Hermione pulled herself out of the latest memory, gasping for air as she returned to the present, her mind reeling with all the different scenes she had just witnessed. Malfoy orchestrating the organisation of the memories, Malfoy helping her select the best library book, Malfoy being a resource to assist her when she needed at work, Malfoy shopping with her at Diagon Alley and making her laugh, Malfoy wanting to ask her out.
Malfoy, Malfoy, Malfoy.
Every single one of the memories was centred around Malfoy. These memories weren't telling her the story of what she had missed since her accident; they were purposefully selected to create a specific narrative, one in which she could see for herself what had unfolded between her and Malfoy over the past several months.
There were only a few vials left, and if she was correct, she could easily predict that Malfoy would be the key character in each one that remained. She uncorked the next vial in line and watched as the wisps pour out from over the lip and into the Pensieve that she now knew she had gotten from Malfoy.
She dipped her finger into the silver pool and twirled the wisps, postponing putting her head inside. She would place good money that the next memory would show Malfoy asking her out, and she paused to consider what she would say if he asked her right at this moment.
Would she go out with Draco Malfoy?
It wasn't an easy question to answer. In many ways, she was right when she had said that it would be difficult to have a productive relationship when she wouldn't even remember she was in one. Relationships were built on shared experiences, but how could she do that with Malfoy when the shared experiences she remembered were mostly filled with strife?
But she had witnessed a different side of him in the memories. And in those memories, he had been helpful and in many instances, kind. Well, kind for his definition of the word. But something about him was endearing. While she had only seen snippets, she had liked what she had seen of their recent interactions. He knew enough about her preferences to help her pick books, he made her laugh and temporarily forget the other problems in her life, he put their past aside in order to do what was right.
But would she say yes?
She wasn't sure. But the fact that she wasn't immediately saying no also said something.
She sucked in a deep breath, letting the air fill her lungs one final time before she plunged her head into the memory, finding herself standing outside her Ministry office, Malfoy right beside her with a series of vials in his hand.
"Thank you so much for letting me borrow those memories," Hermione said looking down at the two-foot long parchment in her hands. "I wouldn't have been able to finish this report without it."
Malfoy snorted as a slight smile twerked on the edges of his lips. "You don't have to thank me for borrowing your own memories. You're more than welcome to break into my office and steal them whenever you need."
The Hermione in the memory laughed, and present-day Hermione immediately recognised the same look of appreciation on Malfoy's face as he observed her light-hearted enjoyment.
"I may just need to take you up on that offer," she said with a smile. "Well, goodnight, Malfoy."
She started to head into her office when Malfoy stopped her.
"Actually, there was something I wanted to ask you before you go home for the evening."
Hermione tilted her head curiously. "Did you need more information about the giant colony that you and Harry are tracking?"
"No, that's -"
"Because I've been reading up on giants, and according to my notes -"
"No, it has nothing to do with giants."
"Oh! Well, I think one of my notes said something about you needing help researching -"
"It has nothing to do with work. Okay, Hermione?"
Hermione's head jolted back in surprise. "Sorry, but I don't think I saw any memories of you calling me Hermione before."
"Yes, well, there has to be a first time for everything," he mumbled to himself. Then he cleared his throat and straightened himself out, and stated plainly, "I was wondering if you wanted to grab dinner. With me. On a… date."
Hermione's head snapped back, and she just stared at him blankly. She blinked once, but a response still did not come out.
When she didn't respond for several more seconds, Malfoy seemed to tense up. "On second thought, perhaps Potter was right," he started to falter. "You aren't ready for this. Forget I asked. Well, I guess I don't have to tell you to do that. Just… I'll see you tomorrow, and we'll continue as if this never happened."
Malfoy shifted away from Hermione, but he only made it two steps down the corridor.
Malfoy stopped and slowly turned around, a confused expression on his face. He looked back at Hermione, as though not entirely convinced he had heard her right.
Hermione stiffened her back and looked directly at Malfoy. "Yes, I'll go out with you."
Malfoy took a moment to process, but his confidence quickly returned to him, a satisfied smile appearing on his face. "In that case, I'll just go upstairs and grab my cloak."
"Wait, you mean tonight?"
