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Chapter 10 : A Blossoming Friendship?
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“Hi sweetie!” Pansy practically ran over to him and embraced him in a tight hug. “You look so much better than when we saw you the other day…although you were slightly intoxicated,” she said with a wink.
“Well thank you Pansy,” he said sarcastically, “it’s lovely to see you too,”
Blaise clapped him on the back and came to sit in an armchair next to the sofa. Slinky came into the living room with several Butterbeers and a few snacks for them all. Pansy took off her killer heels and sat on the rug in front of the fire. No wonder she’s cold, Draco thought, she always wears next to nothing. He thought of the times he and Pansy had dated, if you could even call it that, and didn’t have to wonder what had attracted him to her.
“So,” she started, “where’s your guest?”
“The last I saw her she was in the library,” he said, not elaborating any further. The last time he had heard her she was in the library too. “I told her you were coming.”
“Oh good. I suppose we should make an effort to be friends if she’s going to be living here.” Pansy said.
Blaise gave a snort and chuckled to himself.
“Something to say, Blaise?” Draco asked as he raised an eyebrow in his friend’s direction.
“I was just thinking how fucking ridiculous this whole thing is. Any friend of Potter is certainly not a friend of mine. I take it she’s unaware that we know the real reason for her being here?” he said.
“No, and that’s exactly how it’s going to stay,” Draco snapped. “I’ve told her that you think we’re going undercover for the ministry, to help find the Death Eaters. She can’t ever find out that you know about Rowle.” A serious expression crossed his face as he looked towards Pansy. “I know how much of a loudmouth you are, Pans, so please try and rein it in.”
Pansy looked affronted but figured he was only joking, so smiled at him. “Don’t worry honey, our lips are sealed,” she looked pointedly at her boyfriend, “right, Blaise?”
“Whatever you say, Pans,” he grumbled and reached for an unopened bottle of
Butterbeer. Opening it with his wand, he took a long swig and smacked his lips.
There was a tentative knock at the door and Hermione stepped in. Draco was about to tell her she didn’t have to knock when he was suddenly rendered speechless at the sight of her. His face slackened as he stared at the woman in front of him. She wore a light blue dress, one which he had purchased and hidden in her wardrobe, which accentuated her slight curves. Her chocolate brown curls were no longer a mass of frizz; they were now smooth tendrils pinned back from her face and he was sure he saw a hint of makeup. The difference in her was indescribable.
He looked over to Pansy, whose mouth was slightly agape. Hermione had obviously had the same effect on her. She shook her head slightly. “Hello, Hermione,” she said warmly.
“Hi Pansy. Blaise,” she nodded her head in his direction and he mirrored her action with wide eyes. Obviously this was going to be slightly more difficult than he’d anticipated, Draco thought.
“Hermione, sit down. I was about to ask Pansy and Blaise whether they’ve had any new leads on the Rowle case,” he said as she took a seat on the sofa beside him. He noticed she sat closer to him than was really necessary and established that she must be nervous. His two friends watched her closely.
“Sarah has been redirecting your mail to me,” Blaise said, “and the French minister has informed me that there was a sighting of Rowle yesterday, but he wasn’t alone.”
Draco felt Hermione stiffen beside him and knew she was afraid that he’d told them about Avery and Rookwood being in her apartment. He shot her a quick sideward glance of reassurance and said “What do you mean? Who was he with?”
“They’re not entirely sure, but it’s common thought that him and the other Death Eaters have come together. If that’s true then our job is about to become a lot harder,” Pansy said seriously.
Hermione and Draco looked at each other swiftly. Blaise couldn’t help but notice her grimace and she was fidgeting uncomfortably in her seat, looking down at her hands.
“Do you know something we don’t, Granger?” he asked.
Her head shot up, “Absolutely not, Zabini,” she said, “and my name is Hermione.”
Tension prickled the air as the room went silent and none of them looked at each other. Draco had had enough of this already.
“Look, I know we hated each other at school, I know that. Nobody is asking anyone to be best fucking friends here,” he growled, “but what I am asking is that we can at least be civil to one another for Merlin’s sake! We could be in this for years, do you all realise that?”
“Correction, Draco: you could be in this for years. Pansy and I are doing you a favour here, we’re putting our necks on the line to help you so a little appreciation wouldn’t go amiss,” Blaise said.
Pansy could see Draco’s face reddening; out of frustration or embarrassment at being spoken to like this in front of Hermione, she couldn’t tell. “Okay boys, that’s enough. Blaise, we will help Draco and Hermione for as long as it takes.”
He was about to argue back when Pansy put up her hand “Enough.”
He sighed in defeat and sat back in his chair. “Sorry mate,” he mumbled to Draco and smiled sheepishly.
“Pansy, Gr…Hermione, can you give Blaise and me a moment alone please?” he asked the girls, who looked at each other confusedly. Both deciding not to ask questions, Pansy rose gracefully from the rug and strutted over to Hermione, holding out her hand.
