Chapter 2 : 2
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"Hey, you alright?" His voice washed over me, relaxing me.
I nodded quickly. "Work. Late." I mumbled, wrangling my hair into a quick ponytail.
Draco grabbed me by the shoulders, stopping me in my tracks. "I called in sick for you today. That woman, Grace, said that you aren't allowed at work until Monday." He gave me a small smile as I nodded dumbly.
"Right. Of course she did. OK." I said, my hands dropping to my sides.
"There's coffee in the kitchen if you want it. Help yourself to anything you want, and after I take a shower we can go get your things." His voice was gentle, and I found myself comparing it to the cold, hard, disgusted voice I was used to hearing from him. I shook myself and shuffled into the kitchen, my mind spinning.
What should I do? Should I stay here with...Draco? Or should I get a room at the Hog's Head? What the hell was going on with Harry? His eyes had been so...cold. I could actually understand Harry cheating on me, but everything he had done last night? That wasn't the Harry I knew. I shivered, remembering his eyes. I could defend myself against him, I knew that, but what if he caught me at work? What if he hurt Grace because of me? I suppressed another shudder and fixed myself a cup of coffee. OK, so getting a room at The Hog's Head wasn't the best choice, and obviously I couldn't drag Grace and her poor daughter into this...that left here, or getting my own apartment. I thought about getting my own apartment while I sipped my coffee. It wouldn't be anything big, and nowhere near as nice as this. I didn't have much money saved up at all, and what I earned from work mostly went toward groceries already. I sighed heavily. But could I really marry Draco Malfoy? Yes, he had saved me last night, and healed me, and let me stay in his place and sleep in his bed but-...
I jerked back from the counter. Draco had been in the bed with me this morning when I woke up. I spun around as I heard footsteps behind me. "Why were you in bed with me?" I sucked in a deep breath. I so hadn't meant to ask that.
Draco stopped, looking at me. "You were crying in your sleep. I went in to check on you and stayed with you because it seemed to calm you." He cocked his head to one side, studying my reaction. I nodded quickly and turned back to the counter.
OK, so he'd... checked on me and...comforted me... He seemed to have changed, a lot, from how he had been at Hogwarts, but could I trust him? I thought about him offering to let me take his money when we divorced, if we did this. I glanced at him. Draco had moved to stand next to me at the counter, sipping his own coffee and watching me. "What?" I snap, glaring at him.
Draco smirked at me, but it wasn't the smirk I was used to. This one was...warmer, somehow. "Nothing. Must watching you think, trying to figure out which way you're leaning right now."
I stilled. He was watching me think? "I'm surprised you aren't trying to convince me right now." I say, honestly surprised.
Draco shook his head, his face serious now. "As much as I want out of this marriage to Pansy, I'm not going to try to force you, in any way. This is up to you, Hermione. This affects you just as much as it does me. More so, actually, with Potter going crazy." He sighed. At least I wasn't the only one having a rough day already. "This is your choice."
"And if I say no?"
Draco tensed, but shrugged. If I didn't know him as well as I did, I wouldn't have noticed it, but I did. "Then I'll marry Pansy, and help you spell this apartment against Potter. If you say no, then this apartment is yours, free and clear."
I dropped quickly into a chair, stunned. He would give me this apartment if I said no? Free and clear? I could tell my mouth was hanging open, but I couldn't close it. The shock was too much. "OK, who are you, and what have you done with Draco Malfoy?" I say finally, looking up at him.
Draco crouched down in front of me, getting down on my level. "I'm not going to lie to you. I'm still an area. I'm still conceited, and stubborn, and a slimy little ferret." He grinned when I laughed. "But after the war, I realized a lot of things, like that blood doesn't matter. We all bleed the same, right?" I nodded, earning a small grin. "I've...changed, hard as it is to believe."
"Actually, its not hard to believe at all." I said, looking at him. He shifted, but didn't rise, still watching me. I sighed heavily, playfully. "Fine. I give in. I'll do it." I watched as his face became optimistically guarded.
"Really? You're sure about this?" He asked, still watching me. I nodded. I let out a gasp as Draco wrapped his arms around me and stood up, taking me with him. I threw my arms around his neck to keep my balance. "Thank you." He whispered, his breath tickling my ear.
