Hermione barely had the time to gather her thoughts before her room was overrun with friends and loved ones, elbowing eachother to get the chance to hug her. It was all a bit overwhelming, after all these months mostly spent surrounded by only two people, and she hurriedly reminded them all of her injuries.
"Children, give Hermione some space!" Molly Weasley said, waving away the others (the majority of them being part of her family). She then approached Hermione, tears of relief in her eyes. "And here I thought you would be the one I had to be worried about least, compared to those who chose to become Aurors or Quidditch-Players. Are you alright, dear?"
Faced with such motherly compassion, Hermione could do little else but burst out in tears and burry herself in the protective embrace of the witch she had spent so much time with when her own parents weren't there.
"I know, dear, I know," Molly said soothingly, holding her tight.
"Sorry," Hermione sobbed, trying to regain control over herself, but Molly tutted.
"Don't apologize now. You've been through quite the ordeal, it's healthy to let it all out. If you'd like I can send the others away."
"Hey!" Ron protested. "We're her best friends!"
"No, that's alright. I'm glad to see you all!" After a few deep breaths, Hermione managed to stop crying and hastily brushed the tears away, and she spent some wonderful hours with her friends.
Draco came to visit her as soon as the others left. She wondered if he had been standing outside, watching her room, waiting until he finally had the chance to see her.
"I was thinking about something," he told her.
"Do tell," she said.
"You're going to need a new appartment."
"Yes, that's right. The other one is sold already, but I haven't found a new one yet."
"You're going to need a place to stay until then, I suppose, unless you plan on staying in this dreadful hospital."
"I suppose I do," she said, playing along and trying to contain her smile. "Maybe Ginny and Harry will let me crash on their couch."
"I'm sure they would," Draco said. "It seems a bit silly, however, considering all your stuff is still at my place, along with an adoring house-elf."
"You're right. It would seem more practical to stay at the Manor during the appartment-hunt, but I wouldn't want to impose."
Draco grinned. "Oh, you've been staying there for so long, I'm sure a little longer won't make a difference."
"I guess we are agreed, then," Hermione said.
"I suppose we are."
"I'm glad you're alright," Hermione said.
"You were amazing out there, Granger."
She blushed prettily, and Draco was ever so glad she would live with him a little longer. He wasn't quite ready to miss her yet.
"You know," he said, acting casual. "I've heard this whole looking for an apartment business can be quite tedious, and take a while."
"Oh yes, that's absolutely true," Hermione replied. "I might have to rely on your hospitality for a little longer than expected."
"Good," Draco said, taking her hand in his. "Good luck explaining that to Potty and the Weasel, though."
Hermione sighed deeply. She had barely managed to vanquish one enemy when another hurdle came to stand in her way: she really had to tell Harry and Ron. Awesome.
With a content sigh, Hermione looked around her new, fully furnished apartment. It wasn't big, and the bathroom was nothing compared to the one from Malfoy Manor, but it was hers.
When she was finally allowed to leave the hospital, a bit over a week ago, she had gone back to the Manor for her stuff (or that's what Draco told his mother, at least). It was then unavoidable that she would be invited to dine with them, an invitation Hermione graciously accepted. During dinner, Draco and Andromeda elegantly backed Narcissa in a corner, until she had little choice but to tell Hermione she was welcome to stay at the Manor until she found a new place to live, or be considered unforgivably rude.
And so the first week of the two-week vacation the Ministry had generously granted both her and Draco was spent house-hunting and enjoying her time with Draco, Teddy and Andromeda.
Despite her fondness for the Manor and it's inhabitants, after a couple of days Hermione began to feel the need to get away, to get her own place again. She looked forward to living in a cozy, warm flat decorated just the way she wanted it, filled with muggle appliances and back in the real world.
So when she discovered a cute little place within her price-range, she immediately took it. Draco had been a bit disgruntled at her enthusiasm to leave his house, but had agreed to help her move anyway.
