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Chapter 25 : Chapter Twenty-Four: Aftermath.
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Draco continued glaring at her and Hermione felt her cheeks burn with the intensity of his gaze. She knew the guilt was written all over her face.
“Well, what, Hermione?” he snapped. He spoke quietly enough for others not to hear him but everyone was staring at them nonetheless. This entire situation had gotten way out of hand.
“Can we just talk about this later?” she whispered, looking pleadingly at him. “It’s not a big deal, I swear.”
Draco clenched his jaw and nodded once before turning back around, his face already composed into the emotionless mask he had perfected from a young age. “The pie is delicious, Mrs. Weasley,” he said smoothly.
Everyone in the room began exchanging confused glances at the calmness Draco displayed. But Hermione had learned enough about him in the short amount of time she had gotten to know him to understand that beneath his collected façade he was turbulent, and she had a lot of explaining to do later tonight.
“I’m glad you like it, dear. Would you like another slice?” Mrs. Weasley began standing up to offer him a new plate but he held up his hand.
“Thank you. I actually think we should get going,” he said lightly, looking at Hermione.
She swallowed down her anxiety and gave a jerky nod in agreement. “Yes. It’s getting late,” she explained in an apologetic tone to the others.
Draco stood up and offered Hermione a hand. She took it as everyone else began rising to their feet as well to say their goodbyes. Hermione glanced at Ginny who looked positively smug about the entire situation.
Ginny wrapped her arms around Hermione in a tight hug. “I’m expecting that twenty galleons,” she whispered.
Hermione pulled back and narrowed her eyes. “You’re the worst friend ever, Ginevra Weasley.”
Ginny laughed and stood aside, bringing Harry into view. Hermione stepped forward to hug him and he casually wrapped an arm around her. “I’m actually going to walk you out,” he said slowly, eyeing Draco as he shook Arthur’s hand and exchanged some words.
Hermione followed his gaze and frowned. “What’s the matter, Harry?”
He shrugged. “Nothing. I just want to walk a friend out.”
Hermione bit her lip and said nothing, making her way around to say her goodbyes as well.
Luna stepped in front of her with her usual dreamy smile. “Neville says I spoke out of line, Hermione. I’m sorry if I got you in trouble.”
Hermione forced a reassuring smile on her face. “I’m not in any trouble, Luna. Draco trusts me. Everything is fine.” The words sounded unnatural on her lips, as though she was reciting them in order to convince herself more than Luna.
“He seems nice enough.”
Hermione inhaled deeply and gave a more natural smile. “He is very nice,” she said easily.
“That’s nice. Goodbye, Hermione. I hope you have a safe trip home.”
“Thank you, Luna.”
Luna gave another one of her signature smiles before turning and walking away again. Hermione sighed and turned around as well. And as she approached Ron, who still sat on the floor, she hesitated, not knowing whether to talk to him or not.
“Are you going to ignore me then?” he asked flippantly.
Hermione ground her teeth, annoyed with herself for making it so obvious that he affected her. She watched as he pushed himself up into a standing position with a half-smirk on his stupidly adorable freckled face.
“Don’t let ferret-face give you a hard time. You were mine first, after all.”
Hermione scoffed. “I’m not anyone’s property, Ronald,” she snapped. “And he’s fine. He trusts me.”
He rolled his eyes. “It didn’t look that way five minutes ago.”
Hermione pursed her lips and glanced back to see Draco eyeing her as he spoke to Bill. She offered a small smile of reassurance. He blinked and turned back to Bill so quickly that Hermione thought she imagined he was looking at her to begin with.
“We’re fine,” Hermione hissed.
Ron rolled his eyes again. “We’ll see. You know where to find me when you need me again.” He paused, his whole countenance shifting suddenly. “Imagine if he knew you only invited him to make me jealous.”
Hermione opened her mouth to say how ridiculous he was for thinking such a thing but stopped when she felt an arm slide around her waist. She quickly closed her mouth and looked up at Draco. Her face was the color of Ron’s hair.
“Is that so?” Draco asked nonchalantly. He turned to Hermione. “Ready to go?” He kept his eyes on her- his voice low and even.