"You're welcome. And thank you, for last night." I said, giving him a small, shy smile. I nodded quickly and stepped back, leaving the circle of his arms. "We need rules." Draco laughed, so I smacked him upside the head lightly.
"Right. Rules." He said, struggling to hold back his laughter.
I sighed. "What's so funny?" I asked in a flat tone.
"I don't have to marry Pugsy! She's going to be pissed!" Draco said through his laughter. "Can you imagine her face when she finds out?" He continued. After a moment, in which I did indeed picture her face, I laughed too.
After a minute, we calmed. Draco rooted through the fridge and came up with a pack of bacon. "There's parchment in the desk drawer in my room and a quill and ink on top of it. You write, I'll cook." He said, moving to the stove. I stood there, surprised yet again until he turned to look at me. "You always want to write down rules." He said simply.
I nodded. It was true, I did. "How do you know that?"
Draco smiled at me. "I went to Hogwarts with you, Hermione. I'm not blind." I blushed and rushed to grab the parchment, ink, and quill.
“Ok, rules.” I said, sitting down at the table and writing RULES across the top of the parchment in bold letters. “Number one: NO sex.” I wrote it down quickly, then glanced up at Draco, waiting.
“Only a couple in public. At home, we can just be...friends.” I nodded and jotted it down quickly.
“OK, three...No side relationships. It’s going to get out to the press in a heartbeat, and then, you’ll end up right with Pansy.” I said, giving Draco a stern look. He held his hands up in mock surrender.
“Fine by me. Four: I pay for everything.” Draco said, smirking now.
I shook my head. “No, I’m buying groceries. At the very least. That’s non-negotiable.”
Draco nodded slowly. “Then I buy everything else. You buy groceries, I get everything else. That sounds fair, considering your salary.”
I bristled. “I may not make as much as you do, Malfoy, but at least I enjoy what I do.”
“I wasn’t looking down on you, Hermione. I was only saying that you don’t make much at your job. And I happen to love my job, by the way.” Draco said in a flat tone, then sighed. “I was simply trying to be fair. I know you don’t make as much as I do, and I have loads of galleons that I don’t have any use for. You agreed to this marriage for your own reasons, and to help me out, and I appreciate that, which is why I want to make this as easy on you as possible. Why should you have to pay for something when I can?”
I stopped doodling on a spare bit of parchment and looked at him. “You better not try to get me to quit my job. I will not be some housewife, Draco Malfoy.” I said quickly.
“It’s not my place to make you quit your job. That’s entirely your decision. I just don’t see how it’s right to take money from you to pay for things I can easily afford when you’re already doing me a huge favor here.” Draco said, refilling my coffee cup.
I sighed. “Fine, you pay for everything else.” I mumbled, jotting it down.
“Good, because you’re going to need new clothes, for certain occasions.” Draco said, smirking again. I balled up a piece of parchment and threw it at him. Of course, he caught it, but it had felt good to throw it anyway. “I think we can figure the rest out later. You should eat before we leave.” Draco said, so I nodded and ate the bacon and eggs on my plate.
“Here we are.” I mumbled, dropping Draco’s hand as we apparated into the apartment I shared with Harry. I glanced around quickly. I did NOT want to run into him right now. I saw a note taped to the tv, so I pulled it off and read it.
I’m sorry. Take whatever you want.
I snorted and threw it in the trash. “Ok, let’s see.” I mumbled under my breath, turning to survey the room. “The chair is mine, and the loveseat. The books are all mine, and my clothes and trunk...a few pictures…” I waved my wand, summoning my beaded bag. I smiled as I held it for a moment, then began to shrink everything down and put it all inside. Thankfully the bag still had the undetectable extension charm on it, as well as a featherlight charm, so it could hold everything I needed or wanted, without becoming any heavier.