They had sent the elves ahead with Hermione's boxes full of books and shrunken furniture and followed, at a far slower pace, by muggle transportation. Hermione had insisted on it, claiming it would be good for Draco to discover new things, and if he looked highly displeased at the prospect he refrained from protesting. It was charming to see, Hermione reflected, how fascinated he was with all things muggle; first the cab they took to her building, then her phone and television once she had explained how it worked.
When Hermione opened the door to her new home, Draco standing behind her, she was practically bouncing with excitement. What she saw, however, made her stop in her tracks. The apartment was already furnished; it appeared the house-elves had taken it upon themselves to put everything in order already.
She could feel the disappointment take hold of her. Draco, who could not see her expression,slid his arms around her waist and whispered: "Surprise! The house-elves were more than happy to do this for you, although they were all distraught that you had to leave."
"You asked them to do this?"
At the tone of her voice, Draco became aware that she was not reacting like he had expected her to. He closed the door and stepped around her, trying to gauge her expression.
"Yes?" he said hesitantly.
"To surprise you? Granger, what in Merlin's name is the matter? If you don't like the way they did it, just say so and they'll change it."
He truly didn't understand why she was displeased. What. An. Idiot. "Did it never occur to you that I was looking forward to do this on my own? That part of the charm of getting a new place is the chance you have to make it just the way you want it?" Her tone was clipped, a valiant attempt to stay calm when all she wanted to do was scream.
"I didn't know-" Draco started, recognizing a dangerous Hermione Granger when he saw one.
"Maybe that's the problem, Draco. You didn't know, because you didn't ask. You can't just decorate someone's home without even asking if they want you to!" So much for the not screaming.
"Why are you shouting at me?!" Draco yelled. "I tried to do something nice! If it bothers you so much I'll just ask the house elves to put it back in the boxes and you can start over!"
"No, I can't!"
"Why the fuck not?"
"Because they did it all perfectly!" Hermione wailed, as if something terrible had just befallen her.
Draco blinked several times, not comprehending , before losing his temper. "I don't fucking get it, Granger! If you care about this so much, if you're so averse to my help, then why did you even bother bringing me along?"
"You can be such an insensitive prat sometimes! I asked you to come with me so you could give your opinion on the place and how to furnish it, because I was hoping you'd spent a lot of time here in the future!"
She seemed utterly unaware of the significance of what she just said, too submersed in her disappointment, but Draco had heard her clearly and a weight fell from his shoulders. When she had expressed her desire to move out of the Manor so soon, so vehemently, he had struggled to not take it personally.
But not taking things personally never had been Draco's forte, and he had ended up half convinced that this was the first step towards their inevitable break-up. To hear her admit so easily that she wanted him to be a part of her life, her real life outside the Manor, was such a relief that he forgot all about her anger and impulsively kissed her.
She sputtered in protest but was soon swept away in the intensity of his touch. When he finally pulled away to breathe and she saw the gratitude shining in his eyes, she finally understood his behavior.
"You thought I would leave you, didn't you?" she said, breathlessly. "You thought that I wanted to move out because-"
"Shut up, Granger," Draco growled, before ensuring she was sufficiently distracted from that particular line of enquiry. The last coherent thought Hermione had before forgetting everything except for the way Draco's body felt against hers, was that she was glad the house-elves had installed her bed already; their activities would have resulted in some disagreeable carpet-burns should they have ended up on the floor.
Yes, Hermione thought contentedly, despite their arguments, moving out of the Manor had been an excellent decision. She had spent most of her days shopping, wandering in the city, and seeing her friends, and most of her nights with Draco in her bed. Tonight was her last free evening before officially going back to work, and she had informed her friends and Draco it was high time they got over themselves and they'd all have to come to dinner in her new home. Harry, Ron and Draco had protested, of course, but Hermione insisted.
Her friends still didn't know about her relationship with Draco, with Ginny as the notable exception, and she believed it to be wiser that they got to know him as her friend before she broke the news to them. Draco had assured her he was perfectly happy to keep it secret for a while longer, claiming he had no desire to be pursued by the press for his relationship with the Golden girl. Hermione suspected that his reluctance to tell his mother had more to do with it, but, for now, she refused to worry about Narcissa.