“Come on then, let’s go and do something girly!” she said and Hermione inwardly groaned. She hated ‘girly’ things, and never imagined she would be doing anything of the sort with Pansy Parkinson. She grabbed onto her outstretched hand and the two left the living room.
Draco waited until he was sure the girls were out of earshot before he completely went off at his best friend.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing Blaise?! Do you not understand what she’s been through? I’m trying to build bridges here, to get her to trust me, and all you’re doing right now is fucking it up,” he was pacing now and ran a hand roughly through his hair.
Blaise bowed his head and looked down at his hands. He shook his head. “I know, Draco. I’m sorry, honestly. It’s just old habits, y’know?”
“Yes but that’s the point: old habits. We’re not kids anymore, our parents aren’t here dictating everything we say and do. The way we used to treat her and other muggleborns was disgusting,” he said, calming down slightly. “I just want her to be happy here. I want her to have somewhere she feels like she can be herself. I don’t even think she knows who that is anymore,” he sighed and resumed his seat, covering his eyes.
“I know, mate. I’ll apologise to her, I swear.” He said sincerely, his dark eyes pleading forgiveness.
“Okay. Anyway, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you,” Draco said, forgetting his friend’s misgivings, “You know you said Rowle was spotted with others? Well Avery and Rookwood were at Hermione’s apartment last night. That’s why she came straight here.”
Pansy and Hermione had paced quickly towards Hermione’s room, thankfully no longer holding hands. Pansy knew the way better than she did and Hermione snorted to herself, wondering how many times she had been in the Manor. And in Draco’s bed.
Once they got to her door, Pansy let herself in and walked straight over to the huge wardrobe. She had an air of confidence about her that Hermione greatly envied; she’d always been shy and reserved, even before the Rowle incident happened. Unless it was about school work, she rarely spoke to anyone other than Harry and Ron at Hogwarts.
She watched as Pansy siphoned through her clothes, a look of distaste passing over her face every so often.
“Hmm, quite a selection in here,” she commented quietly, “some of these are designer labels, where did you get them?”
Realising she had never bought a designer label in her entire life, Hermione figured she was talking about the pristine new clothes she had found earlier.
“Malf- Draco bought them for me, I think. There was a box hidden in the back when I went in there today of clothes I’d never seen, so I assume he put them there.”
Pansy nodded in appreciation. She obviously approved.
“You can drop the act by the way, I know you don’t like him,” she said. Hermione could have sworn she heard a slight bite in her tone but when she looked up Pansy was smiling kindly at her. “He’s not the easiest person to get on with, and after the way he treated you I’m not surprised.”
Hermione grew hot as she panicked. Had he told Pansy what he’d seen? “What do you mean?” she asked.
“You know, bullying you when we were at Hogwarts. Saying all those disgusting things to you. I wasn’t very pleasant either and I’m sorry for that. As I’m sure Draco has told you, we were pretty much our parent’s puppets back then,” Pansy said.
Hermione heaved a great sigh of relief and nodded. “Yes, he was pretty vile and he’s really not my favourite person in the world. But he’s letting me stay here while we’re doing the ministry work so I can’t complain,” she smiled.
“He’ll take good care of you, I promise. And since you’ll probably be here for a while, we might as well make an effort to be friends don’t you think?”
“Yes, I’d like that.” Hermione was sincere when she said this, honestly grateful to have someone other than Draco to talk to. She’d never really had many female friends before, unless you counted Ginny, but she was more like the sister she never had than anything else.
They spent the next while going through Hermione’s wardrobe; Pansy putting some combinations together and Hermione trying them on. She felt a whole lot better once they’d finished, and was very surprised at it. She hadn’t felt this relaxed in someone else’s company for years and was grateful that Pansy was being sweet to her, not to mention she had some lovely new outfits to wear. They sat chatting into the night, mainly about Pansy’s work at the Prophet and Blaise. Hermione was keen to steer the conversation away from herself.
“I always thought you and Draco would end up together,” she said.
Pansy laughed loudly, “We tried it a couple of times when we were younger but he just wasn’t…man enough for me,” she said wistfully and they both burst into laughter.
They didn’t hear the knock on the door and Blaise and Draco entered Hermione’s room to find both of them doubled up, howling like little schoolgirls. They looked at each other, utterly bemused. When they girls had finished their fit of giggles, they look up and saw the confused faces of the others.
“Oh, hi Draco,” Hermione chuckled.
“Erm…hello. What are you two laughing about?”
“Just girl stuff,” Pansy said, with a wink towards Hermione, “Well we’d better be going hadn’t we Blaise?”