"Well, of course I mean tonight," Malfoy said with a smirk. "Can't risk you saying yes now and then forgetting before we have a chance to go out. Besides, I already made a reservation."
When Hermione pulled herself out of the memory, she found herself smiling for the first time all morning. She had said yes to Malfoy, and while she originally hadn't been certain, she found that she was quite glad she did.
She picked up the next memory and bit down on her lower lip. She wondered what their date was like. Knowing Malfoy, he'd probably made reservations at some impossibly fancy restaurant that she never even knew existed in some corner of Wizarding London that she hardly ever ventured to.
As she poured the contents into the Pensieve, she was surprised to discover that there were butterflies in her stomach. It wasn't as if she was really about to go on a date with Malfoy, but this would still going to be a new experience for her. She hardly remembered the last time she had been on a first date, even when accounting for the amnesia. And now she was going on a date with Draco Malfoy.
The memory transported her to a restaurant, but there weren't white linen tablecloths and dress robes clad waiters like she had anticipated. It was still a nice restaurant, but she recognised it immediately.
"How did you know?" Hermione asked sheepishly.
Draco put his hand on the small of her back as he led her to their table. "Well, I must admit that I asked Potter's advice on where to go. He suggested I take you somewhere you wouldn't expect, so I did a bit of digging and asked around and learned that this used to be one of your favourites."
Hermione marvelled at the surroundings. It was a Muggle restaurant that she used to frequent with her parents when she was a child. She hadn't been back in years, and just being there made Hermione nostalgic.
"You purposefully chose a Muggle restaurant, didn't you?"
Malfoy hid a smile behind his menu. "Seeing as a lot rides on your memory of this evening, I had to pull out all the stops."
Hermione pressed her lips together to conceal her own smile. "Well, you're currently doing quite well."
Malfoy nodded his head. "Good, because this night is just beginning."
Hermione wished she could have stayed for the entire duration, sure that Malfoy had other things planned for the evening to make their first date as memorable as possible considering the circumstances, but she forced herself out of it. At this point, she had watched so many memories that it had already taken up a good chunk of her morning, and she was still left wondering who it was who was waiting for her downstairs.
The flutter in her stomach returned, suspecting that she already knew the answer.
There were only a few vials left at this point, but most of them seemed short. She dipped her head inside, again watching the next few memories one after another.
As expected, Hermione was back with Malfoy, walking down a park path on a sunny springtime day when Malfoy picked one of the flowers out of the ground and handed it to Hermione. Hermione immediately went into a lecture on how he shouldn't pick flowers because it disturbs the ecosystem, all the while, keeping the flower tight in her grip.
Then she was in her flat, reclining on the sofa with her head in Malfoy's lap, both of them reading their books with Hermione's endless sea of parchments spread out along the flooring. Hermione frequently sat up to scribble something down for her to remember in the future, but always returned to her original position, much to Malfoy's pleasure.
But not all the memories were as blissful. In one, Hermione slammed the door in Malfoy's face, telling him that she didn't care what he did to help with her memory, that he'd still be nothing more to her than Harry's Auror partner that she tolerated in social situations. In another, Hermione yelled at him, accusing him of tampering with her memories to make her believe that they were in a relationship.
Even though these were obviously less happy memories, Hermione understood that Malfoy had purposefully included them. Not every day was easy, and there were some days that their apparent relationship wasn't smooth sailing. And yet, she still awoke this morning with the memories next to her that he had laid out, hoping that today wouldn't be one of those rougher days.
It was odd experiencing a whole relationship over the span of just a few minutes. But despite its short duration, Hermione still felt that giddy flutter. The memories of them together made her smile, which considering all that she had learned in the past hour or so, was quite a feat. And she wanted more.
But there was only one memory left.
Hermione tinkered with the final vial, curious what was so important that it was saved for last.
They were at a wizard restaurant this time, the tablecloths and dress robes just as she had anticipated for their first date. Malfoy sat across from her at the table, an anxious expression on his face. He reached out across the table and grabbed Hermione's hands.
"I need to tell you something, and I just want you to listen. Okay?" he said firmly.
Hermione nodded, but Malfoy raised an eyebrow.
"I mean it. You can't say anything until I'm done."
"Just get on with it, will you, Draco?"
There was an instant smile on Malfoy's face, and Hermione got the feeling that he wasn't accustomed to hearing his first name out of her lips.
