immediate interest in Hermione, and her mouth dropped slightly. “You were with Blaise?”
“Oh, so the bookworm talks.” Daphne muttered.
Queenie and Astoria ignored their sisters remark, and turned inwards in order to face Hermione.
“Yes, but it was just a one night stand sort of deal last spring,” Queenie explained. “Which he probably doesn’t even remember, since he does them all the time. Doesn’t matter anymore.”
“But you two were so cute, and even you can’t deny it.” Astoria teased.
“Okay, we were pretty cute.” Daphne giggled, and Hermione was physically shocked at the idea of Blaise and Queenie together, but then she remembered the girl at the ball, and that Blaise get’s with anything female, and even there the line is a bit blurry. “But again, it was a one night stand with Blaise Zabini, so it doesn’t matter.”
Astoria replied quietly before changing the subject yet again. “Girls, do you think Draco seemed interested in me the past few days?”
Hermione widened her eyes and expected her sisters to feel awkward but Queenie merely shrugged. “I don’t really know.”
Daphne scoffed. “Well, obviously he’s interested. Every guy is.”
“No seriously!” Astoria shook her head. “I want an honest answer, Daph.”
Daphne raised her eyebrows and gestured towards Hermione as if to say that the conversation was off bounds.
“No, it’s quite alright.” Astoria laughed. “Hermione and Draco aren’t for real. It’s been a fake engagement this entire time.”
Daphne turned to sneer at Hermione after the surprise had left her features. She had her right eyebrow perfectly cocked in a very pure-blood manner and her lips curled back, revealing a sparkling set of white.
“But why would you do that?” Queenie asked. “Everyone thinks you two are getting married!”
Hermione looked away, her cheeks flushing. “It’s a long story.”
She wanted to seriously murder Astoria at that moment, and even more so Draco. She wished that she could march back into the house, go straight into his office, and scream at him for being such a blasted fool and telling Astora Big-mouth about their falsehood. But she mostly just wanted to go back in time and stop Astoria from walking into their room so that their kiss could have sealed some sort of deal, so that there would be no fake engagement to speak of.
Daphne laughed a purely victorious laugh, and Hermione raised her head to look at the girl. “I should have known better than to think Draco would actually become attached to something so impure.”
Queenie laughed as well, but not quite so victoriously. “I had thought it strange as well! I just supposed it was her brains that did the trick. And anyway, all my friends supposed she’d put him under a spell.”
“I would never do that.” Hermione snapped. She wished she hadn’t sat with them now, as she felt her eyes burning.
“Hmm, well, how would we know?” Queenie teased.
Hermione gritted her teeth. “You have no business meddling in other peoples affairs!”
Astoria gently laid a hand on Hermiones shoulder. “Don’t get upset, it was just a surprise that’s all. Everyone will be so relieved when they discover it was all just a rouse.”
“Why?” Hermione asked, angered. “Why is it such a surprise that he would ask me?”
Astoria’s face took on a childish, confused expression. “It was a surprise that someone like him would go out with someone like you, of course.”
Hermione shook her head. “I don’t think it should be such a surprise.”
Daphne smirked and crinkled her nose. “Looks like someone might actually have feelings for Draco after all.”
Hermione opened her mouth to retort, but Queenie leaned in. “Hush now, Draco is headed this way.”
Everyone quickly straightened their postures, and fell silent as Draco grew nearer.
“Good morning everyone,” he said once he was at the blanket. “It’s so nice to see that you ladies are getting along with my Hermione.”
Hermione looked up at him with a mixture of pain and sadness. “They all know.”
A look of shock flitted over Dracos face but he quickly composed himself. “I should have known that if I told one sister, the others would find out in no time at all.”
Astoria lifted herself from the blanket and walked towards him, her arms outstretched slightly. “Draco, I’m sorry.” She interlaced their fingers and leaned into him. The three girls watched the couple, Queenie even daring a glance at Hermione’s expression. “My sisters won’t tell anyone, I promise.”
“No,” Draco pulled his hands away from her and looked away. “While Hermione and I are pretending to be engaged, we shall be in all senses of the word.” He outstretched his hand towards Hermione, who took it and stood up beside him.
“Now, Hermione and I have some things to talk about. Good day ladies.” He finished, putting his arm around Hermiones shoulders and leading her back towards the Manor.
Hermione couldn’t help but let her chest swell with some sort of warm pride due to the fact that she had won this round with the Greengrass sisters. Although she knew that they weren’t even close to giving up, at least she had some alone time with him now.
“Draco,” Hermione began once they were almost to the house. “Why did you tell Astoria?”
