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Chapter 23 : Chapter Twenty-Two: Poppy's Paninis.
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Hermione stepped out of her magically crafted fireplace and dusted herself off. Draco was at work until the following morning, which meant that she had all night to overanalyze every single decision she had made in the past twenty-four hours. The biggest situation to analyze would be how to break the news to Draco.
She told herself for the millionth time that she shouldn’t care about what his reaction would be because what’s fair is fair, and if he wanted to have lunch with Astoria, then she could very well have lunch with Ron. After all, it was only lunch. It’s not like she was meeting Ron for a romantic dinner.
She stopped herself. Maybe she should just grab coffee with him instead?
If Draco were going to have lunch with his ex then she would have lunch with hers. What was a sandwich between exes, anyway?
She walked into her kitchen to make herself a cup of tea, trying to distract herself from the onslaught of thoughts. Things with Draco were going so well and she knew that Ginny had a point- messing things up with him over Ron was beyond stupid. But something in her would not let it go. She had to see how Ron was without her. She had to know why he left her in the first place. And she grudgingly admitted to herself that she was doing this because some small part of her wanted to get even with Draco for seeing Astoria. It was only fair.
She began brewing the tea when a small, frantic owl began pecking at her window in agitation. Her stomach dropped, recognizing Pigwidgeon. Ron had said he would send him over for her word. She threw open the window, allowing the bird in, before walking to her desk and writing a quick note to Ron. She told him that she would meet him at their usual lunch place a few blocks over from her flat. She pursed her lips and paused for a long moment before folding and sealing the letter. She secured it to Pig’s leg with some difficulty and saw him off. She closed the window once more, feeling more down than she thought possible over a mere lunch date.
Hermione woke up to the feeling of something soft pressing against her forehead. She opened her eyes and blinked. “Hi,” she whispered shyly.
Draco smiled. “Hi baby. I just wanted to see you before going home to sleep.”
“You’re leaving?” Hermione asked, surprised at the obvious disappointment in her voice.
Draco seemed surprised too. “Do you want me to stay?”
Hermione scrunched up her nose, embarrassed by her desperation. “Yes, please.”
“Scoot over,” Draco said automatically, nudging her and sliding into the bed. He wrapped his arms around her, giving her a tight squeeze before loosening his grip again. “I missed you.”
Hermione stretched in his arms, making soft mewling noises. She sighed. “I missed you too. How was work?”
“Exhausting. How was your day yesterday?”
Hermione blinked and in a moment all of her anxiety came rushing back to her, having forgotten it in the state of bliss she felt next to Draco. She was to have lunch with Ron today. And she had to tell Draco.
She swallowed. “Fine.”
“Anything interesting happen?”
She closed her eyes in horror. She could have kicked herself just then. It was the perfect opportunity to tell Draco but he was already on to the next topic.
“Cooper really liked you. He asked when you’d come visit him again.”
Hermione opened her eyes. “Really? He was so sweet. I would love to see him again,” she said, happily pushing the thought of Ron to the side. “We should take Teddy next time.”
“Definitely. They’d really get on together,” he said thoughtfully.
Hermione turned in his arms to get a better look at his face. “What is it?” She became worried as he stayed silent for several moments.
“Do you want kids, Hermione?” he asked suddenly, looking back at her.
She paused. “Yes, I love kids,” she answered earnestly. “Why do you ask?”
Draco shrugged. “I was just wondering.” A pause. “How many would you want?”
Hermione bit her lip. “I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it. Maybe one of each?”
“I want two boys and a girl.”
Hermione smiled. “I can see that. You’d make a great father, Draco.”
“You think so?” he asked. “Really?”
Hermione nodded. “You obviously love kids. And you’re great with them.”
Draco stayed quiet.
“Why do you love kids so much, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Draco licked his lips and sighed. “What’s not to love about them? They’re innocent and full of happiness and hope. That’s not something I grew up with myself as a child so I enjoy seeing others experience it at such a young age.”