She had a dinner to survive first.
By the time her friends were expected to arrive, she had almost finished cooking the meal and was stuck with a petulant Draco.
"Do I really have to do this?" he whined. He had been trying to find excuses to weasel out of it all day, and it was starting to grate on her nerves.
"That depends; do you want us to work out or not?"
"That's not fucking fair, Granger."
"Draco, it's just dinner. Harry and Ron don't even know we're dating and Ginny approves, so what are you afraid of?"
"Of being unbearably bored and wasting time that could be spent in a far more pleasant manner."
Hermione slapped his hand away from her arse, determined not to get distracted, and went back to her cooking. Despite her reassurances, she was quite nervous herself; she really wanted things to go well tonight. It had taken a lot of effort from both Ginny and herself to convince Harry and Ron they ought to give Draco a chance. The decisive argument had been that he had saved her from Valentina, and the least they could do in return was treat him civilly.
"I'm sure it won't be that boring," she told him. "I invited Blaise too, so you'll have someone on your side. Now stop hovering and go check the apartment to make sure there are no traces of you practically living here."
"Yes, that's probably a good idea."
Probably, yes. It was one thing to reintroduce Malfoy as a friend, but she was pretty sure her friends would explode if they saw just how serious their relationship was getting.
Mere minutes later, the doorbell rang. "Fuck, I hope that's Blaise," Draco muttered.
It wasn't. Ginny and Harry stood at the door, Harry carrying a bottle of wine. Hermione embraced her friends joyfully, but Harry's expression faltered the moment he saw Draco.
Ginny saved the day. "Draco," she exclaimed. "It's nice to see you! How has the holiday been treating you?"
Harry shot an odd look at his wife, obviously confused as to why she was treating Malfoy with such familiarity. Draco looked just as surprised, but responded politely if somewhat evasively. He couldn't very well give them any particulars about the past weeks, considering most of his time had been spent with Granger.
Hermione and Ginny kept up a constant stream of chatter, seated in the living room waiting for the others to arrive, while Draco and Harry remained silent and appeared to be highly uncomfortable.
Hermione was grateful when the bell rang again, as the awkwardness was starting to be stifling. She was glad to see Blaise on her doorstep, hoping his easy-going manner would make everyone relax a bit.
"You look nervous," he told her. "Did they start screaming yet?"
"No, but both Harry and Draco have refrained from speaking until now."
"No need to fret, Granger," Blaise said, winking at her. "I'll bring some life to this dull event."
Before he entered the living room, she grabbed his shirt and held him back. "You will not say anything regarding mine and Draco's relationship, understood? No hints, no jokes, no innuendo's."
"I know, I know, Draco threatened me already."
The mood lightened considerably after that, although that might have had more to do with the wine they had consumed (with the exception of Ginny, of course).
Ron arrived late, a fact that didn't surprise anyone, and he greeted Draco with a suspicious glare, which once again didn't surprise anyone. It was painfully obvious that Harry and Ron were unsure as to how to act around Blaise Zabini: Hermione spoke highly of him, he was undeniably charming, but then again he was also a Slytherin and Malfoy's best friend.
Ginny, however, seemed utterly unbothered by former house rivalries and easily joked with both Blaise and Draco. Hermione had never been so grateful to have Ginny as a best friend.
"So, Ginny," Blaise said, when they were seated at the table. "Have you already given any thoughts to how you will name the child?"
Harry placed his hand over Ginny's at the table, and looked at her with such love and adoration in his gaze that Hermione almost felt like an intruder.
"If it's a girl, Lily Luna," Ginny answered. "If it's a boy... Let's just say we're still thinking about it."
The glare she shot at Harry made it amply clear she did not appreciate whatever name it was he had suggested. This, of course, immediately woke up the other's curiosity.
"What did you have in mind, Harry?" Hermione asked, trying not to sound too eager for his answer.
"Well, I thought about naming him James Severus," Harry answered, shrugging.