Draco stood next to me, helping me shrink down the items I brought to us and levitating it into my bag, both of us silent. I watched as he glanced around the room, checking again and again for Harry. If I hadn’t been worried Harry would show up at any second, I would have laughed. Finally we moved to the bedroom, where I went straight to the closet and grabbed everything i owned, hangers and all, and shoved it all into the bag. Draco stood in the doorway, keeping both me and the rest of the apartment in view. The dresser was next. I studied it, thought about taking it, but didn’t. It had been something Harry had rescued from Grimmauld Place, I wouldn’t feel right taking it, even if I did love it. I quickly grabbed everything, darting into the bathroom for my toothbrush and things before closing the door behind me. I looked around, a little sad now. The place looked...cold. That thought brought back the memory of Harry’s eyes, and I shivered and grabbed Draco’s hand, letting him apparate me back to his apartment.
I dropped onto the sofa as soon as we got back and put my head in my hands. I was exhausted, and all I’d done was pack my things. A few minutes later Draco cleared his throat, making me look up at him. He was standing in front of a door that hadn’t been there a moment before. “I left it white...thought you’d like to decorate it yourself.” He murmured as i stood up and walked over to the door. I nodded my thanks, unable to speak. “I’ll leave you to settle in what you’ve brought. We can go shopping for whatever furniture you need in a few hours if you want.”
I turned to Draco and laid a hand on his arm. “Thank you.” I said softly, and I knew he understood that I wasn’t thanking him for the offer to go shopping, but for leaving me alone for a little while to get settled...to get my mind wrapped around the fact that Harry and I were really and truly over.
“You’re welcome.” He replied, a soft smile on his lips, then turned and went into his own room.
I took a deep breath and opened the door.
The first thing I noticed was it was bigger than Draco’s room. I gaped at the size of it for a moment before closing the door softly behind me. I ventured further in and discovered the bathroom, which held a large shower and a massive tub. Twin sinks and lots of counter space made me smile. I found a set of doors that made me pause, they reminded me of the doors to the library at Hogwarts. I pushed them open and found another large room, shelves from ceiling to floor on three walls with moving ladders so I could reach the top shelves. Along the wall without shelves, a cupboard sat next to a long, sturdy table. I examined it for a moment before I realized that it was for my cauldron and potion ingredients. I grinned. It was perfect. I closed the doors behind me and looked at the main room, thinking. I needed a bed. Now. How was I supposed to put my things where they should go if I didn’t have anywhere to lay them first? I walked quickly to Draco’s room and knocked on the door.
It opened a second later, Draco’s eyes worried. “What’s wrong?” He asked instantly, looking me over for injuries.
I laughed. “I need to go shopping. Can we go now?”
Draco looked at me for a moment, confused, then nodded. “Yeah, of course we can. Let me grab a coat and we can go.”
I stopped him before he could disappear back into his room. “The room is perfect, thank you.”
"Hello, Mr. Malfoy! What can I get you today?" A woman said as we entered the store.
"My girlfriend and I are looking for a new bedroom set, actually. We've expanded, and Hermione here hates the set we have now, so we're here to pick something out for the new master suit." Draco replied easily, twining his fingers with mine. I smiled and nodded, not trusting my voice.
"Well, why don't you two just look around, and I'll check on you in a few minutes, yes?" The woman said, bustling off to another part of the store quickly.
"Pick anything you like, and don't even think about price." Draco murmured, pressing a quick kiss to my forehead. I nodded, spun around and walked quickly down one aisle. Had to get away, that innocent little kiss had made my knees weak. Prat. He didn't mean anything by it, its just a cover. I told myself this firmly for several minutes before I realized I had no idea where I was in the store. I turned around and walked back the way I had come, until I saw it. It was perfect. All dark wood, a huge king size bed, a dresser that could hold more outfits than I could imagine...perfect. I lay down gently on the bed, smiling as I sank into it.
"Draco!" I called out happily. I could hear him making his way toward me, heard it when he stopped short. "This is the one I want. It's perfect." I said, standing up. Draco nodded, giving me a small little grin that made my heart flutter before I forced it to behave.
"Go pick out sheets and whatnot, and I'll have this set aside for us." His voice was soft, matching his eyes. I felt as if he was trying to tell me something with those eyes, but didn't understand what it could be. So I nodded and walked away before my mouth could get me into trouble. I carried my choices back to the counter, where Draco took them from me and paid before shrinking it down and placing it in his pocket. He took my hand again, and led me to a little cafe for lunch where we ate in silence. Several times I opened my mouth, intending to ask any number of questions, then quickly closed it again. After five or six times of this, Draco nodded at me, so I sighed and asked.