Hermione pushed herself up to lean her head on her palm. She gently touched his face, turning his head to look at her. “You didn’t have a great childhood, did you?” she asked softly.
Draco rolled his eyes, uncomfortable with the turn of the conversation. “Well, the son of a death eater. You can’t really say I had the best upbringing.”
“But you seem so close with your parents.”
“I’ve always had a decent relationship with my mother. But I really became close to both of my parents in the past five years or so. After the war. When it was all said and done, we were able to sort through the mess and really figure out what family was about.”
“I’m glad you were able to get through all of that,” Hermione said. “I’m so thankful that I’ve gotten to know you…the real you.”
“Draco Malfoy, the death eater,” he muttered bitterly.
Hermione pursed her lips in disapproval. “Draco Malfoy, the talented healer, loyal friend, loving boyfriend, perfect son, and best babysitter in the universe.”
Draco laughed. “I’m so glad you brought Teddy to his checkup that day.”
“You can thank Harry for that. He got called into work last minute.”
Draco smirked. “Imagine if he didn’t, where we would be.”
Hermione smiled. “You’d probably be forced against your will to be with Astoria again.”
“No. I’d be searching for you without ever realizing it.”
Draco nodded and ran his fingers through her hair. “Yeah. A bushy-haired know-it-all.”
Hermione scowled at him. “Excuse you!”
Draco laughed. “Subconsciously, I’ve always wanted my very own bushy-haired know-it-all to do with as I please.”
He quickly flipped her onto her back when she opened her mouth to retort and nuzzled her neck, ignoring her laughs and protests. “You’re perfect, do you know that?” he said suddenly.
Hermione bit her lip and looked up at him and all his sincerity. “Oh dear,” she mumbled. “You’re not going to think that after I tell you what my plans for the day are…”
Draco narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean?” he asked slowly.
Hermione’s face crumpled in devastation. “I’m going to have lunch with Ronald today.”
Draco blinked, and after what felt like an eternity, pushed himself off of Hermione and onto his back next to her. He put his hands on his head and stared up at the ceiling.
Hermione quickly sat up on her knees next to him. She placed a hand on his arm. “Don’t be mad. It’s just lunch. He wants to catch up.”
He continued staring up at the ceiling in silence.
“Say something,” Hermione urged desperately, shaking his arm a bit to rouse him.
“I just don’t understand,” Draco muttered. “Why?”
Hermione chewed on her bottom lip. She shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know. I mean, we’ve been in each other’s lives for ages. I suppose he wants to remain friends.”
Draco gave a short, bitter laugh. “Friends,” he repeated. “Right. And is that what you want?” He sat up and looked at her.
Hermione felt uncomfortable with his body mass advantage next to her. “I don’t know what I want.”
Draco cocked his head to the side. “In regards to what…?”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “In regards to Ronald’s friendship,” she said quickly. “I’m not thinking of him in a romantic sense at all, Draco. I swear.”
Draco licked his lips and nodded, pushing himself off the bed in a sudden movement and standing up. “I’m going to go home. I really need to get some rest.”
Hermione sat motionless for a moment until he headed to her bedroom door. Her eyes widened and she climbed off the bed in a mess of limbs, trying to stop him. “Wait!” she called, pulling open the door he had just slammed shut behind him. “Wait!”
Draco huffed in annoyance and turned around. “Wait for what, Hermione?”
She was surprised at his tone. It caused the apology in her throat to dissolve, only to be replaced with anger of her own. “I don’t understand why you’re so angry. You’re going to have lunch with Astoria so I don’t understand why I can’t have lunch with Ronald. Don’t be such a hypocrite!”
Draco scoffed. “A hypocrite? How about you stop being so damn spiteful! If you had a problem with me seeing Astoria than you should have told me straight up. I don’t need these games from you.”
“Games? What games?”
“The getting even game!” Draco shouted. “The he’s seeing his ex so I’ll see mine game! I thought you were more mature than that.”