A painful silence fell over the table, followed by Ginny's angry muttering: "There is no way in hell I am naming my baby after that greasy-haired git, no matter how good he turned out to be in the end."
This prompted the others to react. Blaise started guffawing, Ron just stared at his best friend with unabashed horror, and Draco snorted derisively. "You do know he would absolutely hate that, right? There is probably no way you can piss him off more, now that he's dead, than by naming a child that will be half-Potter and half-Weasley after him."
Ginny suddenly looked up with interest, as if that idea hadn't occured to her yet.
"When you put it like that," she said. "Maybe it doesn't sound all that bad after all."
Hermione couldn't repress her laughter anymore and almost choked on the water she was drinking. Draco absentmindedly thumped her on the back, neither of them noticing the strange looks this elicited from the others.
"No offense, Harry," Hermione said once she managed to speak again. "But I have to agree with Ginny on this one. That's really a terrible idea."
"Yeah," Blaise added. "That's basically asking for the kid to be bullied."
Ginny glared at him. "My kid will not be bullied, Blaise Zabini, because I swear that if it does happens, I'll visit the parents of the bully and make sure it never. Happens. Again."
Blaise leaned back in his chair, looking slightly intimidated, and nodded. "I believe you," he said with a small voice.
Harry was smirking, Hermione noticed, and she couldn't help her own grin at the sight of the otherwise suave Slytherin looking very uncomfortable when faced with the ire of Ginny Potter.
Blaise turned to Draco and muttered, in a tone of voice that was perfectly audible for the others: "First Granger, now this one, are all the Gryffindor-women this vicious? I'm so glad I was in Slytherin."
Draco shot him a strange look. "You have obviously never been the victim of Pansy's wrath. She is downright scary when she wants to be."
"Fair enough," Blaise conceded. "But only a certain few were stupid enough to piss her off." He shot Draco a meaningful look.
"That seems to be something Malfoy is quite good at," Ron said. "Pissing people off." There was an undeniably hostile tone to his voice, and Hermione could feel Draco tensing up next to her. If she was entirely honest, she was surprised (pleasantly so) that they had managed this long without a fight brewing. Now, however, Ron appeared to be determined to end the niceties.
"Ron," Ginny started softly.
"No," he interrupted her. "I would like to know why we have to sit here and play nice with someone who has been nothing but cruel towards us, and who is now playing nice only because he's trying to save his reputation!"
"Fuck you too, Weasley," Draco sneered. "It's not like I want to spend an evening looking at that ugly face of yours, and-"
"Ronald! Draco!" Hermione intervened before this evening ended up in a brawl. "Behave, both of you! I invited you under the assumption that you were both mature adults, capable of acting civilized for at least a couple of hours!"
Both men held their tongues, but kept glaring at each other angrily.
"Ron," Hermione turned to one of her best friends, her voice softening. "I know Draco was a prat when we were younger, but he genuinely has changed. The mere fact that he is sitting here with us should prove that, not to mention how he saved my life! All I ask is that you give him a chance, get to know him for who he is today as opposed to who he was when we were children. If you don't trust him on it, then trust me."
"You always want to see the best in others, Hermione. He's only tolerating you because it makes him look better, and when you'll find out and get hurt don't come running to me."
"Ron!" Both Harry and Ginny snapped.
"I am perfectly capable of looking after myself, Ronald Bilius Weasley," Hermione hissed. "Now if you're done posturing like a fool, we can have dessert."
She stood up from the table brusquely and left for the kitchen. She took a moment to breathe as soon as she left the room, very much relieved that Ron was not aware that Draco was her boyfriend. If this was his reaction to them being friends, she was so not looking forward to the day she'd tell them about their relationship!
"You okay?" Draco asked. He had followed her to the kitchen and was now observing her with worry etched on his features. She touched his hand gently, expressing her gratitude for his concern without words, and nodded.
"He'll get over it soon enough," she said. "Nothing to worry about."
"Yes, his sister is giving him an earful as we speak. I suspect she can be quite convincing when she wants to be. Let's get the cake, shall we? We wouldn't want your friends to think we're making out in the kitchen."