But Draco raised his eyebrow in such a way that made Hermione falter in her denial of Ron’s statement.
“I’m tired. Let’s just go.”
Hermione sighed and nodded. She had no idea what she could possibly say to him after this awful night. As she began to turn, she shot Ron one last withering glare to convey exactly what she had meant to tell him before Draco appeared. His answering smirk set her teeth on edge.
Draco and Hermione began heading toward the door together. Hermione’s stomach began twisting in anxiety. She had a lot of explaining to do, and she didn’t know if Draco would accept any excuses she would come up with.
They stopped and turned to see Harry step past everyone. “I need some fresh air so I figured I’d walk out with you.”
Draco said nothing and continued through into the kitchen. When the drawing room door closed behind him he stopped. Harry took a few more steps before stopping as well.
“Everything okay?” Harry asked, turning to face Draco.
Draco clenched his jaw. “You don’t need to chaperone us, Potter.”
Harry said nothing, but he hadn’t had as much practice as Draco in keeping his emotions off of his face. He looked skeptical.
“What’s going on?” Hermione asked, looking between her best friend and her boyfriend.
Draco snorted and turned away in agitation, running his hand through his hair. He turned back and pointed at Harry. “Potter is trying to protect you from me.”
Hermione looked at Harry like he was crazy, realization slowly dawning on her. “Oh, don’t be silly, Harry. I can take care of myself.”
“I just wanted some air,” Harry said evenly.
Draco opened his mouth to retort but Hermione cut in quickly. “Can we please just go outside if you want to continue this conversation?” she asked quietly. “I don’t want to bring attention to us.”
The boys waited a beat before turning and leaving the kitchen. Hermione followed and closed the door quietly behind her, turning to see Draco and Harry facing one another. She ran a hand down her face, completely exhausted from the night’s events.
“Hermione’s safe with me, Potter. You can rest assured.”
Harry shrugged. “You just seemed angry earlier. I wanted to make sure everything was okay.”
Draco glanced at Hermione as she stood with her back against the door. “Everything’s fine. I wouldn’t harm a hair on that pretty head of hers. I can promise you that.”
Harry frowned. “Hermione can you leave us alone for a bit?”
Hermione sighed and glanced at Draco’s profile. He refused to look at her. Her stomach twisted in knots, knowing the night was far from over. “I’ll be at my flat if you want to come by later,” she said quietly. She turned to begin walking to the apparation point.
“Wait,” Draco called. “I’m not letting her walk alone in the dark. You can give me the talk after, Potter.”
Harry shrugged and pulled open the gate and stood aside to let them pass. He followed them to the apparation point, the walk long and awkward in the silence. When they reached the grassy knoll Hermione turned to say goodbye.
“I’ll see you later, Harry,” she said quietly. She looked at Draco, waiting for him to make the first move.
He sighed and rubbed at his face. “Lock your door and put wards up so I know you’re safe,” he said quietly. “I’m not coming by tonight.”
Hermione felt disappointment pool in her stomach and for a horrifying moment she felt her heart shatter into a million, tiny pieces.
After five years with someone, it’s difficult to pinpoint the moment when you know it’s over. That moment when you’ve reached that pinnacle in a relationship where it could only get worse until there is no point in prolonging the inevitable. That was why when Ron broke up with her it had been such a shock. She had never seen it coming. The bad moments had become a never-ending blur, and she had expected they would continue that way for the rest of their lives.
But now, with Draco, after only about two months, she felt like this was the beginning of the end. She felt like tonight, everything had changed.
Draco and Harry stood back while Hermione turned on the spot and apparated out of view. Draco sighed when she was gone, both relieved and disappointed that she was no longer in front of him.
“She’s going to overthink this,” Harry muttered.
“I think I know my girlfriend by now, Potter,” Draco snapped. “Now what the hell do you want?”
Harry raised his eyebrows. “I almost got used to the new and improved version of you.”
“Trust me, I can still be a complete shit when the situation calls for it.”
Harry smirked and ran his hand through his hair. He shook his head, trying to collect his thoughts. “Hermione’s like a sister to me. I love her like family and I will protect her with my last, dying breath if I have to. We’ve been through too much for me to stand by and let some guy treat her any way but perfectly.”