Hermione glowered at Draco. “I’m not playing games! And I figured you’d be mature enough to understand that it’s only fair not to get angry over something you’re doing as well!”
Draco threw his arms up. “Well I guess we’re two immature idiots in this bloody relationship together.”
“Speak for yourself,” Hermione whipped.
Draco scoffed. “Alright, love. Have fun on your date. I hope you have a grand old time.”
But before Hermione could say a word to stop him, he left.
Hermione felt anxious and uncomfortable all morning and afternoon. The fight with Draco had been so much worse than any others they had had before. She was used to bickering with him. It was only expected when they both had such strong personalities. But this time she felt as though she had betrayed him in a sense. And she hated herself for it on so many levels.
The guilt that slowly ate her up made her angry. He was going to see Astoria. She should not feel badly for his anger. His anger should only fuel her own. Yet, that was not that case. She had to keep reminding herself that she wasn’t doing anything wrong. It was lunch. A platonic lunch. She repeated the mantra over and over again in her head, trying to quash the bubbling fear in her gut at what she knew she was about to do. But no matter how many times she repeated those words to herself, Ginny’s words replayed themselves in her mind immediately afterwards. Don’t see Ron. You’ll regret it.
With all the energy she could muster, she shoved that warning to the back of her mind. But it was still with a heavy heart that she went to go see Ronald at two o’clock. She decided to walk the few blocks to the restaurant, wanting time to clear her mind. And when she stepped outside and into the cool end of September air, she shivered and wrapped her cardigan around her more securely, watching her black loafer clad feet make their way to Poppy’s Restaurant against her better judgment.
Her head jerked up and she immediately saw Ron standing outside of the establishment with his collar turned up to block out the bite of the wind and a cigarette dangling from his lip. She frowned. He seemed to have picked up that habit again.
They both paused awkwardly in front of each other before Ron held out an arm for a hug. Hermione stepped into his hold and stepped back again after a beat.
“Shall we go in then?” Ron asked, looking at the entrance. He took another drag of his cigarette and caught Hermione’s shrewd gaze. He smiled sheepishly, shrugging. “I was nervous. I needed something to occupy myself.” He quickly dropped it and stepped on it with the back of his heel.
Hermione smiled and rolled her eyes. “Let’s g-go.” She bit her lip. She had almost said let’s get this over with.
They walked inside together and were shown to a booth. Hermione immediately picked up the menu and perused it, trying to avoid looking at Ron. Ron sighed and picked up his menu as well, pretending to look at it.
Hermione pursed her lips. “I don’t know why you bother. You’re going to get what you always get.”
Ron snorted. “I’m only bothering because you’re so intent on ignoring me. I have to do something.”
Hermione put her menu down and glared at him. “Why don’t you just tell me what you so desperately wanted to see me about?”
Ron huffed out a large breath and tossed his menu onto the table, not bothering to be gentle. “Let’s cut to the chase then,” he muttered. “Look, Hermione. I’ve known you for ages, alright? You’ve been in my life longer than many people.”
“And?” she snapped, waiting for him to continue after he paused for too long a moment.
“And…I want to work on our relationship again. Even if it’s just friendship,” he said quickly when she opened her mouth, looking ready to spit fire.
She closed her mouth with a snap and narrowed her eyes. “Why?”
Ron shrugged. “What do you mean, why? I love you! Why wouldn’t I want to amend what we had?”
“Because you very deliberately left me for that Italian supermodel.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Whatever. How does she feel about this?”
Ron groaned, dreading the explanation. “I don’t know how she feels about this. I haven’t exactly told her I’m meeting with my ex-girlfriend.”
“Did you tell ferret-face?”
“His name is Draco. And yes, I did.”
“Well how did Draco take it?” he asked, mocking Hermione’s use of his name.
“Fine. He trusts me.”
Hermione had the grace to look offended. “Excuse me?”
“I know when you’re lying Hermione. It’s written all over your face.”
She ignored him and picked up her menu again. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. He knows I’m here and he’s fine with it. It’s not my fault you’re not in a trusting relationship.”