"I'm pretty sure Blaise and Ginny already do."
Ginny's speech appeared to have been effective, as Ron actually behaved for the rest of the meal. In fact, Hermione was ready to call this first dinner a success by the time they all sat down for coffee, but when had things ever been that easy for her?
They were all chatting about some unimportant matter, relaxing at last, when Draco said: "Could you pass me the sugar, love?"
Hermione didn't notice anything wrong at first, rather used to the term of endearment by now, and passed him the bowl of sugar.
"Thank you," he said, and then they both noticed the deadly silence that had fallen over the rest of them. Ginny was grimacing, Blaise was laughing silently, and Ron and Harry looked as if someone just told them Voldemort had come back to life again.
"Oh shit," Hermione muttered, and what an apt description of the situation that was.
Ron and Harry simultaneously burst out in an angry rant. From the little Hermione actually understood Ron was aghast at her dating a Death Eater, while Harry seemed more offended that he didn't know. His anger only grew when it became clear Ginny was already aware.
"How could you both not tell me?" he asked. "How could you tell Ginny but not me?"
"She didn't tell me anything," Ginny answered. "I guessed. It's not my fault you're so dense when it comes to everything that has to do with girls and relationships."
"How could you know and not stop it?" Ron demanded of his sister. "All this time you were aware that Hermione was dating Malfoy and you didn't put a stop to it?"
Blaise was the fist one to talk, which was probably a good thing because Hermione looked ready to punch the redhead.
"Oh for fuck's sake, Weasley, relax. They're both consenting adults perfectly capable of making their own decisions, and Hermione doesn't owe you an explanation at all."
Ron looked ready to protest, but Harry elbowed him and gestured towards Hermione, clearly trying to warn his friend of the impending doom that would no doubt befall him if he didn't keep his mouth shut. Ron got the message and remained quiet, but he crossed his arms over his chest and looked as sullen as a person could possibly look.
"How long has this been going on?" Harry asked with a sigh.
"I don't see how that's any of your-" Draco said.
"A few months," Hermione answered honestly.
Ron glowered even more fiercely, if possible, while Harry appeared to be struggling (and failing) to control his expression.
"Why didn't you-" he started again, but Blaise interrupted.
"If you ask her why she didn't tell you sooner one more time, I'm going to scream. Have you seen the Weasel's reaction? Can you really blame her for being a bit anxious about telling you?"
Hermione shot Blaise a grateful look. She had really hoped she could explain it all to her friends on her own time, but apparently she didn't get that option. She was surprised when Draco draped his arm around her shoulders, but grateful for the support he was giving her. He leaned down to whisper in her ear: "See how much nicer my friends are?"
"I think you mean friend," she answered equally softly, earning herself a pinch. "And Ginny has been pretty supportive from the beginning."
"Ginny's okay," Draco conceded. "The other two..."
"How serious is this, Hermione?" Harry interrupted the lovers. "I'm surprised Malfoy would be willing to be honest about a relationship with a muggle-born."
"Maybe you should stop assuming you know anything about me. Hogwarts was years ago, some people have grown up."
Of course, saying he had changed with the exact same sneer on his face he used to have when he insulted them was a bit counter-productive. Ron stood up, his face a vivid shade of red, and left without saying another word. To Hermione, it was obvious that he was mainly trying to refrain from saying something stupid, or hurtful, and she was glad he had learned to have a slightly better grip on his temper.
"I'm sorry, Harry," she said. "I don't need your permission or your blessing. I would like you to trust me, though, and give Draco a chance. I know it's strange to think about him in such a different light, trust me, it was odd for me too," Draco snorted at that. "But please, for my sake, at least be civil to one another."
Harry looked up at Malfoy, who kept his expression carefully impassive. "You would act civil to me? For her?"
"I certainly won't do it for the pleasure of your company," Draco snarked. Harry nodded, then, apparently realizing there was nothing more to say. He stuck out his hand to shake Malfoy's, a mirror-image to what happened eleven years ago on the first day of Hogwarts. Draco hesitated, obviously reminded of that moment too, and of the boy who had rejected his offer of friendship so harshly.