“I’ve gotten the whole golden trio best friend talk earlier today when she told me Weasley’s been in her life for far too long for her to just cut him out of it. So forgive me if I seem a bit sick of this conversation.”
Harry paused, watching Draco shove his hands into his pockets. “You feel like she misled you.”
“Don’t be so coy, Potter. She lied to me,” Draco snapped. “I don’t even know why I’m having this conversation with you!” he growled angrily. He turned around and began walking away. He only made it a few steps before turning back around. “I will say this though: I’m pissed as hell that I let her fool me into believing all Weasley wanted was friendship, and that that was all she expected from him as well. I came here wanting to make her happy because I know how important these people are to her.”
“Hermione wouldn’t accept anything more than friendship from Ron, anyway, regardless of what he wanted, Malfoy. You need to trust her on that.”
“She omitted the whole truth to get what she wanted,” Harry finished, shrugging. “She’s always been that way. That’s why she makes a good lawyer.”
Draco stopped and couldn’t help his smirk. “She is. But that’s also something Astoria would do. And she mopped the floor with me for seven years before I realized what a fool she was making me into.”
“Hermione is not Astoria.”
“I know she’s not. But apparently all women seem to have a bit of Astoria in them,” he muttered bitterly.
“And that’s what pisses you off the most?”
Draco opened his mouth to answer but stopped suddenly, eyeing Harry warily. “What do you even care, Potter?”
Harry shrugged helplessly. “I can’t see her get hurt again, Malfoy. I stood by when Ron did it and I watched her crumble all around me. I just let it happen. I won’t stand by and let it happen again.”
“So you’re trying to save our relationship?”
Harry sighed. “I’m trying to save her. And if that means saving your relationship, then yes. I’m saving your relationship.”
“This night is just getting weirder and weirder,” Draco muttered, looking off into the darkness.
“Just don’t give up on her. As much as I hate to admit it…you put that spark back into her eyes that Ron had put out.”
Draco thought back to when he had first seen Hermione after graduating from Hogwarts. She had been self-conscious, clearly trying to put on a brave face during his deposition. And when she had brought Teddy in for his check-up she had seemed distant and empty. And then week after week of pretending to date each other, she had been constantly second guessing herself- her low self-esteem obvious to anyone around her. Ron definitely had taken the spark out of her, and that realization had Draco wanting to walk back into the Burrow to smash his face in.
“I need to go,” Draco said suddenly. “I need to get the fuck out of here.”
Harry didn’t even try to mask the surprise on his face. “Alright…”
Draco grit his teeth. “I don’t know what to tell you, Potter. We’re not faking it anymore. Things are different. They’re real. Everything’s just kind of…up in the air right now.”
Harry sighed and cleared his throat. “Just…just warn me so I could be there.”
Draco looked away and nodded. “Fair enough.”
Hermione collapsed onto the couch when she arrived in her flat. The anxiety was eating away at her. She had dug herself into a hole that reached Australia. There was no way in hell she would be able to dig herself back out. She wrung her hands and gnawed at her bottom lip as she thought about ways to apologize for her short-lived moment of stupidity. A moment that had created enough destruction to ensure that she was unable to think straight for the first time in her life. How she believed for even a second that she could get away with the bold-faced lie that Ron only expected to be friends, she did not know. And Ron’s jab at Draco that she only brought him to the Burrow to make Ron jealous wasn’t too far off, although she would deny it with her last breath if it meant making things right again. But would she even get that opportunity?
She hadn’t put up the wards yet. A small part of her hoped that the part of Draco that was crazy about her would win out and propel him to her. She would rather fight with him any day than have him ignore her for even one night. And it was a stab in the heart when he said he would not be coming tonight.
Her mind drifted to Harry. What had he wanted to talk to Draco about? She found it humorous, even in such a serious situation, that he thought Draco would hurt her. She tried to look at the situation objectively, something she was very good at as a lawyer- as someone who had not spent the last few months with Draco intimately. And she couldn’t see what Harry saw. Draco had affected her so much so that she could only see the good in him. And that made her feel all the worse for what she had tried to get away with. Her stubbornness and pride could have very well cost her the best thing to happen to her in a long time.