Ron rolled his eyes. “Can we get back on topic, please?”
“Okay. What exactly do you want?”
“I want us to establish some relationship again, whatever it may be.”
Hermione bit her lip and startled when Ron’s hand found hers on top of the table. She looked at him and felt her heart break all over again. “Why did you leave?” she whispered.
Ron pulled his hand back as though she had burned him. He began squirming in his seat. “Hermione…”
“Just answer the question,” she said in a low voice. “I need to know. Was it something I did? Could I have done something differently?”
“Don’t do this,” Ron said, pained. “Please.”
“Were we just hopeless from the start?”
“No,” he said forcefully. “No. We weren’t hopeless.”
“So what then?”
Ron dropped his head in his hands. “Hermione,” he groaned, his voice muffled by his palms.
“Tell me. I want to know.”
“Hermione. It was nothing. Just drop it.”
“Just tell me. I want to know, Ron.”
“You were boring! Okay?” he shouted, suddenly fed up. He shook his head, disappointed in himself. “You were boring,” he repeated softly. “I just wanted some change.”
Hermione froze in her seat. “I see.”
“I’m sorry. I’m young, and I’m an idiot. You’re perfect, and I see that now.”
“Now you do?”
Ron nodded miserably.
They both looked up when their usual waitress approached them with a wide smile on her face. “Hey, you two! I haven’t seen you here in a while! Do you want the usual?”
Ron and Hermione both nodded, avoiding each other’s gaze. The waitress’s smile faltered a bit before she nodded and spun on her heel to leave.
Hermione sighed and slumped in her seat, looking at Ron. He was fidgeting with his silverware. “What kind of relationship are you looking for exactly?” she muttered.
Ron looked up. “Anything I can get,” he admitted desperately. “I just want you back in my life.”
Hermione sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. “I can try to be your friend, I suppose.”
She heard Ron’s sigh of relief.
“But I can’t promise anything. I have Draco now and I’ve moved on with my life.”
Ron scowled. “You really have to tell me the story of how the two of you got together one of these day,” he muttered darkly. “I bet it’s quite the tale.”
“If you’re going to be petulant, Ron, I won’t even bother being your acquaintance, let alone friend.”
Ron huffed and sat back in his seat. He shook his head. “I’ll never like him. I’m telling you now. I’m still pissed as all bloody hell that you’re with him so soon after we broke up.”
“Oh, says the man that began dating someone the moment he left on vacation!”
“Don’t start,” Ron warned, holding up a hand. “I was an idiot. I regret it, alright?”
Hermione raised an inquisitive brow. “You’ve fallen out of love already? Poor girl. At least it took five years with me.”
Ron reddened at her quip but ignored her otherwise. “I don’t regret her. I regret hurting you.”
“Oh, thanks for clarifying.”
Their waitress came around with some water. Ron held out his cup for her to fill and Hermione waved off her offer.
Ron took a sip and put the cup down. “I’m sorry, alright? For everything I did. I’m sorry.”
“I just don’t understand why you couldn’t do this through owl?”
“Because I figured you deserved this in person.”
“It’s the least you could have done, I suppose.”
Ron slammed his hand on the table, causing everything to rattle. People began shooting them furtive glances. “Sorry,” Ron muttered to the strangers. He waited until they all turned around again. “Could you stop making me feel shittier than I already do?” he whispered, leaning in to glare at Hermione.
She rolled her eyes and sat back. “I’m sorry if my hurt and anger are too much for you, Ronald,” she snapped. “But I’ve never been one to forgive or forget easily.”
“Trust me, I know,” he snapped back. He sighed, trying to cool his rage. “Why don’t you come by the Burrow tonight? We’re having Sunday dinner.”
“Is Adriana coming?”
Ron paused. “Yes.”
“Okay. Then I’ll bring Draco.”
Ron reddened once more. “Fine,” he grit out. “Do whatever you’d like.”