Hermione looked over at the clock beside her bed and saw it was almost 7pm. She hadn’t realised how late it was but had to admit it had been a very long day and she was getting tired. Pansy hugged her and kissed Draco on the cheek and then they were both gone. Hermione’s stomach rumbled in the silence.
“Would you like some dinner?” Draco laughed.
She blushed scarlet and smiled bashfully, “Yes, I think I will.”
They left her room and walked in comfortable silence to the dining hall. Although Hermione was somewhat getting used to the vastness of the manor in all its’ splendour, she still found it odd that this one dining hall was about twice the size of her apartment. Who knows that many people to invite to dinner? She wondered.
“What on earth would you ever do with all this space?” she asked Draco as she sat down at the table.
“Well, have dinner of course. Father used to host a lot of dinner parties for his…friends.”
“You mean the Death Eaters?”
“Yes. At least once a week they all dined here, the Dark Lord among them usually.” Draco said.
“So you would have had a lot to do with him then? Rowle, I mean?” she asked.
Draco squeezed his eyes tight shut, trying to block out the times Rowle had been anywhere near him. “Yes.”
He kept his eyes closed and Hermione said nothing more. She could see it was painful for him to discuss his past, his childhood. She was surprised when he went on; he rarely elaborated on such things in the times they had spoken of it.
“There is always calculation behind chaos, Hermione. You have to understand that. Everything happens for a reason, nothing is an accident, because someone meant for it to be,” he heaved a deep breath, “Rowle meant for me to see what happened to you. He dragged me to the corridor, he’d watched you go there. He disarmed me and placed a body-binding curse on me,” his eyes were pleading with her to understand.
“He was my father’s closest friend, if you could call him such a thing. Days before the Battle of Hogwarts, my father told him of our plans to flee the country. He wanted no part in it anymore; after what the Dark Lord tried to make me do in sixth year. After I failed him, our lives had been made a worse hell than they already were and my mother couldn’t take any more. Rowle, being ever-faithful to the Dark Lord, wanted my father to pay for what he was about to do, and so he did. Through me.” He opened his eyes finally and a single tear coursed down his pale cheek.
Hermione was usually one for words, they rarely failed her. There were a thousand things she could have said in this moment. She resolved to say nothing. She reached for Draco’s hand and held it gently. There was no need for words because they both simply knew. She finally understood, after all these years, why. After so much time and effort used up hating Draco, it wasn’t his fault. He had been tortured as much as she.
They ate their dinner without exchanging a single word. The silence was not a strained one and both sat wondering what the other was thinking, but never asked. After a short while they went their separate ways and went to their respective rooms early, still not uttering a single word to one another.
When Pansy and Blaise returned to their cottage on the coast, it was almost dark. This was Pansy’s favourite place on earth. After her parents had been killed, she wanted for nothing but a quiet place away from the world, where she could think and write and live happily. Although most wouldn’t have put her here, spoilt as she had always seemed, she hadn’t wanted the luxury and glamour of a house like Draco’s. It was too much like her old life.
She stood on the decking at the front of the cottage, looking out at the crashing waves and breathing in the scent of her new life. She felt the strong hands of Blaise wrap around her waist and she sighed happily.
“We’ve got quite a job on our hands here, sweetheart,” he said. She looked confused.
“Draco just told me that Avery and Rookwood were at Granger’s apartment last night, so it’s pretty much a positive that Rowle isn’t working alone.”
Pansy felt a shiver crawl up her spine and no matter how much she tried to shake it off, a horrible feeling hung over her. Knowing what that bastard had done to Hermione seemed to haunt her more after this evening; she really was a nice girl and definitely didn’t deserve any of this.
“Shit. She really is in danger isn’t she, Blaise?” she asked, looking questioningly into his dark eyes.
“Yes. But we will protect her. We’ll protect them both. If Rowle finds out she’s living with Draco, she isn’t the only one with a price on her head.” He looked out towards to beach and a glazed look came over his eyes. Pansy stared at his blank expression and sensed something was troubling him.
“What is it honey?” she asked quietly.
“Don’t have a go at me here Pans, but are you sure you want to stick our necks out for someone like Granger? She’s an obnoxious little girl, I don’t understand why Draco is so keen.”
"He is not keen, he’s desperate Blaise. He had to watch as she had everything taken from her and he’s putting himself through hell every day trying to make things better. Didn’t you see the way he was around her today? I’ve never seen him treat anyone so gently, you know what he’s like,” she huffed, “If we don’t do this for them, we risk losing our best friend. Is that what you want?”
He shook his head and looked towards the floor. He felt ashamed of what he’d said. Of course he understood, what she went through must have been terrifying and he couldn’t imagine how she felt. He might not like the girl, but he wouldn’t wish that on anybody.
Pansy continued, “Well then. This is our chance to prove ourselves. We did some awful things to people like her and when I think of the way I treated her and others at Hogwarts, I’m disgusted with myself. It’s about time we did something good in the world.”
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