She heard a loud crack behind her and she spun around. Ginny turned the corner and stopped, pinning Hermione with the most pitying look she could muster. Hermione burst into tears.
“I think he hates me.”
Ginny sighed and walked to the couch, grabbing Hermione’s hands in her own and sitting down. “Would you blame him?”
Hermione sniffed and shook her head. “I honestly don’t know what came over me. I’ve become this person that I don’t recognize. Why would I lie about Ron to Draco?”
“Because you had good intentions about having Ron back in your life and you were afraid Draco wouldn’t understand if he knew the whole truth. So you censored it,” Ginny shrugged. “He wouldn’t have understood if you had told him everything.”
“So you think I did the right thing?”
Ginny scoffed. “Hell no.”
Hermione dropped her head into her hands and groaned. “I am so stupid!”
Ginny laughed. “Being mortal sucks, doesn’t it? Now you know how the rest of us small-minded people feel.”
“I feel like a conniving bitch.”
“Only because you got caught.”
“No, Gin! I honestly felt horrible the whole time. I just couldn’t tell him. I didn’t want him to get angry.” She sighed. “That clearly backfired.”
Ginny sat back and brought her legs up onto the couch in order to face Hermione comfortably. “Listen. This is the beginning of a new relationship. It’s the time when you adjust to your significant other. There’s going to be fights and there are going to be miscommunications and there are going to be games. It’s just the way things work.”
“But I don’t play games, Ginny.”
“You’ve never had to,” Ginny corrected. “You were friends with Ron forever before you started dating. You knew him well enough by then to not have to play games. Your relationship with Draco is not the same as it was with Ron. This is foreign territory for you, Hermione.”
Hermione sighed. “Maybe you’re right…”
“I am right. You should go see him.”
Hermione shook her head. “He doesn’t want to see me. Especially after Ron thought he’d be funny by saying that I only invited Draco to make him jealous.”
Ginny’s eyes widened. “He said what?” she gasped. “Did Draco hear?”
Hermione gave her a look that said, what do you think?
Ginny groaned. “Oh, Hermione! You have rotten luck. Tonight was just not your night.”
“Tell me about it.”
“If it’s any consolation. Mum really loved him. She gave Ron an earful when everyone left.”
Hermione gave a distracted smile. “He is easy to love, isn’t he?” Her eyes began to tear up again. “Oh, god, Gin. He is never going to forgive me.”
“Yes, he will.”
Hermione turned her watery glare on Ginny. “Why should he? I wouldn’t forgive him if he did the same thing.”
Ginny pursed her lips. “You make a very valid point,” she said quietly.
“Has Harry said anything?” Ginny immediately looked guilty and Hermione’s heart sank further than she thought possible. “Just tell me what Draco told him, Ginny. Please. It’s killing me.”
Ginny inhaled deeply. “I just think you need to go talk to him. He’s pretty angry.”
Hermione closed her eyes and sank further into the cushions of her couch. “I feel so stupid. And I think that’s what’s killing me the most.”
“Yeah, this isn’t the type of situation you would typically find yourself in.”
Hermione sighed. “Ron’s so different now.”
Ginny shrugged and began picking at the throw on Hermione’s couch. “He’s still as big of a prat as he was before, as far as I can tell.”
“I’m serious, Gin! He’s so…”
“Full of himself?”
Ginny gave a bitter smile. “He went to Italy and got a supermodel to fall for him within a matter of days. You know how Ron gets when girls like him. Remember that time with Lavender in sixth year?”
Hermione rolled her eyes. Oh, she remembered.
“He gets all cocky, like he’s too good for everyone. But he got sick of Lavender, just like he’s getting sick of Adriana.”
“You think he’s sick of her? He seems pretty smitten.”
“He puts up with her because she won’t put out otherwise.”
Hermione laughed bitterly. “Well, he doesn’t seem bored with her yet.”
Ginny narrowed her eyes. “What happened at that lunch? I never asked.”
Hermione sighed. “I don’t want to think about it, to be honest. I need to figure out what to do with Draco.”
Ginny shrugged. “He said he needs time to think…but Hermione…”
Hermione looked up at Ginny’s tense expression. She held her breath, waiting for what Ginny would say.