Their lunches came, Hermione’s a tomato basil panini and Ron’s a chicken club sandwich. They gratefully ate in silence, both looking forward to leaving each other after the awkward get together. This lunch had not gone as expected for Hermione at all. And his admission that she was boring had her blood boiling. She would show him tonight just how un-boring she could actually be…but that would only be possible if she could get Draco to forgive her in time for dinner tonight.
Draco had kicked aside every tall standing object in his room until it was all a haphazard mess around him. He struggled to regain control, his breathing erratic- coming in pants. The thought of Hermione anywhere near Ron infuriated him, breaking his usual calm composure. Blaise would always tease him for having a bad temper, but Draco prided himself on keeping his shell intact. But Hermione seemed to break it over and over again. And that, above all else, angered him the most.
He ran his hands through his hair and closed his eyes, trying to calm his breathing by counting to ten. He opened his eyes and looked around at the mess he made. He frowned, disappointed in his lack of control.
“Bloody hell,” he muttered, walking around and paving a way for himself through the broken furniture. He pulled his wand from his back pocket and waved it around, repairing everything with a simple flick.
He threw himself on the bed and rubbed his eyes. Breaking things would get him nowhere. And, for the first time, it didn’t make him feel any better. His mind was racing a mile a minute. He needed to try to get some sleep, but his anger at the situation was consuming him. He was not one to share the woman in his life. He had flipped his entire house upside down when he found out that Astoria had cheated on him with Theodore Nott after their seventh year. But he had forgiven her and moved on. So why couldn’t he just push this to the side? He trusted Hermione. And some small, logical part of his brain kept trying to break through the fog of anger to tell him that it was, after all, only lunch.
He supposed he had been able to put aside Astoria’s infidelity because their relationship had been shallow to begin with. But he would never be able to get over Hermione hurting him in that way. Deep down he knew that he had fallen for her beyond what he had ever expected. So now he was stuck with these turbulent feelings that he always tried to keep dormant. He had been able to keep his emotions in check for the better part of his long relationship with Astoria. But he also knew that he would lose control sooner or later and that his temperament would inevitably bubble up when someone came along who was worth it. And Hermione apparently was worth it all.
Unfortunately, the dominant part of him kept shouting that she was only doing this to get back at him and that he should not trust Ron’s intentions for wanting to meet up with her. Ron had loved her in every sense of the word. And for that reason alone, Draco would despise him for the rest of his life.
He felt the urge blossom in his chest before he knew what to make of it. He stood up and grabbed some parchment and a quill, knowing more than anything else in his life that he would regret what he was about to do but deciding to do it nonetheless. He was going to reschedule his lunch with Astoria. If Hermione wanted to play that game, he would play it better. He knew he was being foolish but the jealous side of his personality was beating out the rest. He couldn’t resist.
Knowing that he was way more mature than this, he dipped his quill in ink and made out the letter.
I’m sorry, I overreacted when I indefinitely canceled lunch with you. I want to apologize. Let’s meet for lunch tomorrow during my break. We can catch up.
He sighed and sealed the letter before leaving to his owlery to send it out. He attached it to his owl’s leg and stood back to watch as Finn flew out of the stone window. Draco’s heart sank. It was too late to take it back. He had no choice but to have lunch with Astoria tomorrow.
Hermione knocked on Draco’s front door after her lunch with Ron, fidgeting as she waited on his doorstep. After several long moments the door was pulled open and she looked sheepishly at Draco.
Draco sighed. “Hey.”
“Can I come in? I want to talk.”
Draco paused before stepping back and pulling the door further open. He nodded his head toward the sitting room.
She pursed her lips before following him in. They both walked to the kitchen and Draco immediately busied himself with making tea. Hermione perched herself on top of the kitchen stool and waited in silence for him to acknowledge her. He didn’t.
“I’m sorry I made you angry,” Hermione blurted out, not being able to take the silence any longer. She watched the back of his head for any sign that he had heard her.
He continued fussing with the kettle and said nothing.
