Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Part 3: Taking Off
He had come to the conclusion that being friends with Hermione Granger meant a lot of - what he deemed to be unnecessary - physical contact. It took months for him to stop flinching when she touched him and tensing when she hugged him. It took even longer for him to reciprocate and he was just learning that it was okay to initiate. She was soft and smelled of vanilla, honey and something else that was mildly sweet. He found he didn't mind her being close to him - not much.
He visited her office now - in the day time - for lunch and sometimes for nothing, much to the annoyance of her secretary. He didn't know her name either, but he thinks it starts with an 'A'.
She talked about him to her friends and to anyone who spent any significant amount of time in her company. She talked about him, too much, at least that was what Ron said. He snapped at her last Thursday after she said his name 'ten times in the last hour!' - allegedly. She huffed when Ginny and Harry quietly agreed and apologised, tersely.
She managed to not say anything Draco related for half an hour. Ron was not impressed.
On Friday evenings, around eight-thirty, they leave the Ministry - together. They go to the Three Broomsticks and sit in the corner booth, the one near the back just opposite the loo, and talk.
He would tell her of all the ways Garry Jefferson Jr. from Level Four has asked him out that week. She would laugh and tell him, jokingly, 'Garry's a good fellow, give him a chance'. He would respond with a 'I would, but right now I'm into brunettes' and smirk when her cheeks coloured red.
She would tell him all her theories to explain why her Head of Department allows the Deputy Head to keep his job without doing any real work. Draco thinks it's because he's sleeping with the Head. She tells him that he is wrong because her Head of Department isn't gay, and his eyes nearly pop out of his skull when she causally adds, 'besides, he's having an affair with Pepper Lawson from Law Enforcement'.
They never drink. They never eat. And at ten they leave pub - together.
Once outside, Hermione would take hold of his hand - not his arm like she did the first seven times - and apparate to the alley two blocks from her apartment in Muggle London.
Draco didn't know she lived in a Muggle neighbourhood until the first time they appeared in the alley. When he realised, he promptly apparated them back to entrance of the pub and told her in no uncertain terms she was never to take him to anywhere Muggle, again.
She argued, of course."You're being ridiculous, Draco!"
"I am not! I just don't want to go there."
"Because...I said so."
"That's not a good reason, Draco."
He remained quiet and glared at her.
"You do know that's where the take-out food comes from, right?"
"I know," he answered gruffly.
"So, you'll eat their food, but you refuse to go where they are?" she asked incredulously.
He said nothing, but looked away, choosing to glare at passers-by.
"Ugh," she grunted in exasperation, "it's after ten, it's unlikely that we'll bump into any Muggles at this time of night,"
It was a while before he said, "If there are, we'll cross the street?"
She smiled brightly then and grabbed his arm, "Okay."
When they reappeared in the alley, she held him at wand point - just in case he tried to escape - the whole walk to her apartment. Indignant, he argued and threatened to turn her in for kidnapping if she didn't 'stop pointing that bloody stick' at him. She ignored him, of course, kept her wand to his chest and told him to get moving. He had to fight to keep the scowl on his face when she slipped her soft hand back into his.
On Friday nights, she showed him how to work Muggle devices, one device a week. Last week he learnt about the microwave. This week he would learn about the coffee machine. She had a feeling he would like that one the most.
After she gave him his weekly 'Advanced Muggle Studies lesson', they sipped on wine and nibbled on butter cookies while sitting on her drawing room floor with their backs against her lumpy sofa. The television would be on mute and they would talk. They talked about private things, like nightmares and fears and family struggles.
He told her about his parents, about his father and how badly Azkaban had affected him and how his mother is just barely coping. She told him about her parents, about how her mother compulsively writes down everything, just in case, and how her father sometimes forgets her name.
One night they even spoke about the War, before and just after, and how it had been - on both sides.
She traced his faded Dark Mark.
He could barely look at her Mudblood scar.
They talked now, about many things. Most were not secrets, but some of them were.
It was ten-thirty five in the evening and Hermione was on still on a high. She had been on cloud nine since lunch when she was informed that she was being strongly considered for a promotion to Deputy Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures - she didn't ask why the position was suddenly available. He listened while she spoke dreamily of all the things she was going to do with her new position and power. When he reminded her that she hadn't actually gotten it, yet, she waved him off and told him nothing he said would ruin her mood.
They were stepping into the atrium from the lifts and Hermione, caught up in her premature excitement, made a misstep that sent her tumbling to the ground. And Draco - for all his prim and proper, high-society breeding - took one look at her gracelessly sprawled form and promptly burst into laughter. He had his head thrown back and his laughter, rich and deep, echoed throughout the empty space. Hermione had only ever heard him laugh like that twice before. She wondered, not for the first time, what his voice sounded like in the mornings just after waking up. She was mesmerised.
Until she remembered he was laughing at her.
"Draco Malfoy, you absolute git!" she cursed, feeling the sting of embarrassment.
"I'm so, so sorry," he managed between the residual chuckles of his dying laughter.
"You are the worst," she huffed, "you jinxed me!"
"I swear, I did not," he defended, still smiling, "you are just very clumsy."
When she gathered her things, he offered her a hand and pulled her up. He didn't let her go. She didn't pull away. They stood like that, close, for awhile, enjoying each other's proximity. He smelled like forest rain, polished wood, new leather and something expensive.
It was the echoes of the night guard's whistling that pulled them out of each other and out of themselves. She stepped away first, face flushed, looking down, and mumbling something about bad timing. He smirked and took her hand.
Outside, they stood together, both looking at nothing and still holding hands. Before turning to leave, he touched the index finger of his unoccupied hand to her chin and gently, pulled her face up. She stared up at him with glassy, doe eyes; a pretty blush still painted her cheeks. They gazed into each other's eyes for a moment before he pressed his mouth to her tooth-dented lips.
"Goodnight, Hermione," he said quietly, and pressed his lips to hers once more.
She tasted like butterbeer and strawberry lip balm.
He tasted like wine and butterscotch.
"You, too, Draco." Then he disappeared with a small pop.
She appeared in her alley, a smile across her face with one thing running through her head;
Author's Note: Okay, this is the third and last part. However, I'm thinking about adding an epilogue. Anyway, thanks for reading! Reviews are always appreciated. :)