“I wouldn’t give him too much time if I were you.”
Draco landed on Blaise’s front steps and began pounding on the door. Within seconds, a house-elf pulled open the heavy mahogany doors with a frightened expression. She bowed low and stepped back for Draco to enter. As agitated as he was, he still distractedly greeted the elf and continued on his way. He passed door after door, trying to find Blaise. He needed someone to set his life back on track and Blaise was the only person capable of doing such a thing. And it only made sense since Blaise had known him from such an early age. Blaise knew what made Draco and exactly what would break Draco.
“Blaise, goddamnit,” Draco muttered angrily, pushing door after door open in the massive house. He reached the library door, which was cracked open, a dim light seeping through the space and into the dark hallway. He sighed in relief and walked toward it, slowing down when he heard Pansy’s voice. She was the last person he wanted to deal with right now.
“You need to just tell him you’re pregnant, Astoria. It’s the only way.”
Draco froze. His insides turning to ice.
“I can’t do that to him. Especially not right now.”
Draco took several steps back, slipping on a rug and falling to the floor. He began clawing his way back as far as he could get away from those doors.
He somehow managed to right himself and he turned to run, only to smack into Blaise.
“Woah, mate. What’s going on?” He stopped and leaned back. “You look like hell.”
Draco shook his head. “I need to get the fuck out of here. Now.”
Blaise looked confused and began following Draco down the hall and toward the front door. “Where are you going? What the hell is going on?”
“Home!” Draco shouted, finally reaching the exit. “I’m going home. I’m going to knock myself out with the strongest potion I can concoct in the least amount of time and hope to Merlin that when I wake up this entire night was nothing but a fucking joke.”
He pulled open the door and ran outside only to have Blaise follow him. Draco apparated without warning but felt a hand grab a fist-full of his shirt as he disappeared. Both Draco and Blaise toppled onto one another in front of Draco’s house, struggling to get up again.
Blaise shoved Draco back. “What the hell! Are you off your rocker? What’s gotten into you?”
Draco’s back hit the door and he sort of…crumpled in on himself, falling back to the ground only to stay there this time.
Blaise looked around in a panic before kneeling down and putting a hand on Draco’s shoulder. “What. Happened.”
Draco looked up at Blaise and slowly shook his head. “Astoria’s pregnant.” The emptiness in which he said those words had Blaise tipping back to land on his ass on the floor.
“Don’t make me repeat it.”
Blaise looked wide-eyed at Draco. “Are you sure? How the hell do you know?”
“I went to go find you and I overheard Pansy tell Astoria that she has to tell me she’s pregnant. And Astoria said not now.” Draco looked desperately up at his best friend. “Not now. Not now? If not now, then when the hell is she going to drop this fucking bomb on me?”
Blaise massaged the bridge of his nose. “Let’s stop and think. You’ve been broken up for what? Almost three months?”
Draco shrugged. “I guess.”
“When did you last have sex with her?”
Draco just looked blankly back at Blaise.
Blaise growled and shook him. “Think! Think, damnit!”
Draco blinked several times. “Er…I don’t bloody know! A week or two before we broke up, possibly.”
“So she’d be about three months pregnant.”
“Which isn’t always noticeable.”
“Which means that you have yourself a knocked-up ex-girlfriend.”
“I need to vomit,” Draco mumbled. He pushed himself up and Blaise followed. They turned and walked inside.
“What are you going to tell Granger?” Blaise asked.
“Who?” Draco froze. “Fuck! Hermione. I totally forgot about her.”
Blaise laughed. “You forgot about your girlfriend in all of this?”
Draco closed his eyes. “That’s why I came to see you. We got into a huge row earlier.”
Draco opened his eyes. “It doesn’t even matter anymore, does it? I can’t think straight. I need a drink.”
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Blaise muttered appreciatively. He followed Draco to the cabinet where he kept his firewhiskey. Draco pulled out two tumblers and poured them both healthy amounts of the amber liquid.
Blaise took his glass and held it up. “Here’s to having a better life than you.”
“Cheers,” Draco muttered miserably, knocking back the entire content of the glass in one go.
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