Hey all! As promised, here is a quicker update than usual. Thanks again to beatlechicksteph for beta-ing for me! I hope you enjoy...let me know what you think! XOXO, Alexandra.
The Belvedere was above and beyond Hermione's wildest dreams. When Draco had said brunch, she was not thinking this, but come to think of it, she probably should have. He had more money than sense, but at this very moment she was not complaining.
Florence was beautiful and the restaurant was situated right on the Arno river. Admiring the view, she thought life couldn't get much better—for the moment anyways. She was sitting on a rooftop enjoying a Bloody Mary with one of London's most eligible bachelors across from her—well, according to Rita Skeeter. She could care less about that. All she cared about was the changed man sitting in front of her.
If someone would have told her a year ago that she would be on a date with the ex-Death Eater, there was no way in hell she would have believed them. Hermione continued to sip on her drink, thinking about how much he had changed.
"Feeling better yet?" Draco asked, bringing Hermione out of her thoughts.
"Much," she replied. "Bloody Mary's always cure my hangovers."
Draco had opted for a water during brunch, because if he continued drinking he wouldn't be able to apparate them back to London.
Grabbing his water, he winked at her. "You know what else cures hangovers?" he teased.
Hermione felt her face warm up and occupied herself by playing with the straw in her drink, avoiding looking him in the eyes.
She murmured something that sounded like, "I don't have a lot of experience."
Draco heard her and laughed. She frowned, unhappy that he was laughing at her.
He stopped laughing immediately and reached across the table to grab her hand.
"Hermione, look at me," he begged.
Looking up, Hermione saw that his smile had faded, and a look she had never seen grace a Malfoy's face, looked back at her.
"I am not laughing at you Hermione. I promise," he said. "You just caught me off guard."
Hermione saw in his eyes, that what he was saying was genuine. She smiled, but didn't let go of his hand.
"Perhaps, this isn't a discussion for brunch. Let's eat and head to the Manor, where we can speak privately," he suggested.
She nodded, her thoughts drifting back to her last experience at the Malfoy Manor. She was lying on the ground screaming, whilst Bellatrix carved Mudblood into her arm. The scar no longer bothered her, but the memories sometimes still haunted her dreams.
Shaking her head, divesting her brain on the memory for the time being, she realized Draco was starting at her with legitimate concern.
Looking down, she realized she had grabbed her left arm where the slur shone brightly on her skin.
Before she could speak, Draco grabbed her hands once more and kissed the palm of each one.
"I'm sorry this happened," he said, apologetically. "I was helpless to stop it, but we both would have died if I tried to save you…or at least that is what I told myself then. After Potter and Weasley escaped from the basement, I realized that I had been a coward. They would have died too if they were unsuccessful in rescuing you, but they still fought for you."
After a long pause, Hermione said, "I don't blame you, Draco. You aren't your family."
He just nodded, looking like he was on the verge of a breakdown. Hermione understood how he felt. Only being a year after the war, the horrors she witnessed and experienced still graced her memories.
"We don't have to go back to the manor if it would make you uncomfortable," he said. "But, my mother did renovate after the war. The drawing room no longer exists."
Hermione just nodded, as the waiter brought their food. While eating, their conversation moved onto happier topics. Hermione was happy to tell Draco about her research in the Auror department and she loved hearing about how he was running Malfoy Incorporated.
The rest of brunch went off without a hitch, both enjoying getting to know each other on a deeper level. After all, they had known each other for almost eight years now, but had only scratched the surface during that time. Being enemies, they definitely didn't care about the other.
"Thank you for bringing me here, Draco. It is very beautiful," Hermione said, once again admiring the view over the Arno river.
"You're welcome, Granger," he said, looking very pleased with himself.
"Oh, back to Granger now, are we Malfoy?"
"Hermione," he corrected himself.
"You know, if we are going to be spending time together you'll have to get used to calling me Hermione."
"I know. It's a hard habit to break."
"Shall we go?" he added, offering his arm.
She took his arm and looked at him contemplating whether or not she really wanted to visit Malfoy Manor. Realizing that she was willing to give Draco a chance, she knew that she needed to do this for him.
"Take me to the manor."
They arrived in the manor's garden with a loud pop, alerting an un-supecting Narcissa of their presence. She jumped and tea sloshed out of her teacup. A house-elf was immediately at her side to clean up the mess.
Recovering quickly, she said, "Draco, darling. Why didn't you tell me you were bringing a friend by?"
Hermione looked up at Draco and he smirked. She knew he had no intention of telling his mother that she had spent the night in his bed.
"We just finished with brunch, and I thought I would give Hermione a tour of the manor," Draco responded.
Narcissa quietly observed her son's companion, and Hermione felt uncomfortable under such scrutiny. Before Hermione could start squirming, Narcissa broke the silence.
"Nice to see you again, Miss Granger," she said, politely. "I am glad we could meet again under better circumstances."
Remembering her manners, Hermione responded to the lady of the manor with as much poise and grace as she could muster, despite past experiences.
"Your home is beautiful, Mrs. Malfoy—"
"Please, call me Narcissa. I think we are past such formalities, my dear."
"Then please, call me Hermione," she said, smiling.
Narcissa smiled genuinely, and Hermione noticed Draco must have inherited his smile from the Black side of the family.
"Mother, enjoy the rest of your afternoon. We will be around exploring the manor," Draco said.
Draco led Hermione through the French double doors, and they were standing in a large dining room.
"We will come back to this later," Draco said, continuing to lead Hermione through the dining room to explore the rest of the manor.
"You seem to be saying that a lot," Hermione murmured.
"I heard that, witch," Draco responded, smirking down at her. "I keep my promises. I really do mean later." He winked at her, insinuating that they would indeed pick up on what they had started earlier.
Hermione smiled, knowing he was intending to keep his promise. It made her giddy inside to think about what was coming later.
Draco led her through many hallways, and up several staircases before they stopped. In front of them was a mahogany door carved with the Malfoy crest. Curious and impatient, Hermione slowly opened the door, holding her breath not knowing what to expect.
Letting out her breath, Hermione gasped and almost succumbed to tears at the room in front of her.
The Malfoy Library was huge, and it was very reminiscent of the Hogwarts Library. Books lined the walls and the ceilings never seemed to end. Large windows towards the back allowed natural light to stream in during the day; and there were candles so one could read through the night. Several couches and arm chairs filled the room, and she could already picture herself spending hours in here, curled up with a good book.
"I thought you might like this room," Draco said, bringing her out of her dream-like stance.
"Ohmygosh, I love it!" Hermione squealed, hugging Draco.
She tried to let go, embarrassed from throwing herself at him, but he wouldn't let her. He held her tight, and pulled her closer to him placing his chin on top of her head.
They stood there for a long while, just holding each other until Draco finally let her go.
"Should I give you a tour of the rest of the house?" he asked her.
"Only if that tour includes your bedroom," she winked, heading out of the library and down the hall.