"Why me?" I surprised myself with that one, I hadn't meant to ask that. I blushed and looked away. I glanced at Draco out of the corner of my eye, only to find he had frozen for a moment, his fork halfway to his mouth. He lowered it slowly, and cleared his throat before answering.
"Because...I'd rather spend a year married to you, than a lifetime with Pansy." He said in a voice that was almost a whisper. "And, to be honest, you act more like a pureblood than she does. You are extremely intelligent, and loyal. I know that I can hold a decent conversation with you, something that is impossible with Pansy." What was I supposed to say to that? Since I didn't know, I kept my mouth shut and nodded. I pushed my plate away, my appetite gone.
"If you're done, I'd like to go home." I said, my voice sharper than I meant for it to be. Draco raised an eyebrow but nodded and, taking my hand again, turned on the spot. As soon as we got back, I let go of his hand and marched into my room, Draco trailing behind me.
"Here. I'll just...let you get settled." Draco said, giving me the shrunken items we had bought. I nodded and closed the door in his face.
It took me three hours to get the room set up exactly how I wanted it, but finally, finally, I was done. I had put away all my clothes and made the bed in the new silk sheets I had picked out. I padded into the kitchen for something to drink, reaching up for a glass that, of course, I couldn't reach. A lean, muscular body pressed up against my back, grabbing the glass for me and setting it gently on the counter in front of me before moving back. "I'm sorry." He whispered, his breath sending delicious shivers down my spine. I nodded, mute, not trusting my voice. I knew Draco was apologizing for making me angry earlier, even if he had meant every word he'd said. "Done already?" He asked, leaning against the counter next to me.
"No, I still have to put my books up." I replied, pouring myself some pumpkin juice.
"May I help?" I laughed, making Draco raise that eyebrow at me in question.
"You sound really...stuck up...when you talk like that." I say, earning a small chuckle from him. "However, you can help, if I don't have to listen to a dozen comments about my being a bookworm."
Draco smirked at me. "I'll try to keep it under a dozen then." I laughed, unable to help myself, and led him into my room.
"Please tell me you don't have enough books to fill these shelves." Draco said, eyeing the shelves warily.
"No, I don't. Maybe one shelf at most, I think." I said, already levitating books from my trunk. "If you don't mind separating them into stacks of ten, that'd be great."
"Not by category, or alphabetically?" Draco asked, already stacking books.
I shook my head when he looked up. "No, not yet. I'm going to divide them into categories as we go, then alphabetize the categories when we have them on the shelves. Old school books can go on the middle shelf there, then the muggle books at the top, and the others we can figure out as we go. Sound good?" Draco nodded, shelving books as he came to them, barely glancing at the titles.
"What's 'Cinderella'?" He asked a few minutes later, holding up a book.
"It's a muggle fairy tale." I said, climbing down the ladder. "My mother bought that for my sixth birthday. She surprised me with it at bedtime, read it to me and then left it by my bed." I smile at the memory. Draco nodded, cradling the book to his chest as he climbed the ladder and gently placed the book on the shelf. I smiled at how he treated it as if it were fragile, or important to him, because it was to me.
I collapsed on my bed after another hour of shelving books. I had been right, we had filled almost a whole wall with books. Draco threw himself down next to me, and we laid there for a long time in silence before Draco pulled himself up to look at me.
"I'll cook dinner, did you want anything in particular?" He asked. I shook my head.
"No, but I'm going to take a nice hot bath. A long one. My back is killing me from going up and down those ladders." I moaned.
Draco laughed and pulled me up, setting me on my feet before quickly pulling away. "Alright, then I'll wait dinner on you. Go soak, it'll help those the tense muscles in your back." He said, giving me a gentle nudge toward the bathroom.
"Let me guess, you feel perfectly fine." I threw over my shoulder.
"Quidditch practice was ten times worse, and when I have to train for my job..." Draco said, trailing off meaningfully. I turned around and stuck my tongue out at him before closing the bathroom door behind me.
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