Draco sighed and let his hand drop from her shoulders in order to open up the back door. “She was very put-out about walking in, and kept apologizing, and so finally I got irritated and said it’s fine, and that she didn’t walk in on anything.”
Hermione stepped through the door which he was holding open for her, and was slightly disappointed when he didn’t wrap his arm around her again once they were inside.
“And then she asked what I meant,” Draco continued. “And then assumed it was nothing special because we’re like that every night, but I was just so sick of trying to explain anything to her, so I just said it was because there is nothing between us.”
“And she was confused and couldn’t understand what I meant, and so I just told her about the whole plan. I don’t know why.”
Hermione looked at him with a look of mild disinterest. He had now told four people, and she had only told two. And due to that, now ten people, including his parents, knew of their falsehood. And soon Mr. and Mrs. Greengrass would as well, she was certain.
“I don’t, I...” Draco looked away from Hermione, and lowered his eyes to the ground before he spoke again. “I wanted to trust her again, due to our past and everything. I wanted to look past her frivolousness, and... I just wanted to make myself love her again. I was happy with her once so I figured I could be again, and the first step was to trust her.”
“Oh...” Hermione trailed off. He wasn’t meeting her gaze, and was still continuing to lead her further into the manor. “I’m sorry that... Did you trust her again? I mean, did you find that you could or...?”
Hermione wondered if last night had just simply slipped his mind, or if he was purposely not bringing it up, or what was going on. Because she thought they had done something that would change their relationship maybe not forever, but at least the next day, but he acted as if truly nothing had happened.
She made one mistake at her parents house, and then it seemed to be done. Every advance they made he immediately reversed and she was forced to start again from the beginning. But he couldn’t have actually forgotten. He couldn’t have.
“So what did you want to talk to me about?” Hermione asked with far too much hopefulness in her voice.
Draco grimaced and let out an uneven sigh. “I don’t know what to do. The Death Eaters have found us, which is no real surprise since we weren’t all that well hidden, but now it’s just the Manor’s security system keeping them out and nothing else.”
Hermione stopped walking and widened her eyes. “Draco, this is seriously not good.”
“Well, no sh-”
“What do we do?” Hermione put her palm to her forehead as if she had a headache, and pressed her eyelids shut.
“I’m not sure yet, but I thought you ought to know what’s going on.”
“My parents!” Hermione said sharply. “I haven’t seen them for days!”
“Hermione, calm down.” Draco said. “They’ve been going quietly between their room, the library and the kitchen for the past few days. Ever since my parents came home they’ve been sort of hiding.”
“I don’t blame them. After all, they’re supposed to look worthy of being related to the Malfoys, and the Greengrasses would surely eat them alive.”
Hermione’s eyes moved up just in time to catch Draco’s legendary smirk crawl up the corner of his lips. His eyes were a misty, clouded sort of grey and his skin appeared soft, lines of worry cutting into his flesh and drawing his eyebrows inwards.
“What should we do about my parents?”
“Leave them for now.” He answered softly. Or at least Hermione imagined that he had said it softly, or rather hoped that he had. Maybe he hadn’t. “The house should be safe for at least another month.”
Hermione exhaled. “That’s a relief. At least then we’ll have time to prepare for the worst, and the Greengrasses will have left.”
“And they cannot know about any of this, of course.”
He began to walk again, and their conversation did not continue until they were safely in the confines of his office. He was wearing a suit, except without the jacket and it looked terribly good on him. Hermione noticed that he even had a pocket watch, which was linked rather casually across his torso as pocket watches are worn.
“I want to tell Harry and Ron about this.” She told him carefully, unsure of the way he’d react.
Draco paused for a moment. “I think that would be alright. They could definitely help us when we need them, but they could not go to the Ministry about it or use it as a job.”
“They wouldn’t.” Hermione promised.
“Then I think it should be okay.”
“Alright. But Draco, what would happen exactly in a months time? If they got in here.”
“Well, they’d attempt to kill us.”
“But what about your parents?”
“My father has been trying to rid of it as well, so there would be no exceptions.” Draco explained, walking to his desk and leaning rather aristocratically against it.
Hermione let out a shaky breath and nodded. “Okay, that’s what I thought.”
Suddenly Draco stood from where he was and walked towards her, placing his hands on her hips and smiling genuinely at her. “Hermione I just want to thank you for being so good about all of this.”
“O-oh no need to thank me.” Hermione responded by gingerly placing her hands on his elbows.
“No, I do need to thank you. While I’ve been acting cool about all of this, I actually don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I’ve never been in charge of something like this before, and you’ve been my rock.”
Hermione couldn’t breathe quite right, and her words stopped in her throat. The warmth of his hands was seeping through her dress, and she desperately wanted to tell him how she felt, but she refrained herself. “After the war I never wanted to be a part of anything like this ever again.”