But everything was different, now, and so Draco shook Harry's hand firmly. Hermione was smiling so brightly her cheeks hurt, and Ginny was looking at her husband proudly.
"Okay, if we're done with the mellow Hufflepuff bullshit can we please start on the firewhiskey? I'm feeling slightly nauseous from all the emotions here."
Blaise's remark effectively ended the moment, leaving everyone feeling a bit uncomfortable.
And if Harry and Ginny left rather fast after that, and if Ron didn't answers Hermione's owl for more than a week, that was okay. Because Hermione had the most wonderful friends in the entire world, and a boyfriend who, despite his snarky attitude, was willing to do quite a lot to make her happy.
Hermione's good mood evaporated once the newspapers got wind of their relationship. The ensuing chaos was enough to keep both Draco and Hermione confined to the muggle world for a couple of weeks. An added bonus to that was that it was the easiest way to avoid Narcissa, who had not taken the news so well.
Upon finding out she had screamed at Draco for the better part of an hour, which had ended with Draco leaving the Manor in a fury. He had as good as moved in with Hermione since then, to Narcissa's despair. She wouldn't easily admit it, but she missed her son terribly. If she was really honest with herself, she would even have to say that she missed the muggle-born girl she had grown so used to converse with on an almost daily basis. But Malfoy's seldom were very honest with themselves, and contrary to her son, Narcissa was not one to break traditions.
It took a couple of months, a lot of Draco's pouting, and Andromeda's incessant meddling before Narcissa agreed to invite Hermione back to the Manor for dinner. Andromeda and Teddy were there too, probably to make sure Narcissa was polite enough, and Hermione was so nervous Draco had threatened to give her a calming draught.
When she arrived she was greeted with great enthusiasm by the elves, who proudly told her they made her favorite food.
"Is Miss Hermione staying tonight?" Polly asked. "Should Polly prepare her old room, or will she be staying with Master Draco again?"
Of course, this was the exact moment that Narcissa entered the room, hearing very clearly what Polly had said.
"No, Polly," Lady Malfoy said. "Miss Granger will be returning home tonight."
Hermione masked the pain she felt at the coldness in the woman's voice, and smiled. "Of course. I wouldn't want to outstay my welcome."
Teddy appeared glad to see them, although the first question that came out of his mouth was: "Where is Blaise?"
Dinner was about as awkward as could be expected, but considering that neither Hermione nor Narcissa left the room in a huff before the end of the meal, Draco counted it as a success.
Before leaving, he took Hermione by the hand and dragged her back to the library.
"I'm not sure your mother would appreciate me being here, right now."
"Oh, who cares? You know you want to admire all the books you've had to miss."
She really did, and so she followed him without further protest. When they were both standing in the library, a strange sense of nostalgia overtook Hermione. She wrapped her arms around Draco's waist and rested her head against his chest. If he was surprised at her sudden change of mood, he didn't show it; he just returned the embrace and buried his face in her hair.
"This is were it all started," Hermione said.
"In a library, of all places," Draco answered, grinning.
"You know, despite how much I disliked being cooped up for such a long time, I don't regret a thing," she told him earnestly.
His arms tightened around her, before he answered. "I never thought I'd be so grateful for the decision of harboring a muggle-born Gryffindor, and yet here we stand."
"As beautiful as your house is," Hermione said, after they had been standing there for quite some time. "I have to say I prefer my flat. I feel a lot more at ease there."
"Well, Granger, as unbelievable as it sounds, I have to agree with you. Your flat just feels a lot more like... home."
All that needed to be said was said, then, so they left the Manor, hearts full and hands entangled, and went home.
I can't believe it's over! I'm sorry for the long wait, but I've had exams and just moved to Spain for the semester, so my life was rather busy. I can't thank all of you enough for the support you've given me, I don't think I could have done it without your wonderful reviews, favs and follows. I hope the ending didn't dissappoint, and leave one last review to let me know!
Once again, thank you!