"You just made this infinitely easier," he said with a smirk. "I know every day is a whirlwind of information for you, and it can't be easy waking up each morning to learn you're in a relationship with your former enemy. Hell, it isn't exactly easy on my end either. But somehow, nearly every day, we make it work. And I realise now, that somewhere along our journey, I've come to love you."
Hermione peered down at her napkin, a vibrant blush streaked across her cheeks. "I can't say that back," she whispered.
Malfoy pulled his hands away. "And I don't expect you to. You wake up each morning not knowing where you are, and the fact that I get to be with you at all is a miracle in and of itself. I don't know if I'll ever be able to hear you say those words, but that doesn't mean I don't want to say them myself."
He reached into his pocket and grabbed a small black box.
Hermione winced back in her chair, clear panic etched across her features. "Draco, I -"
Malfoy chuckled. "Don't worry. It's not what you think it is. Just open it."
When she did, a silver key laid within.
"I know this a big decision to put on you when you've only seen snippets of our relationship, but we've been dating for several months at this point, and I think it will be good for us. It'd make it easier for me to monitor your memories and exchange them as the day requires, and you'll always have someone there in the morning to answer your questions. But if that's too much -"
"Yes," Hermione said, cutting him off.
Hermione nodded, a smile on her face. "Yes, I'll move in with you."
The final memory faded to black, and Hermione found herself back into the bedroom, the place that she now understood to be both hers and Malfoys. As she looked more closely around the room, all the pieces started to fit together. A handful of the items in the room were hers, but some were his as well: the silver ring with his family crest emblazoned on its surface, the stack of books about defence techniques and protection against the Dark Arts, the broomstick that was tucked away in the corner. Now that she knew, it was so much easier to spot.
Hermione made her way out of the bedroom and slowly proceeded down to the first floor, not bothering to change out of her pyjamas first. On the chest opposite the foot of the stairs, there was a framed picture of her and Malfoy from the park she recognised from the memory, the flower safely tucked behind her ear. She picked it up and grazed her finger over the image, smiling just as brightly as the Hermione in the picture.
She set the framed photograph down and inspected the rest of the room. It was already decorated, but she noticed that the bookshelf was half empty, as if waiting to be filled. Stacks of boxes lined the walls, all marked with the contents that laid within, ranging from clothing to knick-knacks, and multiple boxes labelled books.
Suddenly, she heard a voice.
Hermione turned around and saw Malfoy standing there in his own pyjamas, and she could honestly say she had never been so genuinely happy to see him.
She ran up to him, threw her arms around his neck, and kissed him.
He wrapped his arms around her and surrounded her in his embrace, refusing to let her lips leave his - not that she was trying. His lips were warm and soft, probably the result of a freshly finished cup of tea. He hummed as she grabbed onto his pyjama shirt and drew him in closer, savouring the pure bliss of the moment.
When Malfoy pulled back from the kiss, there was a satisfied smirk on his lips. "So I take it today's viewing went well?"
Hermione nodded, a blush starting to creep its way up her cheeks. "You could say so. Although if you're looking for feedback, there were a lot of them, and they took quite a while to get through."
Malfoy sighed. "I feared that would be an issue this morning, but I didn't want to skimp or trim any of the memories short today. While you've slept over a few times before, last night was your first time since moving in, so I wanted to make sure today was a good day."
Hermione bit down on her lip and shook her head. "I still can't believe you did all this for me."
His fingers found hers and intertwined them together. "What can I say," Malfoy said with a return of his smirk. "I've got a terrible guilt complex."
Hermione tugged her hand free and shoved him.
"Oh yeah, and I guess the whole 'I love you' thing plays a role, too," he added with a laugh.
Hermione cupped her hand to his cheek and brought him in for another kiss.
As she pulled away, she looked up at him, letting her gaze linger. Perhaps it was the side-effect of having watched the development of their relationship in such a short period of time, but for some reason, she found it so easy to say the words.
"I love you, too."
Malfoy held his gaze, but concern glossed over him. "You don't have to say that if you don't mean it."
"I know," Hermione said. "But I want to. And like you said, you wanted to make sure that today is a good day."
Draco leaned down and kissed her once more. "It's the best day."