“I know, and I’m so sorry that I dragged you into-”
Hermione hushed him so that she could continue. “But I believe it’s worth it. If none of this happened, I wouldn’t have been reunited with you. I wouldn’t be here right now, and I’d probably still be on the third floor of The Prophet.”
Draco looked away from her, and moved his eyes to something over Hermiones head. She turned to see what he was looking at, but there was nothing, and no reply from him came. She bit her lip in mild confusion, and turned back to look at him but when she did he was looking at her again and seemed to have moved further away.
“You really ought to warn Harry and Ron.” He told her, letting his hands drop from her hips. “I hate to say it but their help could mean everything.”
“I can write them I suppose-”
“No, it’s best to do so in person. Actually, don’t you suppose you should talk to them now? You could just floo over and give them time to wrap their heads around it.”
He was talking quickly and walking towards the fireplace, gesturing to the green powder and nodding as if his idea was pure brilliance.
“Okay, I suppose I could.” Hermione stumbled over her words, as she made her way towards him. He practically threw the powder into her hand as she slowly stepped into his fireplace.
“Yes, yes, it would be for the best I think. Okay, I’ll see you when you get back then. Thank you for telling them, you’ve been such a help.” He patted her shoulder in a horribly friendly sort of manner, before stepping back and giving her room to travel. “Just tell them what you have to, remember!”
“Okay, alright. I will.” Hermione smiled a little and watched him as he grinned back at her, looking relatively like the Chesire Cat. She yelled the address of Rons apartment, and dropped the powder at her feet with force, vanishing in an instant.
After much hesitation on Rons part, they appeared in the Potters’ fireplace with a crackle. Harry and Ginny were sitting on the floor with a handful of toys and their toddler, who immediately began to shout and point when he saw his very favourite Uncle and Aunt in his living room.
“Ron? Hermione? Is something wrong?” Harry immediately asked, standing up and walking towards his friends with a look of concern.
“I dunno, mate. She came to my place and told me she needed to tell us something urgent.”
“I need to talk to all of you.” Hermione explained, as Ginny walked over carrying James on her hip. “It’s important that you don’t interrupt me as I explain, because I need you to listen, alright?”
Her three friends exchanged glances. “Alright.”
Hermione got them all to sit down before she explained, and she did so quickly. She started at the Hogwarts reunion, and went on from there explaining every piece of information that she had as thoroughly as possible.
She went into detail on Barman, and the mark, and the way Draco flashed into smoke, and ended with what Draco had told her not too long before. All in all it was a rather rushed explanation, but Hermione did what she could, and the three seemed to be sitting well with the information. Or as well as one can sit when processing something like that.
“Bloody hell.” Ron muttered immediately afterward. “Why didn’t you tell us about this before? At the reunion? You’ve known about this long enough-”
“Shut up, Ron.” Ginny sent her brother a menacing glare before turning back to her friend. “Thank you for telling us, Hermione.”
“Yes, I’m glad you confided in us.” Harry told her. “I wish you’d told us sooner, but I understand why you didn’t. I promise we won’t tell the auror department about any of this unless you want us to.”
“Yeah, no one will find out.” Ron agreed.
“Thank you so much.” Hermione said. “You’ve no idea how good it is to tell someone.”
“Now, I am a bit confused on the forest bit.” Ginny said slowly. “Could you go over that part again?”
The four stayed like this for some time, and although the subject was naturally an unpleasant one it was good to be together again like how they were when they were younger. Back when they were seventeen and had thoughts like these everyday.
Hermione even noticed a flicker of their younger selves in her friends eyes, as they discussed possible plans and clever ideas. It was good to be away from Draco for a short time, but she wondered if Astoria was up to anything whilst she was gone, although she supposed it didn’t matter.
It was wonderful to be sitting with her friends in this almost flash to the past, but it made her realize that she did not wish for any of this to happen over again. A sort of guilt came over Hermione as she watched her friends discuss something they never should’ve had to think about again, and it made her hope beyond anything that this would not do anything to the lives they had built for themselves since the war.
She knew that she would have to put her feelings for Draco aside a little bit longer, because what mattered was keeping these people safe from the dangers they’d thought they’d stopped. She had to stop thinking of herself first, and think about what was actually happening around the people she cared for, and she supposed that’s just what Draco was doing. This entire time she assumed he’d forgotten about her, or had moved on, he was simply thinking of more important things and leaving his own desires to be taken care of later. Which, as irritating as it was, was extremely wise and admirable, especially for Draco, and she knew, that to be with him, she’d have to follow his lead and be patient. Wait for him to feel safe before trying to advance, and not rush into anything that may endanger either one of them.
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