He turned on the stove with more force than necessary before turning around to face her. “Are you sorry? Because I figured you wouldn’t have gone to lunch if you were sorry.”
“I’m not sorry that I went to lunch,” Hermione snapped. “I’m sorry that I made you angry by going.”
“It’s the same thing. The act of you going to lunch made me angry. So if you were really sorry you could have avoided the entire thing by not going.”
Hermione fought the urge to roll her eyes. She wanted him to stop being mad so they could go to the Burrow that night. “Ron wants to be my friend. He just wants to put all this fighting behind us and I would like that as well.”
“Why?” Draco asked, leaning back against the counter and watching her with narrowed eyes and crossed arms. “Why do you even need him in your life now?”
“Because he’s always been in it. I would like a sense of normalcy so I can continue on with my life with you.”
“I didn’t realize Weasley was a permanent fixture,” he said coldly.
Hermione was taken back by his icy tone. She had gotten so used to the warm and loving Draco that she forgot how cold and calculated he could be. “Is that a deal breaker?”
Draco inhaled sharply as though he was about to spit something crude at her in response. But instead he closed his mouth with an audible snap of his teeth. But it was too late. Hermione had read it in his eyes.
“It is a deal breaker…” she whispered. “You’re going to make me choose.”
Draco remained frigid. He wanted to say yes, that he would make her choose between Weasley and him but he was afraid of what her choice would be. “I don’t know.”
Hermione frowned and slid off of the stool to get closer to him. She ignored the distrustful look in Draco’s eyes and she got within inches of him and put her hands on his chest, looking up at him. “Right now, I would choose you,” she admitted. “You’ve become a very big part of my life. But it wouldn’t be fair for you to give me that ultimatum.” She looked down at her fingers as they fidgeted with his shirt. “Ron is…Ron. He makes me angry and right now I’m pissed as hell at him, but he’s still the boy I met when I was a little girl. We grew up together. He’s going to be a part of my life, ex-boyfriend or not. His sister and future brother-in-law are my best friends. So I figured we might as well be civil.”
“You would resent me forever if I made you choose,” Draco said softly, knowing the answer.
Hermione stayed quiet. She nodded before looking at him again. “He invited us to the weekly Sunday dinner at the Burrow tonight. I haven’t been since we broke up and I would like to go. I want you to come with me.”
Draco looked up at the ceiling to avoid her big brown eyes and frowned. “Fine,” he mumbled.
“I could go?” Hermione asked, clearly excited.
Draco snorted and looked at her again. “I didn’t realize you were asking for permission. I just meant that I would go with you.”
She looked confused. “I mean…I think I was asking for permission on some level.” She seemed surprised with herself.
Draco raised an eyebrow. “You don’t need to ask me for permission to see your family. Or for any reason, for that matter. You’re a grown woman.”
“I know. I just didn’t want to make you angrier that I already did. Draco, I’m really sorry about earlier.”
Draco sighed. “I know. But I accepted that you’re always going to piss me off. I just have to get used to it.”
Hermione smiled impishly before leaning up to kiss him. “I’m glad you’ve reached that conclusion.” She kissed him again, sucking his bottom lip before giving it a little nip.
Draco groaned. “You drive me mad, woman.”
And in the pit of his stomach, the feeling of dread increased tenfold knowing that he would be seeing Astoria tomorrow.
A/N: hey, guys! sorry the chapters are coming more slowly. I'll try to update every two weeks or so. I know exactly where this story is going and exactly what's going to happen with the rest of it. I'm thinking there will be another 10 chapters...possibly more if I split things up a different way.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter! I just wanted to apologize for the annoyingly slow updates. I started school again so I'm busy with that as well. but I will finish this story as promised.
also, I'm writing a Draco/OC story that I've posted the first chapter of. that story will be updated at the pace of a snail. I'm having fun writing it but I'm already too invested in this story. I just had some creative juices I needed to put somewhere and voila! As Fair as She is Dark came to be lol.
so yeah...I love you all for keeping up with Tangled Web! keep checking back :)
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